Who Steps Up in Hansen’s Absence?

The Canucks received some troubling news on Thursday, when team president Trevor Linden announced that Jannik Hansen will be out for 4-6 weeks with a broken rib.

How were the Canucks rewarded after they bust a nine-game losing streak against one of the league’s top teams?

Their long-awaited victory was followed by news of a Donald Trump Presidency and losing Hansen to injury for at least one month.

This just proves that the Canucks can’t have nice things.

Hansen has swiftly become the heart and soul of this Canucks team. As one of the veterans in the dressing room, he hasn’t been shy about voicing his opinion to the media. He also showed his grit by jumping Nazem Kadri for his hit on Daniel Sedin, despite the fact that he had a broken rib.

When you lose nine straight games, everyone on the team needs to step it up. However, let’s look at the wingers that have an opportunity to produce in Hansen’s absence.

Loui Eriksson

The obvious choice is the $36 million man who is replacing Hansen on the top line. Finally, something clicked for Eriksson on Tuesday night versus the New York Rangers, when he scored his first goal as a member of Canucks.

Many were calling for Hansen to join the twins on the top line after a nightmarish start to the season for Eriksson. With Hansen out of the lineup for an extended period of time, it’s Eriksson’s spot to lose.

Eriksson is similar to the Sedins in the sense that none of the three players are the strongest or fastest players on the ice. That hurts them in a matchup against younger teams. However, if they find a way to start moving the puck down low, there should be more goals to come for all three players in the near future. They are generating the most shot attempts at even-strength for the Canucks, so the scoring chances are there.

Alex Burrows

His best days are surely behind him, but perhaps Burrows’ two-goal outbreak from Tuesday night will provide a spark for the 35-year-old winger.


Earlier in the Rangers game, he had some bad turnovers and was caught out of position on the Rangers’ second power-play goal. However, he redeemed himself with two goals later in the period.

He was playing on a line with Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat when he scored the go-ahead goal. Although it’s a spot where many believe Jake Virtanen should play, Burrows has an opportunity to put up some points while playing with this young duo.

Baertschi and Horvat have the first and third highest shot attempts against per 60 minutes among Canucks forwards respectively, while Burrows has the second-least against. Perhaps Burrows can provide some defensive balance to this line, while Horvat and Baertschi drive the offence.

Markus Granlund

While head coach Willie Desjardins publicly said that he prefers Markus Granlund as a centre, it’s clear that Granlund will have to be successful as a winger on this team if he wants to stick around.

He’s been glued to a line with Brandon Sutter for most of the season, where the two found some early success. That line has gone quiet lately, even though Granlund is averaging more than 16 minutes per game in ice time.

The underlying numbers are in Grandlund’s favour. He has the best Corsi percentage among Canucks forwards, behind Eriksson and the Sedins. He has four points in 14 games so far and needs to improve on those numbers if he’s earning over 16 minutes of ice time per game.

Jake Virtanen

Even though Virtanen was temporarily demoted to Utica, he definitely has a chance to earn more ice time with Hansen out of the lineup. So far, Desjardins said Virtanen hasn’t earned his ice time because of his consistency.

It’s an interesting stance from Desjardins, who often uses positivity to give his players confidence. Virtanen could sure use some confidence right now, but will Utica really be the answer for him?

Virtanen takes off more shifts than he should, but his play on the ice hasn’t been absolutely porous. Despite his low ice time, he’s the only Canucks player not to be on the ice for a goal at even-strength. However, his low-possession statistics may lead others to believe that this is due to luck.

When he comes back into the lineup, he should be given a shot somewhere in the top nine. There is definitely room for him on the Canucks roster; all he has to do it bring his full effort.

The Canucks need Virtanen just as badly as Virtanen needs the Canucks.  They need his physicality and they need him to work hard every shift. He has the tools to be a successful NHL player, and he has the chance to earn more ice time while Hansen sits on the shelf.