Sunday, September 25, 2005

Job Hunting - Part 3: The Forwards

Coming in to training camp there were few questions surrounding the forward group of the Vancouver Canucks. The only real question was whether Matt Cooke would be signed, that question was answered last week. With the acquisitions of Anson Carter and Richard Park and few off season departures, there aren't many jobs available for the training camp hopefuls.

The Canucks top six will likely consist of Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison, Markus Naslund, the Sedins and Anson Carter. The only question mark there is if Carter will stick with the Sedins.

In the bottom six Trevor Linden, Richard Park, Ryan Kesler, Matt Cooke and Jarkko Ruutu are all guaranteed jobs. That leaves one starting position and depending on how many players the Canucks carry, possibly one pressbox job.

Here are the remaining players looking for an NHL paycheck...

Fedor Fedorov
Ahhh FedFed. What more can be said about Fedorov. I'll resist the tired cliches and just ask the question, can Fedorov make this team if he is not going to be playing in a top 6 role? Fedorov has to demonstrate that he is capable of playing only 5 to 10 minutes a game and he has to do it without being a liability defensively. He is not going to be playing on the top 2 lines and he has to get used to it. The only way he makes the team is if Crawford believes his attitude has changed and that he is not only willing, but committed to playing the role asked of him. Talent and physical tools aren't enough for him to stick with this year's edition of the Vancouver Canucks.
Tyler Bouck
With the signing of Matt Cooke, Tyler Bouck's job got a little tougher. Bouck's assets are his speed and feistyness. He is essentially a poor man's Matt Cooke. Is there room for two such players? Perhaps, but it's likely the Canucks would like more size in the bottom six and Bouck does not fill that need. That said, with a strong pre-season Bouck has as good a chance as anyone. He also has the added bonus of being on a one-way contract.
Wade Brookbank
Brookbank is a good bet to make one of the remaining jobs. He has two things going for him: 1) The Canucks will need an enforcer. 2) He is capable of playing both defense and forward which makes him an ideal "21st man". Of course his job is not guaranteed, but I would be surprised if he did not make it.
Lee Goren
Lee Goren had a very good season for Manitoba last year, scoring 32 goals with 30 assists and 117 penalty minutes. At 6'3, Goren's size would be a welcome addition to a team lacking size up front. The disadvantage Goren faces is that he does not play center and with the loss of Chubarov the Canucks may be looking for someone who can fill the 4th line center role. Goren has been off to a good start with a goal and assist in the first exhibition game, if he keeps it up there is definitely a spot open for him.
Josh Green
Josh Green has bounced around between the NHL and the AHL, accumulating 232 games at the NHL level. Green has good size at 6'3 and he can play center, two things the Canucks can use. Green managed 21 goals and 40 points in the AHL last season which could translate into the odd goal from the 4th line. The question with Green is whether he has the speed and penalty killing ability to play in Marc Crawford's system.
Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith was almost off the Canucks radar until a strong playoff run with the Moose caught the attention of Crawford and Nonis. The first round bust will never live up to his draft position, but he may find himself a job as a checking center. The Canucks only have four centers including Trevor Linden, who most feel is better on the wing. A fourth line center job could be up for grabs, Smith may be able to fill it.
Alex Burrows
I hesitate to list him here, but Burrows has hung around camp and found himself some exhibition action. With the names ahead of him it is extremely unlikely that he makes the team out of camp.
Jason King
And finally we come to Jason King. Normally King would be up at the top of this list, however concussion problems have prevented King from playing in camp. Unfortunately it does not sound like he will be lacing them up anytime soon. Hopefully King gets healthy and finds himself with the Manitoba Moose where he can look to be a callup.

Heading in to the season the Canucks are looking very good up front. The addition of Carter should give them two consistent scoring lines and with the likes of Linden, Cooke, Kesler and Park battling for 3rd line ice-time, depth is not a problem.

The Canucks do however have a few questions to answer. 1) Do they want Linden to play center? 2) Will they give Fedorov a chance, or risk losing him to Russia(likely for good)? 3) Do they want more size or speed on the 4th line? 4) And finally, how many players do they want to carry on the roster?

The answer to those questions will determine which of the remaining forwards make the team. They have four more games to find the answers.

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