Saturday, October 02, 2010

Canucks to Make Final Cuts This Weekend

The Canucks closed out their pre-season with a win in Anaheim Friday night, now it's time to make decisions. Canucks management is meeting today to decide on what kind of a lineup they want.

Brendan Morrison

The first decision they need to make is whether they think Brendan Morrison has a role on the team and at what price. Once that decision is made, a lot of things fall into place. The biggest thing working against Morrison is the team's desire to be bigger and grittier this season. For that reason, it seems unlikely that they would sign Morrison to be strictly the 4th line centre.

So where does that leave BMo? Can he temporarily slide into the top 6 and replace Alex Burrows for the first month and a half of the season? Maybe - he might fit well on the right wing of Kesler's line - the problem is during the pre-season he was never really utilized with any of the Canucks top 6 players. That appears to indicate that the Canucks would be more likely to use him on the 3rd line, pk and pp. However in that role there are bigger and grittier players available.

Morrison would help the team in many ways, but the fit just doesn't seem quite right. The Canucks might still go with him, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Bottom 6 Forwards

There are a few guys who are locked into their spots on the 3rd and 4th lines. Assuming Raffi Torres is likely to start the year up with the Kesler line, Manny Malholtra and Jannik Hansen will comprise two thirds of the 3rd line, while Tanner Glass has a spot on the 4th line. That leaves 4 spots - 3rd line LW, 4th line C, 4th line RW and the 13th forward.

On left wing there may actually be a spot for Peter Schaefer. The Canucks have taken a long look at Schaefer and he's played pretty well. He can kill penalties, has some skill, can skate and he's very strong on the boards. He could fit in well on a 3rd line checking unit who can play in the offensive zone and pop some goals.

Alternatively the Canucks could go with Jeff Tambellini or the aforementioned Morrison. Tambellini has had a fairly good pre-season. His speed is a great asset, but like Morrison, he isn't the big gritty type. Perhaps the biggest thing working against Tambellini is that he doesn't kill penalties and wasn't even tried in that role during the pre-season(at least in the games I watched).

On the 4th line, things may have gotten a little clearer in the past few games, mainly due to the strong play of Alex Bolduc. Bolduc showed some feistiness and grit and looks like a pretty good 4th line centre option, especially at a cap hit of $500k. A 4th line of Glass - Bolduc - Rypien is looking pretty decent as long as Rypien is ready to go to start the year. Darcy Hordichuk appears on his way out (see below) and Vic Oreschovich appears to have dropped below Guillaume Desbiens on the depth chart. For cap reasons the Canucks may go with only 12 forwards to start the season.

Andrew Alberts VS Shane O'Brien

As I type this, Dan Murphy has tweeted that Shane O'Brien (and Hordichuk) have been placed on waivers.

Andrew Alberts completely outplayed O'Brien and when you look at the salaries it was a fairly easy decision for the Canucks. O'Brien wasn't delivering in the physical department. There were too many instances of the opposition crashing the net with SOB doing basically nothing. It's the pre-season, it's okay to take a penalty defending your goalie. O'Brien simply didn't step up. Meanwhile Alberts played really well, he finally looks comfortable out there. This was an easy decision for the Canucks.

Final Thoughts

It's been an interesting pre-season, with many good battles. It's not too often that so many roster spots are available. We'll find out soon who makes it, but I have a feeling that the Canucks are going to lean towards size and grit on most decisions...