Alright, this is going to be an interactive post. Here’s what I think Vancouver’s lines could look like on Jan. 19 when the Canucks host the Edmonton Oilers (my guess, not fact) and you’ll let me know how much of an idiot I am. Whatever, I have thick skin. Or maybe I just won’t read the comments.
Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, here is some insight. It’s impossible to know what the Canucks lines will look like on opening night because head coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t even have a clue at this point. Sure he has some ideas but until he is able to see some combos on the ice, there is no way he can pass judgment on chemistry and so on. And with no exhibition games prior to this shortened season, Vigneault is going to have to experiment on the fly.
So, let’s start with this.
Daniel Sedin — Henrik Sedin — Zack Kassian
Chris Higgins — Alexandre Burrows — David Booth
Mason Raymond — Manny Malhotra — Jannik Hansen
Dale Weise — Maxim Lapierre — Aaron Volpatti
Now let me make one thing clear: I think this is how the Canucks may start Game 1 but after the first few shifts I’m out of the guessing game. I’ve got Kassian with the twins because I want to believe he can fit there. I even bet that with Ryan Kesler out, Vigneault would love to have him there. And I say that because Burrows is the best option to play out of position at centre and he knows it. However, history tells us Vigneault doesn’t have a lot of time for young players he doesn’t trust defensively so if Kassian gets a crack with the twins, I don’t expect it to last long.
What are some other options? Well, Higgins has played down the middle before and told media earlier this week at UBC he’d have no problem playing centre but he much prefers the wing.
Lapierre could easily leap frog Malhotra in the three-hole and in all likelihood could play a few games on the second line, if need be. Again, in my mind, not the best option but doable.
A player l like to get a look at centre is a guy I don’t have in the opening lineup at this point — Andrew Ebbett. He’s been one of the Chicago Wolves most consistent forwards this AHL season; he can skate, he knows how to play in his own end and the Canucks like him. He is a very good depth player, hence the $300 thousand minor-league salary management threw his way in the summer.
Obviously the absence of Kesler throws a massive monkey wrench in the Canucks plans. You need strength down the middle and with Kesler out, the Canucks quite frankly do not have it. So, if you thought Vigneault liked to shuffle the deck before, get ready, things are about to get very interesting.