Canucks season preview: Line combinations

In the second installment of their Canucks season preview, NHLHS Vancouver Canucks Correspondents Will & Valerie Wittstruck discuss possible forward lines and defense pairings

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Forward lines
With the recent signing of the gritty and versatile Raffi Torres, the Canucks have a full compliment of NHL level forwards for the upcoming season. Aside from Cody Hodgson, who needs to have a fantastic camp, players like Jordan Schroeder, Alexandre Bolduc, Sergei Shirokov, Mario Bliznak, and Viktor Oreskevich are long-shots to make the opening day roster.

Henrik Sedin, the reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner and possible future Canucks captain, will center the 1st line.  Daniel Sedin will again patrol the left side and once he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery, Alexandre Burrows will be on the right. Burrows isn’t expected back until November. There will probably be some line shuffling going on as the season begins and several players could get a chance to play alongside the Sedins. As we’ll see this will cause some shuffling on the other lines for the first month or so of the season.

The 2nd line is also set with Ryan Kesler centering the speedy Mason Raymond and crafty Mikael Samuelsson. The Canucks are banking on these players having great offensive seasons again and providing secondary scoring that is so key to success in the NHL. While it’s possible that Samuelsson could get some playing time on the Sedin line during Burrows’ absence, if we were coaching, we’d keep the 2nd line intact as they showed great chemistry last year playing together.

Manny Malhotra, another free agent signing, will anchor the 3rd line. Torres will be on the left wing, but the right wing position may be up for grabs especially at the start of the season. With the current lineup Jannik Hansen or Tanner Glass would probably fill that spot, but the injury to Burrows and possibility of Hodgson (or one of the other players) making the team could make things interesting.

Rick Rypien and Darcy Hordichuk are the 4th line mainstays and could find themselves paired with Hansen, Glass, or someone else depending on what happens in camp.

With the depth the Canucks possess and their potential salary cap issues, it’s a safe bet that the team will leave some of their younger talent in Manitoba to mature and improve instead of forcing them to bring them up before they are ready. However, a lot can change between now and October 9th.

With that being said, here are the lines as we’d like to see them to start the season:
1st D. Sedin – H. Sedin – R. Torres
2nd M. Raymond – R. Kesler – M. Samuelsson
3rd T. Glass – M. Malhotra –  C. Hodgson
4th D. Hordichuk – R. Rypien – J. Hansen
Press box: A. Bolduc, M. Bliznak, or V. Oreskevich

Once Burrows returns:
1st D. Sedin – H. Sedin – A. Burrows
2nd M. Raymond – R. Kesler – M. Samuelsson
3rd R. Torres – M. Malhotra –  C. Hodgson
4th D. Hordichuk/T.Glass – R. Rypien – J. Hansen
Press box: A. Bolduc, M. Bliznak, or V. Oreskevich

Defensive parings
As we discussed in our first Canucks season preview, Sizing up the roster, the defense has seen some significant changes during the off-season. The arrivals of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard have gone a long way towards solidifying the team’s defensive depth, something GM Mike Gillis set out to do this summer. With the top 4 consisting of Ballard, Hamhuis, Alexander Edler, and Christian Ehrhoff the Canucks have a lot more options and in essence a 1a and 1b pairing.

With the injury to Sami Salo it’s looking more and more likely they will hang onto Kevin Bieksa at least for the time being. A bit over-priced for a 5/6 defenseman, they should be able to take advantage of his offensive upside and he’ll be less of a liability playing fewer minutes. Obviously the team will have to do something when Salo returns, but by that time other teams may be in desperate need of a defenseman and the Canucks may be able to make a deal that will help them in the future.

Shane O’Brien, Andrew Alberts, and Aaron Rome will be battling for the final spot in the lineup.

Here are the defensive parings as we see them to start the season:
1a D. Hamhuis – K. Ballard
1b C. Erhoff – A. Edler
3 K. Bieksa – S. O’Brien

And finally, Cory Schneider will be backing up Roberto Luongo in goal. It will be very interesting to see how many games Schneider gets to start and how he does with the new defensive pairings in front of him. Everyone is hoping that, without the Olympic distraction and a much improved defense, Luongo will have a post-season to remember for all the right reasons.

Now it’s your turn! What kind of line combinations would you like to see from the Canucks this year and why?

I-5 Canucks – Will & Valerie Wittstruck
NHLHS Vancouver Canucks Correspondents
Twitter: @Hipcheck44 and @WCE71944

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