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3rd Line Centre Search - Analysis and Speculation

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06-10-2013, 06:13 PM
  #1
stromboner
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3rd Line Centre Search - Analysis and Speculation

Greetings. I’ve made this rather long post to speculate on, and analyze who might be the best option for the Canucks hole at 3rd line centre. I’d like to preface the analysis by stating that I don’t think the Canucks have a suitable 3C in their organization and that the ideal player for them would be pre-eye injury Manny Malhotra (i.e. a player with size who is excellent at face-offs, thus enabling Kesler to be used in more offensive situations). Since Mike Gillis recently mentioned at his year end presser that he would like to get bigger and younger, I’ve added age into the analysis. You might say the ideal 3C is a young version of pre-eye injury Malhotra.


Link to full size chart - UPDATED


Chart explanation:

Next CAP = 2013/2014 Cap hit.
For RFA and UFA I made my best guess at what those players were likely to receive.

Rel Size = sum of relative height (height/max height) and relative weight (weight/max weight).
Not surprisingly Brian Boyle and Nik Antropov are at the top as they are both heavy and tall.

Score =
Age weight *(min age/age) +
Size weight*(rel size/max rel size) +
PPG weight*(PPG/PPG max) +
FO weight*(FO%/max FO%)

The Score allows for the players to be ranked.

The Selection Criteria section allows for unsuitable/incompatible players to be eliminated from contention.

x=no go ?=questionable

High CAP: x > 3.5 > ? > 2.75
Poor FO%: x < 48 < ? < 51
Low PPG: x< .29 < ? < .49
Acquire: x = too difficult to acquire; ? = don’t have to give up too much; “blank” = easy to acquire (e.g. UFA require no assets to acquire)
Old: x > 30 > ? > 26 >
Size: x < 195 < ? < 200

Fit: x in any criteria = no; otherwise = yes

__________________________________________________ ____________

RESULTS:

Only 4 players passed the selection criteria (highlighted in green) without an “x”: Marcel Goc, Boyd Gordon, Kyle Chipchura, and John Mitchell. Let’s discuss:

Kyle Chipchura: He is not a standout NHL player. His FO, PPG, and age make him a questionable option for the Canucks. On the other hand, he has good size, is a UFA, and has a low cap hit. That said, the Canucks would be taking a bit of a chance in using him on the 3rd line, as his TOI/G from last year points to only 4th line deployment. Chipchura has a physical element to his game, which is good. So, he may be better suited as a Lapierre replacement if the Canucks don’t resign him.

John Mitchell*: He passed the selection criteria, but not by much. His FO% and PPG are average. His contract is good and his size is slightly above average. In fact, he seems like a downgrade compared to Lapierre, who can play a tougher agitator roll. Given his age, Mitchell is likely very close to his developmental ceiling, so I wouldn’t expect him to improve much with the Canucks. Also, since he’s under contract, giving up any assets for a downgrade with very little future upside would make no sense. Like Chipchura, Mitchell is an example of 4th liner sneaking through the selection criteria, who just wouldn’t be good enough for the 3C on a team that intends to continue contending for the cup.

Marcel Goc: He doesn’t exactly standout. His PPG, size, and age are not great, but also not poor. He is good at face-offs and has a low cap hit. Unfortunately, I don’t think Goc is the best candidate. He would require more from FLA to acquire than the average 3rd liner as it seems he’s an important part of their team, getting 18+ mins a night of ice time. In Goc’s case, I feel his positives just don’t outweigh his negatives.

Boyd Gordon: He is the best of the four players who passed the selection criteria. He’s a UFA and could be signed at a reasonable cap hit. His size is acceptable, and his FO% is excellent. His only drawbacks are questionable offensive abilities and age. Getting respectable minutes under coach Tippett in Phoenix indicates capable defensive abilities. Gordon looks to be the best option for a Manny Malhotra replacement for the Canucks. He represents good value, freeing up cap space for that much needed top 6 forward to play with Kesler.

__________________________________________________ ____________

I would like to talk about 6 players that didn’t pass, but are highly ranked:

Brandon Dubinsky: He is the ideal 3rd line centre for the Canucks. He has it all, good size, excellent faceoff ability, and excellent points production. He’s actually too good and is more suited to 2nd line duties in the NHL, but would make for an elite 3rd liner. Unfortunately, his cap hit is too high and he would require too much asset-wise from CBJ to acquire, as he’s become quite important for their team going forward. Too bad, really.

Marcus Johansson: He’s young, offensively talented and has good size. However, his FO ability is lacking and is considered an offensive player more so than defensive. Further, the price to acquire him would be high as he’s an up-and-coming 2nd line centre on a team that looks to be losing their best centre from last year, Mike Ribiero.

Tyler Bozak: He’s very similar to Dubinsky in many ways: size, scoring, face-offs, good defensive play. However, he will command approx. 5 million on the open market, making him too expensive for the Canucks 3rd line. Bozak is also more suited to a second line role and minutes.

Steve Ott: Many people have discussed Ott as an excellent/ideal 3rd line centre option for the Canucks. He is good on face-offs, gritty, and can put up some points. However, Ott is not big (only 190 lbs) is a bit old at 30yrs and a bit too expensive at just under 3million. Further, he is still under contract and would likely require a bit more than the Canucks would like to give up for a 3rd liner (e.g. 2nd round pick + B prospect, or low 1st round pick... see Paul Gaustad trade).

Jarrett Stoll*: He’s excellent on draws, has pretty good size, respectable speed, used to be a 2C on the Oilers cup finalist team in ’06, and recently won the cup with LA centering their 3rd line. He’s had good points production from 05/06 to 10/11, but his offense has dried up the past two years in the regular season. The biggest issue with Stoll is not really his on-ice play, but his cap hit, which is probably at the feasible limit for the Canucks, and the cost to acquire him. The only thing that might bring Stoll’s price down is that LA will be up against the cap next season, and have 7 RFA players to sign whose cap hits are all likely to increase. So, maybe the Canucks can get a “deal” on Stoll, but LA might value him over other players and move them instead.

Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly*: I’m looking at them together because both players are in a similar situation. They’re both Bruins and excellent at face-offs. Peverley is the faster, more offensively skilled of the two, giving up size and physicality to Kelly. The Canucks, it seems, are probably the least likely team in the NHL to acquire either of these players, given recent history. Both have NTC and are being paid 3 million (Peverley a bit more). Kelly is likely too old, given Gillis’ indication he wants to get younger. Peverley would be my choice, as his speed and better offensive skill set could turn the Canucks 3rd line into more of a two-way line. Both Higgins and Hansen are capable of 20 goals, and Peverley might be able to get them there. In any event, I don’t see the Canucks doing any business with the Bruins... but maybe I just can't see clearly through my own hatred.

These 6 players would be excellent for the Canucks from the perspective of on-ice performance. However, the high cap hit and high cost of acquisition make them not the best option as they would hurt the team in other areas. Such as, limiting cap space for a top 6 forward, or hurting prospect depth, or both. Maybe if MG can get a decent asset or two from trading Luongo, one of Ott, Johansson, or Stoll could be acquired, but Bozak and Dubinsky seem like just a pipe dream.

__________________________________________________ ____________

Lastly, I would like to discuss some strong candidates that did not pass the selection criteria (highlighted in yellow), but could still be very good options:

Shawn Matthias: Has speed, strength, and lots of size. Just had a breakout year which may have his early projections of 3C boosted to 2C. He’s an RFA and will be getting a large raise. Since his value is probably at an all time high, trading for him would likely take Schroeder+2nd, or the Canucks 1st straight up. His only drawbacks are face-offs and toughness. His age and physical abilities are exactly what the Canucks are looking for, but the price to get him and lack of faceoff prowess temper my enthusiasm towards him.

Sean Couturier: He might be the most intriguing player on the list. He’s young with tons of upside, has already established himself as an excellent defensive NHL centre at only 20 years of age, and best of all it looks like his team is willing to move him for an upgrade on defence (currently a position of strength for the Canucks). What’s the hold up? Besides a weakness in the face-off dot (common for young players), Couturier likely won’t be moved for anything less than a top pairing defenseman. For example, Edler for Couturier + pick, or Bieksa + pick for Couturier, etc. Edler looks like the only movable d-man given his current lack of NTC, but Edler would likely be better used in trying to upgrade our 2nd line wing position next to Kesler. This is the dilemma: getting Couturier makes it almost impossible to upgrade the Canucks top 6 forward group.

Zack Smith: Has size, speed, and age on his side. He’s also locked into a good contract for the next 4 years. And this is where some of the difficulty begins. The Ottawa Senators recently retooled on the fly so to speak, are a playoff team, and looking to improve. Their area of strength/abundance is forward so they would likely be looking to improve their defence. This seems like a good match for the Canucks whose position of strength/depth is defence. However, the Canucks should be looking to use their defensive depth to upgrade their top six, not the 3rd line. If, for example, the Canucks trade Edler (only top 4 d-man without a NTC) for a top six forward of approx. equal cap hit (5 million). Then trade Tanev+pick for Zack Smith. The Canucks would be depleted at defence, with only Hamhuis, Bieksa, Garrison and Corrado remaining. Alberts is UFA and Ballard will be traded or bought out. This makes it difficult for the Canucks to trade for any 3C that requires defensive assets or forwards on the starting roster. The only real trade bait is picks and prospects, which I don’t think will get the Canucks Zack Smith (or any young, up-and-coming centreman for that matter).

Brian Boyle: I’ve seen Boyle play live when NYR visited the Canucks the season before last, and he is a giant. He’s the 11th heaviest player in the league and 6th tallest. He’s also excellent at face-offs and has a nice, low cap hit. What’s wrong with him you ask? Well, he posted awful offensive stats this past season with only 5pts in 38 games, has little room for improvement given his age, and all that size makes him fairly slow. Would he be a good fit with speedy wingers Hansen and Higgins? I don’t know. I do know that he would solve the faceoff and size issues, but might not do much else. Boyle seems like too much of a risk.

Matt Cullen: He’s good on face-offs, a good points producer, acceptable size, and would cost zero assets to acquire. The only catch is he made 3.5 million last year and he’s 36 years old. Could the Canucks sign him for less than 3 million for no more than 2 years? I don’t know, but if they could he would be worth it. Cullen would fill the 3C role probably quite well, while giving time for a young player, like Gaunce, to further develop in the minors. If his price tag can fit under the cap, I think Cullen would be the best short term option for the Canucks (better even than Boyd Gordon).

__________________________________________________ ____________

In Conclusion, I feel like Boyd Gordon and Matt Cullen are the best options for the Canucks. If moving Luongo and Ballard (not necessarily together) can bring back some useful picks or prospects, maybe the Canucks could acquire Steve Ott in a trade. Stoll, Peverley and Kelly might require less assets to acquire than Ott, but their teams aren't in a rebuilding mode like Buffalo and may be less interested in picks or prospects.

If you have any suggestions for changes to my weighting or the selection criteria, or would like to see other players added to the analysis chart just let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

*UPDATE:
I’ve added the following players to the analysis chart: Peverley, Kelly, Campbell, Stoll, Mitchell, Gomez, Bolland, and Kruger. They’re players from the Canucks rivals/divisional opponents. I didn’t bother to include them before, because I honestly don’t see the Canucks making a trade with BOS or CHI, and to a lesser extent SJS and COL. Nevertheless, I’ve added a write-up for Colorado’s John Mitchell, as he passed the selection criteria, as well as write-ups for Peverley/Kelly and Stoll since they ranked highly on the list. Kelly isn't actually that high on the list, but I included him anyways since it was requested.


Last edited by stromboner: 06-11-2013 at 01:05 PM. Reason: Image issues + readability
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06-10-2013, 06:17 PM
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Seatoo
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Best 3rd post ever IMO.

Also reserved for when I have more time to throughly read this through.

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06-10-2013, 06:19 PM
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Best 3rd post ever IMO.
Exactly - where have you been hiding? Post more stromboner!

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Also reserved for when I have more time to throughly read this through.
Yup - alot to sort thru and read (which I'll do later).

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06-10-2013, 06:19 PM
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lolz, if we could get Couturier for bieksa + pick i'd be so happy. Damn Bieksa and his NTC.

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06-10-2013, 06:27 PM
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Solid post.

I have thought about signing Gordon to be our 3rd line center, but his lacking offensive abilities worries me. I understand that he is great at faceoffs and very good defensively, but I would like our 3rd line to help take some scoring pressure off the top 6.
I see him more as a 3rd/4th line tweener, and I would be much more comfortable with him centering our 4th line.

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06-10-2013, 06:27 PM
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Good stuff, although to be honest I don't see why age should be a factor, especially when we have Gaunce as a replacement in a year or two.

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06-10-2013, 06:41 PM
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Enjoyable read and it is obvious that you thoroughly researched the best options.

My question is, which of these guys would be used in a shutdown role instead of Kesler? The main idea behind going and getting a defensive third line centre is to give Kesler more offensive opportunities but I wonder if that would actually happen come playoff time. This is, of course, directed mostly at the Chipchura/Boyle-level players on this list. Ideally we would want to return to the system we ran when we had Malhotra, but that isn't necessarily the only choice. I agree with the OP that we should not give up any high-priced assets on a third line centre that can be used to upgrade our top 6.

If we commit to an offensive third line and make Kesler's line a two-way/shutdown line, we could create a different system that can be very effective. Say we put Kassian with the twins and move Burrows to the third line. Kesler can centre two very defensively competent wingers in Hansen and Higgins, while Booth and Burrows play cushier starts. Then if we got someone like Chipchura to take a fourth line, defensive role, we could run two offensive lines, and two defensive/two way lines.

Something like...
Sedin Sedin Kassian
Higgins Kesler Hansen
Booth Schroeder Burrows
Weise Chipchura XXX

Obviously any acquisitions would bump our players down the depth chart, but this is just a template to work from.

Just an idea I had been thinking about for the past couple days

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06-10-2013, 06:53 PM
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Still think OHL defensive player of the year - Gaunce - will get every opportunity to replace Manny, and surprisingly to some of you, he will do the job. When Gillis was describing the type of players he wants on the club, he describe Gaunce to a tee.

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06-10-2013, 07:28 PM
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Still think OHL defensive player of the year - Gaunce - will get every opportunity to replace Manny, and surprisingly to some of you, he will do the job. When Gillis was describing the type of players he wants on the club, he describe Gaunce to a tee.
Wasn't Hodgson also defensive player of the year in junior at one point as well? Or was it something else?

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06-10-2013, 07:33 PM
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Still think OHL defensive player of the year - Gaunce - will get every opportunity to replace Manny, and surprisingly to some of you, he will do the job. When Gillis was describing the type of players he wants on the club, he describe Gaunce to a tee.
There is no way I see Gaunce being ready to center the 3rd line next season. He will need at least one full season in the AHL in my opinion.

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06-10-2013, 07:39 PM
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Still think OHL defensive player of the year - Gaunce - will get every opportunity to replace Manny, and surprisingly to some of you, he will do the job. When Gillis was describing the type of players he wants on the club, he describe Gaunce to a tee.
I wouldn't hang my hat on the idea of Gaunce stepping into the NHL and being an effective 3C for us. It's nice Gaunce was the best defensive player and all in the OHL, but the compete level, and overall skill is much greater in the NHL. He would need to be put under sheltered minutes, and in that case, I would just use Schroeder as our 3C.

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06-10-2013, 08:38 PM
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I think the Canucks should lean on historic trading partner Florida for one of their developing centers. Whatever.

The key thing is to get younger and with upside. Unlike many, I think the Sedins are near done. Grabbing a youngster now that can become a second line center would be my ideal.

I would even pursue FA Bozak, if it could be done. Five million is a lot for a third line center, but is right where a second liner should be. One year as a third line guy isn't a deal breaker, for me. Injuries assure, almost, that he will be playing some second line minutes, anyway. If the term is three to five years, one year overpaid is acceptable, no?

In one year the cap will go back up to seventy plus. Bozak or other FA aquisition will be prudent in hindsight and there won't be any scrambling when the Sedins aren't re-signed.

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06-10-2013, 08:41 PM
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Ideally I would like to see an older veteran come in to mentor Lain on the 4th line. Someone who could switch with Lain on centre and LW to bring him along and let Gaunce get a year in the AHL. For 3C I would love to have Goc with Higgins and Hansen.

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06-10-2013, 09:01 PM
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Chipchura, Cullen and Goc seem good. Too bad Mattias is a RFA I wouldn't mind him. Also I don't see Guance playing with us for another 2-3 years and for Jensen give him a year in the AHL.

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06-10-2013, 09:50 PM
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Excellent post. This board could use more posts like this.

Also, didn't realize Winnik is sitting at an absolutely brutal 30% FO.

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06-10-2013, 09:55 PM
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Lots of interesting stuff here, but Goc is the only of those three good enough to be a third line center, in my opinion. The other two are 4th line centers.

People dramatically overstate the importance of faceoffs.

I guess I'd say that I think you've found good 4th line centers and leave it at that. A guy like Gordon just can't replicate the offense Malhotra could counter punch with -- he only produces about 60% of Malhotra's typical offense.

I'd want a young kid like Couturier who could play tough minutes and still have room to grow into a 2nd line role if I had my wish. It's going to be a hard spot to fill, which is why you hear rumblings the Canucks hope Gaunce can fill the role.


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06-10-2013, 10:31 PM
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If you have any suggestions for changes to my weighting or the selection criteria, or would like to see other players added to the analysis chart just let me know in the comments.
Nice post. Two other guys who might be worth thinking about are Chris Kelly and Rich Peverly on the Bruins. Boston's in a bit of cap trouble, especially if they want to re-sign Horton. I'd be curious if either of those guys are potentially available.

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A guy like Gordon just can't replicate the offense Malhotra could counter punch with -- he only produces about 60% of Malhotra's typical offense.
Fair point, but Malhotra was also, when healthy, one of the best 3rd line centers in the league. It seems unlikely that we're going to be able to replicate that this time around, especially given our cap constraints and (relative) paucity of tradable assets.

A guy like Boyd Gordon who can chip in 20 points, chew up 15 minutes a game, and pitch in on the penalty kill seems like a near-ideal 3C target. Especially if we're trying to get another scoring-line winger and need the extra cash. And he'd certainly be an upgrade on Schroeder.

I'd also vote to stick with Lapierre for the 4th line. Hard to think we'll find anything better on the UFA market or on the farm. I'm not sold on Lain, etc., but guys like that will likely get their chance when injuries strike.

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06-10-2013, 11:53 PM
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Gotta say, that is one heck of an analysis. Great job, and I couldn't agree more. Those are literally the 3 that I've been trumpeting. Boyd Gordon being the #1.

I evaluate then based on their advanced stats (underlying #'s). Goc's #'s are slipping a bit, but Boyd Gordon is the man. He's Malhotra_v2. And Chipchura also played tough mins in Phx and had great underlying #'s. He could be had to cheap too.

Hopefully Phx doesn't re-sign either and Gillis can scoop them up.

Not a UFA, but Kyle Brodziak is another great option. Great checking centre who can effectively eat tough mins (a la Malhotra). Don't think Minny would want to give him up though. Unless they want Luongo And in that case Luongo for Brodziak + 2nd.


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06-11-2013, 12:01 AM
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Shawn Horcoff after he gets bought out

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06-11-2013, 12:02 AM
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wouldn't mind Horcoff if the Oilers buy him out too

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06-11-2013, 12:03 AM
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Shawn Horcoff after he gets bought out
Horcoff won't get bought out, but he'll be traded, or that's the plan with him anyways.

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06-11-2013, 12:04 AM
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Shawn Horcoff after he gets bought out
Ya, didn't even think of him (if he gets bought out). He has decent underlying #'s, and could be had for cheap.

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06-11-2013, 12:06 AM
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Horcoff would be good, but I'd still like to get a guy we can totally trust on face offs.

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06-11-2013, 12:07 AM
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Boston is going to have to clear some cap and Kelly might be moved because of it. Canucks should definitely be interested.

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06-11-2013, 12:09 AM
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Exactly - where have you been hiding? Post more stromboner!
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Originally Posted by Seatoo View Post
Best 3rd post ever IMO.
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Excellent post. This board could use more posts like this.
Thanks guys. Lets just say my office productivity fell off a bit today

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Originally Posted by live playoff hockey View Post
...If we commit to an offensive third line and make Kesler's line a two-way/shutdown line, we could create a different system that can be very effective. Say we put Kassian with the twins and move Burrows to the third line. Kesler can centre two very defensively competent wingers in Hansen and Higgins, while Booth and Burrows play cushier starts. Then if we got someone like Chipchura to take a fourth line, defensive role, we could run two offensive lines, and two defensive/two way lines...
I've thought about this type of system before. I feel it's theoretically a good system, especially for the playoffs. If the 1st and 2nd lines on opposing teams effectively cancel one another out, the team with the scoring 3rd line would theoretically out score the counterpart on the opposition. This even passes the visual/eye test in that we've probably all seen how valuable a good 3rd line is to cup finalists. The Red Wings grind line, Anaheim's Rob Neidermayer and Sami Pahlsson line, and even our Higgins, Lapierre, Hansen line during our cup run were very important.

The problem I see for the Canucks as they are currently constructed, is that balancing the 2nd and 3rd lines by moving some guys down a line and others up, causes some of our better (i.e. high cap) players to play less minutes and some of our worse (i.e. low cap) players to play more. For example, if Higgins and Hansen are only good for ~15min a night, Kesler will be getting 5-7mins less ice time. Having line appropriate players allows for the best distribution of minutes and optimization of cap.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vankiller Whale View Post
Good stuff, although to be honest I don't see why age should be a factor, especially when we have Gaunce as a replacement in a year or two.
I half-agree with you. If we are just looking for a bridge player for Gaunce, any short term contract with a player of almost any age will do. However, if we are looking to replace the Sedins, or have our 3C around until the Sedins retire (probably 3-4 year), then signing an older guy like Cullen wouldn't work that well as he's probably done any year now. So, someone 30yrs or younger works for making cup runs while the Sedins are around. If we're looking to replace the Sedins (Henrik mainly) then a young player like Couturier would be ideal, as he would be able to develop on the 3rd line for a couple of years. Then Kesler can take over 1C duties and the young 3C can move up to 2C duties. This is somewhat reflected in my low weighting of age. Therefore, it doesn't influence the scores/ranking as much as PPG, size, and FO%.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JuniorNelson View Post
Unlike many, I think the Sedins are near done. Grabbing a youngster now that can become a second line center would be my ideal.
If the Canucks win the Cup in the next two years, the Sedins will probably retire on top. However, if we don't win the cup, I think the Sedins might transition to 2nd liners when they negotiate their next contract in order to give the team and themselves the best shot at a cup. So, they might hang around for up to 4 more years, in my opinion.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dissonance View Post
Nice post. Two other guys who might be worth thinking about are Chris Kelly and Rich Peverly on the Bruins. Boston's in a bit of cap trouble, especially if they want to re-sign Horton. I'd be curious if either of those guys are potentially available.

I'd also vote to stick with Lapierre for the 4th line. Hard to think we'll find anything better on the UFA market or on the farm. I'm not sold on Lain, etc., but guys like that will likely get their chance when injuries strike.
Thanks for the feed back. To be honest, it was a bit selfish of me, but I have a pretty strong hatred for Boston and it's players (especially those on the cup winning team) and I figure the core feels the same way. So, I omitted including any of their players. Same with Chicago too.

That said, I'll include them in the chart tomorrow to see how they stack up and if the Canucks should risk corrupting their souls.

Regarding Lapierre, I'm with you. Depending on how the 3C experiment works out, the team might want to relegate whoever the sign (e.g. Boyd Gordon) to 4C and move Lapierre up. He's had some chemistry with Higgins and Hansen before. Plus, 4th liners tend to be inconsistent players (were they more consistent, they might be 3rd liners) so last year might have been an off year, and Lapierre might not have trained properly for last season. He mentioned that his training was to put on more weight, and it seemed to affect.


With the positive response I've received, I might do a similar analysis for the missing piece on Kesler's wing. Most top six wingers the Canucks would target would likely be under contract, thus making the analysis quite a bit more speculative, I figure. I'll think about it over the next few days.

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