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After adding depth, Benning needs to address Canucks’ second line

Jun 30, 2014, 1:29 PM EST

Benning

Even when Ryan Kesler was still a Vancouver Canuck, the lack of production from the second line, which Kesler centered, was one of the many much-discussed topics on Canada’s West Coast.

Now that Kesler’s been traded to Anaheim, the Canucks’ second line is arguably the most pressing area for general manager Jim Benning to improve.

As it stands heading into tomorrow’s free-agent frenzy, Vancouver’s second line is comprised of newly acquired center Nick Bonino, with winger candidates in Zack Kassian, Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, and Alex Burrows (if the latter is dropped from the top line with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin).

The problem? Kassian, 23, is still a project; Higgins is probably better suited for a third-line role; and Hansen is definitely better suited for a third-line role.

Granted, it’s possible prospects Bo Horvat, Nicklas Jensen, and Hunter Shinkaruk could push for minutes on the second line, but they’ll need to make the team first.

For Benning — who’s done well to add bottom-six forwards Derek Dorsett and Linden Vey, and seems intent on signing a free-agent goalie (Ryan Miller?) — UFA options for a goal-scoring winger include Jarome Iginla, Thomas Vanek, Mike Cammalleri, Matt Moulson, Jussi Jokinen, and Radim Vrbata. There are others, but those are the ones who scored 20 or more goals last season.

It’s not a particularly lengthy or impressive list. On top of that, the Canucks can’t legitimately make the “come play for a Stanley Cup contender” pitch anymore. And that may cross a veteran like Iginla off the list.

Benning said in May that he believes the Canucks can be turned around “in a hurry.” And after a busy draft weekend, it stands to reason he’ll be busy again tomorrow.

How successful he’ll be remains to be seen.

  1. illogic87 - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Too bad you cant trade away that pesky little Alex Burrows…

  2. shaundre93 - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    From everything I’ve heard it seems like Vey could be the answer, unless they want him at 3C. Also I think Jensen would do well with the Sedins… Vancouver’s gonna have an interesting year. They have the types of players that could mesh to go on a playoff run or could fall flat on their face and finish in the basement, its hard to tell right now.

    Sedin – Sedin – Jensen
    Burrows – Bonino – Vey
    Higgins – Mattias – Hansen

    Maybe mix Shinkaruk and/or Horvat in somewhere and you’ve got yourself a solid mix with the right coach. It really depends on the kind of impact those young guys can make this year

    • 19to77 - Jun 30, 2014 at 4:34 PM

      God I wish they’d drafted Henrik Samuelsson back in 2012. They picked Gaunce at 26th but Samuelsson would have been a much better option. Big, strong right wing, two-way utility, fills the net, and you’d best believe Ulf Samuelsson’s kid has a hell of a mean streak. He’s basically Kassian but good. Would have been a great project to have waiting to go right about now. I wonder what the Coyotes would want for him?

  3. pj608 - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    Your team is screwed Vancouver….. You have a 1st line and decent defense with very young goalies that are still wet behind the ears. I would be very concerned about this year but Gillis did do a number on your team so just be patient. It is a rebuild. Nothing wrong with that…. Someone has to clean up the babies mess.

  4. canada2014gold - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    Tough to tell, I am a nucks fan and honestly if a guy wants to chase a cup I don’t know why he’d pick van right now. Money however, could prevail. They have the cap to pay a premium on a deal up to 4 years.

  5. imleftcoast - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    It would be nice to have a better second than LA’s fourth line. I can see the lure of signing a light’s out goalie to keep them competitive. I just can’t see Miller working out well in Vancouver, unless he were to take $3-4m.

    • thesportsjudge - Jun 30, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      Miller is not lights out. He CAN be, but he is pretty streaky.

  6. ikillchicken - Jun 30, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    Yep, that’s pretty much the problem. We really don’t lack depth. We lack bonafide elite talent. Everyone is playing a step above their pay grade. Hansen and Richardson are excellent 4th liners. Matthias, Higgins, Burrows, Kassian and now Bonino are excellent 3rd liners. Santorelli too if we wind up re-signing him. Thus, what we really need to do if we want to get competitive again isn’t to add further depth in the form of more bottom 6 guys. Rather, we need to add some high end talent that will push all those other guys back down the depth chart to where they belong.

    The thing is too, I would suggest that applies to the Sedins as well. It’s pretty debatable how good the Sedins are at this point. Are they able to bounce back and be an effective top line? I’m not sure. It seems like they may be better suited as a 2nd line at this point. At least if you’re looking at a contender anyway. Great teams have guys like Carter, Sharp, and Kane playing on their second line. I feel like, in the most optimistic prediction, the Sedins could maybe still be comparable to those guys (and that’s to say nothing of the possibility that they don’t bounce back at all under a better coach).

    It seems pretty clear to me that if we want to get back to being a contender, at absolute best we need to add a really outstanding second line. One that can take a lot of the weight off the Sedins. And at worst, we need to add a new FIRST line so the Sedins can slide down into a secondary role. So yeah, we’re pretty much screwed. Especially if we’re hoping free agency will fix anything. No, the only way we get what we need to get back to to excellence is through drafting and development. Maybe in a few years if Horvat and Virtanen work out. But adding more good bottom six players isn’t really going to fix anything. Nor even will signing any of the names on that list of FAs.

  7. scout202sport - Jul 1, 2014 at 5:52 AM

    Benning needs to be thinking about the team in a “few years from now” perspective. The Canucks are not a contender and don’t stand a chance against the plethora of talented teams in the West.

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