After a win tonight at home against the Islander the Canucks will move above .500 with a 9-8-1 and become the sixth team in the West with 19 points, ranging from fifth to tenth. It's been an up and down start to the season, one that has included lengthy road trips and roster turnover, but the Nux seem to be working themselves out of a funk and finding new line combinations. With chemistry in mind here are a few things to consider and a look in to the future and at the current depth charts.
David Booth: No team (perhaps in the history of the league) has ever experienced such a massive roster overhaul in one single offseason as the Florida Panthers did this past summer. The new team made power winger David Booth and his 4.25 Million Dollar cap hit for this and three more seasons expendable. GM Mike Gillis hooked up with one of the Nux favourite trade partners to acquire Booth for a pair of injured veteran forwards, Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelson. The thought was Booth would find chemistry with his former minor hockey teammate Ryan Kesler, but the two quickly showed they are far too alike to ever co-exist on the same line. No problem! Booth is a character player, and some of his ancillary skills include speed, forechecking and hitting (he's actually fourth among Canuck forwards in hits), this makes him a perfect hit on the third line. He looked good tonight with Cody Hodgson and Maxim Lapierre, who has played his way up the ranks in this young season. That line combined for five points and a plus-6 rating. So, will the Nux pay top-six money for a third line player? As long as Booth is OK with it and they can find this skilled third line the ice time I think they might stick together. They all had atleast 15 minutes of ice tonight.
Mason Raymond: The speedy winger is back skating with the team after joining them part way through the recent six game road trip, but where does he fit in? The Canucks, despite operating at an impressive 86.5%, have the 11th rated PK in the league and Mason Raymond is a big contributor shorthanded. I don't see a player returning from a major injury being traded without first proving himself to be healthy, but if he is he might be expendable. With the current forward depth you have to think he'll be slotted in on the fourth line and the way things are going I don't see him getting up above it. He'll find some extra ice on the PK but if he stays with the Nux he'll be taking on a new role, but only temporarily. He's in the last year of a two-year contract and with the number of other quality top-six guys under pact there's no way he's sticking around to play fourth line and special teams with the Nux. He had an off-year last season that ended in a serious back injury but his skill set is tremendous and some team will pick him up under value and scoop a speedster with 30+ goal potential.
Top Line Shuffle: Alex Burrows might have just lost his job with the twins as Jannik Hansen has finally hit his stride along side the twins. Burr is going to attempt to ignite Ryan Kesler. The two are reunited after their years as valuable depth players, now, they're expected to shore up secondary scoring for a team that sputtered at the most crucial momment last season. If Hansen continues to produce he'll keep his top line posting long term, and if Burr and Kess can find chemistry with Chris Higgins this team is going to make a lot better squads than the New York Islanders look second tier.
I admit I felt the Canucks needed to add another top six option, and we don't know how long this current incarnation of the Nux will last, but they are as of now looking like they're about as good as it gets lines one through four, I mean check out the current depth chart:
Sedin Sedin Hansen
Higgins Kesler Burrows
Hodgson Lapierre Booth
Weise Malhotra *Raymond
There's a lot of guys on this team taking jobs that could be considered below their skillset, but that's what it takes to win.