by Brian Beitz
If someone had told me earlier in the year that one of the Canucks strongest runs would come with Daniel Sedin and Kevin Bieksa sitting out with injuries, I would have… I’d have… Well, I’d probably believe them. Despite their lackluster play in January and February, the Canucks play a strong system game and have always said that if they stick to that system, they give themselves a great chance to win no matter who’s in the lineup. Now, since Daniel went down due to a
mysterious upper-body injury cheap and brutal headshot—wait, did I cross out the wrong part there?—the Canucks have won 6 straight, their longest winning streak of the season. Really, with the schedule as it is, the Canucks could very well finish the season on a 9-0 run without their leading goal scorer. It’s like they don’t even need him!
The problem is, as you’ll find out after the jump, the Canucks seem to realize this as well…
On Monday, the Canucks were in a fairly lighthearted mood. And why not? After a 6-0 run, and with injured players set to come back into the lineup over the week, you can’t blame the team for being jovial. In fact, Alain Vigneault was so unconcerned about Daniel’s progress, he decided to turn the media scrum into a standup comedy routine, as shown in this video. Pay close attention to the 0:45 mark.
Alain decided that, with no new news and April Fool’s Day just behind us, he would set the boys up with a comment about a big setback, only to bring it home with the punchline, “He said to Bernie that he felt like Hank today, so…” My favourite part? That you can hear crickets after he lands the line. My second favourite? That Alain clearly had that “joke” sitting in the holster, as he laughed the second someone asked about the younger Sedin’s progress. After the video he followed up with, “Daniel actually flew to a specialist yesterday, and boy are his arms tired! Is this thing on? Seriously though, you guys are great. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.” Meanwhile, Henrik added Alain’s name to the list.
But AV wasn’t the only one joking around, as interviews with the players centered mostly around Max “Opportunity Knocks” Lapierre’s filling of Daniel’s spot on the top line with Henrik and Burrows, where the agitating center has earned 4 points over the past 2 games. While this is clearly just a temporary situation until Daniel returns, many on the team worry that the so-called lesser twin (Henrik’s words, not mine) might not have a spot to come back to when he does get healthy. An impressed Roberto Luongo certainly had his doubts:
“It’s amazing! I think, uh… I don’t know where Danny’s going to fit when he gets back. It’s going to be pretty tough to crack the lineup.”
As Dan Murphy reported on Sportsnet, when Lapierre entered the dressing room after the game against the Stars, he was greeted with chants of “Guy! Guy! Guy!” comparing him to the Flying Frenchman, Guy LaFleur. Clearly he’s on the first line to stay!
In all seriousness, while Daniel returns, Lappy is probably destined for the 4th line, but we at Smug Nation believe these lines deserve a longer look. Back in February, I looked at the Sedin slump and discussed Alain’s splitting of the twins. Essentially, I discussed why many teams split their top players to even out their offense and attempt to disturb opposing coaches line-matching strategies. With a potential matchup against some strong defensive teams (i.e. Nashville) in the post-season, maybe Daniel should stay away from that top line.
Right now, the Lapierre/Henrik/Burrows experiment is clearly showing some chemistry, and it seems the 3rd line of Higgins/Pahlsson/Hansen is more-or-less untouchable at the moment, providing offense and energy throughout every game. Obviously Daniel isn’t going to slide into the 4th line spot, so that leaves the one line that seems to be doing very little out there: the Kesler line. As Cam Charron speculated a while back, it may be worth replacing Mason Raymond with Daniel, providing Kesler and Booth, two power forwards who love to take the puck to the net, with a savvy winger who can be a setup guy, knows how to get to rebounds, and, oh yeah, can skate into the offensive zone without falling over.
This also helps a bit with the oft-criticized lack of toughness the Sedins show (though I do not get how the league’s reigning ironman among forwards is considered to be “soft”). While Burrows and Lapierre are not exactly Georges Laraque and Marty McSorley, you can bet players will think twice before crosschecking Henrik when they know it will result in having their fingers bit, hair pulled, eyes gouged, and mothers strongly criticized. Meanwhile, Daniel might get a little more push back with Kesler and Booth on his line. As we saw with Booth in the Colorado game, he doesn’t necessarily like it when guys go after his teammates. And Kesler… Well, he’s not a people person.
In all likelihood, Daniel is destined for the first line alongside his brother, but I hope that Lapierre has given Alain Vigneault something to think about. Splitting the Sedins not only rounds out your offense, it helps to protect your stars, might give some struggling players a boost, and could finally take Mason Raymond away from a spot that, quite frankly, he just hasn’t earned this year. Or as Alain might put it, “Now take Mason Raymond… Please!”