It goes without saying how badly the Canucks could have used a functional fourth line in the Stanley Cup Final, but I’ll say it anyway: on numerous occasions, Boston’s fourth line gave the Bruins momentum-changing shifts while the Canucks’ fourth line sat on the bench, awaiting or reminiscing their only shift of the period.
It was clear that there wasn’t a single fourth-liner in the Canucks organization Alain Vigneault trusted. That’s pretty damning (especially since AV loves his depth guys). This might explain why the Canucks didn’t have much of a problem with the mass exodus that took place over the weekend, as they let nearly every fourth-liner they had sign somewhere else.
By Monday morning, Alex “Howard Moon” Bolduc was in Phoenix, Guillaume “Improperly Formed Fist” Desbiens was in Calgary, Mario “The Shiznit” Bliznak was headed to Europe, and Tanner Glass and Rick Rypien were off to Winnipeg.
Expect shots of Alain Vigneault gazing longingly at the visitors’ bench when the Jets visit.
None will be missed for their effectiveness in Canucks’ colours. We at PITB shed a tear for Glass and Rypien, although less for the way they played hockey than for their other qualities: Rypien was perhaps the last convincing defense for keeping fighting in the NHL, and Glass was just a fabulous human being, whose inability to turn down a charity opportunity was beyond admirable.
(The Scrabble battle aside, I was most touched by his willingness to appear in support of the Dear Vancouver, I Love You movement, signing t-shirts two days before he knew full well free agency would be taking him out of town.)
All five of these players had their moments in Vancouver but, over the course of the last two or more years, each has been unable to maintain a job on the Canucks’ fourth line (Glass excepted, up until this postseason, when he regressed mightily).
Considering how low fourth-line expectations have dropped during the Alain Vigneault era, this too is pretty damning.
It was odd, then, to hear Canuck fans complaining about the team’s great loss as these players moved on. Granted, these guys gave the fourth line some toughness. However, the fact that they simultaneously rendered the line relatively unskateable went largely ignored.
Let’s be clear: none of these losses will be noticeable, and all of these players are replaceable.
The Canucks have plenty of personnel that could potentially fill these gaps. Victor Oreskovich and Aaron Volpatti already showed that they might be effective fourth-line wingers for next year. If they can improve their skating, both are capable of giving the Canucks what the departed guys gave them at the very least.
Jim Jamieson’s piece on Pinizzotto introduces him as a Brad Marchand type, but bigger, at 6’1″. Here’s Pinizzotto, on his game:
I played against (Marchand) in the American League. He’s not a fun guy to play against but you can ask anybody in that league and they’ll probably say the same thing about me. I feel that helped Boston out a lot, just him doing that, getting the high-end guys off their game. We have very similar styles. But I think I can be a lot more physical than him.
Meanwhile, Jamieson introduces Mancari as a bigger body, at 6’4″, 225 lbs, that put up big numbers in the AHL and can drop the gloves. He’s a long shot, but he could bring both size and skill to the end of the bench.
The wonderful news is that all of these players will have an excellent shot at making the team out of training camp, especially since Vigneault is now unable to default to the likes of Rypien, Bolduc, and Glass, as he normally does. With one of Malhotra or Lapierre holding down the fourth line center position (an improvement over the dearth of real options in September of last year), the Canucks have plenty of possibilities for grit at the wing.
And, if none of them can do the job, it’ll just be business as usual, anyway.Tags: Bolduc, Desbiens, featured, Glass, Mancari, Pinizzotto, Rypien, The Fourth-Line Center Graveyard