Back in July, there was a rumour that the Canucks had signed hulking winger Brad Winchester to patrol their fourth line. As time passed with no official announcement, it seemed the rumours were all smoke, no fire. But those rumours have been re-sparked thanks to Brad Winchester skating with the Canucks in an informal practice today, although he wore Ducks gear and could not comment on the possibility of signing with the Canucks.
So is Brad Winchester the kind of player the Canucks want in the line-up? It seems that the answer is yes, as they have brought in similar big-bodied fourth-liners this summer in Byron Bitz and Mark Mancari, though Mancari is not as physical. They also signed other, slightly smaller forwards with a tendency towards punching, like Steve Pinizzotto and former Twitter aficionado Mike Duco, as well as inviting Steve Begin and Todd Fedoruk to camp on professional tryout contracts. Even Owen Nolan is likely more suited for fourth-line duty at this point in his career.
The number of potential fourth line forwards makes sense given that last season’s only constant on the fourth line, Tanner Glass, is Winnipeg bound and occasional fourth-liners Guillaum Desbiens, Alexandre Bolduc, and Mario Bliznak also left the organization. While Maxim Lapierre will almost certainly be the fourth line centre (barring any further complications for Manny Malhotra and Ryan Kesler), the spots on the wings are wide open. Is Winchester a better option than the other newcomers or returning forwards Victor Oreskovich and Aaron Volpatti?
The numbers are not too kind to Winchester. While the 10 goals he scored last season and the 26 he once scored over 40 AHL games would indicate that he has a modicum of offensive skill, his underlying numbers are not very impressive. In 76 games between the Blues and the Ducks last season, Winchester had one of the worst Corsi ratings on either team while playing against mediocre competition.
That said, at 6’5″ and 225 lbs, Winchester would immediately become the biggest player on the Canucks roster and his Corsi rating is still better than any of the players the Canucks used on the fourth line last season. His physical style of play could fill the void left by the departure of Raffi Torres and he has been a third-line player before. He also comes from the NCAA originally, something Mike Gillis has likely noticed.
Gillis has also likely noticed the 10 fights that Winchester has had in each of the last two seasons. Jason Botchford has suggested that Winchester would provide the grit and toughness that the Canucks were apparently lacking against the Bruins. If both he and Byron Bitz line up alongside Lapierre on the fourth line, the Canucks would be much larger and, given the rotating cast from last season, much more consistent and, yes, talented.
The biggest positive is that, if Winchester does get signed, it means Todd Fedoruk doesn’t have a chance to make the team. Winchester may be a mediocre hockey player, but he’s an all-star in comparison to Fedoruk. It would be just one too many competitors for the fourth line and Fedoruk is simply not good enough at hockey. With Bitz, Mancari, Pinizzotto, Duco, Oreskovich, Volpatti, and outside shots Ebbett and Nolan, adding Winchester to the mix leaves no room for Fedoruk. And that’s something we can all be happy about.Tags: Brad Winchester, Canucks, featured, fourth line, Training Camp