After an offseason that saw bigger names going out from Vancouver than coming in, it’s clear that the Canucks are counting on their most substantial improvements coming from the young players already within the organization. With that in mind, PITB looks at the three top candidates for Canucks’ breakout player of the year — Chris Tanev, Jannik Hansen, and Cody Hodgson —  and what it would take for them to earn the mantle.

**********

CHRIS TANEV

In some sense, Tanev broke out last season, rising from prospects camp standout to a starter in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Still, Tanev could rise even further. The departure of Christian Ehrhoff could yield more opportunities than the injury plague that hit the Canucks’ backend last season, and Tanev could very well wind up on a pairing with Alex Edler as a result.

But it would still require an injury. If everyone’s healthy, Tanev will likely live on the bottom pairing with Keith Ballard, but an injury-free season from Sami Salo, Edler’s expected partner, would be a stunner. If Salo goes down, expect Tanev to be the one that moves into the top four. Both Ballard and Edler are left-side defensemen. While one of them might get moved to the right side, it seems unlikely, since maximizing Alex Edler’s potential is priority number one for the Canucks this year, and Ballard’s left hip is best served facing the boards – for obvious reasons. Tanev, on the other hand, is a poised, stay-at-home, right-handed, right-side guy and, after Salo, perhaps the Canucks’ best option as a buddy for Edler.

If Tanev can join Edler’s pairing, he’ll be playing far more minutes with the Sedins and far fewer with guys for whom the location of the puck is secondary. Ask Christian “Moneybags” Ehrhoff what being on the ice with the Sedins can do for one’s career. With more offensive-minded linemates, a player with Tanev’s vision and passing ability could really rake in the assists.

JANNIK HANSEN

Last year, the Kurtenblog picked Jannik Hansen to be the Canucks’ breakout player of the year. They were and weren’t wrong. While Hansen didn’t quite break out as a scorer, he did break out as a checking forward, leading Canuck wingers in takeaways, Canuck forwards in hits, and becoming a staple on the third line. But Hansen could establish himself as more than that, especially if he winds up on Kesler’s wing.

Though many assume the Canucks are in the hunt for a power forward to play with Ryan Kesler, what he really needs is a setup man. Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, Chris Higgins, and Marco Sturm are all shoot-first players. A quick perusal of their career numbers shows that, most seasons, these guys get more goals than assists. Among, only Mikael Samuelsson has twenty more career helpers than career goals, and only Samuelsson has two seasons where his assist total outnumbered his goal total by 10. Take a look at Iginla and Jokinen in Calgary to see what happens when you have two dominant shoot-first players on the same line.

Since Kesler’s 41 goals were 8 more than Samuelsson and Raymond combined, one assumes that finding a playmaker for him makes more sense than forcing him to act as primary setup man for his wingers. Among Vancouver forwards, Hansen is the Canucks’ best passer after the Sedins, and his skill in this area has yet to be exploited. Is this the year? A permanent promotion to Kesler’s line could see the Danish winger emerge as a bona fide setup man. If he does that, he could wind up defending his title as breakout player.

CODY HODGSON

Speaking of opportunities on the second line, while Hodgson hasn’t had many (read: any), he could see a big one to start the season. Provided Ryan Kesler doesn’t recover from his offseason surgery too quickly, as Laurence Gilman recently indicated he might, the second line centre spot is wide open.

There have been promising reports from Hodgson’s camp (although there are promising reports from everyone’s camp in August), but if he has truly rounded a corner as an NHLer, it has to be evident in September and October. If he impresses then, there’s a good likelihood that, once Kesler returns, Hodgson’s demotion will be a minimal one. Rather than being busted back to puttering around with the fourth line, Hodgson could remain an option somewhere in the top nine.

As a skilled passer, he might even find himself in competition with Jannik Hansen as a second line playmaker, though he’s really going to have to show something to beat out the glut of middle wingers. However, as a natural centre, Hodgson has an in. Alain Vigneault loves having a backup for faceoffs, and a Cody Hodgson that’s deployable in just such situations would be a windfall. If Hodgson can convince Alain Vigneault of his worth as a top six guy while they’re looking for one, he just might be the surprise of the season.

Tags: , , , ,

12 comments

  1. Chinstrap Joe
    September 8, 2011

    Great analysis. One more to consider is Cory Schnieder, if Gillis keeps him around. Even though he got a lot of praise for his numbers last season, if Luongo goes down with injury for an extended period, Schnieds could (and will) prove his bonafides as a number one. Gillis would then have a fatter, juicier trade prospect to land a tasty, tasty forward…

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  2. peanutflower
    September 8, 2011

    My money is on Hansen. If I had any money, that is. I think that Tanev and Ballard will be the defensive pair that they should have been all last year and I’m sure looking forward to it. I stick by my feeling that Hodgson just ain’t going to make it. I could be wrong. It has happened before.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Noodle
      September 9, 2011

      Yeah. I’m not sold on Cody either.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Nth of the 49th
      September 9, 2011

      I haven’t been sold on him but he also hasn’t been given much of an opportunity. I’m not a big fan of AV and think his coaching style has been hindering Hodgson.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  3. Rachael
    September 8, 2011

    All three, please!!!

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  4. Tom 1040
    September 8, 2011

    Not being facetious, I hope Luongo has a breakout year.

    If he can screw his head on properly, maybe he can perform well consistently at home and away in the playoffs/when it really counts.

    We’re still waiting for that.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  5. Nth of the 49th
    September 9, 2011

    Wouldn’t Tanevs’ performance last spring be considered his breakout?
    Or in the dusty tomb of PITB rules does it require a full year “in the show”?

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  6. Brosef Stalin
    September 9, 2011

    You forgot another key player who could have a breakout year: Keith Ballard

    Sure, the Canucks have a lot of left handed depth on D, but that doesn’t mean that good ol’ Hips can’t make an impact as a defender this year (maybe even an offensive defenseman?) Unfortunately, I think every defender on the team and in the system has a better chance of getting minutes than KB4, but maybe Coach V will be looking for a new man-crush with the departure of Glass…

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  7. John
    September 10, 2011

    I’m questioning if the Canucks have the dumbest fanbase in the league. A coach who lead his team to one win of the cup should be fired and ppg players in the Sedins are lazy, second liners. A Euro captain can’t win the cup, so he should be replaced with a American captain. If I wasn’t a resident, I’d be hopping on the Canucks hate bandwagon during the playoffs.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  8. Johan
    September 12, 2011

    Obviously, you don’t know math or you could equate the amount of money versus the length of the contract and figure out the low payout.
    Secondly, seriously you DO NOT know hockey.
    Ask the twins and Kesler who’s going to set them up now for their points. It works both ways…..but Christian gave them more chances as they got the goals.

    Favorite Quote: Alexander Edler- “Why talk if you don’t have anything good to say?”

    There’s not that many gentlemen out there, so I guess your useless, random opinions get printed.

    Here’s an insult for you. “Why don’t you stick to football?”

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Harrison Mooney
      September 12, 2011

      Ha. Is this for real? How could you possibly get so upset over such an innocuous article?

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Tom 1040
      September 13, 2011

      What?

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)