With all the talk in the offseason about the search for wingers for Kesler on the second line and the concern over the injuries to Raymond and Kesler, it seems to be lost that there isn’t actually that much competition for those spots in the lineup. It’s fairly safe to assume at this point that Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm are pencilled in as the second line wingers, with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen ready and willing to jump into those spots if necessary. As for a replacement Kesler, that role is clearly Cody Hodgson’s to lose.
No, the spots that are up for grabs are on the wings of Maxim Lapierre on the fourth line, and this is where things get interesting. After Christian Ehrhoff, the loss of Raffi Torres to free agency is the most significant change to last season’s lineup. His combination of Bowlingballitude, Streakiscoringness, and Photogenicity makes him difficult to replace.
While his place on the third line will likely be filled by Higgins or Samuelsson to start the season, neither has the right combination of attributes to be a true Raffi Replacement. Ideally, one of the players battling for a spot on the fourth line would be that replacement, ready to step into a role on the third line in case of injuries.
So who best fits this description? PITB breaks down the options, focussing on players who can fill a role on the fourth line but would be able to step up to the third. They will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5 Raffis:
Mancari has an attractive combination of size and scoring ability. His one-touch pass to Owen Nolan in last night’s preseason game demonstrates his soft hands, but it’s the fact those hands are attached to a 6’3″, 225 lb body that gets people excited.
Mancari has been a point-per-game offensive producer at the AHL level, but has either not been given the appropriate opportunity in the NHL or hasn’t demonstrated enough Streakiscoringness to contribute. Still, he tallied 8 points in 20 games for the Sabres last season in a limited role and has a point in both of his preseason games.
As for Bowlingballitude, Mancari is sadly lacking. He had 16 hits for the Sabres and has yet to show a willingness to throw his weight around in the preseason and run anybody over. He lacks the tenacity of a true Raffi. He has some potential for Photogenicity: he just needs to puff out those cheeks a bit more or maybe stick his tongue out and he can earn himself a better rating. This picture is a good example. At this point, however, he’s a poor excuse for a Raffi.
Oreo has the added benefit of a nickname that is almost as silly-sounding as “Raffi Torres.” He also brings some decent size to the table, at 6’3″ and 215 lbs. Oreskovich is essentially the inverse of Mancari, as he is far more hitty and far less scorey.
His Bowlingballitude potential is quite high, as he will frequently seek out a hit on the forecheck and run a guy over if the opportunity presents itself. In his 16 regular season games with the Canucks, he had 28 hits and he added 32 more in 19 playoff games.
His Streakiscoringness level is, however, much lower. He hasn’t shown any real results offensively in professional hockey, scoring 3 points for the Canucks in the regular season and being held entirely off the board in the playoffs. While some think there may still be some untapped potential there, he hasn’t been any more successful in the AHL, recording just 12 points in 40 games with the Moose.
He suffers a little on Photogenicity: while pleasant enough in photographs with the surprise vaguely ginger beard, he lacks the thrill of the unknown. With Raffi, you never knew what the lens would capture; with Oreo, it’s rarely unexpected.
When it comes to Photogenicity, you can’t underestimate the power of a great speckled-grey beard. It was true for Scott Niedermayer and it’s true for Owen Nolan. While he certainly can’t compare with the many faces of Raffi Torres, a grizzled grey beard would be a great addition to the options for Canucks photographer Jeff Vinnick.
Nolan is known for his grit and scoring ability, with 885 points and 1,793 penalty minutes in his career. His long, long career. One of the things about Raffi that contributed to his Bowlingballitude was his ability to build up momentum in a hurry, taking just a few strides to get to Blow-Up-Tyler-Myers speed. Nolan just doesn’t have that stride so his Bowlingballitude suffers.
But he can definitely still contribute in the category of Streakiscoringness. In his most recent NHL season, Nolan had 33 points in 73 games with the Minnesota Wild, more points than Raffi Torres had last year with the Canucks. The year before that, Nolan put up 25 goals and 45 points in 59 games. 12 of those 25 goals were on the powerplay: seeing his goal last night, it’s not hard to see him taking Kesler’s role on the first unit until he returns from injury then moving to the second unit. He’s still hard to move from the front of the net and still has scoring hands.
Still, his overall Oldmanocity makes his Raffi status a bit questionable.
Considering that Pinizzotto considers himself to be a potential replacement for Raffi, there clearly must be some similarities. And Pinizzotto is definitely a tough customer, recording 178 penalty minutes in 68 games last season with the Hershey Bears, and running several players over in last night’s preseason game. His Bowlingballitude potential is solid.
With back-to-back 40+ point season in the AHL, Pinizzotto also has the potential for Streakiscoringness. He clearly has skill on tap, best on display during the split-squad game when he combined with Jordan Schroeder and Nicklas Jensen to form the Canucks best line in Vancouver. While the physical side of his game was a known quantity, Alain Vigneault has been impressed with his skill set, so Pinizzotto may have an edge.
While not as goofy looking as Raffi, Pinizzotto’s Photogenicity has a certain charm to it. This picture shows he has some potential, but he’s just not there yet. He does, however, add the non-Raffi traits of killing penalties and attending RIT.
Want proof of his Bowlingballitude? Check out this hit on the master himself, Raffi Torres. Duco is shorter than all of the other options at only 5’10″, but he plays with a feistiness and recklessness that makes up for it. The difference between a guy who hits and a Raffi Torres, is the ragdoll effect. Does the player go flying? Do his limbs fling every which way? Does the crowd go “Oh!” upon impact? Try this Duco hit on Wade Redden on for size.
He’s a born agitator as well, getting under the skin of both Taylor Hall and Ryan Smyth last night (and inexplicably getting an extra minor penalty in the process).
So his Bowlingballitude is secure, but what about Streakiscoringness? He potted a shorthanded goal last night with an impressive second effort, diving over the sprawling defenceman to get to his own rebound. As further proof of his grit, he took a high stick just prior to scoring this goal. But one preseason game isn’t enough to make a judgement. 20 goals last season for the Rochester Americans in the AHL is pretty good, however, though he has no points in 12 NHL games.
Finally, he’s got some solid Photogenicity. Check out this picture from his fight with Dan Carcillo or this shot from a game against the Devils. With his fiery red beard, he’s got an edge in Raffi Replacement value, but where Torres always looked goofy, Duco looks charming. He’s not perfect, but so far Duco’s got the edge.
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