Two players were injured in the Canucks’ preseason game against the San Jose Sharks on September 25, 2011. One has returned to the lineup with gusto, scoring 5 points in 4 games; the other is done for the season. Alain Vigneault confirmed today that Steve Pinizzotto’s season is over before it even began — the rugged winger has undergone shoulder surgery.

It’s truly a shame, as Pinizzotto impressed both Canucks fans and coaching staff with his preseason performance. He not only played a physical game, but also showed a propensity for puckhandling that made him an intriguing option for a restructured fourth line that was expected to see more ice time. I liked him as a potential Raffi Replacement, giving him 3.5 Raffi heads out of 5, the second highest score at the time. It wasn’t just his offensive ability and hittiness that made him attractive: he also played a responsible game defensively, finishing the preseason tied with Dan Hamhuis for the highest plus/minus on the team at plus-3.

Vigneault was particularly impressed after a 2-assist, 5-hit effort in the preseason home opener against the Flames. “I didn’t really know what to expect except a physical presence and a guy who would bring a lot of energy,” he said. “I’m happily surprised by his skill set. He’s got better hands, from what I’ve seen so far, than what our scouts gave him credit for.”

Unfortunately, he never got the opportunity to use those hands in the regular season, as an ill-timed hit on Douglas Murray separated his left shoulder, which had to be popped back into place in the medical room. Because he had never experienced a serious shoulder injury before, Pinizzotto hoped to return quickly. He was back practising and was hoping to travel with the team on their recent road trip, but tweaked his shoulder in practice just before the trip. He was left behind in Vancouver and apparently required surgery.

With the excellent play of the fourth line to start the season, Pinizzotto’s injury and subsequent setback may be downplayed. Dale Weise has been very effective on that line, playing a similar role to what Pinizzotto would have played with his puckhandling ability and physical game. But the Canucks likely would not have put in a claim on Weise if Pinizzotto had not been injured.

Back when Weise was acquired, we pointed out this quote from a Brad Ziemer article:

Vigneault did not exactly give Oreskovich a ringing endorsement, almost suggesting that had Steve Pinizzotto not separated his shoulder on Sunday night against San Jose, Oreskovich might have been heading to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

“In Victor’s case, with Steve Pinizzotto getting hurt, he is the guy we have there right now,” Vigneault said after Friday’s practice. “I thought he played a little bit better in the last couple of games and I’m expecting him to continue to improve.”

Essentially, Pinizzotto had made the team out of training camp, with Oreskovich only playing because of Pinizzotto’s injury. Clearly not happy with Oreskovich as their next best option, the Canucks acquired Weise, who has turned out to be a great pick-up for the team. Personally, I would have loved to see both Weise and Pinizzotto on the fourth line, but that isn’t going to happen this season.

It might not happen next season either, as Pinizzotto and Weise are both only signed through this year, though Weise will be an RFA. I sincerely hope that Pinizzotto will re-sign with the Canucks, knowing that he is capable of making the team.

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  1. The Bookie
    November 15, 2011

    Does that mean we won’t be nicknaming him?

    I was thinking Sizzly Pizzly.

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    November 16, 2011

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  3. Bob Moore
    November 17, 2011

    That’s a real shame, I was looking forward to seeing how Pinizzotto was going to do in the regular season. On the plus side, Weise seems to be settling into his 4th line role quite nicely.

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