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The Canucks are going to be in a very strange and unfamiliar situation on Tuesday: everyone will be healthy. Or, at least, as healthy as they can possibly be this season, considering Manny Malhotra is evidently done. On Sunday night, Alain Vigneault made the announcement that David Booth was cleared to play and would be back in the lineup at some point during the Canucks’ upcoming four-game road trip.
Astonishingly, in the time it took Ryan Kesler and David Booth to return to game action, no one else on the roster suffered a new injury, meaning the Canucks needed to clear a roster spot to reincorporate the shoot-first winger. With Jordan Schroeder playing well, that left three options: Andrew Ebbett, Andrew Alberts, and Cam Barker.
Because the Canucks are committed to keeping both Alberts and Barker in the package, where they’ll be worth more someday, Ebbett was placed on waivers Monday. Like the rest of the Canucks, he’ll be heading to Chicago. Unlike the rest of the Canucks, he’ll be staying there, so long as he doesn’t get picked up by another team.
Let’s take a look at what Booth’s health means for the Canucks (beyond the fact that they’ll be able to play him now).
Simply put, it’s good news.
Regardless of what you think of his hobbies, personal beliefs, and Twitter persona, he makes the Canucks a better team. More importantly, he makes Ryan Kesler a more effective player. For all the talk last season of Kesler needing to use his linemates more, when Kesler was with Booth, the Canucks tilted the ice in their favour. The Canucks can only hope that Booth and Kesler can do this again soon. Getting the American Express line of Booth, Kesler, and Chris Higgins back together might help.
Unfortunately, if they do this, it will means a demotion for Zack Kassian, who is still tied for the Canucks’ goal-scoring lead despite a 7-game dry spell. On Sunday, Kassian was briefly shuffled down to the fourth line, with Dale Weise taking a couple shifts with Kesler and Higgins. If Booth returns Tuesday against the Blackhawks, Kassian will likely find himself on the fourth line again, as Vigneault seems to like the trio of Jordan Schroeder, Jannik Hansen, and Mason Raymond, and still seems allergic to playing two raw prospects in Kassian and Schroeder on the same line.
Quite frankly, Kassian deserves the demotion, as he’s made some poor decisions in the defensive zone — a guaranteed way to earn Vigneault’s ire. Even with the Wolves, however, Kassian was streaky, so it seems likely that he’ll earn his way back up the lineup in the future. Hopefully on the fourth line, he’ll also start taking the body more and rediscover his defensive game, which is when he seems to find success offensively as well.
With Ebbett gone, the Canucks will have just four centres on the active roster, with Aaron Volpatti as the thirteenth forward, (provided he doesn’t remain in the lineup due to a paperwork error).
Volpatti has managed to earn his spot on the Canucks, and it’s significant that he wasn’t considered for the trip on the waiver wire. He currently leads the Canucks in penalty minutes and is tied with Maxim Lapierre for the team lead in hits, while still holding his own in terms of puck possession. He isn’t, however, as good an option as Weise or Kassian.
By not waiving Alberts or Barker, the Canucks will continue to carry eight defencemen on the roster. They seem wary of injuries on the blueline, which is understandable given the past several seasons. It’s surprisingly that we’re over a quarter of the way through the season without Alberts or Barker needing to step into the lineup, but the Canucks are wise not to count on that good fortune to continue.
With all hands on deck, the Canucks have an impressive and diverse lineup that should give opposing coaches fits. They’ll have the puck possession style of the top line, a powerful two-way line, a speedy third line, and a defensively responsible fourth line with a pinch of scoring punch.
Of course, it’ll be up to the players to make what looks good on paper look good on the ice.Tags: Andrew Ebbett, david booth