When Aaron Volpatti was placed on the waiver wire on Wednesday, I think most fully expected him to clear waivers and report to the Chicago Wolves. After all, there are no shortage of fourth line grinders who are willing to fight out there.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case: media sources on Twitter are reporting that multiple teams put in a claim on Volpatti, with the Washington Capitals getting first dibs thanks to their record. That’s right, it’s good that they’re doing so poorly. Who looks like a clownshoes management team for firing Bruce Boudreau now?
And who knew that Volpatti would be such a hot commodity?
Also unexpected, though I suppose I should have known better, was the fan outrage. I saw some Canucks fans cussing a blue streak at Gillis for “giving him away” and others calling Volpatti a “great player.” I saw emotional fans decrying the move as “stupid,” while more reasonable fans, well, also called the move stupid, but used bigger words.
There’s nothing wrong with fans being upset about a player leaving town. That’s part of being a fan: you grow attached to the players on your favourite team. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that Volpatti was the Canucks’ thirteenth forward and was thoroughly expendable. Losing him on waivers isn’t the end of the world.
I actually quite liked Volpatti. He started the vast majority of his shifts in the defensive zone and wasn’t a defensive liability. He finished his checks with authority. He didn’t shy away from a fight, despite being just 6 feet tall. He was a tough, physical player who could play a regular shift on the fourth line and that’s nothing to scoff at, especially since he effectively replaced Darcy Hordichuk, who couldn’t do that.
Amusingly, the Oilers are rumoured to have put in a claim for Volpatti, where he would have been an upgrade on Hordichuk for the second time in his career. What a legacy that would have been. Aaron Volpatti: better than Darcy Hordichuk.
I also liked using the nickname “Rat Burger” in reference to Volpatti, in large part because it confused people like crazy.
Clearly Mike Gillis liked Volpatti, enough to put him on waivers instead of trading him. It seemed possible, perhaps even likely, that Volpatti would clear, allowing the Canucks to bring him back up later in the season. For those complaining that the Canucks didn’t get anything in return for Volpatti, you have to understand that players like him are worth approximately nothing on the trade market. At most, the Canucks would get back a (very) late-round pick or a career AHLer with no chance of making the Canucks’ roster. That kind of return is hardly worth it when there was the possibility that he would clear waivers and they wouldn’t lose him at all.
With Steve Pinizzotto returning from injury, the Canucks needed to waive someone to make room for him. While Pinizzotto will immediately get sent to Chicago on a conditioning stint, the Canucks clearly didn’t want to put him on waivers and risk losing him. While he has yet to play a game in the NHL (through no fault of his own), he combines the physicality of Volpatti with more size, better hands, and more offensive skill.
As for why the Canucks chose to waive Volpatti rather than one of the other fringe players on the roster, the simple answer is that he isn’t as good at hockey as they are. (Well, that’s arguable when it comes to Cam Barker, but with Kevin Bieksa on the shelf, Barker is the Canucks’ 7th defenceman. While that’s a terrifying thought, it also makes it easy to explain why he wasn’t waived.)
Dale Weise is better than Volpatti at every aspect of hockey other than hitting and fighting, particularly when it comes to puckhandling. Where Volpatti often had trouble corraling passes, which sometimes got him into trouble when trying to clear the defensive zone, Weise has shown a proclivity for clearing the defensive zone safely and gaining the offensive zone with possession. That’s a way to make friends and influence icetime.
The Canucks’ could have sent Jordan Schroeder down to the AHL without having him go through waivers, but with Kesler injured, he’s essentially the Canucks second line centre. Besides, he’s played well enough to secure his spot in the lineup even with Kesler healthy.
Ultimately, losing Volpatti to waivers isn’t exactly a good thing, as he was a useful player, but it’s also not terrible and certainly not indicative of a failure on the part of Mike Gillis.Tags: Aaron Volpatti, Rat Burger