Has Jordan Schroeder’s improved play eased Vancouver’s need for a centre?

Jordan Schroeder hangs ten in a game versus the San Jose Sharks.

ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun gave Vancouver hockey fans some food for thought Wednesday when he named the Canucks among the teams showing an interest in San Jose bruiser Ryane Clowe, who might be on the market as the Sharks debate a deadline sell-off. “Don’t just assume he’s 100 percent headed to an Eastern Conference team,” Lebrun added after discussing a number of scenarios in this regard. “I’m told there are Western Conference teams, the Vancouver Canucks among them, that also covet Clowe.”

This left many Canuck fans scratching their heads for several reasons. Does the club really need a guy that takes a lot of penalties, has yet to score a goal all season, and abuses the letter E so brazenly? And beyond that, don’t the Canucks need a centre more than they need another winger?

Let’s ignore, for the moment, Clowe’s awful luck this season, the blowups it’s produced, and the extraneous E’s, instead taking a look at that last objection. All season long, the Canucks have been shorthanded up the midde, what with Ryan Kesler spending so much of the year on the IR and Manny Malhotra’s tenure as a Canuck ending back in February. It’s been our understanding that acquiring a centre has been a top priority for this team all year.

But now we’re beginning to wonder if Jordan Schroeder may have helped to shift their priorities.

Schroeder has now played 28 games with the Canucks, and he’s beginning to find his footing at this level. The diminutive centre has put up 9 points, 4 of which came on a recent 4-game point streak that came as he skated on a line with Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen. Between these two speedsters, Schroeder has looked comfortable, and the trio has played a big role in helping the club to five straight wins.

What’s more, Schroeder appears to have earned at least some measure of trust from Alain Vigneault, who handed the rookie a game-high eight defensive zone faceoffs Tuesday night versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Schroeder won six, which, as we’ve pointed out before, is a good way to stay on AV’s good side. It helps that he’s matched with Hansen and Raymond, two of the Canucks’ best two-way forwards.

It’s enough to make one wonder if the Canucks are beginning to think Schroeder can continue on in a similar role come playoff time.

Sure, Schroeder isn’t exactly the ideal defensive centre. That said, Ryan Kesler is. Would the Canucks consider sacrificing some of Kesler’s even-strength offence for a larger defensive presence if they felt Schroeder and co. could make up for the lost scoring punch?

It’s important to note that I’m not suggesting the Canucks make Kesler the third-line centre when he returns — just that they deploy him a little differently. He remains one of the best defensive centres in the game. Somehow, I don’t think he’ll be wasted if he spends most of his time on the ice at even-strength battling the opposition’s best players to a standstill, like he did in the 2011 playoffs with Jonathan Toews, and leaving the offence to the Sedins and the Schroeder line.

It might also allow the Canucks to acquire a winger, an easier get at the deadline. Supposing Lebrun’s report was true, Ryane Clowe would look good alongside Kesler and one of Chris Higgins or Alex Burrows on a tough, aggressive, checking-oriented second line.

This is just a thought. Is Jordan Schroeder a playoff centre?

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13 comments

  1. Nick
    March 28, 2013

    I’ve been impressed with Schroeder since his call up from the Wolves the last time. He’s playing a different game now, with eye to being a playmaker. It seemed like, earlier in the season, he was nervous about turn overs and made the “safe” pass. Now that he knows he’s staying in the lineup, he’s starting to attempt Henrik-like pinpoint passes through traffic. And he’s quite good at it.

    Is he a long-term solution for centering the 2nd or 3rd line? I’m still concerned about his size.

    I’d feel better about him if he was able to develop his defensive game to the point where he’s capable of taking taking regular penalty killing shifts.

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  2. Frank N.
    March 28, 2013

    I’ve been saying all year that they should give Schroeder a chance to play, make mistakes and thus improve his play and gain the necessary confidence. It gives the Canucks options at centre to have various good players. Also, I still think the Canucks would be wise to acquire a 2C as you never know how Kesler will return and how long he will stay healthy. Kesler plays so hard that his body takes a lot of abuse and that seems to be claiming it’s toll recently…

    Having said that, I don’t think there is much of a market for goal tenders so there will be very few opportunities to improve down the middle. Unless we trade with Florida once again (for Weiss). Oh, and MGGM, please don’t ship Luongo to Toronto for Bozak. That would be a horrible trade!

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  3. Brad
    March 28, 2013

    Im more conserned about the amount of forwards that we have bearing a healthy Kesler and Booth. You have to beleive that Ray/Schro/Hans line will stay as the 3rd. Booth/Kes/Higgs as second, Twins/Burr as first. Outside of Lappy, not sure if any other “4th liner” will be cemented in the lineup night-in-night-out, but there are maybe 4 guys playing for 2 spots (sistito/weise/pinni/gordon). And of course you have Kass who is supposed to slot in somewhere there. Maybe 2nd line and move Higgs to 4th? What effect will another centre or winger coming in have? We still have a very deep team and i cant see another 2nd or 3rd line player added without a subtraction. Of couse this is all based on a healthy squad.

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    • Nick
      March 28, 2013

      Isn’t Booth done for the year?

      Cap drops significantly next season, and with Raymond and Higgins being UFAs, they might have to get creative to keep them.

      With their two buy-out options still available, I wouldn’t be shocked if Booth is bought out in the summer before the FA deadline so that Gillis can keep other guys.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        March 29, 2013

        There’s talk that Booth might return by playoff time, but I’m sceptical. I definitely don’t see him getting bought out, however.

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      • Chinook
        March 29, 2013

        Maybe the Canucks will need to take back part of Luongo’s money to facilitate a trade (like 1-2 M). But then they could use their second compliance buy-out to get out from under.

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  4. ikillchicken
    March 28, 2013

    The way he’s playing right now? Absolutely. The way he’ll play in the playoffs? That remains to be seen. I don’t want this to come off as me running Schroeder down or saying that he won’t continue to play well. That may absolutely happen. But right now we’re dealing with an incredibly small sample size. He’s been real good this last month but keep in mind that previously he struggled to the point of being dropped to the fourth line and then demoted to the minors. What’s more, playoffs can be a whole different story. Rookies often find themselves unprepared for the intensity and physicality of playoff hockey. This is especially true of small players.

    Again, all this is speculation. He may well be great. In fact, I think he will be. But I sure don’t want to count on it. Hence, I absolutely believe we should still get us another center. Preferably a primarily defensive guy to play on a true third line with Higgins and Kassian. Then, rather than give Kesler more defensive responsibility, we can put him on the top line with the Sedins full time (which in turn moves Burr down and addressees any need of a winger we might have). Then we’d have an absolutely dynamite top line, a strong two way second line and a great checking third line. And in the worst case scenario, if Schroeder struggles, we’ve still got a great two way second line with Kesler and a really good defensive third line.

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  5. Neil B
    March 28, 2013

    I suspect that, once Kess is back, that the ‘Nucks will deploy 3C Schroeder in much the same way as they deployed 3C Hodgson–perhaps not as sheltered, but basically the same deal. Groom him for offence, because, let’s face it, he’s not replacing Kess any time soon as a defensive forward.

    It suggests that Lappy’s line will get more ice time than the average 4th line does in the post-season. It probably also suggests that the ‘Nucks will be looking for another 4C who can play with Lappy and take opposite side draws. WAS Matt Hendricks fits this description, and is second-fiddle to Jay Beagle on defensive draws for Washington.

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  6. ikillchicken
    March 28, 2013

    The way he’s playing right now? Absolutely. The way he’ll play in the playoffs? That remains to be seen. I don’t want this to come off as me running Schroeder down or saying that he won’t continue to play well. That may absolutely happen. But right now we’re dealing with an incredibly small sample size. He’s been real good this last month but keep in mind that previously he struggled to the point of being dropped to the fourth line and then demoted to the minors. What’s more, playoffs can be a whole different story. Rookies often find themselves unprepared for the intensity and physicality of playoff hockey. This is especially true of small players.

    Again, all this is speculation. He may well be great. In fact, I think he will be. But I sure don’t want to count on it. Hence, I absolutely believe we should still get us another center. Preferably a primarily defensive guy to play on a true third line with Higgins and Kassian. Then, rather than give Kesler more defensive responsibility, we can put him on the top line with the Sedins full time (which in turn moves Burr down and addressees any need of a winger we might have). Then we’d have an absolutely dynamite top line, a strong two way second line and a great checking third line. And in the worst case scenario, if Schroeder struggles, we’ve still got a great two way second line with Kesler and a really good defensive third line.

    (Man, this comment system suuuuuuucks. Why is it telling me I’ve already said this if my post isn’t appearing?)

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    • ikillchicken
      March 28, 2013

      ….and now both are showing up. Is there like a delay or something? I don’t get it.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        March 28, 2013

        It could be for a number of reasons. We’ve been having server issues recently, so that might have caused it. Or, if it was your first comment, it would have needed to be approved before it showed up.

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  7. Chinook
    March 28, 2013

    Hey ikillchicken, I have the same problem. PITB must be behind on their phone bill.

    Ryane Clowe is a Newfie and thats way more important than his goal scoring and skating. If MG doesn’t think so then we should put all our eggs in Schroeder’s basket because, hey its Easter. And then we should trade Luongo for Shawn Matthias. There, that wraps up today’s GM-wannabe job.

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  8. Lenny
    March 29, 2013

    Still like to see an Ott type of player here. You can never have too many 2 way centres.

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