One of the main concerns I’ve heard from Canucks fans about Frank Corrado starting the season in the NHL is what it will do to his development. The thinking is that Corrado would be better served playing 20+ minutes per night in the AHL with the Comets than playing third-pairing minutes with the Canucks.
It’s an understandable concern, particularly when you look at how John Tortorella deployed his defencemen in New York. His top defenceman — Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal when he was healthy — played big minutes, averaging 23+ minutes per night. His bottom pairing, however, saw far fewer minutes. While Anton Stralman oscillated between 10 and 20 minutes throughout the season, the Rangers other defenceman averaged under 13 minutes per game.
With Corrado assumed to be sixth at best on the depth chart, he might end up with minimal minutes in his first professional season, which would be far from ideal. But there’s reason to believe that Tortorella won’t be deploying the defence in the same way he did with the Rangers and, if Corrado makes the opening night roster, he may be in for a lot more ice time than expected.
Jeff Paterson speculated on Twitter that Corrado could very well end up paired with the Canucks’ best defenceman, Dan Hamhuis.
Based on last night’s game and this morning’s skate, #Canucks d pairings could well be 2-26/5-3/23-8
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) September 17, 2013
This is very early speculation, of course, considering we’re just one game into the preseason, but it’s an interesting solution to the problem of what to do with the Canucks’ defence corps.
The Canucks essentially have four bonafide top-four defencemen, which seems like the appropriate number to have. The problem is that among Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Jason Garrison, and Kevin Bieksa, only one of them plays on the right side. In addition, Chris Tanev gave indications last season that he’s ready for a promotion into the top-four. That makes things very crowded.
If Corrado lines up with Hamhuis, however, that leads to three balanced pairings all capable of playing big minutes. Garrison would be a similar partner as Hamhuis for Bieksa, potentially settling down Bieksa’s more risky tendencies. That pairing could match up well with the opposition’s top offensive players. That leaves Edler to play with Tanev, a pairing that was effective last season, with Tanev’s steadiness giving Edler more opportunities to rush the puck up the ice.
Those three pairings don’t fit into the typical top-four/third-pairing labels, as each has a defenceman who played 21+ minutes per night last season. Instead, the Canucks could roll all three pairings, giving them the same number of minutes at even-strength, with Edler and Tanev getting more offensive zone starts and Garrison and Bieksa getting more defensive zone starts.
Garrison and Edler could both be on the top powerplay unit, with Hamhuis and Corrado on the point for the second powerplay unit. All six defencemen could play a role on the penalty kill, with Corrado’s excellent shot blocking on the penalty kill against the Sharks potentially giving Tortorella the confidence to play him in that situation.
While it definitely
seems is too early to be speculating about this, it is a solution that makes sense. If Corrado needs to play big minutes, why not match him with the Canucks’ best and steadiest defenceman, which would allow him to play big minutes in the NHL? It’s worth noting that Corrado did play 20+ minutes in two of his seven games with the Canucks last season.
If he’s ready to handle the responsibility, pairing Corrado with Hamhuis is a reasonable choice.Tags: Dan Hamhuis, Frank Corrado, rampant speculation, What do you do with a problem like the blue line?