How big a role will Frank Corrado play for the Canucks this season?

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.

 

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.

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7 comments

  1. Kyle
    September 18, 2013

    Corrado has many of the tools that makes Hamhuis succesful. Could that be Corrado’s ceiling?

    High hockey IQ paired with dynamic, agile skating. His conditioning is already high level (he played a 100 games of hockey last season!) and now that he’s rumoured to be in the 200 lbs at training camp, he might be physically ready for the NHL.

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  2. JDM
    September 18, 2013

    Bieksa had 8 goals last year IIRC and has a knack for getting pucks through traffic and on goal. You have to assume that he’s on one of the PP units, don’t you? Corrado might get a cup of coffee on that 2nd unit just to see what he’s made of, but I like Bieksa on the PP even more than I like Hamhuis there.

    As for the pairings, I’ve been calling for 2-3 / 23-8 / 5-6 / 41 or something to that effect.

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  3. akiddddd
    September 18, 2013

    yup, like that corrado kid. here’s an idea: how about corrado and edler? the reason i say that is unequivocally, erhoff was the best defense-partner edler has ever had. i think having that guy who’s also thinking, and can contribute on, offense might get edler’s head in the right place, moving in the right direction with confidence. at this point corrado seems to have more offensive upside than tanev. with edler not having to carry all the offense it’ll create more space for him as opponents will also have to respect the shot/threat of his d-partner(guys will probably not commit too much up high to tanev and thus not open up passing/shooting lanes as much.)

    i always found edler was at his best when he and erhoff were pushing and pinching, rather than tentatively backing up. whether torts agrees with this kind of offensive mindset is another matter of course. i think in time corrado and tanev will be just fine. edler, at this stage of his career, is the key here. so rather than try to compensate for weaknesses, instead, put strengths together( i concede of course that corrado is no erhoff yet.)

    that would leave hamhuis/tanev, garrison/bieksa(bieksa needs some help too, just like edler, and garrison has looked really solid.) not too shabby, especially if guys are playing relatively equal minutes.

    also, two left-handed shots on the to pp unit?!? it didn’t work last year and it won’t work this year. you just gotta be able to set up those quick passes and one-timers. “those who don’t learn from their mistakes are bound….” :)

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    • Lemming
      September 18, 2013

      So, Ehrhoff is the best partner Edler has ever had, but two left-handed shooters on the pp unit is madness. Did I miss something?

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      • akidd
        September 18, 2013

        wow, pretty dumb of me, eh? not sure why i would space on/not know something like that but i did. i still stand by erhoff being the best partner but stand sheepishly down on the two lefty d on the pp…for now(2 minutes for egregious erroring)

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  4. Raftgeek
    September 18, 2013

    Have to agree with JDM Bieksa belongs on the PP, he has a knack for scoring

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  5. Gimmic
    September 20, 2013

    I’m not down for hamhuis- Corrado. Hamhuis is the teams best d-man (well, it’s between him and Garrison IMO). They need him to play a shut down role, I don’t think Corrado is ready to face the Crosbys/Stamkos’s every shift. If Corrado sticks (which I don’t think he will only cause it’s a crowded blue line), they should pair him with Edler and let them eat easy minutes.

    Edler-Corrado played a few games last yr together, and honestly – it was probably 2 of the best games Edler played all year. I say let Hammer/Bieksa (or Garrison) eat the tough minutes, Tanev and Garrison play the 2nd touhgest minutes, and let Edler-Corrado eat the softest minute possible and let them rack up the points.

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