Nicklas Jensen to skate on the first line, because he’s actually scored recently

When Daniel Sedin was injured during the Heritage Classic, fans were understandably upset that Darren Archibald was called up from the Utica Comets rather than Nicklas Jensen, who was on a scoring tear.  Why would the Canucks call up a bottom-six forward when a first-line forward is out of the lineup?

It wasn’t until Zack Kassian was suspended that Jensen got the call. Personally, I was okay with Jensen staying down in the AHL, as it’s better for his development to play top-line minutes with Utica than to play under 10-minutes per night. That’s assuming, of course, that he wouldn’t get top-line minutes in Vancouver, which seemed to be a safe assumption. Perhaps it’s the years of having Alain Vigneault, who was loath to use rookies in vital roles, as the Canucks head coach.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t liked many of John Tortorella’s decisions of late, but this one I do like: after a strong performance against the Calgary Flames that saw Jensen promoted up the ranks as the game progressed, Jensen will start on the first line with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows against the New York Islanders tonight.

That’s right, Jensen will be taking Daniel Sedin’s spot in the lineup, which is more than I expected. Despite his strong game, Jensen didn’t record a shot on net against the Flames and was the only player in the lineup who wasn’t even on the ice for a Canucks shot on goal. He did, however, go to the right areas on the ice and had scoring chances that either got blocked or missed the net and played reliably enough in his own end to earn Tortorella’s trust, however fleeting it turns out to be.

More importantly, unlike his two new linemates, Jensen has actually scored during this calendar year.

Alex Burrows’ goal scoring troubles have been well-documented — he’s up to 79 shots this season in 34 games without a goal — but Henrik Sedin hasn’t scored a goal since December 14th versus the Boston Bruins. While in previous seasons we would have scoffed at anyone complaining about Henrik’s lack of goalscoring, as he’s the playmaking twin, but he doesn’t have an assist since January 10th.

Jensen, meanwhile, has 14 goals in 2014, including 9 in his last 14 games. At this point, Jensen is almost a more credible scoring threat than either Henrik or Burrows.

In fact, in 2014, Jensen has a third as many goals as the entire Canucks roster. The Canucks have scored 42 goals this calendar year.

Of course, Jensen’s goals have come in the AHL, against AHL defencemen and AHL goaltenders. But at least he’s scoring goals. With the Canucks’ top line scoring no goals whatsoever, there is literally nothing to lose by placing Jensen on the top line. The top line cannot score fewer goals.

It’s worth trying Jensen on the power play as well. Like the first line, the Canucks’ power play can’t get much worse, so why not try the hot shot rookie, who happens to be second on the Comets in power play goals, on the first power play unit in Daniel’s usual spot?

And, if the game goes to a shootout, who should be the Canucks first shooter? It absolutely should be Jensen, who is 3-for-6 in the shootout this season and has a silky-smooth Forsbergian deke at his disposal.

Basically, the Canucks can’t possibly get worse in almost every single aspect of their offensive game, so there’s nothing to lose by using Jensen in every major offensive role. Put him on the top line at even-strength, the first unit on the power play, and the number one spot in the shootout. If the main argument against calling him up was that he wouldn’t get big minutes, then give him big minutes.

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6 comments

  1. Brent
    March 10, 2014

    Agree completely. The only thing left to do in the ultimate “Annus horribilis” for the Canucks is to play as many prospects as possible. Bring em up and let them get some experience in the big smoke. Learn some stuff from Ryan Kesler, etc before they get traded in the summer.

    The chances of this team making the playoffs are pretty well done, use the time wisely.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      March 10, 2014

      Agreed. I also hope you’re right that this has been the “ultimate” Annus horribilis for this team. The fact is that it could be a lot worse.

      I have never been a fan of a team “tanking”, and strongly hope we don’t start seeing Sestitoplaying first line minutes. I also don’t see a whole lot of point in guys like Weber, Archibald or Dalpe being in the lineup at all. We know what to expect from them and they’re not going to benefit from the “development time”. On the other hand I want to see Jensen and Jordan Schroeder play a ton, and I would really like to see Alexandre Grenier and Corrado called up too. Might as well see what we have in those guys and give them a shot. That could all change if the team goes on a little mini-run and the playoffs start to seem like a reality again, but I’m not counting on it.

      Hard to say what would be better for the junior level prospects, being in the lineup for an OHL playoff run or getting a sniff in the NHL. Am I right to think those guys can be called up for up to 9 games without burning a year of entry level contract?

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      • Cody
        March 10, 2014

        The 10-game mark.
        A junior-aged player with a contract can play up to nine NHL games as a trial period. If he is returned to junior before the tenth game, his contract is effectively put on hold: when he goes to training camp the following season, he will be in the first year of his contract.
        Once the player appears in his tenth NHL game, his contract kicks in. He can still be returned to his junior club after that. But at season’s end, a full contract

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        • Cody
          March 10, 2014

          *year will expire

          ^My bad^

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  2. Alan
    March 10, 2014

    “Basically, the Canucks can’t possibly get worse in almost every single aspect of their offensive game, ”

    Just because you said this, watch the Nucks score on themselves after pulling Lack tonight. Right down center lane. Maybe Burr.

    lol

    I’m laughing because I have no more tears to shed. :(

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  3. Chris the Curmudgeon
    March 10, 2014

    Vigneault did indeed LOATHE using rookies in vital roles, something he was always LOATH to do. Sorry to be a word nazi.

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