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.Tags: Nicklas Jensen