Five options for Vancouver’s third-line centre vacancy

For a brief, fleeting moment, centre was a position of strength for the Canucks. With the acquisition of Maxim Lapierre at the 2011 trade deadline, the Canucks were perfectly structured down the middle of the ice: Henrik Sedin, the super-skilled all-star Art Ross winner, on the top line; Ryan Kesler, the two-way power forward coming into his own as a sniper, on the second line; Manny Malhotra, the defence-first enabler, on the third line; Lapierre, the defensively-responsible agitator, on the fourth.

The Canucks even had Cody Hodgson, full of promise, waiting in the wings. Life was good in Centresville.

That’s when a malfeasant puck made a beeline for Malhotra’s eye, ruined everything, then went on to a starring role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When Malhotra returned in the playoffs, he wasn’t the same player and that continued in the 2011-12 season. While he still played a vital defensive role, Malhotra’s ice time was much-diminished and it was apparent that he simply wasn’t as effective as he had been prior to the injury.

Hodgson, for his part, made good on several elements of his promise, but left Alain Vigneault and Mike Gillis wanting on the defensive side of the puck (and the patriarchal side of Hodgson’s family), leading to a trade out of town. In his place came Samme Pahlsson, who came with defensive acclaim, but didn’t live up it. Now he’s gone back to Sweden, leaving the position unoccupied.

When you add the fact that Ryan Kesler is definitely, totally injured and absolutely still recovering, no question about it, to the mix, the middle of the ice looks positively capacious for the Canucks. Utility forward Andrew Ebbett might be a stopgap, but what are the Canucks’ options for a season-long solution? Here are 5 of them:

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In anticipation of his return, even more photos of Tanner Glass fighting bears

Obviously, our fondness for Tanner Glass has little to do with his offensive output. The Saskatchewan-born winger put up only 7 goals and 22 points over his two seasons in Vancouver, and routinely drew our ire when deployed on the third line. But, he was and is one of our favourite Canucks ever because, between his excellent opinions on community outreach, board games, and appropriate on-ice trash talk, Glass is simply one of the NHL’s best people.

Since joining the Winnipeg Jets, Glass has even proved himself as a third-liner, forming a formidable checking trio with Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn. He’s established career-highs in goals and points (although, at only 5 and 14, respectively, he’s still more of a natural checker). But that’s not all Glass has been up to. As it turns out, Winnipeg is just crawling with bears.

PITB has previously featured Glass fighting bears here, here, and here (and one time someone made a sign). With the Jets in town on Thursday night, I thought we’d look at one more collection of ursine pugilism from Canada’s best bare-knuckle bear boxer.

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Ten active former Canucks that could still help the team

A couple weeks ago, Richard Hodges, a blogger for Northwest Sportsbeat, wrote an interesting post titled, 5 Ex-Canucks that could help the team right now:

In Hodges’ scenario, Mike Gillis finds a time machine and discovers he can retrieve any former Canuck from the bowels of history and plug him into the current roster. Unfortunately, he can only do this once. So who does he get? Trevor Linden? Cam Neely? Matthias Ohlund? It’s a fun question, although Hodges’ Kirk McLean suggestion reeks of judgment-clouding nostalgia. I mean, sure, he’s good for a pad stack or two, but he’d be number three on the depth chart, Richard.

Anyway. Thing is, you don’t need a time machine to find one-time Vancouverites that can contribute; there are a handful of active ex-Canucks that could help the team right now. Granted, in some cases, the cap implications and cost to acquire would be too much to make any move feasible, but I’m not making trade proposals here, nor am I advocating them — I’m just playing around with the concept. With a nod to Richard for the idea, here are 10 active former Canucks that could help the team this postseason in no particular order.

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The Vancouver Canucks forwards present an interesting conundrum. Despite leading the league in goals scored, employing two Art Ross trophy winners, a Selke winner, and should-win-the-Selke-but-won’t-because-the-criteria-are-ill-defined player, the Canucks were let down in the playoffs by a fourth line that couldn’t hold their own and a lack of scoring from their second line. Losing Mikael Samuelsson, their fourth-leading scorer in the regular season, and Manny Malhotra, who would have allowed Maxim Lapierre centre the fourth line instead of the third, to injury heading into the playoffs can, perhaps, be blamed for these two areas, but there is certainly a sense that some improvement is necessary.

So what should Mike Gillis do with his forwards that are heading into unrestricted free agency? PITB is here to tell him. And you.

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After consecutive losses to the Edmonton Oilers pushed the city of Vancouver to the brink of martial law, you had to think a loss to the Minnesota Wild would be the tipping point. Fans, it seemed, were one poor effort away from killing one another for the contents of their refrigerators. Thankfully, the Canucks staved off a full-scale societal collapse by coming out in this one a little more interested in winning, and they were fortunate to meet a Wild team only to happy to help. The result was a shellacking that will likely quell civil unrest until the team loses again, at which point all the ammo and applesauce I bought will prove quite useful. In the meantime, I watched this game:

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Canucks 1 – 3 Bruins Last night’s tough loss to the Boston Bruins keeps the Canucks mired in their pattern of alternating wins and losses, a pattern that’s now persisted for 10 games. That said, you have to think last night’s loss was different–that is was the toughest of the most recent five. Tied at [...]

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