By: Trent Leith / October 30, 2021
At what point do we stop saying “I know it’s early but….” when it comes to criticizing players and the Vancouver Canucks as a whole? At this moment the Canucks are roughly 10% of the way through the season and many aspects that this team usually relies on are not rounding into form quickly enough.
Elias Pettersson is not his regular self, JT Miller is putting up points, but seems to be gripping his stick a little too hard, and the power-play is as stale as it’s ever been. It’s time for a shake-up.
Wait Who is That Out There?
Yes, we did just write about how Green needs to stop putting the Canucks lines in a blender, but the top power-play unit is truly broken right now. The Canucks have 6 power-play goals to this point in the season, 1/3 of those belong to Alex Chiasson. Now, I don’t want to sound too tough on Chiasson, he has been put in a position and he is succeeding at it. But it’s not in the Canucks’ best interest to have him on the top power-play unit. On a healthy Canucks roster, I’m not even sure he makes the team, let alone the top power-play.
Chiasson being a net-front presence has worked out okay to this point, but he is an anchor on the unit. He is not a player that should be anywhere but in front of the net, but the biggest weakness the unit has, is lack of movement and scoring options, the last thing Green should be doing is limiting his players’ movement and position cycling.
First Thing is First, The First
To fix the power-play, the top unit’s personnel should be shaken up. As I’m sure you can guess at this point, I don’t think Alex Chiasson should have a full-time role in the top unit. Instead, a player like Höglander or Garland should have that deployment. Both of these players are skilled in tight and can either score from behind the net or from sharp angles beside it. [Find highlights] While Chiasson has worked, If you’re Travis Green you should have your best players on the ice for your power plays in order to inflict the most damage.
As I mentioned on the Canucks Speakeasy Podcast this week, Petterson should be moved to the left half-wall (Miller’s regular spot) to allow him to control the puck more and create offensively rather than sitting stationary waiting for the perfect pass. Boeser should move from the second power-play unit and be placed on the right half-wall. Boeser’s wrist shot has been his bread and butter since he entered the league, and putting him on the right wall will allow him to use it more often.
Having both Pettersson and Boeser on their downhill sides will take away both one-timer options, but it will allow the players to be in a position to cycle in the zone better. When players are cycling position in the zone, they will wind up in positions for one-timers more often, allowing for more surprise shots against the defending team. This will result in fewer, but more dangerous one-timer shots, because it wouldn’t be the one and only play in the Canucks playbook.
Secondly, The Second Unit
With JT Miller now without a role on the top unit power play, he should be placed on the left half wall on the second unit power play. This is where Miller finds the most success when he is on the power play, and it allows him to control the puck more often, which he likes. Along with Miller, the remainder of Garland or Höglander should play with Pearson as forwards. Both OEL and Jack Rathbone should play with them as well. OEL can be the high man on the power-play and Rathbone should be at the one-timer spot on the right wall.
The player deployment on these units will give the Canucks their best chance at doing more damage on the power play, while also giving their best players the chance to shine.
Potential Changes Coming
On Friday at practice, Green did shake up both the first and second unit powerplay. Unfortunately, I didn’t get this article out fast enough for Green to see my suggestions, because, like anyone who is anyone, he surely reads StadiumChinatown.ca’s impeccable coverage.
While Green also agreed that Miller brings the most value on the second unit at this stage, he threw another wrench in the mix by swapping Horvat and Pearson on the first and second units. I don’t know about that personally, again it comes down to playing your best players together, and that doesn’t seem to be Green’s MO right now. With so much change potentially coming in the next game, it’s almost comical that Chaisson is still on the powerplay and Höglander is on neither unit. Surely, that decision must be made in spite of the armchair coaches, it’s the only logical answer… right?