Trent Leith / March 12, 2021
When Elias Pettersson left the Vancouver Canucks lineup with an undisclosed upper-body injury, we all knew that there would be a wrench thrown into the top six. One positive thing about that wrench though, is that it has created opportunities for guys further down the lineup to prove themselves in the top half of the roster. Jake Virtanen got a shot on a line with Bo Hrovat and Tanner Pearson and quickly made a statement with two goals and an assist against Toronto. But there is someone else who should be getting a look in the top 6, and his name is Adam Gaudette.
He Has the Loadout, But a Lack Of Results
It is no secret that Gaudette is having a bit of a down season, but if you watched him play in a vacuum, you wouldn’t expect that to be the case. Gaudette is getting looks, in fact, a lot of them relative to his ice time as I pointed out on this in our post-game show last Saturday. Gaudette has 50 shots in 284 minutes. Compare that to J.T. Miller who has 52 shots, but in 561 minutes of ice time. Gaudette is doubling Miller’s shot rate but has less than half the shooting percentage at 6% vs. Miller’s 13.5%. These numbers imply Gaudette’s shots are just hipfire, but with a little more luck, he has the potential to be a low-key sniper.
The eye test shows Gaudette is getting himself in good positions, playing hard and even making some smart defensive plays. Gaudette has a great shot and a physical element he brings with his game, and I think he would make a great complimentary piece in the top end of the lineup. Gaudette is doing all the right things this season, except getting results, and with better linemates, he should be able to capitalize on his chances better.
The Perks of Gaudette in an Elevated Role
We saw Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens what Micaela Gaudette’s Husband can do with a chance in the top six. This when he was put on a line with J.T. Miller, and seemed to find immediate chemistry.
That chemistry yielded immediate results with Gaudette putting all the frustration of this season into one shot off the rush and scored to tie the game with less than a minute left in regulation to force overtime. The Canucks would go on to win that game because Adam Gaudette was put in a position to succeed.
A Winger Warzone
Nils Höglander and Brock Boeser are staple wingers in the top six, there should be no reason that these two players should be moved down the lineup beyond the 2nd line in the current structure of the team. Tanner Pearson is a player who has been a fixture in the top six for the last couple of seasons, so that leaves one spot left in the squad unless an unexpected player comes out of the top six. There is a bit of a battle royal right now between fringe players, trying to get their shot and show their worth. Tyler Motte is another option as a possible option to play up in the lineup with his skating speed and skill but isn’t currently in contention as he is out due to injury as well as Pettersson.
Pearson is a middle-six calibre player and could slot down into the third line, should Travis Green want Gaudette and Virtanen filling out the top six. However, something tells me Green only has room for one of those players. Like the Gulag of Verdansk, there is a head-to-head competition for a second chance to show their worth.
It’s a narrative that has been beaten to death, “how many chances is Jake going to get”. To his credit, Virtanen got a chance in the top six in Pettersson’s wake, and he made the best of it. At least, he did to start. Since his debut in the top six Virtanen has had zero points and only four shots on net in as many games. However, Counting stats isn’t always a clear picture of how a player is actually playing, and Jake has been playing better than some of those numbers indicate.
As reported earlier this week, the Canucks have a unique opportunity with Miller playing centre for the club and have the possibility of running Miller, Pettersson and Horvat down the middle when Pettersson is healthy. Should the Canucks go this route, Gaudette would surely get a chance with a stronger centre and potentially earn himself better results. However, in the short term, Gaudette should replace Virtanen in the top six. Especially after the poor team performance on Wednesday night. Moving Gaudette up the lineup should be a shakeup that the coaching staff considers before Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
Travis Green doesn’t have a contract for next season, so he seems to be coaching the team with the short term in mind. Taking a risk by putting Gaudette in the top of the lineup is something he will have to think hard on. But Gaudette has gone above and beyond the call of duty to earn his chance, especially if you consider what Virtanen had to do to earn his. With a few good bounces and some better linemates, Gaudette could have at least doubled his point totals this year.
In tribute to Adam Gaudette, I made sure to pepper in as many Warzone references as I could into this article. Be sure to let us know on Twitter how many you found!