By: Trent Leith / December 4, 2021
It is no secret that the Vancouver Canucks are having I’m incredibly poor start to the season. The defence has been particularly bad despite new additions to the blue line. Now that the Canucks are starting a homestand on Saturday, Travis Hamonic is eligible to play for the team again. He was not able to play in the United States due to his vaccinations status and he missed out on the two games in Eastern Canada due to a non-COVID-related sickness.
With Hamonic eligible to play again for the Canucks, that means someone needs to come off the active roster to make space for him. This is not as cut-and-dry of a decision as one might think.
When Will Hamonic Be Back
The first order of business is to wonder when Hamonic will draw back into the line-up. The Vancouver Canucks enter Saturday’s game coming off back-to-back wins thanks to the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens, and we know Travis Green is not one to make drastic personnel changes after wins. In those games the pairings have been:
And after Friday’s practice, nothing major seems like it will change. The practice lines did however have Brad Hunt playing in OEL’s regular spot, but that was confirmed by Green to be due to a maintenance day for OEL. Hamonic was recalled from the Baby Canucks briefly, to participate in Canucks practice Friday, and was reassigned Friday night. But when the time comes for Hamonic to actually return, who should come out of the Canucks roster?
Local Kid Wins Hearts
No one saw Kyle Burroughs coming when he inked a league-minimum deal with the Canucks over the summer. He was expected to be depth and to play with the Abbotsford Canucks, but he took advantage of a weak spot on the roster and he has earned his chance to be a semi-regular NHLer for his hometown team. It has been a good story and a pleasant surprise for the Canucks that Burroughs has done as well as he has. He is not a world-beater and probably isn’t a regular full-time NHLer, but at his cost, he is a great player for this team.
Burroughs has played 20 games so far, notching 2 points in that time. Burroughs is also 4th on the team in PK time for defencemen, not that this PK is something a player should hang their hat on, but it adds to the club’s value of the player when he can be deployed in different roles. His flexibility to the roster also includes his ability to play on the left side.
Beyond the top two locks on the left, Hughes and OEL, Burroughs’ only true competition to stay in the lineup is Brad Hunt, and Jack Rathbone. Hunt has only played four games this season to date, and Rathbone has been reporting to the Abbotsford Canucks as of late. As long as Burroughs can hold steady and be a reliable bottom pairing guy, I don’t see the justification to move him out of the lineup to make room for Hamonic.
Hughes’ Big Brother
It was a reunion for the ages, Luke Schenn signed a 2 year $850,000 contract with the Canucks during the offseason, making it once again possible for him to play alongside Quinn Hughes. In Quinn’s brief cameo before his rookie season, he was on a pairing with Schenn and they quickly became a fan favourite combo. The “big brother looking after the little brother” narrative ran wild, but it was short-lived as Schenn would go on to sign in Tampa Bay and win back-to-back cups. Schenn is not an offensive player despite being the 5th overall pick in 2008, but he has found his footing as a journeyman depth defender in the NHL, and he has a knack for playing alongside Quinn Hughes.
Schenn is also a defender that has been known to play both sides of the ice, but he seems to be at his best alongside Quinn Hughes on the right side. It’s not just that Schenn benefits from being alongside top-end talent, but he seems to bring out the best in the eldest Hughes brother too.
Quinn told the media on Friday “I think he just compliments me really well. He’s really good in the d-zone, he’s strong, he keeps me focused in that end.”
If Hamonic were to come back into the lineup and Schenn was to come out, it would be taking the wind out of the clear-cut best defender’s sails at a time when there are not a lot of players playing to their capabilities. Plus, apparently, Schenn can do this from time to time:
And That Leaves One
Well, it likely won’t be the two players mentioned above, and barring injury, it won’t be Hughes, Tyler Myers or OEL that comes out. That leaves just Tucker Poolman. Poolman was signed in the offseason along with the two other candidates, but the difference was that he was signed to a four-year, $10M deal. The deal was immediately under the microscope after the year prior, as Poolman had just a single point in the entire season (39 GP) and that point being an assist. It was a contract that sent Canucks Twitter into a tailspin from the moment it was public.
Poolman is the weakest link currently skating with the team on the back end and while he has tripled his points total from last season, his offence impact simply isn’t enough to keep him in the lineup over the other two defenders.
It’s really not a good look on the Jim Benning, that talks of scratching a player that he just finished locking up for four years are already starting, especially now that Jim’s seat is as hot as a leather car seat in a convertible during a heat dome.