Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 8/5/13
Part III In the first two roster previews, I gave you a glimpse at the state of the Vancouver Canucks defence and goalies. In continuing with these state of the position blogs, that leaves me with just the group in charge of putting pucks in the net, rather than keeping them out. The forwards. Injuries Ahoy! It’s hard to muster much in the way of offence when two-thirds of your top six forwards are missing; something you’d know all too well if you watched the Canucks last season. When they weren’t missing Ryan Kesler, they were missing David Booth — and for a huge chunk of the season they missed out on both. Zack Kassian got off to a hot start, but proved to be no replacement for the polarizing sniper (there’s my obligatory joke about David Booth’s love of hunting) over the long term. Jordan Schroeder played admirably and his production was consistent if not meager, but he is no replacement for Ryan Kesler. While it’s kind of the new thing around town to blame Alain Vigneault for EVERYTHING that went wrong last season, maybe we can let him off the hook for the lack of offence? What will the offensive lines look like next season? (Photo: faceoff.com) When it became clear to the Canucks coaching staff  - and everyone else unfortunate enough to watch the Canucks early in the season – that Kassian and Schroeder couldn’t fill the boots of Kesler and Booth, things got kind of crazy. The likes of Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows and even Chris Higgins started to see time at center, with varied results; Burrows was bearable, Raymond was Raymond and Higgins was just kind of there. The Canucks center depth was put to the test, and failed miserably. It’s bad enough the Canucks found a way to justify keeping Raymond around for last season, but having him as a second line center speaks volumes of the depth this club started the season with. At the end of the day, for better not worse, last season was a wash for this club’s forwards. Their jack of all trades and two-way star, Kesler, was out for the majority of the season and that just threw everything out of whack. The Sedins production went down as they were forced to be more defensively responsible, Jannik Hansen somehow became a top-six forward and the lines were in constant flux. The sooner we forget about last season, the better. Nothing to see here, move along. And What About This Season? The parts are more or less the same as last season. Can Torts and Gillis turn things around next season? (Photo: cbc.ca) Vancouver was seriously lacking in the salary cap space department, and as such couldn’t make much in the way of a splash in free agency. To this point the focus of Mike Gillis has primarily been retaining key RFAs like Jordan Schroeder and more importantly Dale Weise. That’s not to say Gillis hasn’t brought in any fresh faces, but they are mostly of the depth forward variety. Exhilarating, I know. So, with that in mind where do the Canucks go from here? For the first time since their 2011 Stanley Cup run they get to start the season with a healthy squad. The lynch-pin of their power play and offensive catalyst in general, Ryan Kesler will be there from the get-go, along with fellow countryman and presumably linemate David Booth. This will bode well for the club’s offensive fortunes as they try to lay claim to their newly anointed Pacific Division. Now, about those lines. For the first time in a long time, we’re kind of left guessing what’s in store. John Tortorella is the new sheriff, and nobody seems to know exactly what he has in store; Tortorella included. The only pseudo-certainty is that Zack Kassian will be put back on the first line with the Sedins. Other than that, we’re all left guessing. And while we’re guessing away, have a gander at my guess for the Canucks four offensive lines… Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Zack Kassian, David Booth – Ryan Kesler – Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins – Jordan Schroeder – Jannik Hansen, Brad Richardson – Kellen Lain – Dale Weise. Kassian with the Sedins makes sense because even if he’s not scoring, he can at the very least be their guardian on the ice. Besides, it worked well in the early parts of last season, so why not try it again? With Kassian playing right wing on the first line, that slides Burrows down to the second where he’ll be reunited with fellow shift-disturber Ryan Kesler. The third line is more less the same as it was for a large part of last season, except with Schroeder there as a full time member. The fourth line gets the biggest shake up of all the lines. Newly acquired Brad Richardson, despite being a natural center, will be shifted to the wing to accommodate the arrival of former college player and current behemoth Kellen Lain at center. Dale Weise, well, he’s still there doing whatever it is he does on the right wing. Enjoy. Like this lineup? Hate it? Let me know in the comments section down below. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE SECTION AT NWSB!
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