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Title - Shaun Maddex
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Vancouver Canucks Second Line Right Wing
By Shaun Maddex
HometownHockey.ca

Vancouver Canucks Second Line Right Wing
The Vancouver Canucks are gambling on Alex Burrows and Zack Kassian to help provide enough secondary scoring for the Canucks to have success in the 2014-15 season.
PHOTO CREDIT - blogs.thescore.com

Vancouver - September 6, 2014 - The Vancouver Canucks are returning to town and hockey season is nearly upon us; in other words it is the best of times! Unfortunately for Canuck fans there remains a glaring whole in the top 6 of this roster. The questions going into camp are going to be on the second line and whether they are going to be able to provide enough offence to support the Sedins and Vrbata. As it is right now, that job looks like it is going to come down to Bonino, Higgins, Burrows and Kassian. That is not exactly a group that screams lights out offence.

When Kesler forced a trade out of town it was a pretty devastating blow to the secondary scoring, but getting Bonino and Sbisa in return was about the best Benning could’ve done. Sbisa in particular has a lot of upside as a defender and with a bounce back season could be a great pickup to solidify the already strong back-end. But the big piece of the trade was Bonino as he was brought in to replace Kesler as the second line centre, a role that he has sparingly filled thus far in his career.

Bonino sounds determined in all the interviews he has given and that determination is going to go a long ways to building confidence in the second line. Bonino did score 49 points in 77 games with Anaheim last season, including 22 goals and at 26 years old he is still primed for improvements in those numbers. He has the ability to play with skill and put up decent scoring totals, the problem is the options for right wing are not exactly outstanding. Assuming Higgins is on the left side, this leaves Burrows and Kassian as the two right side options to round out line two. Which means it is going to take a herculean bounce back from Burrows or a giants leap forward by Kassian just to provide enough support to Bonino and Higgins in this role. If Kassian and Burrows both falter it will open the door for the youngsters, relying on young players such as Jensen, Virtanen or Vey to provide secondary scoring is a foolish plan in my opinion and one that is better left as an emergency plan only. Young players need to be put in spots where they can succeed because confidence is so valuable in the NHL and the fragility of confidence is evident among the young.

Look no further than Edmonton for a prime example of this. In his rookie season Nail Yakupov was incredible and everything was going his way. He was playing sheltered minutes and getting plenty of power play time, and as a result he was a scoring machine (at least as far as rookies go). Flash forward one season and he is thrust into a role on the second line with far more responsibility, the power play numbers went down for the team as a whole, and all of a sudden Yakupov saw a lot more bench time for defensive blunders than he did under Ralph Kreuger. His confidence was shot and he had one of the worst seasons of a first overall pick in recent memory, so bad in fact that certain sectors of Edmonton have called for his ticket of town! Imagine trading a first overall pick before he has played 200 NHL games, talk about an overreaction... Anyways, the point is that confidence buried Yakupov last season so much so that if things start poorly for him this year he very well could have an even worse year and would most certainly find himself wearing a different logo before seasons end.

For Vancouver there is no first overall pick to lean on, but there are some good developing young players in the system that will arrive soon. They aren’t there yet, they need some seasoning still and they need some protection and thrusting them into positions they aren’t ready to succeed at could be the bullet in the confidence that sets the process back a year or two. That is a highly unattractive option for the future of this franchise, which seems stuck between a rebuild and a quest for 8th in the Conference. The options are limited if Burrows and Kassian fail, but it looks like Benning is betting that where one fails the other succeeds. This is a risky bet in my opinion, especially with the best looking first line winger to play with the Sedins in years in Radim Vrbata. Then again, maybe the plan is to slide Vrbata up and down between line one and two? That actually makes a little bit of sense...oh and I hear Dustin Penner is still looking and boy he could be a real bargain at $1M for the season…

Follow Me on TwitterShaun Maddex has a passion for playing, watching, and analyzing hockey. Growing up in small towns throughout Alberta meant always playing or watching hockey. He has experience as an editor/columnist for Vavel International and enjoys analyzing all aspects of hockey. He brings a straightforward but insightful experience to the Hometown Hockey readers. If you have any questions, feel free to contact him at smaddex@hometownhockey.ca


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