Gallagher: Vey to fill a vital role for Canucks
New centre will be leaned on for crucial puck-possession role on faceoffs
The acquisition of Linden Vey, right, has created a ripple effect through the Canucks roster, as several prospects will be wondering what their roles will be.
Photograph by: Danny Moloshok, AP
With Vancouver general manager Jim Benning saying he’s pretty much done this summer and the team is set to start the season with its present roster, Vancouver hockey fans had best hope the new guy has pulled off one of the great steals in team history when he lifted Linden Vey from the L.A. Kings for just a second-round draft choice.
While the club’s prospects were certainly helped by the signing of Radim Vrbata this week, particularly if he does develop some chemistry with the Sedins or is able to aid the Swedish brothers in getting back somewhere near the form we are used to seeing, Vey is almost certain to be a vital member of the Canucks.
With luck, they already have the Wakaw, Sask., native signed for the upcoming season and are just waiting to announce his deal, because if his agent is bright enough to figure out the strength of his client’s position, he’s likely to drive a lot harder bargain than did Zack Kassian’s compliant rep.
By virtue of the Ryan Kesler deal and Jordan Schroeder’s departure, Vey has become the only right handed centre available for those crucial defensive zone faceoffs, which will be occurring to the right of Ryan Miller when the club is trying to protect a lead or a deadlock at critical points in hockey games.
Unless you’re going to throw Kassian, Vrbata or Jannik Hansen into that kind of a pressure situation, Vey is the man — which is a pretty nice position to be in for a guy who has been undergoing some very slow cooking since he led the Western League in scoring in 2010-11, a year he would have been eligible to play in the AHL.
Since then he has spent the majority of another three years in the AHL with the Kings farm team in Manchester after being taken in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, and in 18 games with the Kings this past season he managed five assists but no goals.
He didn’t get a sniff of the ice in the playoffs and the Kings decided they had to off-load him or risk losing him in the waiver draft, so turned him over to a divisional rival for a virtual lottery ticket, which either shows how little they think of Vey or how little they think of the Canucks.
Vey’s virtual guarantee of becoming one of the club’s centres leaves at least a couple of Canucks wondering what their roles might be. If you give Henrik Sedin the top centre spot and Nick Bonino the second-line job, the latter already stated bluntly by Benning who clearly has very set ideas of what he wants his team to look like, then you’re left asking some questions.
What is to become of Bo Horvat? Is he destined for another endless season playing for nothing in London, because he’s not eligible to go to Utica yet? But he doesn’t fit the profile of a fourth-line centre and the only way around it is to play Vey on the wing somewhere and trot him out for centre duty on those draws at the crucial times, which is a lot to ask of a guy who will still be a rookie.
Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson are both hanging around as strong candidates for that role as fourth-line centre, so Horvat either plays third-line centre, starts his career out of position — hardly the way to develop your young talent — or he goes stir-crazy in junior.
The fact Richardson is comfortable on the wing makes things a little easier, but there’s no question with Vey in like Flynn, there’s a possible logjam and it’s not looking terribly good for the young players period.
For sure, Brendan Gaunce would now have to make it as a winger, and that would be a miracle. And unless Nicklas Jensen lights it up pretty early, it seems most of the top six wing spots are spoken for if Burrows and Kassian are to flank Bonino on the second line.
Now once a season gets going, injuries will kind of thin out the picture a little bit, so there is some depth both up front and on the back with the re-signing of Yannik Weber and Luca Sbisa coming in. But it’s the quality of this depth which has to be a concern.
After all, you’re not in the Northwest division anymore, the group of death the Canucks find themselves in nowadays, the exact opposite of the rollicking good times they used to enjoy when paired with Edmonton, Calgary and the then-lame Minny and Colorado franchises.
If the Canucks are to make the playoffs, some guys are really going to have to step forward, Vey foremost among them.
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