Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Shoring Up Depth

The more I pondered over the Vancouver Canucks' recent acquisitions of Anson Carter, Richard Park, Steve McCarthy and Sven Buchenson, the more I realized the method behind Dave Nonis' madness. With the salary cap limiting each team's ability to replace players during injuries, etc., it is important - more than ever - to ensure that a team has adequate depth for someone to instantly be able to step into the lineup. Methodically, the Canucks have shored up that depth.

The signing of Anson Carter gives the Sedins the big, scoring right-winger they've been waiting for. At best, he is capable of producing 20 goals and 50-60-points, giving the Canucks some much-needed secondary scoring.

Matt Cooke and Trevor Linden are both gritty, defensive forwards. The Canucks can throw anyone of Richard Park, Ryan Kesler and Jason King with them and they form arguably one of the best third-lines in the league. Park and Kesler are becoming regular Team USA invitees; Jason King has shown a lot of promise, though he needs to learn to play more consistently. To illustrate the Canucks' depth, if needed, any of those players are also capable of providing some offense and play minutes on the scoring lines.

Jarkko Ruutu, if he re-signs, can fill the 12th forward spot. Tyler Bouck and Wade Brookbank can also play fourth-line minutes when required. Same can be argued for farmhands Josh Green, Lee Goren, Nathan Smith and Fedor Fedorov.

On defense, much screaming was made by fans in Canuckdom when Marek Malik signed with the Rangers and Brent Sopel was traded to the Islanders. In the meantime, Dave Nonis quietly replaced them with Steve McCarthy and Sven Buchenson. While Malik and Sopel had good offensive numbers, both were also widely considered the weakest links of the team's defense. Further, this year they commanded a combined total of almost $5 million in salary.

On the other hand, McCarthy and Butenschon will make a combined $1.25 million this year. McCarthy will be pencilled in the 5th defenseman spot - see my previous post for his scouting report - until the Canucks are able to sign another defenseman, something which Canucks management have alluded to. Until then, Butenschon will rotate with Nolan Baumgartner, who is coming off his best season in the pros, albeit at the AHL level. Kevin Bieska and Kiril Koltsov may also be ready to fill in the no. 6 and 7 spots.

The Canucks finally have some depth in their lineup. Hopefully, gone are the days when we cringe at the thought of taking a regular out of the lineup and replacing him with a press box regular or a Moose call-up. On paper at least, the next few guys down the depth chart in each position are capable of simply stepping into the lineup.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:52 AM


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