Introducing The “2019/20 Canucks As Voted By The Fans” Series
Armchair coaching is a well-established tradition in the world of sports—and that’s especially true for the fanbase of the Vancouver Canucks. While coach Travis Green and his staff will ultimately make the decisions regarding who makes the team and in what configuration they line up, every fan has their own opinion about who should play where—though they rarely get a chance to go “on the record” about it.
We at CanucksArmy are aiming to change that with the 2019/20 Canucks As Voted By The Fans series, starting with this article.
Through a series of polls, we’re asking fans to vote on their preferred forward lines and defense pairings for the 2019/20 Vancouver Canucks, based on the team’s current roster. Each week, we’ll be presenting the various options for each unit and discussing the pros and cons of every possible combination—until we’re left with some sort of a consensus.
This week, we’re starting with the top line.
The Lineup Lynchpins
To make this exercise a little more manageable, we’re going to assume a few lineup constants right from the get-go. They are Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the first line and Bo Horvat on the second line, in a configuration that looks like this:
XXXX-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
While there is always a chance that coach Travis Green splits up the Pettersson/Boeser bromance—or that he employs the nuclear option by bumping Horvat up to their line, as we’ll discuss later in the article—it’s a pretty safe assumption that this configuration will stay consistent for the majority of the games in which all three of these players are healthy, so we’re sticking with it.
It also drastically cuts down on the number of Twitter polls needed for this exercise, so there’s that. But if you feel strongly that some other configuration should be considered, please sound off in the comments below!
The Top Line
Option 1: JT Miller-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
-Miller may have been acquired for this express purpose.
-He’s the highest scoring winger on the roster, after Boeser.
-Pettersson and Boeser are both premium shooters, and Miller is an elite playmaker (as highlighted by our own Michael Wagar earlier in the summer.)
-Miller has the physicality and speed to play a puck-retrieval role.
-He has recent experience playing with ultra-talented linemates in Tampa Bay.
-Miller on the top line is an “all eggs in one basket” scenario, and might leave Horvat with less-than-optimal wingers.
-He can play all three forward positions, and that versatility might be wasted on the top line.
-Miller is coming off his worst season in three years, and needs to bounce back.
Option 2: Micheal Ferland-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
-As the toughest Canuck, Ferland can provide direct protection and deterrence for his linemates.
-As a premium forechecker, he can dig pucks out for Pettersson and Boeser.
-Ferland has the ability to both set up and finish plays, perfect for a versatile center like Pettersson.
-Ferland can play either wing—though he’s a natural leftie—which might allow for Boeser to occasionally slide over to his powerplay suite while at even-strength.
-This would give Pettersson a skilled shooter on either wing, as highlighted by our own Thomas Williams.
-Ferland’s propensity for penalties may end Pettersson and Boeser’s offensive chances prematurely.
-His playstyle is a lot more chaotic than the calm and controlled methods of his linemates.
-Ferland has a history of inconsistency—and of injuries.
Option 3: Sven Baertschi-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
-Baertschi is coming off his best offensive season ever in terms of pace—having scored at a greater-than-30-goal rate.
-He’s meshed well with Boeser in the past.
-Baertschi might be the most purely-talented individual on the roster aside from the Wonder Twins themselves.
-As Bo Horvat’s wingman, Baertschi has demonstrated an ability to both make and finish plays.
-He’ll be extremely motivated after missing the majority of last season.
-For Baertschi, it’s all about his health. He’s yet to avoid injury for an entire NHL season.
-His concussion issues have put his entire career in jeopardy, and make it difficult to think of Baertschi as a long-term solution anywhere in the lineup.
-He may struggle to bounce back mentally, and the added pressure of a first line assignment may be too much, too soon.
Option 4: Nikolay Goldobin-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
-This is the only place in the lineup in which Goldobin has proven to be effective.
-Pettersson may have played his best hockey of the year while paired with Goldobin, and they do seem to inspire offensive creativity in one another.
-Goldobin has the ability to see a few steps ahead of the play, a talent shared only by Pettersson and Boeser on this roster.
-Goldobin’s effort level is notoriously inconsistent.
-He’s also questionable defensively, a trait he shares with Boeser. Two wingers that are suspect in their own zone might be too much for Pettersson to compensate for.
-There are simply options with a better track record available.
So, which of the four configurations would you choose for 2019/20 if you had Travis Green’s job?
Vote below for your preferred option, and tune in next week to see the results.
— Stephan Roget (@StephanRoget) August 12, 2019
Of course, the four options listed above are not the only possibilities for the Canucks’ top line, and we’ve saved a little space for the also-rans below.
Tanner Pearson-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
Pearson scored at a greater-than-30-goal pace with the Canucks last season, but he also did so stapled to Bo Horvat’s wing. Taking Pearson away from the only center he’s found success with in the past few seasons seems foolhardy, especially when there are better options on the table. As well, Pearson’s style of play seems like a better complement to Horvat’s hard-driving game than the cerebral antics of Pettersson and Boeser.
Josh Leivo-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
Upon joining the Canucks, Leivo experienced a brief stint of success alongside Pettersson and Boeser—though inconsistency resulted in him being shuffled elsewhere in the lineup. He represents a tried-and-tested option for the top line, but Leivo doesn’t really have the talent of some of the other wingers on the roster—and he’s thus probably better suited to adding some punch to an offensive third line than riding Pettersson and Boeser’s coattails.
Jake Virtanen-Elias Pettersson-Brock Boeser
Everybody wants to see Virtanen succeed, and he has played on his off-wing before—but this doesn’t seem like a configuration that would work for Jake or his more talented potential linemates. Virtanen is just starting to find his stride on the right wing, and that’s a position in which the Canucks lack depth anyway—so there’s just no need to move him over at this time.
The Nuclear Option
Elias Pettersson-Bo Horvat-Brock Boeser
It’s been mentioned a few times this offseason that the acquisition of JT Miller—who is a natural center and can play all three forward positions—could allow for the deployment of a “nuclear option” on the Canucks’ top line. With Miller covering second line center duties, Travis Green could move Bo Horvat up a unit—with Pettersson sliding to the left wing and Horvat staying in the middle.
While a similar setup has often been employed on the powerplay—typically with a fourth forward in the mix—it’s yet to be fully tested at even strength. The Canucks have added enough forward talent over the past year that such a move wouldn’t leave the second line entirely threadbare, either—which makes it a slightly more compelling option.
In the end, it’s most likely that Green will stick with a Pettersson-Horvat combo down the middle, as having a strong 1-2 punch at center is a proven necessity for playoff success in the NHL. Still, it’s fun to think about this line coming over the boards with the team down a goal late in the game—even more so if Quinn Hughes also finds his way onto the ice—and fun is what we’re here for with the 2019/20 Canucks As Voted By The Fans series.
Should coach Travis Green employ a "nuclear option" by rolling a first line of Elias Pettersson-Bo Horvat-Brock Boeser and having JT Miller center the second line?
— Stephan Roget (@StephanRoget) August 12, 2019