Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - Vancouver is reportedly hot on the Shane Doan
trail -- meeting with the soon-to-be former Coyotes captain -- but Canucks
general manager Mike Gillis might be better off filling a more pressing need
for his club.
While 'Doan Watch', along with the ongoing Roberto Luongo saga, continues to
dominate the hockey headlines in Vancouver, the biggest concern on the
Canucks' roster is their depth at the center position.
Heading into the season a year ago, the Canucks were thought to be among the
deepest teams at the center spot with 2010 Hart Trophy winner Henrik Sedin and
reigning Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler the stalwarts in the top two
positions. Cody Hodgson - now of the Buffalo Sabres - looked poised for a
breakout campaign, and veterans Manny Malhotra, Maxim Lapierre and Andrew
Ebbett rounded out the rest of the main roster.
Fast forward one year later, and Vancouver's strength at that position is much
Sedin is coming off a year that saw him fail to produce at a point-per-game
pace for the first time in four seasons. His 14 goals last season is also his
lowest output in the post-lockout era.
Kesler had a difficult time trying to get back to his full capacity as a
result of offseason hip surgery and, after playing through a torn labrum for
the final third of the season, will likely miss at least the opening month of
this season after undergoing shoulder surgery in the summer.
Trade deadline day acquisition Samuel Pahlsson, whom the Canucks brought in to
essentially replace the struggling Malhotra as their top checking center,
departed earlier this summer after signing with MODO of the Swedish Elite
The fact that the Canucks could conceivably be starting next season with
Lapierre, who is a serviceable bottom-six forward but not the type suited for
a permanent role in the top-six, as their second line center with Kesler out
is a particular cause for concern.
Lapierre, who posted nine goals and 19 points last season, has cracked the 20-
point mark only once in his career -- back in 2008-09, when he notched 28
points with Montreal.
As much as the Canucks would like to remain in the hunt for Doan, who, at 6-
foot-1 and 223 lbs. and is a consistent point producer, gives them the power
forward they feel they've desperately needed, Doan's age and reported contract
expectations clearly don't fit into the Canucks' cap management scheme nor
would his signing address their biggest gaping hole.
Doan, who turns 36 in October, has been rumored to be seeking a contract term
of at least four years worth $7.5 million per season.
The Canucks, along with the likes of the Canadiens, Red Wings, Flyers,
Penguins, Predators, Sharks, and Kings, are believed to be in the hunt for
Doan's services. Doan was also reportedly being courted by the Flames and
Oilers, but those teams are no longer in the running.
Even without adding Doan to the mix, Vancouver already has wingers who could
fit the power forward mold and should be given the opportunity to land a full-
time roster spot this fall: Zack Kassian, who appeared in 17 games for the
Canucks last season after coming over from the Hodgson trade, and their 2011
first rounder Nicklas Jensen, who will be playing for Stockholm AIK in Sweden
if he fails to land a spot out of training camp.
The Canucks did add to their organizational depth at the center spot during
the NHL Entry Draft, taking 18-year-old Brendan Gaunce from the OHL's
Belleville Bulls with the 26th overall selection; Gaunce, however, is likely a
couple of years away from being NHL-ready.
The Canucks also have Jordan Schroeder, who played last year for their AHL
affiliate in Chicago and will likely challenge for a roster spot at training
camp, although Schroeder's being overlooked for a late season call-up even
after the departure of Hodgson suggests the team isn't exactly high on the 21-
Schroeder has yet to appear in a NHL game since being drafted in the first
round, 22nd overall, of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Canucks.
The Sports Network