2013-14 Division Rivals: Edmonton Oilers vs. Vancouver Canucks

Jonathan Willis
August 13 2013 09:26AM

Our stroll through Edmonton's new division continues today with a look at the Vancouver Canucks.

As with yesterday’s look at the Anaheim Ducks, I’ve included one basic statistic at each position on the depth charts below. For forwards, I’ve used points from last season projected over an 82-game schedule, for defencemen time on ice per game in 2012-13, and for goalies their 2012-13 save percentage. Players in italics did not play a significant number of games in the NHL in 2012-13; red indicates numbers come from the AHL or Europe while green indicates a previous NHL season.

And again, the same caveat: these depth charts are my best approximation of each team and the line combinations are not intended to be chisled on stone tablets.

Forwards

It’s surprising how quickly the Oilers seem to have closed the gap with Vancouver up front. With an aging core and salary concerns cutting into their depth, the Canucks don’t look especially formidable on paper.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin form the nucleus of a strong top line, while Alex Burrows is a strong complementary player, but it isn’t a group that particularly overshadows the Oilers’ young trio. Ryan Kesler, if healthy, is a superb second line centre; he left a major hole in Vancouver’s lineup last season but now he’s back. Vancouver has less raw offensive talent on the wings of their second line than Edmonton, but with two strong two-way players and Kesler, that’s probably a better line overall.

The bottom six doesn’t look much different. The Oilers have Boyd Gordon and question marks at centre; the Canucks have a good fourth-line guy and question marks. Nothing is particularly inspiring about Vancouver’s third and fourth line wingers – if Chris Higgins bounces back and Zack Kassian steps forward they’ll be in good shape (particularly if Kassian can move into the top-six), but on the whole there are at least as many questions as there are with Edmonton’s group.

Given Edmonton’s blend of youth and the Canucks’ shoddy depth, it seems reasonable to project this as a close matchup.

Defence and Goaltending

Defence, on the other hand, isn’t close. Look at it this way: Jeff Petry was the Oilers’ number one defenceman last year, and while he may well be eclipsed by Justin Schultz this year he’s the incumbent. Where would he slot on Vancouver’s depth chart? To me, it looks like he’d be battling with Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev for the number four slot. The Canucks don’t have an overpowering number one defenceman, but they have a lot of very good players and a nice mix of skillsets on the back end.

Depth-wise, the Oilers can feel good on their blue line, but given the mismatch at the top end that’s little comfort.

Goaltending is an interesting position for the Canucks. Roberto Luongo is a superb goaltender, but he’s had a troubled relationship with the team. If he comes in and plays the way he can, than Vancouver looks good – Eriksson and Lack can fight for the number two role with little chance of hurting the team.

Overall

After years as one of the West’s dominant teams, cracks are starting to show in Vancouver, particularly up front. A team that once boasted high-end talent and exceptional depth at all positions still has the former but can seemingly no longer afford the latter. It’s a team that can still contend in the here and now, but could use some re-tooling up front. Barring a Luongo collapse, however, they should be near the top of the Pacific Division.

This is a team the Oilers can only catch if there’s a significant meltdown.

Recently around the Nation Network

And here's some news directly relevant to that depth chart above: the Canucks are having a lot of trouble getting Chris Tanev under contract, and now his agent is talking about the KHL. It sounds more to me like an agent deciding he has pretty much zero leverage and had better find something to push with, but Canucks Army's Patrick Johnston suggests it won't be a huge deal if Tanev decides to leave:

So he may go, he may not. Is he replaceable? Probably? Would it be a loss? Yes, it most certainly would. Solid NHLers on cheap contracts are very valuable, and his role on the team's back-end can't be overlooked. But it wouldn't be a disaster.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 Supernova
August 13 2013, 11:49AM
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Sorry my post above was written a bit ago but forgot to hit the post button.

Calgary and Buffalo are 2 teams that could throw bigger money and term at Sedins for different reasons.

Calgary could throw 4 years and 8 million at them per year, just to mess with Vancouver.

I am not saying the ship is sinking but this is a very key year for Gillis. Contract year for Sedins, new coach that tends to be very good out of the gate with a new team, Loungo situation, lack of depth on the offence.

It will be very interesting to see how Gillis steers the ship.

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#52 Supernova
August 13 2013, 11:50AM
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DSF wrote:

They will.

they will what?

sign short term low money deals?

or

explore the market?

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#53 Supernova
August 13 2013, 12:01PM
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DSF wrote:

Sign short term for less.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if they now sign a series of 1 year contracts.

we are on a polar opposites then.

If you were 33 and had a chance at term why wouldn't you take it.

you can sign one year deals at late 30's.

sign for 4 years and then go year to year

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#54 Sean
August 13 2013, 12:12PM
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If the Sedins leave and get a lot of cap space, what will they do with it? Gillis isn't the type to overpay, and the only reason players took more cap-friendly deals was because they were a great team. W/O the Sedins and with their overall roster aging/declining, why would any player sign there?

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#55 Supernova
August 13 2013, 03:48PM
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DSF wrote:

Gillis painted himself into a corner.

Apparently he was offered Nazem Kadri + for Luongo by the Leafs but thought he could get more if he was patient.

He gambled and lost although I always thought trading Schneider made more sense.

As for the Kassian trade, I think the Canucks were just tired of dealing with Hodgson's "issues" as the Sabres are now finding out and took the chance to acquire a big power forward.

People tend to forget that Kassian is only 22 and power forwards generally take a little longer to develop.

He scored 5 goals in his first 7 games last season, with little help from the Sedins, and then AV moved him down to try and get the Sedins going. That worked out for the Sedins but Kassian floundered.

Based On Tortorella's track record playing young players, I think you'll see Kassian once again on the top line and he has the potential to have a break out year.

My thinking is 5 years from now the Canucks will have easily won the trade.

We'll see.

In regards to the Loungo / Schneider ordeal.

It would seem Gillis' time as a Player Agent worked against him. Typically we will see player agents try to wait out the team, knowing that as the team gets closer and closer to the season, the player tends to hold the leverage because the Ownership and Management get antsy about not having a asset play.

It seems Gillis did the reverse of this and thought the longer he held Louie the more his value would climb and another option or two would reveal themselves.

I also agree that Power Forwards take longer to develop.

I always find people forget or don't realize how rare of a commodity it is to have a big fwd who can hit, fight, score and take a regular shift in the top 2 lines.

this type of commodity is expensive in a few forms. You typically have to draft alot of these players just to see one make it, or if you have one you have to be patient.

The jury is still out if he does develop but Kassian is in the right position to develop this season.

Hodgson looked like he was always going to have a issue with the Canucks from whatever happened.

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#56 Alsker
August 13 2013, 09:44PM
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Mildly off topic(sorry) but Kent Wilson has an article up in cowpoke nation that claims we finish behind the shames...where the f#&k is that trash button option for articles..lol..

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#57 madjam
August 14 2013, 06:28AM
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Sedins are always treat to watch , but they and Kesler are not getting any better or younger for that matter . Their support staff is still questionable for forwards . Their defence is their main staple holding them up in standings . Luongo is still good , but overrated and surprised they didn't keep Schneider and let Luongo go . Oilers with progress this year could overtake them relatively quickly .

Unlikely Sedin twins could be traded as a group , and may decide to stay together and play at home or KHL together . Canucks might be wise to try and shop them as a package this year while the opportunity and their value is still there .

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