Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Yannick Weber back on the 13th forward-7th defenceman shuttle

Something most Canadiens fans may not be aware of, but Yannick Weber is realizing that 'plus ça change, plus c'est pareil'.  Our young friend wasn't qualified last summer, the Canadiens deciding that paying a million dollars for another year of his services was not good value.  They couldn't find anyone to trade him to, not at his qualifying wage, so they let him become a UFA, and he quickly signed with the Vancouver Canucks at a bargain basement $650 000 for one year.

The Canucks seemed to have a more likely opening for his services.  They have a relatively strong Top 4 on defence, but the third pairing was wide open, with youngsters like Frank Corrado and Chris Tanev taking turns last season, along with bruiser Andrew Alberts.  The Cam Barker experiment was not a success and he was let go.

The thing about the Top 4 though is that while Alex Edler and Jason Garrison are great on the powerplay, and Kevin Bieksa is a decent option, Dan Hamhuis is a bit of a stretch.  Further, all of these guys are lefties.  Since the Canucks ill-advisedly let rightie Sami Salo take his bomb to Tampa, the powerplay hasn't been the same.  Jason Garrison struggled to get good shots on net last season, the setups seemed off.

So the narrative was that Yannick would walk in, win a #6-7 job out of camp, pull heavy powerplay minutes, and restore the threat of their man-advantage squads.  It kind of worked in pre-season, with Yannick scoring a couple and picking up assists, and I read bloggers idly speculating whether he was the key off-season pickup, and what a find he might become.  There were countervailing voices though, who pointed out how he struggled at killing penalties and in general defensively.

The plan seemed to be, after the addition of Andrew Alberts as a late signing, to rotate him and Yannick in and out of the roster based on the opponents, with Mr. Alberts taking on the more physically tough teams, and Yannick sitting out those games.  Frank Corrado would be sent back down to the AHL to get more playing time and work on his game.

Then, at cutdown day, the Canucks claimed leftie Ryan Stanton, a journeyman undrafted defenceman, from the Chicago Blackhawks.  He's got decent NHL size, around 6'2" and 195 lbs, and is good on defence and can play with the puck.  Apparently he was the most improved player on the Rockford IceHogs, and ready for the NHL, so we can think of him as a fully developed Morgan Ellis.

Claiming him seemed to negate the need for a platoon at the #6 D-man spot, he would pair with rightie Chris Tanev and give the team a more stable third pairing.

But still, it would be nice to have that bomb of Yannick's on powerplays, the Canucks coaches thought.  And, to be sure, their third and fourth lines are nothing to write home about, what with Zack Kassian suspended and all...

You guessed it, Yannick started the season playing right wing on the fourth line, getting few minutes but lots of powerplay time.  He is, again, miscast as he was in Montréal, the seventh D-man plunked in on an awkward forward line with Dale Weise and Zac Dalpe and duct tape and spackle.

He's had a chance to play defence with the Alex Edler suspension, but judging by his icetime, he'll go right back to being the accidental fourth-liner as soon as the Canucks can manage it.  Which will be when Mr. Edler returns to the lineup on Saturday.

I kind of wished things would work out for Yannick in Vancouver, hoped that with the right team and the right mix on defence he could be the #6 powerplay specialist.  He's often derided as being too small, but the guy is really stocky, powerfully built, and he obviously doesn't stint on the off-ice conditioning.

Some have compared him to Gaston Gingras, who was a bit of a one-trick pony too, great shot from the point, but with serious deficits in other areas.  It seems like a valid analogy, but I still hope he can work on his game and put together a decent career.

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