Three things to ponder after the Canucks topped the Red Wings 2-1 in a Saturday shootout at Rogers Arena to clinch a playoff position:
1. FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, NORTH: No sooner were the Chicago Wolves eliminated from contention for an AHL playoff berth Saturday in a 2-0 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals than the speculation started. With no roster limit after the NHL trade deadline, the Vancouver Canucks were expected to recall right-shot defenceman Frankie Corrado — especially with right shots Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev sidelined — and perhaps wingers Nicklas Jensen, Andrew Gordon, Bill Sweatt and Darren Archibald could work into the recall mix. Same for centre Jordan Schroeder. It’s not official, but the recall word was leaking out Saturday night.
The Corrado family was having dinner in Chicago with a player agent, Scott Deady, who tweeted that it was a great night because Corrado had been recalled by the Canucks. The 20-year-old Toronto native is represented by Joe Resnick and had two assists in three games with the Wolves after his OHL club was eliminated from the postseason. Corrado compiled 45 OHL points (7-38), his skating has vastly improved and he’s on the fast track.
Corrado is intriguing on so many levels because he was traded from the Sudbury Wolves to the Kitchener Rangers this season and has a way of getting noticed. It’s why he was taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by the Canucks at the prompting of OHL regional scout Dan Palango and why he scored the winning goal for Team OHL in a Super Series matchup against Russia on Nov. 12 in Sarnia, Ont. where he was paired with Boston Bruins first-round pick Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara Ice Dogs. Corrado gained even more notoriety for being the last Team Canada cut at the world junior evaluation camp in Calgary after scoring in consecutive camp games.
With the Canucks clinching a playoff spot and no timeline for Bieksa and Tanev to return, there’s really no risk in playing Corrado in one or more of the final three regular-season games. Why not see what you’ve got? We know what the Canucks have in the struggling Cam Barker and it’s not good. And we know what happened when Tanev was inserted into the Canucks’ lineup on their run to the Stanley Cup final. He played. And he stuck.
2. WHAT’S WITH BIEKSA?: Everybody has an opinion on what’s troubling injured defenceman Kevin Bieksa.
At first, it was thought that a groin problem had resurfaced because the blueliner was battling the ailment for a six-week period earlier this season. Then, it was thought that he may have suffered a foot injury because blueliners have a way of getting injured by blocking shots or quickly pivoting to avoid checks to move the puck. Alain Vigneault ruled out another groin concern and the lower-body summation and day-to-day status report — the playoffs must be nearing — likely means an injury that may differ from player to player.
The latest suggestion is a hip-flexor injury because that would lend something to Vigneault’s comment about not being sure if Bieksa will be ready for the postseason. There are varying degrees of strains and some players heal quicker than others. General manager Mike Gillis sounded more optimistic about Bieksa last week, so if you read between those lines, the hip theory may be a decent one. We know Tanev is walking around in a protective boot and probably closer to returning than Bieksa.
3. AND, SPEAKING OF DEFENCEMEN: Hindsight is great and this eyebrow-raiser came up following the trade deadline and before Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev were injured. With a dearth of right-shot defencemen and knowing an injury to either Bieksa or Tanev would muddy the pairings mess, why didn’t the Canucks make a deadline move for Victoria native Ryan O’Byrne? Toronto got the physical, stay-at-home, right-shot blueliner for a fourth-round pick from Colorado. At 28, O’Byrne would have been good insurance against injury and with his $1.8 million US pro-rated contract expiring, he could have been at the very least a timely rental. After all, the Canucks coughed up two fourth-round picks for Samuel Pahlsson at the 2012 trade deadline. You’d like to think they at least kicked the tires on O’Byrne.
Some say O’Byrne plays a simple game, a Hal Gill type of player who will never overwhelm you but has found his place. Others say he’s not as good as advertised but there are two things you can count on when the playoffs begin. Injuries will occur and the physical play will be ramped up. O’Byrne is 6-foot-5 and 234 pounds. Maybe the Canucks think he couldn’t skate well enough to keep pace. Regardless, we’ll never know.