Along the way, the role players need to chip in more often than not for an upper echelon team to stay in the chase for a division title. The Canucks, playing in the most difficult division in the NHL, are very much relying on the Sedins and Luongo to pave the way, with Kesler and Burrows adding in offence, and Hamhuis and Bieksa stabilizing the defence. And then there are the role players, specifically Brad Richardson up front, and Ryan Stanton on the back end, who must contribute in their own way.
Richardson signed a two-year contract during the off-season with Vancouver because he felt the way he plays would fit the needs of the club. His worth is in the face-off circle (around 53%), killing penalties (Canucks are top three in the NHL), and supplying depth offence (8 pts in 17gms). His game has rounded out since his junior days (OHL-Owen Sound Attack) where he put up close to 100 pts his last season, but still took pride in the defensive aspect of the game.
It’s that commitment that has seen him play his most per-game minutes (above 13) in any of his eight previous years at the NHL level. He’s fit right in playing any position asked of him, and has already lined up at left and right wing, and currently is centering the Canucks third line.
An all-rounder off the ice too, while growing up Richardson played everything from basketball to volleyball (couldn’t go A to Z, so I went B to V) in his hometown of Belleville, Ontario.
Although he shrugs off the defined definition of “role player” (as it can come with a confined connotation of a player who’s limited in skill), the small plays Richardson makes to help keep the other team from scoring has provided the coaching staff with the trust to keep his minutes where they are. So let’s go with “role model,” as his perseverance is a very strong quality.
For Ryan Stanton, it’s been an ascending curve since turning pro and being selected off waivers by the Canucks before the start of the regular season. It should come as no surprise, though, as early in his professional career he was selected the “Most Improved Player” with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs in 2011, to their “Top Defenseman” in 2012. Admittedly not the best player on most of the teams he played for in the St.Albert, Alberta, minor hockey system, he credits his parents for unwavering support, and also mentions watching players like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook during his time as an extra player during the Chicago Blackhawks last Stanley Cup win for his development.
Now Stanton gets advice from his D-partner Bieksa, and with each game is growing more confident and playing more stable as the season progresses. He is in the top five in hits with the club, and is averaging almost 14 minutes per game. His role as a depth defenseman has been very evident, and with six points thrown in so far it’s been a great story to follow.
In all, the Canucks have been fortunate that the support is there from their role players throughout the line-up so that the heavy minutes the top players play has not come at the cost of other parts of their line-up being lost in the shuffle, or worse, being non-factors.
With Richardson and Stanton, the Canucks can keep on rolling.