Sunday night's game versus the Carolina Hurricanes was full of bumped slumps, as Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, and Ryan Kesler all tallied their first goals of the season. The previous four games had been tough for them, as all three had generated numerous chances, but had not managed to find the back of the net. It was a problem. Though the Sedins tallied at least a point in each game, the secondary scoring--a huge part of the Canucks' success last season--was not coming. As a result, Alain Vigneault switched up the lines. Strangely, however, Mikael Samuelsson, who had success skating with Kesler and Raymond in last year's regular season, did not find his way back to the second line. He was moved to the third, while Mason Raymond headed to the first line.
It may have worked in the short-term, but it's the wrong move: Mikael Samuelsson needs to be reunited with Raymond and Kesler.
We've seen from Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen's lack of success on the second line that it's difficult to create chemistry with Raymond and Kesler. Samuelsson already has it. Last season, the Raymond-Kesler-Samuelsson unit was one of the top ten lines in the NHL, for much of the season better than the first lines of two-thirds of the NHL.
On Sunday night, Samuelsson connected with Raymond on two goals, despite only skating with him sparingly.
Raymond and Kesler play a uniquely frenzied style defined by hard forechecking, shots and rebounds, and speed to loose pucks. Unlike the Sedins, who create offense with measured plays, sound positional movement, and puck control, Ray and Kes create it by causing chaos in the offensive zone that breaks down defensive systems and opens up space. But it's a delicate balancing act. Too much chaos and it's... well, chaos, which is what you get when you pair them with similarly mucky guys like Hansen and Torres. Raymond and Kesler need somebody to settle them down.
The Sedins don't have this problem. They seem to score consistently, in much the same way each time, and their slumps are typically the result of predictable puck movement. Alex Burrows is the best fit for them primarily because of the mucky, unpredictable way he plays. He keeps things interesting. With two wingers that have a tendency towards an overly patient approach, a guy like Burrows opens up a second way for them to play: loose.
Raymond and Kesler already play loose. 5-on-5 goals from the Ray/Kes pairing are as random as the jukebox in Shaun of the Dead. They need to skate with somebody who will be somewhat predictable, and who will open up the patient side of their game. Samuelsson does that best. He gives Raymond and Kesler more options, time and space. He turns their chaos into organized noise.
He settles them down a little. Kes and Ray are Baloo and Kit Cloudkicker. Samuelsson is Rebecca Cunningham.
We've seen, in his time with the Canucks, that Samuelsson is an the excellent addition to any line. Because of his experience and intelligence, you know he'll be able to learn from and adapt to his linemates, which is why he's been a good fit with the Sedins. However, he fits best with Raymond and Kesler, and they're the ones who need him the most. Put Mikael Samuelsson back on the second line.