A Home for Hansen
Hansen’s been in a tough spot ever since he joined the Canucks. His first game with the big club was a playoff game in Luongo’s playoff series debut against Dallas. Then, set back by injuries, he struggled to get significant ice time. But despite limited minutes last season, he managed to put up career numbers. He headed to arbitration in the summer and got himself a raise and his first one-way NHL contract.
He entered this season considered to be a “bubble player”, but Hansen earned himself a roster spot. And with Burrows injured for the first ten games of the season, he even got a shot to be a top-six forward. However, after getting to skate with the Sedins on the first line and with Kesler and Raymond on the second line, his shot as a top-six forward didn’t seem to pay off. Always a victim of depth, Hansen had never had a chance to develop his game as a top-six forward. Now, after being given considerable chances, where he was unable to capitalize, he looks stuck in the middle.
After going pointless through the first few games of the season it wasn’t until Hansen was placed back into a familiar third line role that he notched his first two points of the season (both assists) playing alongside big center Manny Malhotra and free agent acquisition Raffi Torres. He excels in his role on the bottom-six. His speed draws penalties, his penalty killing is amongst the Canucks best, and he’s as consistent a player as the Canucks have. The problem is, he’s too good for the bottom six, but hasn’t been able to elevate his game to move up the depth chart.
After the Canucks 4-3 win against the Oilers, Hansen had only been on the ice for one of the Canucks 27 goals against. Prior to that game, he had gone longer than any NHL player – 150 minutes of ice-time – without being on ice for a goal against at any strength.
Hansen also leads the team in hits through the first ten games which attest to his off-season work to develop his game as a more versatile player, able to contribute to this team in one way or another even when he can’t register on the scoresheet. Hansen’s role on this team is crucial. He’s part of a vastly improved Canucks penalty-kill and after improving his skating is amongst the Canucks shiftiest skaters which leads to a great forecheck.
The Great Dane is likely in his last year with the Canucks. With key prospects in the system that will offer a lower cap hit, this could very well be his last season. Unlike other players though, Hansen won’t be leaving because he’s played below par. Unlike the Wellwood’s, Pyatt’s and Bernier’s of this Canucks team, Hansen has been integral to developing a bottom-six that’s responsible and able to provide secondary support without being a defensive liability. To win in the playoffs you need a team that’s able to roll four lines and without role players that doesn’t happen. Hansen’s versatility as a forward is to his benefit. He’s able to grind on the fourth line, check with the third line, skate with the speed of Kesler and Raymond on the second line and be the Sedins trigger man as he was earlier this season. He has the ability to play at even strength or on special teams and while his value isn’t as a scorer, he brings aspects to the table which allow him to be an effective player for the Canucks.
While he hasn’t been able to settle into a role with the Canucks he’s certainly earned his spot on the roster. The Danish native has established himself not as a scorer, but an effective third line winger. He’s elevated his physical game which adds an element of grit to his game, and even though he hasn’t found a perfect fit on the Canucks, his fit may just be that he’s able to play in any situation he’s put into.