Lost in all the hullabaloo about a belly-flopping goalie and a supposed “slow” start in the early season is the strong play of Chris Higgins, who will be the other person to complete the second line with Cody Hodgson and Ryan Kesler when the latter returns to the Canucks lineup tomorrow night.
Yes, Kesler is the guy who stirs the drink. You don’t score 40 goals and become one of the best two-way players in the game without being the go-to guy on a line. But while Kesler may be the present and Hodgson the future, Higgins isn’t about to be deemed chopped liver, either.
It was just four years ago that a 25-year-old Higgins potted 27 goals with the Montreal Canadiens, his third consecutive year of scoring 20+ goals in a season. That 27-goal feat came while playing with a revolving door of linemates from Saku Koivu to Ryan O’Byrne to Michael Ryder. And with all due respect to that trifecta of former Habs, neither even remotely compares to the level that Kesler plays at.
Sure, Higgins has been through more houses (Montreal, New York, Calgary, and Florida) than a Trading Spaces marathon, but if he plays his cards right, he’ll be able to find a more permanent home in Vancouver. Now at 28, ideally Higgins should be entering the prime of his career.
Going back to last spring’s playoffs, Chris Higgins may not have been an offensive dynamo (then again, who was?) but there was no questioning his hustle and drive. Higgins put the effort in despite labouring through a broken foot, which should automatically qualify him for Vigneault Penthouse status. Now that he’s looking to be a fixture on a second line with Ryan Kesler, is it that much of a stretch to suggest he can get back to that 25+25 level we’ve seen before?
It’s already been well-documented that Kesler and Higgins played together for Team USA at the World Juniors. So there’s that, too.
Even without Kesler, Higgins and Hodgson teamed up to combine for three goals and three assists in a combined ten games. While certainly nothing to write home about, it’s not shabby for a line that doesn’t have someone named Sedin on it.
So let’s see how this latest rendition of the second line plays out. We know Kesler will be there, and if Hodgson continues doing his part on the wing, he will too. But Chris Higgins could soon find himself getting some more attention sooner than we think.