As the axe falls on players trying to crack the Canucks roster, an intriguing decision will soon have to be made on the team’s designated enforcer.
With so many vying for a role on the third and fourth lines, the question is whether or not there will be room for Darcy Hordichuk.
The 10-year veteran provides a presence no other player on the team can – the familiarity, the technique and the ability to fight opposing heavyweights.
In the past two preseason games, the Saskatchewan pugilist has took on notable big boys George Parros of Anaheim and Zack Stortini of Edmonton.
“If anything, the fourth line is more important than it ever has been,” Hordichuk said. “We’ve got scoring from the top three lines. We’re not under as much pressure now to contribute as much because we’ve got more skilled guys to protect out there. It just makes it a busier year for guys like us.”
But in a league dictated by salary cap, guys like Hordichuk must be more than just fisticuffs.
This summer, in addition to improving his fighting technique, particularly working on incorporating his left punches more, the winger focused on quick-feet exercises and palates. He feels he’s stronger on the puck and more agile on the ice. Putting up points, however, is not in his repertoire.
“If I’m holding onto the puck and taking it deep, it means I’m not hitting guys. Therefore, I’m not effective in my role,” he said. “It’s about being effective when you’re in the lineup and knowing that your teammates are going to be protected out there.”
Coach Alain Vigneault says having a physical presence is important, even though it’s now more about finishing checks and less on fighting.
“There’s a place for those players on our team but how many? We’ve got three games left to figure it out,” he said. “(Darcy) understands his role. Sometimes if the team needs some protection, he’ll stand up and do that for his teammates.”