The idea of grit has been a big topic of conversation for the Vancouver Canucks this season. Much of the debate has surrounded defenceman Erik Gudbranson. It is argued toughness is necessary, and others say the idea is outdated in today’s league. The ending of Derek Dorsett‘s career has only enhanced the topic.
However, the recent play of journeyman Darren Archibald has united both sides of the argument. Archibald’s success in not just hitting, but doing everything right in his role has provided a much needed positive story for Canucks fans.
Darren Archibald a Success for Vancouver Canucks
Archibald, 28, made his NHL debut in 2013-14 under head coach John Tortorella. While serviceable (and scoring one goal and three points in 16 games), he lacked the confidence of a full-time NHL forward. He has been with the organization since 2010, but hadn’t been able to transition from the AHL effectively. However, despite not having set foot on the ice with Vancouver since his debut, he has looked full value in his 17 contests this season.
Prior to the trade deadline, Archibald was signed to a one-year contract. This came on the heels of a pre-season that put him on many people’s radars. While he was beat out by younger options such as Jake Virtanen in October, he is now a regular in the lineup. Not only that, but he has been an effective option in doing so. He leads all forwards hits per game (minimum 10 games played) at 3.0. Additionally, he’s tied for the team lead in that category.
Archibald has been no slouch offensively either. He has scored a respectable three goals and five points in 17 games, decent bottom-six production. He has scored a shorthanded goal, as well as on a penalty shot. Indeed, his skill set has come more varied than anticipated. He has also become a regular member of the penalty kill, and has demonstrated footspeed that, while not great, is of a decent caliber. His forechecking has been a valuable asset to a team lacking in that area, particularly due to his raw size. He was a favorite of head coach Travis Green last season in Utica, and he been effective in demonstrating those same attributes at hockey’s highest level.
This is especially impressive considering his linemates. Centre Brandon Sutter has just six goals on the season, an underwhelming number. He has also played alongside the likes of Tyler Motte and Nic Dowd, fringe NHL forwards at best. This only further enhances the impact Archibald has had for the Canucks in his stint thus far. It is evident that Archibald is a tier above a “tweener-esque” NHLer.
Time will tell whether Archibald is an every-day forward, or if he’s riding a wave of adrenaline for the moment. However, his play so far has to be respected. He has grown from an ECHL player to a fan-favourite on the Canucks. He has likely earned himself a one-year deal with the team, and has been a tremendous story for an organization that desperately needs one.
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