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What to Make of Linden Vey’s Declining Stock

When the Vancouver Canucks acquired Linden Vey from the Los Angeles Kings last summer for a second-round pick, they had high hopes for him.

But on Tuesday, Vey cleared waivers and will be starting the season with the Utica Comets of the AHL.

At the time of the trade, Vey seemed like a sneaky-good acquisition for the Canucks. Unable to find a roster spot on the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings because of their depth at center, Vey had just posted two very strong AHL seasons in which he had scored 48 points in 43 games in 2013-14 and 67 points in 74 games in 2012-13.

Prior to that, Vey won the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s top scorer in 2010-11 after racking up 116 points in just 69 games in his final season with the Medicine Hat Tigers. During his previous four seasons with the Tigers, his coach was none other than his current NHL coach, Willie Desjardins. That was just one more reason that Vey seemed like a great fit in Vancouver.

But in his first season in Vancouver, Vey could not make his way out of the bottom six. Over 75 games, he managed a disappointing 10 goals and 14 assists. Also brought in to help with faceoffs, Vey was successful on only 42.8 percent of his draws, which was the lowest among Canucks’ centers. In fact, Vey could only get into one of the Canucks’ six playoff games and saw only ten minutes of ice time in that game (NHL.com).

Vey vowed during the offseason to train harder than ever, but the preseason turned out to be more of the same. In five games, Vey could not manage a point with six shots and a minus-2 rating (Vancouver Province). In all fairness, it’s difficult to find the scoresheet when your linemates are grinders Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett, which was the plan for Vey heading into the season.

The major story for the Canucks during the preseason has been the performance of youngsters Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann and Ben Hutton–all of whom cracked the Canucks’ roster. Of the three, Virtanen was assumed to be the only one that had a real shot of making the team. But Hutton’s camp was so strong that the Canucks were forced to place Frank Corrado on waivers and watch him be claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Meanwhile, McCann’s play was one of the reasons that Vey was placed on waivers. But it wasn’t the only one. In fact, the Canucks believed that even journeyman Adam Cracknell had more to offer than Vey, adding to the theory that current Canucks’ management values toughness.

Perhaps with Virtanen, McCann, and Hutton all at least starting the season with the big club, the Canucks have decided to fast-track the rebuild. But it was clear that merit, not contract, was going to decide who made the club. Vey signed a one-year, one-way, $1 million contract during the offseason, so he was assumed to be a lock to make the club. But after an offseason of questionable personnel decisions, Canucks’ management has scored big points with the fans with its final roster decisions.

So what’s next for Vey? Don’t be surprised if he is called up at some point during the season. Virtanen and McCann are technically on nine-game trials, and Cracknell has never played more than 24 games in an NHL season. As mentioned earlier, Vey has dominated the AHL before, so an injury or subpar play could result in him being granted a second chance with the Canucks sooner than you might think.

To succeed, he will need a better situation. Vey will have a difficult time cracking the top six if the Canucks would still plan on using him as a center. The Canucks’ plan heading into training camp was for Henrik Sedin to center the first line, with Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat finding themselves on either the second or third line. If Vey is moved to the wing, perhaps he will have a better chance of moving up the depth chart.

But where Vey slots in on the Canucks’ depth chart won’t matter if he can’t turn his career around in Utica.

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