The Canucks told Chris Higgins to go home yesterday.
Higgins has played parts of five seasons in Vancouver, including many productive ones as a second and third line winger. Last year, he was fifth on the Canucks in scoring.
So the decision to remove him from the club, whether another team takes him or not, is certainly cutthroat. He carries a $2.5M cap hit and could be on his way to the AHL.
Slowed by an injury in the first game of the preseason, Higgins has just 3 points in 25 games, despite numerous opportunities to succeed.
Don’t be fooled by his stat-line though. Higgins is still an NHL player. The Canucks are a better team with him on the roster too.
But make no mistake: moving on from Higgins is the right move for the Canucks.
Fans in Vancouver are sick of Chris Higgins. Not the person. Not the player.
They’re sick of what he represents.
Higgins is a safe player to put on the ice because he’s responsible defensively. But for a team that needs to get younger, Higgins represents a rebuild-roadblock.
Young players like Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, and Emerson Etem may or may not be better players than Higgins right now, but they certainly provide more hope. In order for them to fulfil their potential, they’ll need opportunities to succeed.
GM Jim Benning released this statement yesterday:
“As part of our transition to a younger team, I can confirm we’re exploring trade options for Chris Higgins so we can create more roster space for our younger players to develop. Chris is a quality person who has been an important member of our team for nearly five seasons. Our focus has been on finding a positive new situation for him and we will continue to do so.”
They’re taking away Willie Desjardins’ security blanket.
Higgins is 8th among Canucks forwards in average ice time. He plays more than every Canucks forward under the age of 25, other than Bo Horvat.
Jim Benning has made a philosophical decision.
With Higgins out of the way, it means Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, and Alex Grenier are one step closer to getting a call-up. It means fewer healthy scratches for young players. It means more chances on the power play, on the penalty kill, in overtime, and in the shootout.
You have to feel for Higgins. He’s been a good teammate. He’s been a good Canuck.
If the Canucks were a Stanley Cup contender, he would be a good role player.
But, whether the organization wants to admit it or not, this is a rebuild situation. Higgins is no longer a fit with this team. He’s 32-years-old and his best days are behind him.
For Higgins, it sucks. For the Canucks, it’s simply time to move on.