Vancouver Canucks: The Glory That Is Rick Rypien
You need many different types of hockey players on a team for it to be good. Of course, you need some guys who can put the puck in the net. You need forwards that can check the other team’s best players. You need an at least decent goalie, and you need both defensemen who can move the puck as well as those who can shut down the other team’s guys (even better if those qualities reside in the same defenseman).
But you also need some energy guys. You need guys who can play a good shift, hopefully keep the puck in the opposing team’s end, and who can get the crowd (and their teammates) energized with either a big hit, a fight, or whatever. It also helps to have a tough guy that can keep your star players safe by taking on the other team’s tough guy. The Vancouver Canucks thought they had this when they signed Darcy Hordichuk, but something’s happened to him. He doesn’t fight any more; he doesn’t really hit, and when he does try, he often misses. Tanner Glass has earned his spot on the Canucks by doing a lot of this, and I’m really glad to have him on this team. However, he’s not the guy I think of when I look at all of these qualities.
No, I think of Rick Rypien. Rypien has a checkered past with the Canucks, though coach Alain Vigneault seems to really love him and gives him ample opportunity. However, he has historically been injury-prone. Two years ago, he was out for most of the season with an injury after starting off really well. Last year, he scored in two of the first three games, I believe, and then promptly got injured. Later in the season, he went on leave from the team for “personal reason” which have never been disclosed (and good on the Vancouver media for actually giving the guy some privacy; if any reporter actually knew what was going on, I never heard about it).
This year has been much better, though there have been stretches where he’s been out. However, when he is in the line-up, he gives the team just what it needs. He’s always skating hard, going around hitting people right and left. He doesn’t score much, but when he does, they’re beauty goals (hmm…people said the same about Burrows a couple of years ago. Could it be? Nah.) He never takes a shift off, always doing his best to spark his team when they’re down. He doesn’t have a lot of skill, but he’s got enough that he doesn’t look out of place out there on the ice. Most important of all, though: he’s taking Hordichuk’s place as the go-to guy in the fighting department.
Boy, does he ever. Rypien is not afraid of anybody. So what if the guy he’s taking on has 10 inches and 50 pounds on him? That’s not going to stop him. More often than not, he wins the fight, too! Or at least makes it a draw. Just look at Thursday night’s game against Atlanta, and this fight against Boris Valabik. Valabik actually laughed in his face when Rypien challenged him. And look at the outcome. It was a fairly even fight, but Rypien clearly came out ahead. Valabik probably didn’t know what hit him. Rypien has a history of doing this, too. Zach Stortini in Edmonton, Derek Boogaard in Minnesota, Hal Gill in Montreal (ok, Gill’s not a fighter, but he’s still huge compared to Rypien). The list goes on, and Rypien has no fear of any of them. It’s why he’s quickly become a fan favourite here in Vancouver.
And rightfully so. Rypien’s most likely not going to win you the game in the dying seconds. But he may be instrumental in actually getting you to those final seconds.
He’s definitely a keeper.