Desjardins reiterates that if Sutter was healthy, Canucks could’ve challenged for playoff spot

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The Vancouver Canucks finished 28th in the NHL’s overall standings. Their 2015 off-season acquisition Brandon Sutter, penciled in as the team’s second line center when the season began, played only 20 games as injuries disrupted his season.

Yet, Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins is still of the belief that if Sutter had been healthy — his last game was Feb. 9 as he suffered a broken jaw that ended his season — his team could’ve challenged for a playoff spot.

Again, the Canucks finished 28th in the standings.

Sutter had five goals and nine points in his first season in Vancouver.

“The tough thing for Brandon is he didn’t get to show what he could do,” said Desjardins to TSN 1040 radio.

“We’re looking forward to it this year. Everybody felt in our dressing room that if he’s there, then we’re in the playoffs this year. If he could’ve stayed healthy, then we had a real good chance of making the playoffs.”

The Canucks acquired Sutter last July, then signed him to a pricey five-year contract extension a few days later.

In exchange, the Canucks sent Nick Bonino to Pittsburgh.

It’s interesting to re-visit that trade now, especially since Bonino is playing for a Stanley Cup and he’s been a solid contributor to the Penguins in this post-season, with four goals and 17 points in 20 games with the vaunted HBK Line that includes Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin.

“Hindsight is easy,” said Desjardins.

“I like Nick Bonino. I’ve always liked him. He’s a great guy, he moves the puck really well. I think the thing that was tough for us — if you look at Pittsburgh, why is Pittsburgh so good? One of the reasons is their speed. They come back and forth and they’re really quick. We had to find more speed in our lineup. We just had to.

“Nick’s one fault is he’s not quick. But when you put him with Hagelin and Kessel … they make up for his speed. It becomes a quick line. We didn’t have that luxury, so we went with a guy that’s a little quicker and we went with Brandon Sutter.”