Just What Is a Two-Way Forward Anyway?

Two-way forward.

It should be insulting. It’s such a backhanded compliment, a condescending and offensive way of fake-boosting someone up when you’re just uncomfortable with saying how you really feel. Like reviewing a movie with, ‘Well, the cinematography was great.’

And it’s too bad for young Bo Horvat, the 19-year-old Canucks rookie who’s playing right into the joke.

“I think I have to continue playing my game,” Horvat told the Province. “I think it’s my two-way game that’s impressed them. If I keep playing well defensively, winning draws and doing the little things, that will be the biggest upside for me.

“It (being pointless with Utica) doesn’t bother me. In the pre-season here, I had one goal. They aren’t keeping me here for my scoring ability, obviously. It’s definitely more than that.

“Eventually, the points are going to come.”

But are they?

I don’t say that to knock Horvat. I’m a huge fan of his game, really, and I have no problem with the true two-way forward or the job they do – look at what Manny Malhotra used to be, or at what Jay McClement did in his short stint with Toronto, or how John Madden or Sami Pahlsson or guys like that have contributed to their own Cup-winning clubs. But Horvat’s not supposed to be like those guys… while he realistically could be, he disappointingly shouldn’t be.

Horvat was drafted ninth overall. He was the bounty Vancouver got in return for franchise goaltender Cory Schneider. Those aren’t fair weights to hang off a teenager’s shoulders, but that’s the reality.

Horvat has to score. He has to put pucks in. He has to become a first- or second-line centre, or the Canucks’ captain at some point. He can’t just slink back to that awful moniker that’s been following him around, that he’s a defensive forward or a two-way player or a 200-foot guy. The real elite two-way players are guys like Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, and Pavel Datsyuk, players who could put up 80-plus points in they needed to, and do it like they’re flicking their wrists. So part of the blame here lies with the NHL, probably, and how it’s been handing out that Frank Selke trophy, which goes to the league’s best defensive forward every year. But the only guys we see winning it are Patrice Bergeron or Ryan Kesler or Datsyuk or Toews. Again, the award now goes to the best offensive-defensive forward, it seems. You can’t corral even a little credit without pumping in 30 or 40 goals in the process. The Selke goes to one of a very small club of players who are basically pre-picked every September. Nobody really comes into the club – they just knock out the weak and rotate.

This has, of course, led us to discriminate against guys who claim to be two-way forwards. Because if they’re not Toews or they’re not Kopitar, then they’re basically useless in comparison.

And Horvat needs to be better than that. They aren’t keeping me here for my scoring ability, obviously, he said. Remember in The Aviator when DiCaprio (playing Howard Hughes) was told that his rival, Juan Trippe, wasn’t interested making money. And Hughes responds with, “Well, I’m sure his stockholders will be interested in hearing this.” Ditto.

And I hope Horvat’s lying or at least not letting on, because not scoring a point in five AHL games should bother him. It should really, really piss him off.

Or at least, he should be defensive about it.