advanced stats

With or Without Quinn Hughes, The Canucks Defense Will Suck Again Next Season

We’re all a little giddy after the Canucks somehow landed Quinn Hughes with the 7th overall pick in the NHL Draft back in June. Knowing full well Rasmus Dahlin wasn’t possible, Hughes was the second best option and for the first time in many years Canucks Nation was unified (ok, mostly) with a first-round pick and the likelihood he can help turn the franchise around sooner than later.

Whether Hughes signs a contract now or a year from now isn’t going to drastically change the Canucks on-ice product for the 2018/19 season. QH will no doubt impress like Brock Boeser did but on defense, it’s a bit more of a clusterschmuck and those same opportunities won’t be available for him on the back end.

The Canucks’ defense corps is crowded and Jim Benning hasn’t made it easy for younger players to advance. Michael Del Zotto was signed to a 2 year/$6 million deal which wasn’t terrible and has given the Canucks more speed on the back end but he’s hardly a catalyst for an improved offense, despite being second on the Canucks in defensive scoring. He’s a band-aid at best as this team transitions but a player like Ben Hutton is now in question after being pushed down the depth chart.

Speaking of Hutton, there has been a lot said about his future with the Canucks. The major question is “Where does he fit?” His six assists in 61 games last year was worrying if you believe he’s part of this team’s future. Hutton has been in the press box more than he would have liked this past year and coach Travis Green seems to have fallen out of favour with him, and no I’m not talking about Erik Gudbranson all of a sudden, unfortunately.

Ben saw the worst output of his young career in 2017/18 and may very well have played himself into a trade. Not sure how he isn’t given more of a chance like Jake Virtanen has up front but I suppose there is less movement on the backend and less room for error. The way Hutton has developed, maybe Quinn Hughes could make his debut this season.

Let’s say Hughes signs his entry-level deal this summer and can help the Canucks right away, can he really take a defensive group from third-worst in the NHL to even close to league average in shot percentage? I doubt it. Vancouver had a combined 2.83 SH% on defense last season, almost a full two points below the league average.

Hughes is going to be touted for his skating and maneuverability in the early stages and simply just getting the puck out of the defensive zone which will end up being a lot especially after losing the Sedins to retirement. He won’t get as many opportunities to shoot the puck as we all would hope and by the looks of those stats above, there aren’t many opportunities, to begin with.

So who would he be paired up with? The options aren’t pretty.

Vancouver shed itself of Luca Sbisa but doubled-down on colossal mistake Erik Gudbranson. Guddy is going to need a massive turnaround next season as well as staying healthy if he’s going to amount to anything on the Canucks. He isn’t a fan-favourite whatsoever and he seems to make his partners worse when they play together.

Three of the bottom five pairings last year on the Canucks involved Gudbranson when looking at CF% and as far as the aggression he was supposed to bring, it was almost non-existent. Gudbranson had 35 PIM last year and remembering any roughing, charging or even fighting majors is a stretch. Knowing how Green has deployed his defenders, we should all hope for a Tanev/Hughes or Edler/Hughes option. Everything else scares me.

On the money side, looking at where Hughes may fit in 2018/19 is muddy as well:

Troy Stecher will get signed in the next little while but other than that the defense looks set for the next season. Unless there is a trade or multiple trades, Hughes will be sandwiched in the bottom portion of the depth chart and with Benning’s commitment to Gudbranson and Michael Del Zotto, and that’s just talking about the guys on the big club, he may be fighting for minutes to start his career.

Of course, even early on, Hughes has shown in Development camp he may be the best skater for the Canucks defensemen and he hasn’t played a game yet. If he does make the team he’ll be given every chance to succeed but Green will still have to trot out Alex Edler and Chris Tanev with regular minutes, Stecher won’t see his status decline so it really only leaves three other spots in Gudbranson, MDZ and a combination of the rest.

In his rookie season, why subject Hughes to that mess when he can develop for another year eating up huge minutes in Michigan? The Canucks were patient with their other recent pick Elias Pettersson and it paid off in spades with a season for the ages by the young Swede. Brock Boeser also stayed back in North Dakota after his draft year and he too decimated his competition in college.

Defensemen are heavily criticized in the NHL and on this Canucks team, that is absolutely true.  The Canucks won’t make the playoffs this season and will most likely sit at the bottom of the standings in a race for Quinn’s younger brother, Jack, as the consensus top pick in next year’s draft. Let the Canucks work out their issues for one more season and give Quinn Hughes a real chance to make a difference in 2019 after his college season is complete.

He wants to be a pro but gets that going back to college isn’t the worst for his development. Thatcher Demko hasn’t even made the Canucks yet and he is supposed to take the reigns in net any time now after showing he has the ability to backstop this team. Regardless of what both the Canucks and Hughes decide, Vancouver will once again have a disgusting showing on defense in 2018/19 and really, what’s one more year?

 

Photo – The Hockey Writers

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Loui Eriksson is Better Than You Think

This season has not gone particularly well for Loui Eriksson. He’s 7th in team scoring on an underwhelming lineup, he’s scored 11 goals when it was openly expected he would net around 30 and any chance at rebounding his luck with the Sedins or Bo Horvat or really anybody has disintegrated before our eyes. As bad as he’s looked on the score sheet, Eriksson has actually been a pretty good player for the Canucks.

I’m not saying he’s worth the $6 million per season he’s getting but looking at a few stats suggests he might just be the most unlucky guy on the Canucks this season, maybe the league.

It’s still not known if Eriksson has played with some kind of wrist injury or dual wrist injuries (is that even possible?) because everything that has been sold to us prior to this season was that Loui was a goal scorer and we could expect the goals to come from his stick at the very least. There are only 13 games left to play this season and scoring 30 goals just isn’t going to happen.

Heck, scoring 15 seems unlikely.

Eriksson isn’t entirely at fault, though. Willie Desjardins hasn’t utilized his talent to a point where an appropriate conclusion can be made on his lack of finish. He’s played 318 minutes of 5v5 hockey with the Sedins this season and when he has they’ve combined for a tidy 100.1 PDO and a respectable 55.4 combined CF%.

Advanced stats don’t decide every shift but nothing looks like it’s going wrong when they’re together, it’s not costing the Canucks any more goals than other lines overall and yet he was never given a chance there. That being said, having a 60.9% combined Ozone start in that time doesn’t help things.

So why not keep him with Horvat? They have been above average with a PDO of 106.7, which with this team clearly would not last, but having played just over 120 minutes of even-strength together, they have combined for substantial 83.3 GF%. Whoa, big number alert! Maybe he isn’t terrible, maybe he’s… good?

Willie is aware he has more than one option for each player, right? I know Jayson Megna has infinite possibilities but this isn’t about him right now. I can’t fathom how WD is allowed to strut lines night in and night out that don’t represent what the Canucks actually could look like. Plain and simple, Eriksson is actually a goal scorer, this we know from past stats.

His first season in Vancouver could be labeled a write-off by many but that’s only looking at it on the surface. Eriksson is one of three players on the Canucks this year to play at least 200 minutes at even strength and still, have a CF% above 50. He’s been on the ice for the 8th most Corsi events against on the team and has proven he’s not a defensive liability.

I feel like we’ve said this before about another winger that wasn’t getting proper deployment. I can’t find any “stuff” to readily back that up, though.

Digging even deeper, when the Canucks are trailing Eriksson is 2nd on the team in CF% with a 57.37 mark. The coach obviously trusts him to be out there to keep the game close but giving him proper chances to score doesn’t seem to be part of the agenda. Why not give him the chance to succeed then?

The writing is on the wall that Willie may not coach another season on the Canucks bench and whoever does take over the reigns might have an easier job than the trainwreck shows. Eriksson has regressed this season for various reasons and I doubt Jim Benning is actually that dense to sign a guy thinking he “might” reproduce the same numbers as past years.

He locked him up because even on this sad sack team there is a future and with five more seasons to go, Eriksson may very well be a large part of what that future looks like. The Sedins have hung around and whatever coach takes over will have to realize that either splitting them up or putting them in a lesser role will only help this team succeed.

Horvat and Brandon Sutter have emerged as the top two pivots and should have the appropriate linemates to accommodate them. Henrik and Daniel can still be quite effective when they get less ice time and aren’t asked to carry a power play that has moved on without them. Eriksson should now have the chance to play on the top line with Bo and most likely Sven Baertschi.

It’s unreasonable to think Eriksson will continue to be this unlucky; hockey only punishes for so long. It’s a game of ebbs and flows and unfortunately for Loui, his has lasted an entire year. Giving him top billing to start the year next season should help him rebound to the player that scored 30 goals for the Bruins last season.

There is no Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand to help those stats along but the development of Horvat as a progressing top line centre gives me hope that he can get back to that pace once again. Goal scorers don’t just stop scoring goals, even the aging stars like Jaromir Jagr and our favourite, Pavel Bure still scored until it was time to hang them up.

At the very least, Brock Boeser and a handful of up and comers will get Eriksson off the slump and his willingness to be in the dirty areas will eventually result in more goals.

He may not get to set up as much as say, Radim Vrbata did, but Eriksson has a rougher game and can bang around to create more chances. I can’t see him falling any further which means it has to go up from here.

2017 will be a season Loui Eriksson will want to forget but he hasn’t been that bad and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, the score sheet will start seeing his name a whole lot more.

 

photo – cbc.ca

Canucks Civil War – Advanced Stats Vs. Everyone?

If it’s one thing all Canucks fans unite together for, its uniting to analyze every move the team makes. Whether you’re an advanced stats guy, a regular stats guy or just the eye test “great move/terrible move” guy; you all have an opinion. The thing is, we beat this to death before these guys even play a single shift. I’m just as bad as the next and potentially under-educated on some of the 2nd and 3rd tier guys but I too will throw my hat in the ring.

Lately, it seems like the advanced stats crew is taking a lot of heat, more than normal somehow, for putting the available data out there to evaluate the newest and potential newest members of the Vancouver Canucks. Do the stats tell the WHOLE story, do we still need the eye test or are both still needed together?

 

Erik Gudbranson is now a Canuck and it took all of about 10 seconds to form a final decision on the Canucks twitters.

So, is Gudbranson actually that bad? The Hockey Writers had a nice little article about how Luca Sbisa and Guuby are very much the same player….that’s not good. Luca Sbisa isn’t a terrible hockey player but he is not a very good hockey player. Gudbranson is known for his defensiveness and not so much for his scoring touch.

He hits guys with a Virtanen-like aggression and forces players to maybe choose a different side to streak down. Those are both great things for this Canucks team that totally lacks that tough mentality. But, at the end of the day, is the trade worth it?

Straight up, Jared McCann for Gudbranson is an alright trade and both teams seem to benefit. We’ll never know if McCann was on his way out anyways or what the potential market could have been, you know, if any other team knew he was available?

But lets get back to the statistics, in this Canucks Army article by J.D. Burke, he points out that when Guuby is on the ice, there’s a sick ton of shots coming the Canucks way. Will this change? Unlikely, and Willie Mitchell isn’t here to bail him out. However, younger stud d-man Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton are. Heck, Nikita Tryamkin is too!

Maybe we’re all just mad because after we’ve digested the players in the move, the draft picks are the commodities that disappear. Thankfully we can only take so much data from an unused draft pick but at what point will we argue this part to death? Is anything after a 1st round pick truly valuable? (obviously yes)

The hockey media seem to take the “ive seen this guy play” approach a lot and will spout out the stats as needed. Where the advanced stats come in and what seems to piss off the regular stat people is when there is REAL evidence that the player in question is just not very good. Is it that people don’t like too much information?

Its a bit like bullying where the bully just says stuff because they don’t understand the situation and just use hurting words to cover up for their own insecurities. OK Dr. Phil! 

I’m still building my foundation with advanced stats so I’ll keep quiet and my opinion on who’s good and who isn’t is quite often ripped apart; I’m the middle guy.

I understand that playing the games and taking the “in the know” hockey media members advice that a player is good or bad will hold a lot of weight but at the same time, if the advanced stats say this guy is going to probably suck here too…it’s tough to argue that.

There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong camp when it comes to players because they prove us right and wrong all the time; case in point, Nick Bonino. He never panned out in Vancouver and it was quite visible he wouldn’t be a Canuck very long. We hated him because we felt we were burned on the Kesler deal…twice. Kes wanted out and we basically were throttled on the return.

Bonino is now excelling in his role on the Penguins and may very well win a Stanley Cup. The thing is, he has a few players the Canucks most definitely do not: Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin among others. Whenever someone gets moved or signs somewhere else and succeeds we always look and feel like that would have happened in Vancouver.

It doesn’t.

The same is said for players on other teams that come here. I don’t think there are CF% and PDO numbers to look at in the early 90’s but I’m guessing Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi didn’t thrive in those respective areas. Stats are stats until they aren’t.

The Gudbranson trade may anger Canucks nation but now that there is so much information available to us, why not consider it?

Here’s the thing everyone: WHO HONESTLY CARES WHO’S RIGHT??? You can agree or disagree, accept stats or not; you are entitled to that. What Benning has done in his short time here is divide the fans and has them pitted against each other.  Sadly, this isn’t a movie so the happy ending might not be coming any time soon.

Its frustrating to watch JB assemble and dismantle the team all at the same time and how he keeps everyone guessing is a thing to behold.

Stop bitching and complaining about how stats guys are clogging the arteries of your media feeds; if you don’t like it, don’t read it.

I used to think the advanced stats were irrelevant until I realized they play a valuable part in understanding the true workings of the game. Captain America and The Avengers made up after their “civil war” so why can’t Canucks nation?

Let’s all agree this team is screwed and go from there.

Jannik HanSedin (A Statistical Argument For Their Existance)

Wanting the best for Jannik Hansen seems to be a recurring theme for Canucks fans. He works hard, he’s the best player in practice almost always and the imitations of him from players across the league, ok just Cory Schneider are just so super. It might be just one game and maybe he gets buried on the 3rd line by the end of the week but Jannik Hansen might have a chance to revive his career.

The Canucks have jokingly labeled Hansen as the team’s best practice player but the 25-year-old winger showed on Wednesday he can be perform on the big stage as well setting up a charging Raffi Torres for game one’s only goal that secured Vancouver 1-0 series lead.

Jannik Hansen after Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final – Globe and Mail

Does this mean the Canucks have once again found a proper linemate for Henrik and Daniel Sedin? After one game that may be a stretch but Alex Burrows did a lot with his tenure on the top line. Top line minutes are hard to come by for any player but Jannik Hansen has been there before and he’s produced. According to Puckalytics.com which is a mind bendingly awesome site, even for a fancy stat noob like myself, the line consisting of Daniel, Henrik and Hansen have accounted for 27 goals since 2009. That isn’t exactly a “wake your parents up the house is on fire” number but considering who has been the third member of that line, its pretty decent.

What the site also tells you is that these SweDanish linemates (new word I made up) has a career PDO together of 103.7. If you type  that number in google you most likely will get Top 100 pop, retro pop and country music in Maine. I suggest using PDO hockey to get a better result. A final number you could gather from Puckalytics would be the Corsis!!!! Love that one. At 60.5% according to my buds at Canucks Army, this is basically ridiculous. So I ask you, why hasn’t this line been given a chance to blossom?

Look at this goal against Columbus, Hansen just sweats out awesome here:

 

Can you figure out a reason that Hansen shouldn’t be the new third wheel on the Sedin Tricyc…..no that might be taken the wrong way. Can anyone give me a big package of stats that would make Hansen a terrible idea on that line? I don’t think you can but I’m sure someone will try. We’ve all seen what the Jan man can do and he does have some pretty impressive skills. He’s a bit of a banger, his speed surprises you on occasion and despite his closing rate on breakaways, he gets a sick ton of breakaways.

I am definitely not a guy who will toot the advanced stats mega horn because I just don’t know enough about it yet but seriously, if these three have produced at a clip of 3.62 goals per game, why the heck are you holding back current head coach Willie Desjardins? Why I ask. The Canucks have finally gone younger and in a few years, younger than that and if this team is to stay relevant not only in their division but in the league as well, decisions will have to made to keep the Canucks competitive.

We all know the Sedins are on the back nine of their illustrious careers maybe even the Amen Corner if you will, and if Willie D is their coach until they retire, he needs to maximize their productivity. Radim Vrbata was a great addition for them when he was signed at Free Agency in 2014 but since then has gone from hero to um, not great? This line is the litmus test of how the Canucks will hold up to other teams and if the top guys aren’t producing, don’t expect the rest of the team to bail them out on every occasion.

Roberto Luongo was forced to be Vancouver’s everything until the scoring arrived and more importantly the Sedins; so if the Sedins are being relied upon to be the Canucks everything until the next wave is ready to be on its own, don’t you think a guy like Hansen makes sense then?

Jannik Hansen may have received his best criticism from former coach John Tortorella as he was chewed out for his mistakes but maybe we can thank Torts for pushing Hansen to be a better all around player? Ya, I’m saying it. Look for the silver lining on this one and it’s not entirely foreign that Hansen will work with the Twins. Scandinavia has longed for a SweDanish hockey threat and this is their chance to see it materialize.

Sure, some of this is fluff and as I said before, this might fade out after a game or so but let’s give it a chance. It’s still early enough in the season to experiment with lines and with Hunter Shinkaruk forcing the Canucks to call him up, freeing Vrbata up to play with Horvat or Sutter gives this team the D word: Depth.

Thursday’s game against the Senators is a prime opportunity to explore the HanSedin line and see how well it fits. The Senators are having a decent season but they give up their fair share of goals. The Sedins like scoring goals and they like to share so its basically a match made in Sweden/Denmark.

Just appease us Willie D, we don’t ask a lot…not entirrrely true, but we deserve to see what our team is capable of. Run with these guys until next week and you might be a happy man. It’s either that or the face you made when Vancouver almost blew the game against Jackets on Tuesday. Sadly I don’t have that photo but he mouthed a few words I’m not allowed to say.

Jannik Hansen might sound like Kermit from time to time, or all the time, but when he’s with the Sedins….he’s an Animal. Get em on that top line and those breakaways will have to convert sooner or later. Breakaways.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

feature photo – thehockeynews.com