Please Stop Talking About The Canucks Power Play

When the Canucks brought back Newell Brown as an associate/assistant coach (call it what you want), the big talk was how he was going to revive the power play and bring life to a long dead system. It is in fact dead. 2011 was so long ago and what was once a behemoth of firepower is now a squirt gun with no water.The problem, however, is that the Canucks power play isn’t the biggest issue. Sure, creating scoring chances and goals are at the top of the list with line chemistry nearing the top as well, but what the Canucks strongly need to address is the way they create power play opportunities.

If you happen to have watched even a handful of games last season, you would have noticed the Canucks aren’t all that fast. We can skip the “they aren’t very good either” comment because that’s a forgone conclusion. Penalties, for a large part, are taken when someone faster has the puck and the defending player can’t keep up so they obstruct the player to level their own playing field.

There are also penalties of the violent nature but again, it was pretty rare to see a Canucks commit one of those.

Last season, Vancouver ranked 28th in PP opportunities with 227, 50 behind the Philadelphia Flyers at #1. The Canucks power play connected a whopping 32 times so even when they did have the man-advantage, they were lost.

Of all places to draw penalties, one would think home ice would be the place to do it. It used to be back in the day when Brown ran the show and the last thing teams wanted to see was the Sedins set up for an eventual goal. They’re still setting up but the league has caught up and Henrik and Daniel aren’t as scary anymore.

Vancouver’s home PP opportunities were one better than the Columbus Blue Jackets last year with 112 to CBJ’s 111. Not much speed in the Canucks’ legs for most of the year meant they weren’t going to be breaking away from their opponents, it also meant they weren’t going to be catching up with them either as the Canucks tied the New Jersey Devils for 6th in goals against with 241.

Former coach Willie Desjardins didn’t create lines that made teams think how they would defend the Canucks and at the same time, the talent on Vancouver’s roster didn’t exactly scream “competitive”. Loui Eriksson was supposed to bring scoring and his injury-plagued season combined with turrble (Charles Barkley’s pronunciation of terrible) linemates and a lack of opportunity with the Sedins kept the Canucks predictable.

The old Canucks became a powerhouse because they had two strong lines that were creative and just when you thought you had the book on them, they changed it up. From the slap-pass to the slingshot, it was the Sedins that led the charge and opponents had to try and cheat to stop their progress and that’s when the penalties came.

All too often it was shift after shift of going through the motions. There weren’t many memorable games, let alone shifts and even crossing the opponent’s blue line was a challenge unto itself. The Canucks are a team of personified tar so asking them to be faster won’t be fixed with a team building weekend at Whistler.

This problem will take time to turn around and in time it will but for now simply getting close enough to put pucks on net would be their first goal.

In 2018, players like Nikolay Goldobin, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser give the Canucks an opportunity get creative again and input speed into every shift. One can only hope that newly-signed Erik Gudbranson can deliver what he says he can bring which I think is muscle and maybe some scoring, Alex Edler helps the rebuild by showing the young defenders what goal scoring used to look like and a bounce back season from Troy Stecher gets the ball rolling again.

By no means will this team turn it all around and have a top-5 PP unit but it can only go up from where it was and that at the very least is worth talking about. Once the expansion draft happens and everyone knows what is left, Jim Benning can hopefully bring in a new player that can help the Canucks get ahead.

So let’s stop talking about this new power play, alright? It’s hard enough watching them score ANY kind of goal.

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Maybe We Were Wrong About Luca Sbisa

Before things got, how do I say this properly, dicey; the only things we really had to overly criticize were not only the gameplay of Luca Sbisa but the shiny new contract he got for said awful gameplay. Was it really that bad? Sbisa likes to get in the dirty areas and he was on one of the Canucks top D pairings. Maybe we need to look past the results right in front of our face and ask ourselves:

Were we wrong about Luca Sbisa?

There hasn’t been much to get excited about this past season and even less in the offseason as Jim Benning and Trevor Linden have put their management skills on autopilot. They passed on my pick in the first round, Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets, they let BC boy Cody Franson dangle his free agentness to no avail thus far and they traded Zack Kassian for Brandon Prust.

And that was just one week.

We keep referencing the apparent awful multi year deal of Luca Sbisa and how it was the beginning of doom and gloom in Canucksland. It was so polarizing that you had to ask yourself “is there something we DON’T know about him or is management really that clueless on how to judge talent garbage?”

In the Ryan Kesler trade that sent Nick Bonino and Sbisa back the Vancouver way, there was a chance the Canucks could start building up their stable again and that a guy like Sbisa might be able to help solidify an aging and sagging back end.

What we know SO FAR is that Luca Sbisa has not made the Canucks defense better, in fact, he’s made it worse.

Statistically speaking, Luca scored better than 8 players on the Canucks last season, there’s a catch though; his 11 points beat out such players as Tom Sestito who was pretty much an after thought of the Canucks, Sven Baertschi who came at the deadline and didn’t get a chance to play enough games to beat Sbisa’s numbers, Brandon McMillan who was a Canuck technically, injury callup Alex Biega and Brandon Defazio who we can only assume stole Zack Kassian’s jersey when he was injured so he could play.

Points don’t tell the whole story as there are some defensemen that are more of a pure defensive asset also called a stay at home defenseman. Most of us wish he actually would stay at home. As I said, points don’t tell the whole story, let’s take a look at the descriptive statistics:

  • His +/- was an unimpressive -8, tied for team worst with rookie centre Bo Horvat. Knowing what we know about Bo and his defensive zone faceoffs, Sbisa pretty much was the reason Horvat even had a minus. If this was golf, Sbisa would be one of Vancouver’s top guys…it is not golf.
  • Plus minus can be the result of bad luck sometimes, coming off the bench as the play turns the other way, being put against the opponent’s top lines or in this case being a horri-awful defenseman. But maybe we were wrong about Sbisa; lets look at his giveaways as he might just be a chronic case of wrong place wrong time:
  • According to, Luca had 46 giveaways in 2014/15 which works out to just over one every two games. We used to be able to count on the bad Roberto goal to start a game, Mason Raymond tripping over the blue line or the ever famous Sedin hooking penalty. Luca Sbisa hands out more giveaways than your local radio station.
  • The Pizza man did have 14 takeaways last season which in itself is impressive because that meant he created a positive situation on the ice for the Canucks. It doesn’t say in the stats how many of those takeaways were then turned back into giveaways but I don’t want to dump on the guy too much.
  • How bout hits? Sbisa finished 2nd on the team with 151 hits behind fellow signee Derek Dorsett who had 166. Benning said Sbisa likes to get in the scrums and brings grit to the team. Technically, he’s right there. Im pretty sure Luca hit Hamhuis at one point this year, so hits don’t mean a lot in this case.

So overall his stats say he hits, he gives it away as much as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and we all want him to be a permanent stay at home defenseman, like…at his own home. But what about that contract?

Luca Sbisa was signing ridiculous contracts before someone paid him to do it, he just liked them. Ok, he’s not Matthew McConaughey but if someone throws 3.6M per at you, you take it. Even him. He surely doesn’t deserve it and you can go on the Internet and find plenty of reasons why, as well as players that are better and make far less.

What it all sums up to is that we are stuck for the time being with this:

I think consistency. Don’t have a great game and then a bad game. Be solid every night… I don’t think I’m great at anything, I don’t think I’m terrible at anything. Obviously there’s so many things I need to improve on. I just think mentally, especially playing in this market, it was tough at times. – Sbisa after year end media interview courtesy of

So he’s not great at anything except knowing how much money he needs to IMMEDIATELY sign for and he’s not terrible at anything except for the 50 minutes after the game starts. As for the other 29 teams, they don’t mind:

The question then must be answered – Were we wrong about Luca Sbisa?

No, no we were not. But you just laughed through enough tears that at the very least you’ll get through tomorrow and then remember he’ll be in the Canucks starting lineup come October.

Its a shame that Sbisa isn’t the OFFICIAL “Swiss Miss” but he is fitting of the title.