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Defending The Canucks Defense… Is That Possible?

For starters, I’M not defending the defense of the Vancouver Canucks.

Seven games into the season and potentially the worst injury has already occurred: Chris Tanev has been damaged. I suppose Ben Hutton would be the next guy that would cause a public outcry to just burn Rogers Arena down and start over but that hasn’t happened so maybe put down the torches. There are numerous areas up and down the Canucks lineup that are cause for concern but the defense seems to be the lightning rod to start the year.

Believe it or not, though, Luca Sbisa isn’t the #1 target. It’s not even newbie Erik Gudbranson and his lack of “real good” defensing. Alex Edler has been better but is showing signs of coming around and Ben Hutton, well, don’t you dare raise a hand to him.

The elephant in the room so far is the guy that hasn’t even gotten a sniff after Chris Tanev went down: Nikita Tryamkin is wasting time with his “holier than thou” contract. When he first came over, the gimmick was obvious: a big, potentially speedy defender that could throw a hit and might even contribute on the scoresheet.

Thankfully for Tryamkin, last season turned into a lost cause early enough that he was given enough time to show what he could do and essentially learn the NHL game without the AHL training phase. As a fan, ideally, this is the situation to see the new flashy player everyone is talking about. The downside to all of this is he hasn’t translated (no pun intended) into anything worth showing off, at least yet.

We all know there was only one way Nikita was coming to North America and that playing in the AHL for any length of time was a non-starter. As someone who understands how development works, this is ridiculous and unless Tryamkin was the second coming of a defensive Pavel Bure/Zdeno Chara (ya I know, terrible reference), he is just wasting away sitting up in the press box deciding what kind of popcorn he likes best.

For my money, movie popcorn and buffalo chicken flavour from Kernels are the best; but this isn’t about me.

If Tryamkin is going to amount to anything on the Canucks, Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins, no wait, Doug Jarvis, should get together with Nikita’s translator and get it through his head that the NHL only exists for him if he’s willing to work. I’d love to see NT pan out because quite frankly I know the history of the Vancouver Canucks defensive corps and a player like him doesn’t come around very often.

When it comes to Russian players not exactly “playing along” in the NHL, this wouldn’t be the first time. The latest defector, Valeri Nichuskin of the Dallas Stars, headed back to the Motherland and we may never see him in an NHL jersey again. A recent article from The Canuck Way describes the “Russian Factor” and how it’s affecting the Canucks themselves right now.

Frustration is the feeling around the Canucks, it has to be. You have this potential gem just sitting there on a fitness program trying to get him to a point where you can sell the fact he is ready to be a possible game day decision. Goaltending doesn’t seem to be an issue this year, scoring would be an entirely different discussion and on defense, you need guys that can produce.

Preseason standout, Troy Stecher, finally made his Canucks debut against the Senators on Tuesday night and although he didn’t score, he Corsi’d like a boss and was pretty darn close to being the #1 used defenseman:

That being said, it was one game. If Chris Tanev gets back into the lineup on Friday against the world famous Edmonton Oilers, Stecher might be sent back down for cap reasons.

It’s not something you want to do when guys like Luca Sbisa are delivering pizzas on the regular and even Gudbranson isn’t turning heads. Rookie Philip Larsen won’t be taken out because the powerplay funnels through him; that’s a whole other conversation. If Stecher can’t stay, what does that mean for guys like Tryamkin and Alex Biega?

You can’t start putting these guys as forwards, this isn’t a beer league. Maybe this is the problem the Canucks need to potentially shop a guy like Sbisa or even Tryamkin while his hype value is still high enough?

Defending this team in 2016/17 isn’t a fun task and it will only get tougher. There are absolutely some huge bright spots to look forward to and with some tweaks, the Canucks defense might actually be worth talking about outside of Vancouver.

Can the Canucks find a way to make their backend work, that’s a pretty tough call. Up front, there won’t be much to talk about in a positive light until Canucks brass can decide on how this team will fit together.

Let’s all be happy we aren’t desperate for Thatcher Demko’s debut quite yet in net. It could be a lot worse and a few PPs combined with some goals from the guys that are supposed to score will keep the mobs at home for at least another day.

Don’t write them off yet.

 

photo – ottawacitizen.com

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Hansen/Carter: The Other Sedin

This Canucks season has been a really disappointing roller coaster, kind of like the one at Playland (because if you have knees its not very fun). Last year, the Canucks surprisingly made the playoffs and gave hope for this year; what we got was a bunch of bleh. Thankfully, Jannik Hansen has been able to enjoy a career year with 20 goals so far and his point total equals his jersey number (#36).

Hansen has been the best option on the Sedin line this year and I wrote a piece awhile back where I made the case he has been the best choice for quite some time. We all remember when Anson Carter played here and rode the success train to a hefty contract in Columbus where he enjoyed fame, riches, Cups and prestige. Actually, he eventually suffered a concussion and his NHL career was over. (Im not slagging him for that)

It seems like there has always been a search to find “the one” to play with the Sedins and both Carter and Hansen, as well as Alex Burrows obviously, were and have been great fits. But what do the stats say? At the time Carter left, hockey analytics were in its infancy, to many of us anyways; but now we have an abundance to sift through. How do they stack up though, who’s better, who has more hair?

Just so I don’t have to say it later, these stats are based on 5v5 in all situations from War On Ice. I’ve compared Jannik Hansen this season to Anson Carter’s season with the Twins.

Looking at the meat and potato stats Jannik Hansen and Anson Carter BOTH have 17 goals (Hansen’s year isn’t done yet though.) In the assists category, Hansen edges Carter 15 to 11, still pretty impressive.

Hansen just edges out Carter in Goals/60 –  1.2 to 1.1 (but who’s counting?)

Going over to CF%, Anson Carter took this one easily. He finished the 2005/06 season with a 54.5% to Hansen’s 48.0%. Ok, so there were a few more shots going on during the arrival of the “new NHL” but its still pretty good and yes, we’re comparing one season only here.

Who had the luckier season? Well, Anson Carter was taking care of business with a PDO of 100.9 (CRAP, thats BTO, and really that’s not that phenomenal of a number.) Jannik Hansen is the all star here with a VERY impressive 105.1;  Clap for em, clap for em.

Personal Shooting percentage? A full point ahead, Hansen takes it with 19.3 to Carter’s 18.3.

I took a look at high danger corsi/fenwick % and I bet you don’t need an official stat to know who won this one: Did you guess Anson Carter? You’d be correct. Carter ran away with it at 55.3% and Hansen’s pedestrian 45.7% would be fair to guess. The “Other Brother” did much of his work in the blue paint and had an abundance of tap, tap, tapperoos from the Sedins. Why he wanted to pass that up is beyond me.

Even looking at just their individual high danger scoring chances, Hansen was no match for Carter. Anson had 59 to Jannik’s 39 but again this season compared to the one when Carter played has been quite different; things were looking up instead of what we currently see today.

Imagine if Anson Carter stayed and built on the initial success? Where would we be today? Would the Burrows thing ever materialize?

Not all of these stats are exclusive to playing with the Sedins as both players had a lull where they needed to find a new line. Interesting also to note that Anson Carter played 80 games in 2005/06 while Jannik Hansen has been out a bit this year and has only played 63 so far.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a WOWY to measure their exact production on the Sedin line exclusively but there’s plenty of evidence here to make up your minds.

At the end of the day, we’re looking at two different eras but not a whole lot different. Jannik Hansen has still amassed a pretty nice season with Henrik and Daniel but it’s no surprise who the better line mate was. Anson Carter gambled and lost and his career was never the same. Jannik hasn’t been selfish and has gone up and down the lineup where needed and has been an integral part of the Canucks for some time.

With the stats showing Carter’s dominance in this instance, Hansen’s loyalty and determination to always be better is something that will stick with us far longer. BUT, if I had to choose, I’d take Carter all day long, stats don’t lie and he was a monster that year. I think I just made Thomas Drance cry.

I’m so sorry everyone, you’ve read this far and I haven’t given you the answer you wanted: better hair; is it even a contest here? Anson wins on a landslide. Those dreads were something fierce and I miss them dearly.

I also miss the Canucks being good, hopefully this will suffice for now.

Canucks Are Statistically Awkward

Statistics don’t tell the whole story in sports; they tell most of it but there is always that unpredictability that makes them great. The Canucks statistically aren’t very good and yet something is keeping them from the basement.

Vancouve is 4 points out of a playoff spot after the All Star break and that’s only possible because as we’ve all stated before, the Pacific division is an atrocity. The personal statistics of many Canucks players aren’t mind blowing either and for some of their top players, their advanced stats were just posted on milk boxes across B.C.

Yet, despite their best efforts…or our perceived view of their efforts, this Canucks team hasn’t thrown in the towel from management all the way down to Brandon Prust. The sell job has been tactical and their Kool-Aid isn’t half bad!

 

I mention Prust because he made one last stand to hang around on this team knowing full well his time may have been up. He was a consistent liability on the ice despite only being -3 on the season. We can look at Derek Dorsett, Matt Bartkowski and I really don’t want to find out if Alex Edler’s season has been a toilet.

For the record, Edler is performing pretty much exactly how he should be with a PDO of 100. #keepit100

But we look at our future captain Bo Horvat and I just want to————

Seriously, for all this guy does, the cut throat breakaways, the drive every game, his faceoffs and general likeability, the stats…they do not like him.

Bo’s 5v5 CF% is 44.2, his PDO has settled down to 96.4 (but I don’t see that staying for too long), trailing by 1 is basically the same stat line and for kicks you could look at his GF% which is a low, low 36.2.

Yet, Horvat has managed to be an integral cog in the Canucks machine for the last month or so and has helped keep them in the mix. His 6G and 5A in his last 10 games has been more than welcome and his 455 face off wins have him sitting 15th in the league. It’s his second season.

Goaltending is a sore spot in Canucksland; watching BOTH Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider excel in a jersey that isn’t the Canucks still stings and watching them have so much fun at the All Star game just plain hurts.

That mess is still being mopped up 2 years later and yet Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom have played so well that this low scoring Canucks roster is still eligible for a W every night. It just doesn’t make sense.

And finally the Sedins. Henrik and Daniel are straight up gangsters this year. They aren’t caving in to the mentality that 35 years old means you can’t do what you did at 34 or even 33. Daniel is 3 points out of the top 10 in scoring while Henrik’s injury keeps him a few points back of Daniel. They’re 35 people!!

Statistically, bizarre would be the word we’d start with here but having seen the Sedins play the way they do for as long as they have, it’s not overly surprising. Keeping the Canucks in every game has made these future Hall of Famers MVP worthy this season. Again, it feels dirty that the Canucks are even relevant this far into the season.

Thankfully, the rest of Canada is going through the same issues unless Connor McDavid puts up numbers that EA Sports would blush about.

The #tank is long gone and there will be no magical Cup run this season, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make the playoffs. The Canucks are defying their own path and creating a slightly more awkward new one which may just have them playing past game 82. Statistics be damned, hockey is keeping the Canucks around for some reason and it’s brutally frustrating.

Going forward it won’t get any prettier but for the masochist Canucks fan (whoa, it got weird) we love seeing this team suffer for some reason. It’s strangely gratifying but it wouldn’t hurt to see them turn it around and give us back the winning team we have become accustomed to for so many years.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

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