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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photo – vancouversun.com