The morning of November 1 was a huge morning for members of the Vancouver Canucks. The team officially announced that rookies Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen were going to stay with the team past nine games, burning a year of their rookie contracts. McCann, Virtanen and Ben Hutton make up a trio of rookies that have become an important part of the Canucks and have proven with their play that their next step in development is staying in the NHL.
How has Vancouver played during this first chunk of 11 games as a team? Lets take a look and evaluate the team. The goal of articles in this series is to evaluate how the Canucks are doing and see if there are any trends developing with how the team is playing overall and if there are any standout efforts by individual players on the team.
Unfortunately, the initial possession statistics do not look good for the Canucks. Over the first 11 games, the team as a whole averaged a Corsi For % of 46.9%. Corsi helps us determine the number of shots that are directed towards the opposing team’s net. A higher Corsi should mean more puck possession time in the other team’s end. Corsi For % measures Corsi For divided by Corsi For plus Corsi Against. The Canucks have a Corsi For % of 46.9%.
This means that the Canucks have been playing with the puck in the other team’s zone less than the other team. Unless the Canucks’ possession numbers improve, they will start losing more than they are winning. The good news is the Canucks have received stellar goaltending from Ryan Miller (4-2-4) who played in 10 of the first 11 games.
This is evident with the amount of goals scored by the team and have scored against. The Canucks have scored 32 goals, averaging 2.9 per game, and opposing teams have scored 25 goals against, good for 2.27. For the Canucks to have greater success on the season, they will need to score more goals because a 7 goal differential is not good enough or sustainable for a successful season.
Puck Luck and Rookies
The Canucks have received average puck luck, also known as PDO. The team’s PDO on the 2015-16 season so far is 100.84. PDO is another metric to measure a team’s performance on the ice as it adds a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage. The league’s average is 99.912. The Canucks could regress, meaning more goals against and less goals for.
The first 11 games have not been all doom and gloom for the team. They have three rookies who have officially made the team now. Hutton on defence, McCann at center and Virtanen at winger. These three have clearly been integral to the team and McCann lead the team in goals scored (5) through the first 11 contests. Ben Hutton has given the Canucks a unique element of mobility on defence that they have not had in years. Virtanen has given the Canucks speed and grit, something they desparately needed and wanted to add to the team.
McCann has not fared well with puck possession. He currently sits at a Corsi For % of 41% and his PDO is 107. The high PDO comes from a shooting percentage of 33.33%. However, McCann is playing forth-line minutes with players that have fourth-line skill. The Canucks will not truly know what they have in Jared until they elect to give him more minutes with better players. McCann has been averaging over 11 minutes of ice time per game.
Jake Virtanen was the sixth-overall pick in the 2014 draft and has had his NHL speed and body heralded by scouts. Virtanen has bounced around the second and third lines, where he has a Corsi For % of 48.8% in 5v5 situations, the only situation he’s really been used for. Virtanen is still looking for his first goal of the season and in eight games has two assists. Jake has averaged about 10.5 minutes of ice time per game.
Hutton is a rookie who has not looked out of place in the NHL. In all situations, his Corsi For % is 53.8% and 5v5 is 48.6%. Hutton has been used a lot on the second powerplay unit of the Canucks, giving the Canucks a two-pronged attack on the man advantage. Hutton’s PDO is at 97.2%, but that statistic is low because he only has four assists on the season. Hutton has received third-pairing minutes, just under 18 minutes a game.
Again, these numbers are will not make you jump out of your seat, but for NHL rookies who cannot always receive sheltered minutes, they are not bad.
As always, the scoring lead belongs to one of the Sedin Twins. Right now Daniel Sedin has 9 points (3 goals and 6 assists) in 11 games. Daniel has been playing pretty well in all situations. In 5v5 situations, he holds a Corsi For % of 50.7% and his PDO is 104.4. In all situations, his Corsi For % is at 58.7%. Daniel has a shooting percentage of 7.3%, which is fairly average and means his scoring pace should be sustainable.
Alexander Edler currently leads the Canucks in ice time and that is with missing 1 game. In all situations Alex holds a Corsi For % of 53.7% though in 5v5, his 5v5 stats have him at 47.1%. That is troubling, because the current trend for successful teams is to have their defenceman driving play in all situations. Edler is currently at a .5 point per game pace, with 2 goals and 3 assists, and the Canucks will need Alex to continue to score at this pace if they are to have any hope for a successful season.
Derek Dorsett has played in all 11 games and needs to sit. Over the 11 games, Dorsett has had the worst Corsi For % at 40.25%, while averaging 12.2 minutes of ice time. He is one of the reasons Jared McCann has poor possession statistics and has 2 goals and 1 assist on the season. Those totals are okay for a 4th line player, however, Dorsett’s scoring statistics are inflated with an above average shooting percentage of 11.1%.
Even though head coach Willie Desjardins likes to stick with his veterans, Dorsett is an example of where he needs to let youth play. Even if the young players post similar possession statistics to Dorsett, they will be provided with more opportunities to develop than in the press box.
This With Or Without You diagram illustrates some of what was discussed above and highlights a bad trend for the Canucks. When Daniel Sedin is on the ice, the team trends towards the good corner of the diagram and when he is off, the Canucks are worse or do not have as many quality scoring chances. Dorsett makes the team much worse when he is on the ice and is appropriately diagrammed as such.
The Canucks need to Yannick Weber more. They are significantly better as a team when he is on the ice, and this diagram is only illustrating 5v5 situations. Weber has made the 1st powerplay unit significantly better when he is on it.
Here is the disturbing trend. 3 out of 6 of the regular top 6 defenceman for the Canucks make the team worse when they are on the ice. This needs to change, desperately for the team to have a good season. The past couple of Stanley Cup Champions have one thing in common, all of their regular top 6 defenceman had Corsi For % numbers above 50%. If the Canucks want even a chance at the Stanley Cup, their blue line will need to improve.
The good news for the Canucks is they are only 11 games into the season. The sample of numbers we have to analyze for the season is very small at this moment. Management has stuck to their promise of injecting youth into the line up and they have performed pretty well for rookies. Their stars are still leading the way, allowing the youthful supporting cast to develop their game.
(Statistics taken from War On Ice, Behind the Net, and Puckalytics)