Praising The Danish Unsung

Much of the recent criticism about the Canucks (because being in first place, being the top scoring team, the leader in fewest goals against and all the rest isn't enough to put a smile on your face) has surrounded the bottom six. Is Cody Hodgson the key to the fourth line or does MG need to cast a line out for a Zenon Konopka or a Marty Reasoner? Is Oreskovich also a long-term answer or not? Is Manny Malhotra truly deserving of his contract? short biased answer is hell yes. Where and how does Raffi Torres belong in the mix?

Lost in the ups and downs of our pluggers is the work of Jannik Hansen who deserves some praise for his season. It helps to be healthy for a change, having better linemates and exemplify the work ethic shift by shift we wish every player had. It took a few seasons to find his role on the team, but make no mistake that Hansen is one of the reasons we're sitting at the head of the class.

In fact, right now stand up and clap. Perhaps a slow clap, 1980's-movie style. Ignore those around you, they'll join you soon.

Let's not forget Hansen is a considerable longshot to be on the team as a ninth round pick from 2004 (selected 287th, four back from the end of the draft day). He spent 2006-07 (Luongo's first year for frame of reference) kicking it around in Manitoba before getting his famous call-up in the playoffs alongside Jan Bulis, making him the first Danish player in NHL history to notch a point in the post season. Injuries and missed attempts at a roster spot cost him the next season; all in he played more playoff games than he did during the following 82 game regular season.

The next two seasons were a mixed bag: Hansen would have strong camps, but suffered from ill-timed injuries, inconsistent linemates, the vaunted AV juggling and the occasional stint or three down with the Moose. Clearly he had talent, but where he fit in the team constantly remained in question. After his arbitration hearing this past summer, Lawrence Gilman said:

Jannik will play on either our third or fourth line and that is going to be dependent on him...Obviously, if he performs at a higher level he will play on our third line. If he performs at a lower level he will play on the fourth line.

How did Hansen respond? Let's start with the obvious: he's healthy, one of seven roster players to play in all 62 games. His linemates - Malhotra and Torres - have also played in all 62 games and has given them a chance to develop as a line. Although Hansen's speed and decent hands (others would disagree strongly with the latter comment) allow him to float from the third Sedin all the way down to the fourth line, the fact he's been healthy with largely the same linemates shouldn't be understated.

[Warning: I know advanced stats can cause some angst, so if you suffer from this infliction, skip this next part and focus instead on this cute puppy]

Below is a look at Hansen at even strength, factoring in who he's played with, how many offensive zone starts he received and his Corsi based on the quality of his linemates and the competition. The reason to include Corsi Qoc and Corsi QoT respectively is best explained by a fanpost at Pensburgh:

Corsi QoC measures competition just like QCOMP, but instead of using the adjusted +/- as a base, it uses the Corsi ON statistic. What this is measuring is how well your competition out-attempted opponents. High Corsi QoC's mean that your competition was out-attempting opponents and controlling possession, making them very formidable players. Corsi QoT uses the same logic, but applies it to your teammates. If your Corsi QoT is low, then you're on the ice with a bunch of guys who get out-attempted, which makes your job more difficult.

In essence we want to know how Hansen is/was used on the ice at ES and how his linemates factored in.

Season ES Points ES Linemates OZone% Corsi QoC Corsi QoT
2008-09 21
Burrows & Kesler
41.4% 1.870 -1.060
2009-10 14
Raymond & Wellwood 49.8% 0.062 0.853
2010-11 21
Malhotra & Torres 34.4% -0.331 0.528

 

It stands to reason the Corsi QoC was high two seasons ago because AV threw Kesler/Burrows at everyone (which is why so many of us were shocked when they were split up); then again they gave a lot of chances back the other way. With Raymond and Wellwood, you had a more offensive-minded third line (reflected in the higher offensive zone starts) that trended more towards the Corsi average in both categories. This season we already know Malhotra's line is thrown to the wolves (all three are in the bottom eleven of fewest OZone% in the league) but they have better puck possession than Hansen's linemates two seasons ago.

One more note: Hansen's ES P/60 (points per 60 minutes) is 1.59, trailing only Fernando Pisani, Dave Bolland, and Torres who have fewer OZone%'s. Only Pisani has a lower cap hit than Hansen.

In truth I could almost care less about the ES stuff because where Hansen truly shines is on the PK. Here's a three year PK view comparison, substituting TOI/60 for OZone% and the Corsi stats for GAON/60.

Season PK Points PK Linemate TOI/60 GAON/60
2008-09 0
Johnson
1.67 5.23
2009-10 1
Johnson 1.78 6.46
2010-11 0
Malhotra 2.36 2.46

 

This doesn't need much explanation: with increased time and responsibility, Hansen has the best GAON/60 than any other Canucks PK'er who has played more than 10 seconds on the kill (Daniel has played nine seconds, Tambellini ten and Torres for some strange reason is listed as playing zero seconds). In fact, if you look league-wide, Hansen is one of only four PK'ers who averages more than two minutes on the kill and has a GAON/60 of less than three goals (the other three are Burrows, Matt Cooke and Jordan Staal, the latter two being big minute PK'ers for the top PK team in the league).

***********************************

Before I get chairs thrown at my head, I'm not suggesting Hansen is the next Kris Versteeg or other such gifted wingers who are third liners elsewhere. Of course we'd like to see better execution at times; often (like last night) it is literally the difference between a regulation win and the gamble in OT. But I do think we're getting plenty of value out of a ninth rounder who stuck to his nuts and bolts work ethic over the years and met Gilman's challenge by establishing himself as a vital third liner this season, one who can produce at ES despite less than advantageous on-ice situations and has silently become one of the team's best PK'ers.

None of this happened magically. We should credit Newell Brown for his role on special teams, but Malhotra as well. I responded above with an emphatic affirmative to the question of Malhotra's contract and that is directly related to two things: first he's freed up Kesler and Henrik to do their thing, not unlike chucking a thief's ransom at Mats Sundin to help him mentor Kesler while freeing up up the twins two seasons ago. Last season we saw how a relatively green Raymond could perform at both ends of the ice when paired with Kesler. I'd argue that torch has been past to Malhotra and now it's Hansen - though not as skilled as Raymond - who is showing the benefits of being paired with a skilled pivot.

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