Tho Who aren’t right about everything. This time, the new boss isn’t the same as the old boss.
Travis Green has put his stamp on this team early in an attempt to disguise this team as largely the same one that was an on-ice abomination last year. Despite all the same personnel, Green has done his best to make us forget about that atrocity of a season.
Already through three games, we’re seeing refreshing deployment from the rookie head coach in all facets of the game. The way he handles his power play and his veterans makes him look like the antithesis of Willie Desjardins.
Here are five player deployments that stand out after the first three games, for better or for worse.
Sedins Finally Secondary
It was about damn time.
The Sedins had to have their ice time diminished this season, and it’s great to see that Green realizes this as well. It’s clear on the ice that the Sedins have lost a step, which isn’t a good sign for players who weren’t overly quick to begin with.
After averaging more than 19 minutes per game last year, Henrik and Daniel are averaging 15:47 and 15:46 per game respectively.
The results? Henrik and Daniel are tied for the team lead with a grand total of two points each through three games. At even-strength, they have the best scoring chance differential on the team, although that likely has to do with Green giving them easier matchups.
Giving them easy matchups and keeping them fresh for the power play is the best way to squeeze whatever offence is left out of the twins.
$6 Million Benchwarmer
A number of Canucks have looked energized to start the season, but one guy who looks like he’s playing through a year-long hangover is Loui Eriksson.
I initially liked the fit on the top line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. Horvat is a guy who can muscle his way to the net, and Eriksson was the former king of garbage goals. It seemed like a line that could produce.
So far, the only thing Eriksson has produced is yawns.
With Horvat, Eriksson looks like nothing more than a passenger. He isn’t helping that line on the cycle and he isn’t producing any kind of offence.
Oddly enough, Green said in his post-game press conference that he thought Eriksson’s game improved against the Jets. An odd comment considering he stapled Eriksson to the bench for most of the third period.
One of the things that hasn’t really changed under Green is the deployment of Jake Virtanen.
After his game against the Sens, it looked like Virtanen was going to see a permanent bump in his ice time. A game against a physical team like the Jets should have been a calling card for Virtanen.
Instead, he watched his ice time slip to just over seven minutes, including a grand total of seven seconds of playing time in the third period.
Virtanen might be a bit turnover prone, but his shifts are much more noticeable than many of the current Canucks. If he’s actually put into a spot to succeed, it looks like Virtanen could break through sooner rather than later.
For a dude who was supposed to be a third-pairing reclamation project, Green is playing Del Zotto like he is Duncan Keith.
That’s an exaggeration of course, but it was surprising to see Del Zotto play a grand total of 27:46 last night against the Jets. Most of that was because of Edler’s injury, but it seemed like Del Zotto didn’t leave the ice for the entire third period.
It’s evident through three games that Del Zotto likes to pinch and take chances, and so far, it’s cost the Canucks. He was on the ice for all four Jets goals last night, and his “pinching” hasn’t resulted in any points thus far.
If only there were some other local kid on defence to play on the back end...
No love for Stecher
One of the most bizarre deployments from Green so far has to be the handling of Troy “the pride of Richmond” Stecher. The sophomore, who was voted as the Canucks best defenceman last season, has been criminally under-utilized by Green thus far.
Other than Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, Stecher has shown the most poise on the back end through three games. Ben Hutton, Del Zotto and Erik Gudbranson are all more turnover prone, and Stecher has the best scoring chance differential of any Canucks defenceman through three games.
His ice time was bound to slip after losing power play minutes to Hutton, Edler, and Del Zotto. Stecher wasn’t superb on the power play last season in terms of points-per-60, so Green’s decision makes sense in that regard.
To see his ice time drop more than seven minutes per game is a huge surprise, especially since he’s looked good for the Canucks this season. He added muscle in the offseason, and he’s playing with that “bulldog” mentality that got Alex Biega into 40+ games last season.
It’s clear that Green values having defencemen on their strong side, which is why Del Zotto and Hutton got a bump instead of Stecher after Edler’s injury. It still doesnt’ change the fact that Stecher is the most deserving of a boost in ice time.