Baertschi Riding the Coattails of Boeser and Horvat?
On the surface, Sven Baertschi has exceeded expectations this season, posting 22 points in 39 games. Start looking at some of his on-ice numbers though, and you’ll notice a significant discrepancy between his counting stats and the underlying metrics behind them.
Baertschi ranks 14th among Canucks’ forwards for shots(SF/60), 11th for scoring chances(SCF/60), and 9th for high danger shot attempts(HDCF/60). His expected goals for rate sits lower than Brendan Gaunce’s at 1.78 per hour of 5v5 play.
Things appear even worse when you look at his 5v5 on-ice underlying numbers away from Horvat and Boeser. Baertschi ranks bottom five in the entire league in numerous offensive categories.
Baertschi bottom 5 in the league(300 F) for shot attempts, scoring chances, and goals per hour when playing away from Boeser and Horvat.— Harman Dayal (@harmandayal2) January 31, 2018
Expected goals for rate of 1.78 is lower than Brendan Gaunce's and includes the time he's spent with 53 & 6 #Canucks pic.twitter.com/txWfx4oBxe
Obviously, this sample size only takes roughly 35% of Baertschi’s 5v5 ice-time into account, but we’re still talking about over 125 minutes of on-ice data.
This will be particularly important for the Canucks to try and decipher with Baertschi set to cash in as a pending RFA.
Stecher’s Ability To Defend the Rush
One thing that I’ve really liked about Troy Stecher in the past several games has been the way he’s defended the opposition’s rush attempts. He’s always been great at creating neutral zone turnovers, but he’s been especially aggressive and effective lately.
This was particularly apparent in a matchup against the Oilers a week and a half ago.
It may not seem overly impressive to the naked eye, but these kinds of plays require precise positional awareness, mobile skating, and an active stick. Stecher proved he can do this against the NHL’s fastest, slowing McDavid down on multiple occasions on a night where he was flying.
If that isn’t convincing enough, just watch how Tanev got walked later in that same game.
What stands out to me in the first two clips is how aggressive Stecher is in using his body to deny space for McDavid even after he’s lost the puck. It ensures that the opposing forward can’t recover once he’s lost puck possession.
It’s an underrated skill, but defending the rush to force turnovers and uncontrolled zone entries is becoming increasingly important with the NHL’s movement towards speed and skill. Stecher’s play as of late has proven that he’s definitely one of the better Canucks in that regard.
2016 Draft Looking Poor In Hindsight
Lots of praise has been thrown around regarding the 2017 draft and for good reason. Early returns on Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, and Petrus Palmu have all been encouraging. The success of the most recent draft class has overlooked the grim returns from just a year prior though.
A rebuild that picks twice in the top 139 is incredible. pic.twitter.com/TAIRIETMuu— dellowhockey (@dellowhockey) January 10, 2018
There are two main takeaways here. The first and more pressing issue is that the Canucks owned only two selections in the top 139 picks. This is simply the result of Benning’s reluctance to commit to a rebuild.
Failure to acquire future assets for pending UFAs like Nick Bonino, Dan Hamhuis, Brad Richardson, Radim Vrbata and Shawn Matthias prevented the team from accruing draft picks. What’s worst is that Benning instead traded picks away in his first three years to acquire the likes of Erik Gudbranson, Brandon Sutter, Linden Vey, Derek Dorsett, and Andrey Pedan.
The picks themselves have yielded disappointing early results as well. Juolevi will be a very good player for this team in the future, but he’s a lower ceiling player and the only prospect from the 2016 top 10 who hasn’t appeared in an NHL game. It’s tough to remain positive when you see players like Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, and Mikhail Sergachev already emerging as elite talents for their respective teams.
Of the later round selections, none project to be NHL players, particularly when you consider William Lockwood’s season-ending shoulder surgery.
Jim Benning has generally done pretty well with drafting don’t get me wrong, but it’s still important to recognize the disappointing early haul for the 2016 draft.
Canucks Looking To Re-sign Gudbranson
GM Benning confirms he'll try to re-sign Erik Gudbranson rather than trade him.— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) January 31, 2018
“As long as a player can play in today’s game, you’re always going to need a defencemen who can play physical, especially in our division. There’s always going to be room for a guy like that.”
Before everyone freaks out about this, it’s important to understand the context of this situation. As others have pointed out, you can’t take these comments at face value because this could just be an act of posturing. By publicly stating his intentions to re-sign Gudbranson Benning can now deal from a position of greater strength.
It’s not like GMs haven’t lied in the past either.
Jim Benning won't ask players to waive NTC/NMC's, but also wants to add draft picks. Chris Tanev is his only big chip to play then. pic.twitter.com/VTAvVdKOeR— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) December 9, 2016
This was just a couple months before the Canucks traded Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen; both of whom had no-trade clauses.
Not convinced about GMs lying when it comes to their stance on specific players? How about this news piece just a few months before the Montreal Canadiens traded PK Subban.
If the Canucks do have legitimate intentions of re-signing Gudbranson than the team has a problem. Gudbranson likely won’t settle for less than 4-5 million per season on a multi-year extension when you consider the market price that’s been set for similar defensemen by Karl Alzner(4.625M AAV, 5 years).
That kind of long-term commitment really doesn’t make sense when you consider Gudbranson’s level of play during his Vancouver tenure.
Regardless of which direction the Canucks go with their pending UFAs, fans will certainly be in for another intriguing trade deadline.