If there’s one area that the Canucks have succeeded in this season, it has to be the power play. The arrival of Brock Boeser has combined with the return of assistant coach Newell Brown to vault the Canucks’ power play into the top ten league-wide with a 20.6% conversion rate.
All is not perfect though; the team has gone 1/16 in their past six games as they struggle to generate high danger scoring chances. The coaching staff has recognized these struggles and begun experimenting with new personnel combinations in practice.
Boeser working with both #Canucks PP units.— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) January 5, 2018
PP1: Boeser, Edler, Sedin, Sedin, Gagner
PP2: Boeser, Pouliot, Vanek, Granlund and Eriksson
Another change they should consider is on the point, with the addition of Troy Stecher. Why? Let’s take a look.
A Natural Fit On The Top Unit
Despite playing 28 games on the top unit, current point man Alex Edler has put up just two assists on the man advantage this season. The 31-year-old’s points per hour rate ranks him 5th worst among 76 qualified defensemen in the league.
Another qualm that people have had is the way that Edler utilizes Boeser on the power play. The former has a common theme of taking weak high traffic shots instead of teeing up Boeser for one-timers from the left slot.
There are enough instances to create a compilation, but here’s just one example from this week’s game against the Ducks.
Edler is simply not pulling his weight on the top unit at this point, making the right D position on the first unit a position for improvement.
Troy Stecher’s right-handedness makes him an ideal candidate for the top unit. The first thing that it does is give Henrik Sedin a shooting option at the point from the half-wall.
This is important because Stecher can walk across the line to pull a penalty killer further away from the half-wall. This, of course, opens up additional space in that position for Henrik to make plays.
Notice in this clip how Oiler’s forward Jujhar Khaira must respect the shot of Stecher and follow him laterally to block the shooting lane. In this case, it’s now Rodin at the half-wall who has a passing lane open for a one-time feed across to the left slot. Had this been Boeser at the left point instead of Edler, the team would have had created an open one-time opportunity.
Not only that, but the opposition also has to worry about the one-time threat coming from the right point itself.
Another advantage with Stecher on the point would be the increased pace at which the Canucks would be able to swing the puck from the right to left side of the ice.
When receiving the puck on the right side, a left shot defenceman like Edler has to rotate his body to make a pass. Stecher, on the other hand, can make a one-time pass across without shifting his body position. This makes it both quicker and easier to setup Boeser on the left side.
Notice how efficiently the puck moves from the right to left side in this clip. Such a play would be even more effective given the current formation of the top unit with Boeser on the left side.
Another factor to consider would be the seamless transition for the 23-year-old onto the top unit. Stecher has certainly caught on to the Sedins’ tendencies in the offensive zone; having played with them on the man advantage for most of last season.
There’s also chemistry to some degree between Stecher and Boeser, with the pair having played a full season on the power play together for the University of North Dakota.
Stecher’s Ability To Get Pucks Through
One of the biggest assets Stecher brings to the table is his knack for consistently getting shots past the first defender in high traffic.
With Stecher on the ice, the Canucks’ power play was able to get 74.6% of shot attempts through to the net last season. This mark was higher than it was with any other defenceman on the ice.
Stecher’s ability to get pucks through high traffic areas stems from his underrated creativity with the puck. Whether it’s faking a shot or shifting laterally, Stecher excels at making slight alterations that allow him to create new shooting angles.
Watch how Stecher is able to fake a slap-shot to commit John Tavares and then push the puck across to create a new shooting lane all in one motion.
In this clip, Stecher does a clever job of banking the puck off the boards to sidestep a charging Jamie Benn. Getting past Benn is enough to create a shooting lane.
It’s a bit tough to tell because of the GIF quality, but notice how Stecher does a slight head fake to the left before pushing the puck to his right to open a new shooting lane.
Being able to consistently get shots through traffic is a huge asset on the man advantage as it opens the possibility for tips and deflections along with rebounds.
In fact, Stecher was the 5th best defenceman in the league last year(102 qualified) at rebounds created per hour.
Power Play Performance Last Season
Stecher led Canucks’ defenceman in averaging 2:39 per game on the man advantage last season.
The young blueliner did reasonably well, finishing second amongst Canucks’ defensemen for both power play points(8) and points per hour(2.52). Furthermore, the Canucks generated unblocked shot attempts at a higher rate with only Philip Larsen on the ice.
In fact, expected goals per hour(xGF/60) suggests that the Canucks should have had the highest goals for rate with Stecher on the ice.
Anyway you slice it, Troy Stecher was one of the better options on the point for the Canucks’ power play last season.
While the Canucks’ power play has been better this season, there is still room for improvement. Troy Stecher’s handedness, performance last season, and ability to get shots through warrant a look on the man advantage considering Alex Edler’s struggles.
*Stats courtesy Corsica Hockey and Natural Stattrick.