The holiday season here at Nucks Misconduct started with a look at five warm and fuzzy stories from the team this year. While shotguns and dekes have this market in a frenzy, this team’s performance has been far from a Picasso.
Some of these factors are out of the team’s control, but here are five reasons to be disappointed as a Canucks fan so far this season.
Does anybody really believe that this goal was scored by Tim Schaller?
That’s probably because Schaller has been largely invisible for the Canucks this season. Of all players to play more than one game with the Canucks this season, only Alex Biega (13 games) and Schaller (29 games) haven’t scored yet.
Billed as someone who would bring toughness, pace, and hard fore-checking to the lineup, Schaller has instead looks slow, soft, and bereft of any offensive ability. After spending so much time on Bo Horvat’s wing, it’s disappointing for both Schaller and the Canucks that the winger has produced but all of five assists this season.
The idea that Derrick Pouliot is an offensive defenceman has been proven as a myth, so what does he really provide?
Pouliot has been a turnover machine in his own end, and he’s seen his ice time continuously cut by Travis Green throughout the season. After starting the season playing 19-20 minutes per game, Pouliot has averaged 15 minutes per throughout the last ten games.
As for his offensive production? He has two goals and three assists in 34 games, and the underlying numbers have shown that he’s the least effective option among the Canucks power play quarterbacks. He’s got but one power play goal (The 4-3 overtime winner against Colorado), despite 67 minutes of power play time this season.
It seems like the only reason Pouliot is in the line-up is because he’s, well, not as porous defensively as Michael Del Zotto. As soon as better options come about on the left side (Hello, Quinn Hughes), Pouliot seems as good as gone.
The Defensive Units
Pouliot’s play is disappointing because of the potential that he flashed early in his Canucks career, but the fact of the matter is that the Canucks defence as a whole has been a weak spot.
Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, despite being pillars for this defence, have not been effective together as a pair. They’ve allowed two scoring chances against at even strength for every one they create. Having them apart has been better for the team’s success, but that’s difficult to envision now after the concussion to Troy Stecher.
Ben Hutton’s renaissance has been a good story for the team, but his possession numbers aren’t great, again thanks to a dysfunctional pairing with Erik Gudbranson. Hutton is probably a dependable #4 or #5 defenceman on a good team, but his effectiveness is hurt by being paired with Gudbranson.
Gudbranson himself had a decent stretch in November where he had points in five straight games. However, the metrics and the eye test point to someone who fails to regularly create chances, or prevent them in his own zone.
While there’s promise with certain players on this team, the units as they’re currently assembled aren’t optimal, and this team just needs more talent on defence. They currently allowed the 7th most goals in the NHL, and their position in the standings is buoyed by the fact that they score the 10th most goals.
Special Teams (Bust Mostly the Penalty Kill)
This was a positive for the team early in the season, but things have changed in recent weeks.
The power play has been better in December (and concurrently, so have the Canucks), but they went through a lull in November and currently sit 18th in the league. For a team who allows as many chances at even strength as the Canucks do, they’ll have to rely on a power play chalk full of potential if they’re intent on winning the majority of their games down the home stretch.
On special teams, the biggest disappointment has been the penalty kill. Schaller and Granlund have been pretty brutal as a pairing. Horvat and Roussel have been okay possession wise, but they’ve also been on the ice for too many shorthanded goals against.
It hasn’t helped that one of the Canucks best penalty killers, Brandon Sutter, has been injured for most of the season. His goals-for shorthanded is an even 50%. When Sutter got injured, the Canucks penalty kill was ninth in the league at 85.7%. Edler and Tanev were both injured around the same time. Since then, the Canucks PK has been operating at 75.3%, forth-worst in the league. The penalty kill is currently 19th in the NHL at 78.9%.
It’s never promising to see players miss time long-term with concussions, and it seems like this organization has battled with too many head injuries this season. Roussel was sidelined before training camp with one, and Thatcher Demko’s concussion kept him out for over two months to begin the season. It didn’t help matters that his concussion symptoms worsened once he flew back to Utica on instructions from Canucks management.
But even more maddening that than unfortunate mishap from management has been two concussions to two young(ish) Canucks players, on two hits that went largely unpunished by the NHL.
Baertschi’s concussion has officially kept him out for two months, and it represents yet another season where the talented winger has battled injuries. After just getting married and announcing that him and his wife are having their first child, you have to think that Baertschi will be extra cautious with his health, and so he should be.
There was no punishment for Tomas Hyka of the Vegas Golden Knights on that play, and Danick Martel of the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t face any discipline from the league after this hit on Troy Stecher.
It’s sad to see hockey players suffer from injuries, but it’s even more infuriating to see them on hits that the league is trying to take out of the game. Not only that, but those were both hits no one wants to see in hockey anymore. It’s cost Baertschi most of the season and it could cost Stecher a significant amount of time as well. Those are both maddening and disappointing scenarios for both Canucks management and Canucks fans.