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Playing Devil’s Advocate on Brendan Leipsic

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at New York Islanders Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It was announced Monday that forward Brendan Leipsic was claimed off waivers from the Canucks by the Los Angeles Kings, ending a stint that began at last year’s trade deadline (when he was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights for defenceman Philip Holm). While the claim went largely uncriticized by Canucks fans - Leipsic had been a regular healthy scratch, and was largely met with indifference - it was not necessarily a slam-dunk or necessary move. This isn’t met to say that waiving Leipsic was a poor call, or that the decision should be met with criticism. Rather, it’s merely to offer another perspective to the situation.

In Defense of Brendan Leipsic

Leipsic was met with a degree of enthusiasm upon his arrival in Vancouver. In his 14 games, the 24-year-old managed three goals and nine points, a respectable 53-point pace. In doing so, he demonstrated a level of speed, skill, and tenacity that could possibly be a fit in the team’s top two lines.

This hope quickly vanished to start the 2018-19 campaign. Leipsic was a regular healthy scratch, and averaged just 12:46 of icetime, a major decline from the 16:56 he averaged towards the end of last season, and down from even his career average of 13:08. From the start, it was evident that he was not necessarily in Travis Green’s good books. The results Leipsic put up in his limited time, in all fairness, were not particularly impressive. In 17 contests, he put up just two goals and five points, a mere 24-point output over 82 games. That being said, Leipsic was not necessarily the problem, and the case could be made that other forwards should have found themselves beneath him on the depth chart.

Among forwards with at least ten games played, Leipsic ranked 7th in game score per 60 (an encompassing measure of a player’s performance), solidly middle of the pack. He ranked ahead of the likes of Tyler Motte, Tim Schaller, and Markus Granlund, regulars in the lineup. In terms of CorsiFor%, Leipsic ranks fourth among forwards, while placing fifth in Relative CorsiFor%. Evidently, despite underwhelming outputs, Leipsic has been driving possession, and providing at least marginal value to the club. Comparatively, Motte and Schaller have put up -6.21 and -2.85 RelCF% respectively.

Further, one could argue that losing an asset for nothing was an example of poor management. Ultimately, the Canucks received nothing in exchange for Leipsic who, if nothing else, is an NHL caliber depth forward. Evidence shows that he brings more to the table than Motte or even Schaller, both of who may have been able clear waivers. Additionally, some may make the case for sending Adam Gaudette, who doesn’t require waivers, to the minors.

Of course, one could just as easily build a statistical case against the former Nashville Predators draft pick. His points per 60 and goals per 60 rates rank among the lowest of the club’s forwards, and his scoring was regularly plagued by streakiness. However, it is fair to say that Leipsic should not have necessarily been the first player to take out of the picture, and that he may have been providing more value than his counting stats let on.