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A silver lining for the Canucks with the Tyler Myers signing

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Analytics guys would tell you that Myers is a bottom-pairing defenceman, but there’s one under-discussed caveat regarding the hulking rearguard.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tyler Myers (57) and Colorado Avalanche center Tyson Jost (17) push each other in the second period at the Pepsi Center.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Literally no one was surprised when the Tyler Myers signing became official on Monday, bringing the 6’8” defenceman to Vancouver.

What was mildly surprising was the length and annual average value on the contract. Whether it was a smart PR move by the Canucks to leak inflated term and dollars, or just wild speculation by other reporters, many fans seemed please with the five-year contract with an AAV of $6 million.

There is of course still risk for signing a player to that contract, especially one that has defensive deficiencies such as Tyler Myers. As many publications have already pointed out, he’s performed as a marginal third-pairing defenceman in his own end. While his offence mitigates some of his negative impact, $6 million is still a lot of money to pay someone who seems ill-equipped for a top-four role.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tyler Myers (57) checks St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz (17) during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place.
Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Is he ill-equipped though? There’s one thing that’s seldom been mentioned about Myers throughout the course of speculation about him coming to Vancouver.

The Impact of Teammates

It’s widely-known in the hockey community that the impact of teammates on a player’s analytics are far more important than the impact of competition. This is due to the fact that a player spends much more time with his teammates, making this easier to quantify.

Myers is a perfect example of this. During the last three seasons in Winnipeg, he spent nearly two-thirds of his even-strength ice time with Dmitry Kulikov.

In a nutshell, Kulikov is not good.

Despite the criticism against Tyler Myers, he was above average when playing without Dmitry Kulikov (Courtesy of hockeyviz.com)

With the two green circles on the diagram, you can see the one near the bottom left corner is Kulikov without Myers, and it ain’t pretty. On the other hand, Myers without Kulikov actually looks like an above average player.

One of the knocks on Myers is that he’s a player who isn’t elevating the play of his mediocre partners. However, this chart shows that he was propping up the Kulikov.

Without Kulikov, Myers’ Corsi for, Shots for, Goals for and Scoring Chances for at even-strength were all above 50% over the last three seasons. The only area where he dips is with high-danger scoring chances. One of Myers’ flaws is that he can get caught out of position in his own end, which leads to high danger chances being given up.

That is a glaring flaw in his game, but overall he does a good job of propping up mediocre defencemen. In fact, Myers propped up many of the Jets sub par or inexperienced defencemen, as illustrated on the graph below.

A look at how Myers defensive partners in Winnipeg performed with and without him. (Courtesy of hockeyviz.com)

In the bottom left-hand corner, you can see that Kulikov, Sami Niku and Joe Morrow all struggled mightily without Myers. What doesn’t look good for the hulking rearguard is that the Jets top defenders all played worse with Myers. Although there was little difference in the way Morrissey and Trouba performed regardless of Myers, Byfuglien was much better without #57.

While Myers is better than the replacement level defencemen some might peg him as, he’s also no lock for a top-four position either. Except for the fact that, well, he’s going to be a top-four defenceman in Vancouver regardless.

Optimal Pairing for Myers

Aside from “Thirty Million,” here are two more words that should have Myers excited to be a Vancouver Canuck:

Quinn Hughes.”

On the surface, it looks like the Canucks most optimal pairings for next season shake out like this:

Alex Edler and Troy Stecher should form the “quasi” number one pairing in a shutdown role. Then, Jordie Benn and Chris Tanev could also be used in a shutdown role, albeit with lesser minutes than Edler and Stecher.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators
Could Quinn Hughes end up paired with Tyler Myers next season?
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

That would leave the two talented puck movers, Hughes and Myers, to take the bulk of the offensive zone face-offs for the Canucks heading into next season. It’s clear that both of these defencemen boast offensive prowess as the calling cards of their game. While the risk is that they could get burned, it’s the type of risk that makes sense considering their potential on offence.

Hughes and Myers also cannot be any worse than what Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson gave the Canucks for more than 1200 minutes of even-strength hockey over the last three seasons...

With the Jets last season, Myers was productive on the power play, and while his 0.87 points-per-60 at evens don’t jump off the page, it would have led the Canucks last season. If he does indeed play with Hughes, the potential is there to hit 40 points while playing in a sheltered role. While that pairing would give up chances, they sure would be fun to watch.

Forty points might not seem like much, until you realize that only 16 different defencemen have topped 40 points in a single season with the Vancouver Canucks.