Despite the revamped defence, it was the same-old story for the Canucks blueline in 2019-20.
Oh, except for the fact that super rookie Quinn Hughes altered the dynamic of the team.
While Hughes was a revelation for the Canucks, the fact is that this team still struggled mightily to prevent scoring chances. If it wasn’t for a Vezina-like performance from Jacob Markstrom, we’re likely still talking about a team that underwhelmed, and one that would be missing the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
Here are some stats from the primary suspects on the Canucks defence, that may (or may not) make you feel differently about their performance.
Quinn Hughes — $20,370 cost per assist (best in NHL)
There have been a barrage of articles written about Hughes’ and his record-breaking rookie pace, and rightfully so. Hell, we wrote about some of the potential records he could have broken as well.
The Canucks were fortunate enough this season to have both of their superstars playing on entry-level deals. That meant from a cost per point perspective, Hughes and Pettersson were two of the best bang for your buck players in the NHL.
Hughes and his 45 assists were tied for 16th-best in the NHL with teammate J.T. Miller. That equated to $20,370 per assist, the lowest cost for an assist among any NHL player.
There are some other notable names in the top five as well (courtesy of Cap Friendly).
1. Quinn Hughes, $20,370 per assist (45 assists, $916.667 cap hit)
2. Mathew Barzal, $21.057 per assist (41 assists, $863,333 cap hit)
3. Cale Makar, $23,180 per assist (38 assists, $880,833 cap hit)
4. Elias Pettersson, $23,718 per assist (39 assists, $925,000 cap hit)
5. Samuel Girard, $24,278 per assist (30 assists, $728,333 cap hit)
Chris Tanev — 39.9% Corsi For without Quinn Hughes
There wasn’t too much blow-back about Hughes spending two-thirds of his even-strength ice time with Chris Tanev. Perhaps it was because the two were reliable as a duo, until their last dozen games together. Perhaps it was because the Canucks didn’t have any other stand-out options on the right side.
Regardless, the fact is that Tanev struggled mightily in 322 even-strength minutes without Hughes. His two-most common partners after Hughes were Alex Edler and Jordie Benn. His Corsi % with Edler was 37.5%, and that improved slightly to 38.8% with Benn.
With Hughes, Tanev’s Corsi-For % was 49.6%. That dropped to 39.9% when Tanev played without the rookie. Unsurprisingly, Tanev’s expected goals for percentage drops from 50.2% with Hughes, to 40.4% without him.
At this point in his career, it’s safe to question if Tanev is being overvalued based on his merit and longevity with the club.
Alex Edler — 26 Even-Strength Points
This was Alex Edler’s quietest season in some time, at least in terms of ice time.
For the first time in a decade, Edler averaged less than 23 minutes per game (22:37 average time on ice). While Hughes captured most of the attention, this was yet another solid season from Edler.
Many expected his point totals to plummet since he was bumped off the power play almost entirely by Hughes and Tyler Myers. That wasn’t the case, as Edler registered 26 even-strength points.
Hughes had only two more even strength points than Edler, even though he played in nine more games than the 33-year-old. Edler’s ES point totals were boosted by the fact that he had 22 ES assists, which was a career-high.
Tyler Myers — 3.99 primary power play assists
We’re mentioning Hughes in another section here because like Loreal, he’s worth it.
Hughes was the force that altered the Canucks power play, helping the Canucks to the fourth-best power play in the NHL.
However, the second unit deserves some love as well, as we mentioned with Adam Gaudette in the last piece. Myers has six power play assists on the season, all of them of the primary variety. That production gave him 3.99 primary power-play assists per 60 minutes, which ranked ahead of Hughes’ 2.81 mark.
Troy Stecher — 56.5% even-strength goal differential
By some metrics, Stecher was the Canucks best defensive defenceman this season, even if it didn’t always feel like that.
Whether it was the lack of success with Benn, or the bad turnovers that led to goals against, it seemed like Stecher was “off” on a number of nights. However, the underlying performance points to a player who prevented goals better than any other Canucks defenceman.
Stecher’s 2.05 goals against-60 at ES was easily the best mark among all Canucks regulars. Miller was next best at 2.24 goals against per-60. The next best defenceman in terms of goals against was Edler at 2.62, while Tanev was the worst at 2.93 goals against per-60.
Part of Stecher’s success is defensive success, and part of that is luck. Stecher’s expected goals-against is deadlocked with Tanev and Fantenberg, which isn’t great. He was also helped by an on-ice save-percentage of .940, best on the Canucks.
However, his scoring chances against at ES is in the top-three among Canucks defencemen with Myers and Hughes. Based on these metrics Stecher clearly isn’t a top pairing guy, but he’s an NHL defenceman, and one who had the best even-strength goal differential among Canucks defencemen at 56.5%. Edler (53.5%) and Hughes (51.7%) were the only other defencemen above 50% on the Canucks.
Jordie Benn — 1.89 GA/60 with Stecher
Many metrics will tell you that this was Benn’s worst season of his career.
However, his 1.89 goals against per-60 at even-strength with Stecher is an interesting stat, considering the pairing was maligned for their subpar performance. However, Benn’s “best” games with the Canucks were with Stecher, aside from that one game where he played on the right side.
The problem with Benn and Stecher was that they couldn’t move the puck up the ice to create offence. The Canucks mustered only 23 scoring chances per-60 when Benn and Stecher played together, which is a woefully low total. That occurred despite the fact that the most common forwards Benn played with were all of the Canucks top-six forwards.
With Benn under contract for one more season, Travis Green should heavily consider playing Benn on the right side, where he’s been more successful throughout his career.
Oscar Fantenberg — 7.82 hits per 60
Without looking it up, would you have guessed that Oscar Fantenberg chucked the body around more than any other Canucks defenceman?
Seriously, do you remember a single Fantenberg hit? It’s common knowledge now that high hit totals often mean you’re struggling because you don’t have the puck, and Fantenberg’s awful possession numbers reflect that.
Despite a few solid games to begin his Canucks career back in December, Fantenberg basically became a cheaper version of Michael Del Zotto. He threw 7.82 hits-per 60 at ES, with Edler coming in second at 5.83 hits-per 60.
Hello, Del Zotto 2.0.