When big, gritty left-winger Micheal Ferland was signed last July by the Canucks, there was a considerable amount of controversy in Canuck Nation.
That wasn’t overly surprising, as Ferland had a lengthy injury history even before this year’s troubles. It’s also hard to forget the impact that the hefty Swan River, Manitoba native had in the Canucks 6-game First Round loss to the Flames back in 2015, where he gave Calgary exactly what they needed to frustrate Vancouver.
The fact that he signed a deal worth an average of $3.5 million over 4 seasons is the main point of contention with Ferland. He has only averaged 31 points over 4 full NHL seasons with the Flames from 2014-18 and the Hurricanes in 2018-19, and I would also be apprehensive about that large of a contract for the player he is.
However, what Ferland provides is something the Canucks have been lacking for a long time, and something that will be crucial for their success in the COVID playoff tournament.
Vancouver hasn’t had an impact agitator that can contribute offensively at the level Ferland does since the days of Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. In no way am I comparing Ferland to those two accomplished Canucks, but when he’s playing at his best his numbers show he’s no slouch.
In his last two seasons at mostly full health, Ferland has registered 41 points and 40 points respectively, and scored 20 goals in one of those seasons. Add that to the reality that Ferland thrives in physical, playoff environments and he could really prove to be a boon in the second season this summer.
What we have to be concerned about though, is his health. Ferland appeared in only 14 games for Vancouver this year, all before the dreadful new year of 2020. In October, he was first injured with a concussion after fighting Kyle Clifford in LA. After being sidelined for 17 games with that first concussion, he received another one on December 10 against the Leafs.
This one proved to be worse, as he wasn’t ready to play again until mid-February, when he left play yet again with concussion-like symptoms during a conditioning stint in Utica. With concussions being such unpredictable injuries, we have to be concerned about the future of Ferland’s career.
However, since the start of the break, there has been some optimism around Ferland. In late April, Canucks GM Jim Benning said that Ferland would be 100 percent if the season returned in the summer. Since then there has been no indication that Ferland won’t factor into the Canucks’ summer lineup.
Agent Jason Davidson says Micheal Ferland is feeling good and optimistic he can play if the #Canucks resume play this summer.— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) April 29, 2020
In the games he appeared in this year, he registered disappointing totals of 1 goal and 4 assists while never finding consistent linemates.
It was first thought that Ferland could potentially fit on the first line as a physical presence to protect Elias Pettersson, but the chemistry didn’t work out and he found his way onto the third line for a majority of his ice time.
Since he played so little this season, it’s perhaps not fair to judge Ferland for his 2019-20 numbers when he never really got the chance to find a rhythm with his new team. What will be valuable to look at though is his past playoff stats.
In his time with Calgary and Carolina, Ferland appeared in 20 playoff games, putting up only 6 points but making a substantial impact in many of those games. In fact, there’s an entire compilation on what he did to the Canucks in 2015. View it at your own risk.
Although his first playoff appearance was his most notable, the fancy stats in his 2017 and 2019 appearances show that when Ferland is on the ice, his team usually controls the play.
In 2017, his Corsi percentage was 57.01% in the Flames’ First Round series against Anaheim, and in 2019 it was an outstanding 62.73% in the Hurricanes 7-game victory against the Capitals. Add those standout numbers to his impressive 50 hits in 9 games in 2015, and you can see that Ferland is the type of guy to make the other team play on edge.
This is a playoff-built power forward whose intense style is exactly what the Stanley Cup playoffs calls for. Think of the league’s recent Stanley Cup champions; they all seem to have at least one player with a similar style to Ferland.
A few notable guys that come to mind are Washington’s Tom Wilson and Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on Chicago in their Cup years. It’s no coincidence either that those players scored big goals in their team’s runs.
While we have to be wary about how he can continue to play this style with his recurring concussion issues, I am pretty confident that if given the proper opportunity, Ferland can thrive on the Canucks this summer.
While the top two lines for Vancouver have found great chemistry together, I think that Ferland would be a great fit on the third line, potentially replacing Antoine Roussel. Roussel was floundering in the second half of the season and Ferland could be a great veteran fit with Adam Gaudette and Jake Virtanen on what would be a formidable checking line.
Also if he plays to his potential, Ferland provides a much greater offensive upside than Roussel and is a bigger body, two attributes vital for playoff hockey.
Most importantly, now that the Canucks have bonafide All-Stars leading the charge, they need to ensure that they have the gritty role players needed to protect their prized leaders. Ferland is truly one of those grit guys that would need to answer the bell.
Yes, I understand the totally justifiable injury concerns. But, if the Canucks really do have a completely healthy Ferland as has been claimed, the 2020 Canucks could embody the 2015 Flames. Young, scrappy, and just enough grit to make some surprise noise in the big dance and hopefully get into the heads of Western Conference rivals in the process.
A healthy Micheal Ferland sure provides some good food for thought for Canucks fans.