It’s becoming a similar story for the Vancouver Canucks.
In the third period of hockey games (after they find new and creative ways to blow a lead) the Canucks trot out the same five players to try and rescue them.
Sometimes, those players get tired and take a penalty. Sometimes, they do tie it late before blowing it in the first minute of overtime.
Ironically enough, both of those happened last night.
The Canucks had a power play last night with seven minutes remaining, and the fivesome of JT Miller, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes stayed out for the entire two minutes.
Then, a dog-tired Boeser took a hooking penalty soon after the conclusion of the power play, diminishing the likelehood of a comeback.
Vancouver did salvage an extra point thanks to Pettersson’s blast in the dying seconds. That shouldn’t be a surprise, because Pettersson and the other four top Canucks skaters are the only ones contributing to goals as of late.
The Canucks have scored 20 goals over their past seven games. In 17 of those goals, one of the Canucks top five players has registered a point. The only times one of them didn’t register a point were on two Brandon Sutter goals — one from last night and an empty netter against Calgary — along with one unassisted Tyler Myers goal...when the top line was on the ice.
This has been a problem for the Canucks all season, and it’s only been exacerbated over the last 10 games or so. Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte have really been the only offensive contributors in the bottom six, so the Canucks basically lost almost half of their bottom-six offence when Motte went down with an injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
How does the Canucks depth compare to the rest of the nation?
With the Canucks being such a top-heavy team, I thought I’d look at how the contributions of their top-five players compare to the rest of Canada.
This exercise looks at the total goals and points of each Canadian team, and how many of those are from the top-five point-getters on that team.
The exercise highlights a couple of things. One is that numbers can certainly be deceiving. The other is that the Canucks aren’t Canada’s only team facing a depth crisis.
These rankings aren’t solely based on the findings from this exercise, but by a judgment of which teams actually have the biggest depth problem behind their top scorers.
Top five: Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Petry, Nick Suzuki, Josh Anderson, Jonathan Drouin
- 47.8% of team points (2nd)
- 47.3% of team goals (1st)
The poster boy for depth scoring in the North Division is the Montreal Canadiens.
Despite lacking top-end talent, the Canadiens depth (and the fact that they’ve feasted on the Canucks) has led them to them having the eighth-highest scoring team in the NHL this season.
Three other Canadiens forwards — Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia — are also all at least scoring at a half-point per game pace, despite not cracking the top five in team scoring.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
Top five: Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Morgan Reilly, William Nylander
- 52.4% of team points (3rd)
- 55.5% of team goals (T-5th)
Although the Toronto media might want to play up the depth scoring issue, the fact of the matter is that the Leafs have one of the most lethal offences in the NHL.
Toronto is definitely a top-heavy team, but that's bound to happen when your best player is literally scoring at a goal per game pace like Matthews is (18 goals in 18 games).
The Leafs also have six other players (Jake Muzzin, Alexander Kerfoot, Jason Spezza, Zach Hyman, Joe Thornton and Travis Boyd) who are averaging more than a half-point per game. That doesn’t even include Wayne Simmonds, who had five goals in 12 games before suffering an injury against the Canucks.
Top five: Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Connor Brown, Tim Stutzle
- 38.9% of team points (1st)
- 48.9% of team goals (2nd)
The Sens don’t have a depth problem, they have a “not being very good” problem.
This is case #1 of why this is an interesting exercise that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The Sens are a bottom-feeder whose top players just don’t score that much. Tkachuk (13), Norris (11) and Batherson (10) are the Sens top point-getters through 20 games. Only Nashville, Anaheim and Detroit have scored fewer goals per game this season.
Top five: Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Neal Pionk
- 54.7% of team points (5th)
- 59% of team goals (7th)
Surprisingly, the Jets are one of Canada’s most balanced teams at both ends of the rink. Along with the Leafs, the Jets are the only other Canadian team to rank top-10 in both goals scored and fewest goals against.
The underlying numbers show that their depth is an issue, but there’s a couple of important things to note. One is that, because of their top-10 offence, the depth problem isn’t as massive as these numbers might indicate. In fact, the Jets have five other players (Andrew Copp, Mason Appleton, Adam Lowry, Paul Stastny and Josh Morrisey) averaging at least a half-point per game.
The other is that they’ve been missing a big part of their top-six for nearly the entire season. Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubios have played in a combined four of Winnipeg’s 18 games this season. Even without their contributions, this team is still currently ninth overall in goals scored.
Top five: Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Rasmus Andersson
- 53.1% of team points (4th)
- 52.1% of team goals (4th)
The Flames certainly have a depth problem, but that’s exacerbated by the fact that some of their top players are struggling as well.
Monahan has two goals in 16 games this season, while Tkachuk has five goals and 11 points in 18 games, despite being closer to the point-per-game mark last season.
Andrew Mangiapane has been the only other reliable depth scorer with six goals and nine points in 18 games. The likes of Mikael Backlund, Milan Lucic, Sam Bennett, Josh Leivo and Derek Ryan have struggled to score as well, leading the Flames to the 23rd ranked offence in hockey, and the second-worst in Canada.
6. Vancouver Canucks
Top five: Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, JT Miller, Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat
- 56.4% of team points (6th)
- 51.5% of team goals (3rd)
Right now, it just looks like the Canucks have too many issues to be a team that’s taken seriously in this division.
They need to be a top-10 team on offence to realistically make up for their lackluster defence, but that just hasn’t happened this season. While Tanner Pearson and Nils Hoglander have delivered strong underlying numbers, their combined 18 points in 44 games further highlight the Canucks depth issues.
After them, there isn't a Canucks forward who has more than six points.
Top five: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Tyson Barrie
- 59.6% of team points (7th)
- 55.5% of team goals (T-5th)
While the Oilers have climbed the North Division standings thanks to winning nine of their last 11 games, their depth still remains a major issue.
With their top-five players contributing to nearly 60% of the team’s offence, no other team in Canada has the same divide between their top five scorers and the rest of the line-up.
McDavid and Draisaitl have a combined 67 points in 20 games this season, while Nugent-Hopkins (18), Nurse (16) and Barrie (16) are at nearly a point per game pace. After them, the Oilers next leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto, who has nine points in 20 games.
The drop-off after the top players is steep in Edmonton, and it’s hard to see this team continuing their hot streak once Mike Smith drops from his unsustainable .940 save percentage.