By: Brayden Fengler / December 2, 2021
We all know that this year Elias Pettersson has stumbled, not just out of the gate, but around the first bend as well. However, this is not the NBA where one player can win a game, if it was, then the Capitals and Oilers would have at least 10 more Stanley Cups to their names right now.
With that said, it’s also no secret that your best players need to be, well, your best players, in order for your NHL team to have any degree of success. Goaltending is huge, depth is critical, but the stars and the key pieces need to play their roles, or everything falls apart.
As good as Thatcher Demko has been, it’s unfortunate that he can’t also be the one to score goals for this team (despite surprisingly getting an apple in last night’s contest). Yes, Petey needs to step it up, but there are also a few other notable names that need to leave a bit more out on the ice if this team looks to have any chance at saving their season.
Let’s start with a “long-time” Canuck, spoilers for what’s ahead, the next two players after this are recent acquisitions. Boeser currently has a grand total of three, count ‘em, three points in his last 12 games.
Two of those points came from the November 19th OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks, where Boeser had two assists. This means that really, in his last 11 games, Boeser has only produced one point for his club. Those stats are shocking from a star player, who has seen consistent ice time night after night this season, averaging around 18 minutes a game.
Boeser’s lack of consistent production is also a surprise considering he currently sits with 9 points in 24 games, which is a far cry from his team-leading 22 points after 24 games from the start of last season.
The team’s powerplay is of course dysfunctional, and Boeser has done nothing to improve this himself, as he only has 2 power-play points to his name so far this season. The argument can be made that Boeser has been better when Petey is playing better. Even still, Petey had a slow start to last season and Boeser still found a way to be a top producer for his team.
A lot of fuss has been made about Pettersson’s slow start, but if anything, Boeser’s inconsistency is just as alarming. Who’s to say Brock will show improvement, even if EP40 has a return to form this season?
Canucks GM Jim Benning said it himself in the media availability immediately following the Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland trade: “He’s (OEL) going to be our number one defenceman.” Well so far Jim, that has not been the case in the slightest.
For a number one defenseman he sure as heck spends a lot of his time being the number one Canuck in the penalty box. OEL has racked up a team-leading total of 26 penalty minutes this season, more than doubling his total of 12 PIMs after the same number of games that he played at the start of his last season. As a number one D-man, you simply can’t have spent more than a period’s worth of ice time in the penalty box this early in the season.
That is not the job of a player making $8.25M a year, who is actually the only left-shot defenceman that this team has who can help to kill penalties.
OEL’s time in the box is even more aggravating when considering how terrible this team’s penalty kill has been, with it currently sitting last in the league. OEL has individually contributed to 13 minor penalty’s worth of PK time, and considering that the opposing team is scoring on the Canucks nearly 40% of the time they’re on the powerplay, careless penalties are game killers for this club right now.
OEL has been in the box during 10 different games and 6 of those games have ended in a Canucks loss. To highlight one game in particular, in the Canucks’ 7-4 loss to the Golden Knights, OEL served 6 minutes of penalties, a double minor for roughing in the first and then an avoidable interference call in the second. Those kinds of needless penalties need to be reduced, that’s one of the only things that this club can actually control right now.
OEL has an impressive 71 shots to his name so far this season with a 2.7% shooting percentage. He’s getting chances, and defencemen are not always expected to be able to walk in and generate the same quality shots as forwards are.
However, when you’re leading your entire team in shots, you’d think you could find a way to maybe bury more than just two of them, as he has done. Defensive shots often generate secondary chances and do not always need to cleanly find the back of the net, but it sure wouldn’t hurt the Canucks if OEL could find a way to connect on just a few more shooting attempts.
When Jason Dickinson was acquired this past summer it was assumed by your average armchair GM (ourselves included) that this team now had their 3C and J.T. Miller can go back to the wing where he is statistically more elite.
Now with Dickinson on the roster, it seemed like the Canucks had added reliable depth up the middle. Petey, Bo Horvat, and Dickinson were surely to stay put in their centre positions and this time would only build to great success from there, right… right?
Well, as it usually goes for the Canucks, things have not turned out the way that fans had hoped. Dickinson has spent most of his time between, yes the third, but also the fourth line, typically at centre on the third and then bouncing between wings on the fourth.
The most upsetting part of all of this is that Miller is still often played at centre. Dickinson has clearly just not given Green enough confidence to feel like he can leave him at 3C. Not helping this situation in the least is of course the fact that Petey is not performing well either, and the lines are being blended up constantly to try and accommodate that.
Another unpleasant wrinkle in Dickinson’s game so far is that out of regular centremen at 5 on 5, Dickinson has the worst faceoff percentage of all Canucks. Well all Canucks, except for Pettersson, but the whole point of this article is to try to look past Petey’s performance for just a moment if we can, so let’s ignore that.
When Dickinson is at the faceoff dot he only comes away with the puck 39% of the time. Half of the reason that Miller seems to still be played at centre is that his faceoff game is impressive.
59.9% of the time Miller wins the puck for his team on even strength draws. Although faceoff wins may seem like a novel statistic at a glance, they are of course hugely important to a teams ability to control play and make successful attacking zone attempts. If Dickinson is to stay in that 3C role more often, he needs to win more draws.
It’s Looking Rough
It was honestly a real bummer writing this piece, and it must be (for lack of a better phrase) an even worse bummer for the players that are living this reality day in and day out. Especially when the expectations for the club going into this season were so much greater.
This team was never favoured by the analytics from the hop, but there were enough eye-test people singing the praises of the moves made over the off-season, that it was reasonable to be hopeful for some success this year. The Canucks have just recently strung together two wins in a row and that needs to become a much more regular occurrence, otherwise, jobs are very much going to be lost in the months ahead.