By: Trent Leith / November 7, 2022
The Vancouver Canucks have long been missing a solid right-shot defenceman. It’s a positional hole that has been at the top of fans’ minds and no doubt the top of management’s minds for quite some time now. Well, last week the Canucks finally did something about that hole in their roster by acquiring right-shot defenceman Ethan Bear from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 5th-round pick in 2023.
A very respectable price to pay for a player like Bear, not even considering the unique need that Vancouver had for his type of player, which made his value to the Canucks greater than it would be to other teams. As a sweetener, the Canucks also picked up forward Lane Pederson in the trade as well.
Bearly Keeping Pucks Out
Unfortunately, Bear did not single-handedly solve all of Vancouver’s on-ice problems during his first game for the club, where the Canucks suffered a 5-2 loss in a contest against the New Jersey Devils. Welcome to Vancouver, Ethan Bear.
The Canucks then proceeded to keep their new teammate entertained with a high scoring 8-5 win over the Ducks. Rarely do games end positively when a team has five goals against, but rarely does Vancouver make it easy on themselves, so the math checks out in the end. If it wasn’t for the Canucks’ 4-3 loss against the Nashville Predators, Bear may have begun to think that letting in five goals each game is an integral part of the Canucks strategy.
As interesting as the Canucks have made the last three games, Bear has looked respectable on the ice for Vancouver. He isn’t, and shouldn’t be, expected to fix all of their problems. But what he is doing unsurprisingly, is immediately showing that a player of his skill set was missing from this team, along with demonstrating how he can contribute to a more well-rounded Canucks team moving forward.
Bear has so far been given a ton of ice time to prove just that, as he was deployed for over 18 minutes during his first Canucks contest, nearly 21 minutes during his second and more than 21 minutes during the most recent game against the Nashville Predators. During his time with the club so far, Bear has been a physical force that the Canucks have needed on defence with multiple hits per game. In the Canucks’ win against the Ducks, Bear put his body in front of 5 different shooting attempts, and successfully stopped an Anaheim scoring opportunity.
Although Bear has yet to put his name down on the scoreboard for Vancouver, he has helped keep his team’s shots for percentage well in the Green (63%) on the line that he has been most deployed with.
The Better Half
In many ways, it’s strange that Bear’s best deployment has been with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has had an interesting start to his own season. Bear has been deployed with OEL for nearly 50% of his ice time so far and the stats from those two (although taken from only a handful of high-scoring games) are respectable. They not only speak to Bear’s potential value to this team but his value to a declining asset in OEL.
Bear and OEL have been on the ice for two Vancouver goals for and have kept the shots for well in favour of Vancouver, at 63.4%. Further to that, it should come as no surprise that the duo’s overall CORSI for is above 50%, sitting at 54.3%.
These stats are good – not great, but good – and although the sample size is microscopic, it’s encouraging to see that Bear is having immediate chemistry, on his most deployed pair. This may speak more to how desperately the Canucks needed a capable right-shot defenceman than to how inherently skilled Ethan Bear has been for the Canucks.
In any analysis, the more data there is, the easier it is to draw conclusions. Right now it’s hard to say that Ethan Bear is exactly the player that the Canucks needed, or that OEL and Bear is really the line that the Canucks should be consistently icing. What is clear is that the Canucks have filled a hole with Bear that they had left gaping for far too long.
In a couple of weeks’ time, it will be easier to see if there are still some large gaps in the defence that need addressing (beyond players like OEL and Myers, who need to step up their performance). There is hope with Bear that his acquisition is another slow but steady step in the right direction for this management group. Right now, as always the Canucks could use more hope.