Canucks victims of “dead puck“ trend?
Last year, the Vancouver Canucks led the NHL in virtually every major category, except nasal enormity and absolute douchiness (both of those areas of course being dominated handily by the Boston Bruin’s Brad Marchand).
Certainly the most glamorous and important of those categories was goals scored, and the Canucks have excelled in this skill over the past few seasons.
However, many people feel this year that the league is steeped in a rapidly downward trend regarding officiating and offence that adversely and unfairly penalizes teams built on speed and skill such as Vancouver.
The negative trends in the league with regards to offensive production are frequently reported to be numerous.
Off the ice, owners are less patient and less willing to wait for success, especially with so much competition out there for the entertainment dollar. So coaches are less inclined to open it up and instead clamp down to protect leads and to eke out wins.
On the ice, teams have retreated into a more defensive mold. Players are bigger and faster, reducing the amount of open ice, and they also are better coached.
If you don’t back check these days there doesn’t appear to be much of a role for you (though somehow Ilya Kovalchuk still manages to get a free pass nightly in New Jersey).
Do these claims hold water for Van City?
Are the Canucks victims of an NHL conspiracy to harness their skill (as the tin foil hat brigade would have you believe)?
Let’s take a look at the raw statistics. Even this year, through the storm of tears and wailing cries of so many Vancouver watchers, they do still rank 4th overall in goal scoring.
Last year’s goal per game average was 3.14 per game while this year it works out to be quite close at 3.04 per game.
Ask anyone though and power play calls are heavily down across the league, especially for the poor Vancouver team. This year Vancouver averages 0.73 power play goals per game, while last year they managed about 0.88 ppg per contest. It sounds suspiciously unfair does it not?
However, Vancouver has had 236 opportunities in 67 games for an average of 3.52 turns per game. Last year it amounted to 296 opportunities in 82, for an average of 3.61 turns per game.
That is an almost statistically insignificant difference. The biggest problem is that Vancouver’s success rate clicked at 24.3% last year, while they are at just 20.8% this year.
Despite the fans protestations that the team is on the edge of failure, Vancouver is still on pace to tally 110 points at the end of the regular season (while last year they closed with 117 points to lead the league).
Those 110 points would still be the second highest figure in team history.
The team’s goals and power play chances are also close to the same as last year as we can see.
Though execution on the power play is the main difference from last year, it is not a massive difference and there remain 15 games for the team to work out the kinks. There were some slumps last year as well and the talent is still there.
Watching the last few games too, the Sedins have created a number of chances, contrary to the short term memory perception of some observers, but have had poor puck luck. (Don’t dismiss the wear and tear of the last two extensive road trips on a weary team).
The addition of Zack Kassian will also allow the team to adopt a different look in front of goal at times to free up space on the ice, and that comfortable division lead allows time to tweak things here. This team also has the veteran leadership to stir things up when the stretch run hits.
The sky isn’t falling just yet.