Here is a link to an article I wrote for the Washington Post about defense and shot suppression for the Stars
Let’s all just admit that the Canucks really wanted to keep Horvat this season. It didn’t take much for him to prove himself: six mediocre games, a healthy scratch, and two strong games seem to have been enough to convince management that he belongs in the big league. Jim Benning told Ed Willes of the Province that Horvat belonged with the big club the night before his three point showing against Chicago.
There are two things to consider when it comes to keeping a young prospect. The first, and most important, is whether it’s going to affect their development. The second is whether the player is going to make the team significantly better.
Yeah, we know, the Canucks didn’t score many goals with an extra man on the ice last year. They came 26th in the league in GF/60 on the man advantage, scoring only 35 goals over the season. That compares pretty poorly to 2010/2011 when they led the league with 68 goals on the powerplay, or even 2011/2012 when they potted 50 with the man advantage.
The thing about the Canucks powerplay last season is that they weren’t totally useless. They didn’t fail to get chances going or to generate shot attempts: they ranked 4th in the league with 79 FF/60. The problem was that the Canucks, after reading about how important Corsi is, forgot to try to get their shots past the goalie and into the net.
Thomas Drance wrote at the Score this week that “an estimated grand total of zero observers would be surprised were Gibson to emerge as Anaheim’s outright starter by the new year”. The media really seems to see Gibson as destined for the role, and it’s easy to understand why after getting the start last season for game 7 against the LA Kings. At age 20.
Judging goaltenders is hard – harder than scouting any other position in hockey – but Gibson is the type of goaltender for whom that never seemed to be a problem. He was the second goalie picked in the 2011 draft, at 39th overall, and a look at his statline backs up his rankings. 0.919 sv% last year in the AHL. 0.928 sv% over two years in the OHL, after being drafted out of the US National Development Team (0.926 sv% in his last season). Al Jensen, a CSS goalie scouting expert, complimented his size, positioning and strength when Gibson topped the 2011 mid-season rankings for goaltending prospects. Gibson seems to be as much of a sure thing as any goaltending prospect could.
There’s an article up on Progressive Hockey by Jen LC about how important shot suppression is for regular season and playoff success. The post is well worth reading, but the gist is that teams are far more likely to be successful if they suppress shot attempts against (FA60) as well as dominating possession (FF%). The best teams control pace of play as well as puck possession: ‘low event hockey’.
A paragraph near the end of the article should be interesting to Canucks fans:
I always think it’s fun to have preseason impressions of how the season will go down on paper. Better for the end-of-season laughs at how hilariously wrong I was when Edmonton wins the division (maybe in 2022). What I’ve done is take last years 5v5 Fenwick percentages as the starting point for my assessment of each team. From there, my next considerations were special teams ability, and whether the team’s shooting and goaltending talent likely differs substantially from league average (ie LA and FLA have persistent low sh%, BOS has consistently above average sv%). Finally, I considered how offseason changes to coaching staff or playing personnel might have helped or hurt each team. This is what I ended up with for the Western Conference, with each team’s FF% from last season in brackets.
I’ve always been an Alex Edler fan. He gets beat up a fair bit for disappearing during games, for being soft, for not playing tough defence and for whatever else, but I’ve always enjoyed watching him play. The last couple years there have been persistent rumours that the Canucks have been shopping him, with some saying he nearly went to Detroit at the 2013 draft. That 2013 draft was just before the 6 year, 30 million dollar extension they signed him to kicked in, and only a year before Edler had put up a 49 point season. So why were they trying to trade him? There are a lot of defencemen that get hammered in the media for being error-prone or weak defenders that fancy stats support as being really good players (Mike Green comes to mind), but Edler doesn’t really fit into that group. He consistently posts a CorsiRel above zero, but doesn’t seem to be a particularly effective play driver. I thought it would be useful to have a look at some context stats, his WOWYs, and to have a look at how he is on special teams.
Canucks team CF%: 51.9
Alex Edler CF%: 52.5
OZFO%: 35.7 (highest of any Canuck D)
TmCF%: 51.9 (second highest of any Canuck D, after Ryan Stanton)
OppCF%: 50 (QoC isn’t particularly impactful, but I included it for interest’s sake)