Just about every team in the league is locking up their young-to-youngish defensemen for term: Jake Muzzin, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella have all signed extensions since the season has started. The Canucks, on the other hand, have signed the only good young defenceman on their roster to successive one-year deals.
One one hand, it’s understandable that the Canucks have held off to see what type of player Tanev is. He hasn’t put up significant offence at any point in his career, he doesn’t lay big hits, and he played a career high of only 64 games last season. They also have no need to rush: Tanev won’t become a UFA until 2017, and they’ve kept him to very team-friendly cap hits the past two seasons. Still, with 195 solid NHL games under his belt, the focus should be on keeping Tanev a Canuck beyond his last two seasons as a restricted free agent.
Canucks fans are used to watching their team own the puck. The last time Vancouver was a sub-50% possession team was 2008/2009, forever remembered as Jannik Hansen’s rookie season. Even last year, when the Canucks missed the playoffs, they rocked a 51.3% Corsi, good for tenth in the league.
This season though, the Canucks are sitting at just a 50.5% Corsi percentage 26 games in. For the first time in years, this is a team that doesn’t obviously rank in the league’s elite in possession. This isn’t going to be a particularly exciting article for those who aren’t interested in advanced stats; I’m trying to dig a little deeper into how good the Canucks actually have been at possession so far.
Here’s the problem: using score-adjusted Corsi the Canucks rank 17th in the league at 50.2%. Using Fenwick close, however, the Canucks are 5th in the league at 53.6%. (data from stats.hockeyanalyis.com and puckon.net). Depending on your choice of possession metric, you can have hugely different opinions on how good this team is.
The 2013/2014 season was a tough one for Jason Garrison. He played 81 games, but was hobbled by injuries and looked brutally slow and prone to giveaways all season long. And after two seasons of very strong possession play, his corsi rel fell to -3.35.
This obviously wasn’t what the Canucks imagined when they signed him to a six year contract with a 4.6 million AAV. New management came in over the summer and Garrison was deemed to be too big of a risk for his contract. So he was traded more or less against his wishes to Tampa Bay for the 50th overall pick leading up to the draft – a pick the Canucks later turned into Linden Vey.
Here is a link to an article I wrote 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.