September 09 2010 09:33AM
We continue our series where Canucks Army will profile various players of interest leading up to the new season.
This summer marks the end of one BC native patrolling the Vancouver blueline (WIllie Mitchell) and the start of another with Smithers-native Dan Hamhuis. Not since the Mats Sundin signing (*spits, kicks at dirt*) has Mike Gillis gunned for one of the stud free agents in free agency and succeeded (without having to wait until December!). What can we expect from Hamhuis who is now the highest paid blueliner in Vancouver history and will be donning the Orca until potentially 2016?
Hamhuis cut his teeth with the Prince George Cougars of the WHL before being selected 12th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2001 Entry Draft (one slot before Ales Hemsky and three before Vancouver's first round pick in R. J. Umberger). The Predators have been a defenseman-producing factory and Hamhuis is proof, missing only nine games in six seasons while amassing 161 points and averaging just over 22 minutes a game. He's the only roster defenseman who best fits the mold of a shutdown defenseman and there's been chatter his offensive game is underrated as well.
Counting Stats: 5g-19a-24pts
Quality of Competition: 0.020 (Second highest amongst Nashville defensemen)
CORSI Rel QoC: 0.669 (Fourth highest amongst Nashville defensemen)
5x5 GFon/60: 2.68
5x5 GAon/60: 2.55
4x5 GFon/60: 0.31
4x5 GAon/60: 8.76
Kevin Bieksa helped Vancouver forget about Ed Jovanovski, Christian Ehrhoff helped them forget about Mattias Ohlund and now Hamhuis needs to help them forget about Mitchell. If increased TOI was the reason he nixed deals with Nashville, Philadelphia and Pittsbugh, he can smile knowing Vigneault should play him probably 60-90 seconds more a game (or until his feet bleed). His PK struggles last season have to disappear; maybe the chemistry with Klein was the issue, but Vancouver's PK was an lowly 18th in the league and can't take more another step backwards. You'd love to see him elevate his game, but fans may be content to know with a guy who won't (shouldn't?) break, can pitch in 20-30 points and can battle the Iginlas and Duchenes of the division.
Hamhuis is the biggest piece of the puzzle behind Luongo, the Sedins and Kesler. As such there would be even more value on the team's investment if Hamhuis blossoms into the new defensive leader. At just 27 Hamhuis is still in his prime but he's also an unsung humanitarian that suggests he could develop into a natural leader and role model for prospects like Sauve and Kevin Connauton down the line.
A lot is on the line this season for both parties. Vancouver put a lot of money down and let a hometown favorite go hoping they have a new blueline rock for the next several seasons. Hamhuis earned a payday from his hometown team and has a mountain of responsibility awaiting him.