How Will John Tortorella Utilize his Top-4 Defensemen?

Dimitri Filipovic
September 12 2013 09:12AM


Could the Sedins bring Jason Garrison and Alex Edler along for the ride this season?
Image via Canucks.com [Jeff Vinnick].

There has been plenty of speculation this summer regarding what we can expect to see from John Tortorella in terms of player usage, and deployment, once the season gets underway. He has already come out and explictly said that the Sedins will be utilized as penalty killers, in addition to everything else they provide for the Canucks. There has also been a lot of chatter that his preference is to put Burrows and Kesler back together, opening the door for Zack Kassian to try and regain the early season success he had playing next to the twins last January.

But what can we expect from the back-end, which is widely viewed as a position of strength for this team. While coaches certainly change their habits and tactics depending on the assets they have at their disposal, they're still creatures of habit when it comes to the way they like to run things. And thankfully, we have enough of a sample size from John Tortorella as a coach to make an educated guess as to how he'll deploy the team's defensemen this season.

Read on past the jump for more on a potential adjustment Tortorella could make that would pay dividends for the Canucks.

Let me introduce you to a great resource that we now have at our disposal thanks to @muneebalamcu, which was brought to my attention by Corey Sznajder in his work covering the Hurricanes. This will all make more sense in a second, but here's the explanation that will hopefully help you read the charts I've included below:

"A little hint on how to read these charts: The horizontal axis shows the ice time of opposing forwards, so the further to the right a player is means that they got the "tough" forward matchups. The vertical axis shows the ice time of opposing defenders, so the players in the upper part of the graph are the ones who other team's coaches were targeting by putting their best defensemen out against them."

Here's a look at how John Tortorella used his defensemen last season:

..and in 2011-12:

Some more numbers from the past two seasons:

Player Corsi Rel QoC Off Zone Start % PP TOI/Game SH TOI/Game
Dan Girardi ('12) 1.653 44.20% 1:45 3:18
Ryan McDonagh ('12) 1.707 42.80% 0:37 3:03
Michael Del Zotto ('12) 0.211 51.30% 4:11 1:23
Anton Stralman ('12) -0.054 51.60% 1:12 0:36
         
Dan Girardi ('13) 1.079 47.50% 2:08 3:02
Ryan McDonagh ('13) 0.619 46.80% 0:38 2:41
Michael Del Zotto ('13) 0.057 59.70% 2:54 1:34
Anton Stralman ('13) -0.387 57.50% 1:04 0:57

As you may have noticed, Tortorella really rode his top pairing of Girardi and McDonagh in a shutdown role. Thanks to their ability to handle such tough minutes, Torts was able to free up the likes of Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman, the team's de facto 2nd pairing, to play much softer, sheltered minutes over the course of the season. Given their skillsets - in particular, their ability to generate offense by moving the puck - this surely allowed them to be far more successful than they would've been otherwise. Remember: a good coach is one that puts his players in a position to succeed.

As a frame of reference, here's the same sort of information for the Canucks (under Alain Vigneault) over the same time. First last season

.. and then in 2011-12:

 

The pairing of Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis was sterling in '11-'12, prompting me to put them amongst the league's elite. They really did it all for the Canucks, as they managed to be possession aces while facing the opposition's very best. Unfortunately for Bieksa, things went off the rails for him last season, with his numbers dipping rather significantly. While the nagging injuries he dealt with all year certainly were a big factor, I'd say that leaving Hamhuis being moved to a pairing with the newly arriving Jason Garrison - after having spent two largely successful seasons paired up with him - was just as much to blame. 

Look at his some of his numbers over the past three seasons:

  Corsi Rel QoC Off Zone Start % Corsi Relative Penalties Taken/60
2011 0.644 46.1 3.3 1.1
2012 0.797 49.2 7.6 0.9
2013 0.566 49.2 -5 1.5

He faced essentially the same sort of competition (slightly easier) as he had in recent years, yet his possession numbers plummeted, and likely as a result, he wound up taking penalties at the highest rate of his career. His play last year was worrisome, no doubt, and for the most part, the heat he has constantly taken from Canucks fans became somewhat justified. 

All the way back in February, Jeff Angus looked at the pros and cons of Kevin Bieksa as a player. He presents an interesting dilemma, because it's the very style of play that makes him so good and effective, that tends to also get him in trouble. When the good moments frequently outnumber the bad moments, the eye-popping miscues tend to be easier to swallow. Last year, though, he didn't have anyone to bail him out when he gambled, and his mistakes were even more glaring as a result. I'd love to see him reunited with Hamhuis this season, whose steady play is a perfect "Ying" to Bieksa's "Yang".

There were a lot of things that you could quibble with in terms of how the Canucks operated last season, but I think the biggest, by far, was the staff's reluctance to utilize Jason Garrison in the most effective manner. In 2011-12, Garrison scored 16 goals (good for 3rd amongst defensemen, behind Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber), with 9 of them coming on the power play (2nd, only behind Weber). Check out this video of his goals. It's almost like there's a recurring theme here; sustain pressure in the offensive zone with puck movement while on the power play, and let the puck naturally find its way to Garrison. Him, and his slapper, will take it from there. Brian Campbell was loving life, I'm sure.

Yet, for some reason completely unbeknownst to me, Garrison was left off of the first unit power play for the majority of the lockout shortened season. It really could've been as simple as this, but it wasn't.

So what's the plan? I'd love to see Tortorella start his tenure as coach of the Canucks by utilizing Hamhuis and Bieksa in the McDonagh/Girardi role, while pairing up Edler and Garrison, and turning them into a rich man's version of the Del Zotto/Stralman duo. If Hamhuis and Bieksa are able to perform the way they did together back in '11-'12, the pairing of Edler and Garrison would conceivably be freed up to run wild in the offensive zone. Canucks fans should be salivating at what they'd be capable of doing were they to be deployed in that manner, with as many shifts next to the Sedin line as possible. 

I'm sure that Alex Edler wouldn't mind. Below is a comparison of how he has performed when on the ice with Henrik Sedin, versus how he has performed when Henrik wasn't out there (over the past 5 seasons). The difference is quite drastic:

  TOI w/Henrik CF% w/Henrik GF/60 w/Henrik
'08-'09 380:11 53.9% 3.32
'09-'10 395:24 54.0% 3.34
'10-'11 354:59 54.8% 3.72
'11-'12 527:58 57.9% 2.84
'12-'13 296:13 62.1% 3.24
  TOI w/o Henrik CF% w/o Henrik GF/60 w/o Henrik
'08-'09 794:14 46.2% 2.04
'09-'10 810:43 49.8% 1.70
'10-'11 511:10 51.3% 2.58
'11-'12 846:47 49.2% 1.91
'12-'13 471:46 45.5% 1.39

(data via Stats [dot] HockeyAnalysis [dot] com.)

On the subject of the Edler and Garrison pairing, here's what Thomas Drance wrote about the pairing all the way back in April:

"Another thing that's worth pointing out is that the Jason Garrison and Alex Edler pairing - which we haven't seen since very early in the season - appears to be the most efficient offensive pairing that the Canucks have tried this season (highest rate of goals for, third in corsi events for per sixty). With Jason Garrison beginning to look very comfortable skating on his off-side (and able to tee-up on d-to-d one-timers like nobodies business), I wonder if we might see that pairing reunited somewhere down the line if the coaching staff decides to prioritize offense."

It's pretty clear that the Canucks will be strapped for goals next year, just like they were this past season, when they finished 19th in the league in goals. Long gone are the years of being in the top-5, I'm afraid. That's to say that every little possible advantage could be huge for the team in the grand scheme of things, and generating some offense from the back-end by exploiting the matchups may be another sneaky way of doing so. Especially since their top-4 defensemen are as good as it gets in the league, with only St.Louis, Chicago (and potentially Winnipeg) being remotely close in my opinion. 

If nothing else, this would mean that we wouldn't be subjected to any more of the Edler/Bieksa pairing from hell, which was at least aesthetically, a disaster. That would be a victory for us all.

How would you like to see John Tortorella utilize his Top-4?

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Dimitri Filipovic writes about hockey on the internet, and is the Managing Editor of Canucks Army. You can follow him on Twitter @DimFilipovic, and email him at dimitri.filipovic@gmail.com.
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#1 BrudnySeaby
September 12 2013, 10:25AM
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Well, it depends on whether or not Corrado makes the team. If he doesn't, the pairings that you describe (so Hamhuis/Bieksa and Edler/Garrison) make sense.

If however Corrado makes the team I would like to see the following combos: Hamhuis/Bieksa, Edler/Tanev and Garrison/Corrado.

Tanev balances Edler nicely whereas Garrison can help Corrado along while learning on the job. They are both strong and positionally sound.

Now before people start complaining about 1st, 2nd or 3rd pairings, that's just one way of defining things. Play Hamhuis/Bieksa in the shutdown role (provided Bieksa has a bounce back year!), and the other 2 pairings can soak up equal minutes (so there is no 2nd or 3rd pairing!).

One other thing that really bugs me is all this nonsense about the Sedins killing penalties and blocking shots. Can the coach really be that dumb? Honestly, what is the point? Yeah great, Daniel just blocked a shot and the bench grew ten feet tall. Woohoo! Awesome! Oh, wait, what? He broke his foot and is out for the play-offs? Oh, well that's too bad. But at least our bench is ten feet tall, right!?

My God. You have 2 guys that are in the top 5 of scoring in the last 4 years and you want to risk their wellbeing for blocking shots? Ludicrous. I think that kind of thinking warrants some people in white outfits with straightjackets to come a pay a visit!

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#2 Neil B
September 12 2013, 12:58PM
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NM00 wrote:

Obviously.

Aside from media interactions, I expect Tortorella will more or less be the same as Vigneault.

They both seem to be competent coaches who have the ability to adapt.

In other words, I don't expect the coaching to improve the 10/50/31 core or the depth behind them.

Coaches are middle managers. They are bound by the players on their roster.

There is one way that coaches do make a difference: deployment of resources. I suspect that a coach with less history with these players will deploy his power plays differently. And frankly, despite the concensus here, I do believe that Torts will at least start the season riding the four big horses on the blueline (Hamhuis/Bieksa and Garrison/Edler) with G/E on the first PP unit, and the more defensively sound Hamhuis watching the second unit, which will likely be much less experienced than the first and more in need of a steadying hand on the blueline.

At the micro level (ie: individual player stats) this will definitely make for a different team result than uder Coach V. At the macro level (ie: winning) I haven't a clue if it will turn out better or worse, or, as you suggest, end up pretty much the same.

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#3 NM00
September 12 2013, 11:48AM
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Peachy wrote:

Asking people to do specific things is easy. Blocking shots, fine.

But asking someone to "stay healthy" or "be better at everything" or "score more" or "limit meltdowns"... really? Are you being sarcastic? You can't ask for these things and actually expect that asking will have any impact on them.

Obviously.

Aside from media interactions, I expect Tortorella will more or less be the same as Vigneault.

They both seem to be competent coaches who have the ability to adapt.

In other words, I don't expect the coaching to improve the 10/50/31 core or the depth behind them.

Coaches are middle managers. They are bound by the players on their roster.

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#4 NM00
September 12 2013, 01:01PM
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Peachy wrote:

Weird. We're on the same page. :P

Well we can't have that :)

How does Higgins' $10 million committment look now in light of Cleary's recent $1.75 million committment!

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#5 BrudnySeaby
September 12 2013, 01:08PM
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Higgins' commitment looks fine. If you want to single out one cap hit as a problem, it has to be Burrows' cap hit. His 4.5 hit is a bit steep. (Don't get me wrong, he probably got paid for past services more than for expectations of the future and that is fine as he has proven himself to be a wonderful soldier. In my books he earned it. It's just a bit much for the upcoming season.)

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#6 NM00
September 12 2013, 01:17PM
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@BrudnySeaby

I put Burrows and Higgins in the same boat since both extensions, in my opinion, were unnecessary and jumped the market.

I like both Burrows and Higgins as players.

But Burrows makes a little too much for my liking and I'm not sure why anyone thinks Higgins wouldn't have been squeezed in the current free agent landscape.

How many 15 point wingers received $10 million committments this offseason?

In the big picture, my larger issue is giving raises to the same (fairly old) group and expecting a different result.

I could see it happening again too. Sedin, Sedin, Hansen & Tanev may very well eat up most of the cap raise if they are all retained.

The recipe for making this team better isn't simply trying the same thing over and over again.

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#7 NM00
September 12 2013, 01:21PM
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@BrudnySeaby

Sure Grabo would have been good for Vancouver.

But would Vancouver have been good for him?

It would have meant less money and, quite possibly, a smaller role than the one he will have in Washington.

Consequently, what a great move for the Capitals.

Replacing Ribiero with Grabo was brilliant considering the financial difference.

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#8 argoleas
September 12 2013, 02:18PM
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To me this season seems to be built on hope

Hope that a switch in coaching will make a difference, i.e. that harsh language can still weave its magic.

Hope that our injection of youth into slots already occupied by the same people will re-energize the team.

Hope that a left-handed cannon (a.k.a. Garrison) can make it work with the Sedins on the PP, who obviously work better with a right-handed shot on the point, but hey, details.

Hope that Higgins is not attacked by anything that eats flesh.

Hope that Richardson is an awesome checking center who kills in the face-offs.

Hope that Kessler does not find his beast mode. Seriously, it looked nice against Nashville, but really, it gets him into trouble.

Hope that Sedins can block shots without breaking a bone (actually, I hope they don't block shots at all, and that Tortorella is just messing with us, since its like, 7 months until April 1st).

Hope no player grows to be 10 feet tall.

Hope Tanev can calm Edler down (If that happens, Tanev's salary should be immediately doubled)

Hope that Bieksa does not play more than 20 minutes a game.

Hope that Luongo can handle playing 90+ games in a season without too many meltdowns.

Hope that Kassian scores 40 goals+. Daniel, and Kessler, too. Hey, why not throw Booth in here too.

Incidentally, hope that Booth... oh never mind.

And finally, hope that my TV will not have a large object thrown at it until at least round 2 of the playoffs.

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#9 Peachy
September 12 2013, 02:21PM
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NM00 wrote:

Well we can't have that :)

How does Higgins' $10 million committment look now in light of Cleary's recent $1.75 million committment!

Lol, not comparable.

Cleary is five years older. His previous contract (signed when the cap was similar to today) was similar to Higgins's current contract.

I still don't like Higgins's contract, don't get me wrong, but it's not completely out to lunch.

(Honestly, I strongly pondered posting a gloating message when initial reports on Cleary's contract came out at 3 years, 2.75M per year, but good sense got the best of me, lol.)

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#10 NM00
September 12 2013, 02:36PM
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@5minutesinthebox

Let's see what everyone thinks of Burrows' worth if he isn't playing with the Sedins for a full season.

Again, I like Burrows.

But if the Canucks wanted to keep him it should have been for an amount similar to what Dupuis is making on his extension.

As for the Sedins, I am willing to bet large sums of money that they will receive a raise on the first 3 years of their respective extensions IF they are signed before the season.

Sure, if the term is excessively long (i.e. 5 years) the cap hit might remain around the same.

But that's the wrong approach to take, imo.

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#11 NM00
September 12 2013, 02:45PM
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@Peachy

Raymond is younger, scored more this past season and is on a PTO...

I'm not sure there is a perfect comparable for Higgins.

Ryan Clowe received a lot of money after an underwhelming season.

But seemingly he was paid for having a high grit score on an imaginary grit scoreboard.

Higgins has played on a lot of teams and has taken paycuts in the past.

I suppose we'll agree to disagree but I just don't see his market being $10 million with a NTC with the cap going down $6 million.

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#12 NM00
September 12 2013, 11:12AM
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@BrudnySeaby

Actually I like Tortorella's strategy of asking more from everyone:

Sedins: block shots and kill penalties

Kesler: block shots and stay healthy

Kassian: score more

Edler: be better at everything

Luongo: limit the meltdowns

I'm not sure why he didn't use this "ask more from everyone" strategy in New York.

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#13 NM00
September 12 2013, 01:10PM
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@Neil B

Very well said.

There are many disappointing things about the Toronto Blue Jays season.

The fact that they aren't using defensive shifts as much as they did in 2012 is a legit gripe with the manager and his staff.

By the same token, AV's reluctance to use Garrison on the PP was, as far as I can tell, a poor use of resources.

But I'm not going to blame him for having to run Henrik and a bunch of middling options at centre all year or the goaltending situation.

I generally assume coaches at the NHL level are more or less competent unless there is a logical explanation to the contrary.

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#14 NM00
September 12 2013, 01:35PM
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@5minutesinthebox

What if Sedin, Sedin, Burrows, Hansen, Higgins play a lower percentage of games?

What if the top 4 defenseman play a lower percentage of games?

Kesler and Booth may very well play a greater percentage of games than they did in 2013.

But, collectively, expecting more production from a fairly old core seems like a bad bet.

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#15 Lemming
September 12 2013, 06:00PM
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There seems to be a lot of people who expect or really want Corrado to make the team.

I just don't see this happening. Call up if there are too many injuries? Fine. I see it. But making the team as the extra defenseman and sitting around while the bulk of the games are played by other players or getting very limited minutes? No way.

Alberts and Weber will be the 6th and 7th defenseman, unless Corrado really comes out and is super amazing awesome fun time, so much so that he takes over on the 1st or 2nd pairing because he just got that good over the summer.

The smart move is to have him soak up top minutes in Utica. I'm perfectly happy with Alberts/Tanev as a 3rd pairing. Alberts may not be much a play-pusher, but he's low even and can hold his own on the 3rd pairing.

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#16 NM00
September 13 2013, 01:12AM
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@Lemming

I agree it's hard to get into the heads of pro athletes. They all have different motivations.

At the same time, let's try and be realistic.

A lot of people have been suggesting the Sedins might take paycuts...

In my opinion, there are too many things pointing to a contract of 3/21 each at the absolute "hometown discount" minimum.

1. The cap will be up around $70 million next year. The salary cap was only $56.8 million when the Sedins signed their current contracts.

2. Datsyuk just signed for 3/22.5 and he's over 2 years older than the Sedins.

3. The Sedins have both been top 5 in points during their current contracts.

4. JP Barry is their agent (see Alfreddson among others).

5. It took a year to get the last extension done so the Sedins and their agent are willing to drag out negotiations to get what they feel is a fair contract.

6. Gillis' job security is largely tied to retaining the Sedins. Hence, he may very well overpay to get these extensions done before the season starts.

Honestly, 3/21 would be pretty generous of the Sedins in the current landscape.

In a world where Burrows gets 4/18, I can't imagine the Sedins not receiving healthy raises.

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#17 NM00
September 13 2013, 11:42AM
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@argoleas

If the Sedins seek term, your figures seem right in the ballpark.

I have to think the baseline is between 3/21 and 5/30 and even those figures would be quite generous of the Sedins.

And let's not forget that Brian Burke is in Calgary and swiping the Sedins from Vancouver would fast forward their own rebuild.

Imagine Sedin, Sedin & Iginla in Calgary. It's not impossible.

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#18 NM00
September 13 2013, 12:12PM
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@Peachy

The Sedins were hours away from exploring free agency last time around.

I agree, all signs point to an extension being done before the season starts.

But until the ink dries, it remains a possibility.

If the Sedins end up exploring free agency, Calgary seems like one of the more logical destinations.

They would seemingly have the cap space, opportunity and there is the relationship with Burke.

Yeah, Iggy isn't what he used to be. It was more a reference to people in the past wanting to bring Iggy to Vancouver to compliment the Sedins.

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#19 NM00
September 13 2013, 01:04PM
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@Ted

They're getting $7 mill minimum at least for the first 3 years.

Just look at the marketplace for what comparable (and lesser) players are getting these days.

Were you not suggesting paycuts down to around $4.5 million/yr not too long ago?

Good luck with that.

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#20 NM00
September 13 2013, 01:44PM
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@argoleas

I agree they'll have suitors at 36.

But how effective will they be at that point relative to their salaries/cap hits?

I'd rather the term be around 3 years even if the cap hits approach $8 million.

Of course, the Sedins may very well prefer the security of a 5/30 - 5/35 deal.

Even if the cap is around $70 million in 2014-2015, it's going to be a challenge to accomodate healthy raises for the Sedins, Hansen & Tanev as well as possible raises to Kassian, Weise etc.

The current 10/50/31 core might be something like a 12/58/31 core after adding Hansen, Tanev and their respective raises.

That leaves little room for depth and improvement on a team that isn't a prime contender anymore.

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#21 van
September 12 2013, 10:55AM
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That makes the most sense. If Corrado makes the team it's a bit trickier. Seems silly to have two lefties with each other and two righties with each other. In that case, I'd go Edler-Corrado and Garrison-Tanev, burying Tanev in his own end and maybe sheltering Corrado (zonally) a bit. Use Edler-Garrison as well so your best d-men play the most.

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#22 Peachy
September 12 2013, 11:06AM
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van wrote:

That makes the most sense. If Corrado makes the team it's a bit trickier. Seems silly to have two lefties with each other and two righties with each other. In that case, I'd go Edler-Corrado and Garrison-Tanev, burying Tanev in his own end and maybe sheltering Corrado (zonally) a bit. Use Edler-Garrison as well so your best d-men play the most.

Regarding best d-men playing the most... I don't think you have to do that with the Canucks.

If Corrado makes the team and pairings are as you suggest, the top six is both strong and balanced. There's no huge need to ride a pairing to massive minutes and risk fatigue / injury.

Aim to keep every d-man at 20 minutes +/- 2 minutes a night, but adjust deployment. Kinda like what happened last year, but maybe taper to optimal deployment (riding Hamhuis more) in the lead-up to the playoffs.

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#23 Peachy
September 12 2013, 11:28AM
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NM00 wrote:

Actually I like Tortorella's strategy of asking more from everyone:

Sedins: block shots and kill penalties

Kesler: block shots and stay healthy

Kassian: score more

Edler: be better at everything

Luongo: limit the meltdowns

I'm not sure why he didn't use this "ask more from everyone" strategy in New York.

Asking people to do specific things is easy. Blocking shots, fine.

But asking someone to "stay healthy" or "be better at everything" or "score more" or "limit meltdowns"... really? Are you being sarcastic? You can't ask for these things and actually expect that asking will have any impact on them.

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#24 Matt
September 12 2013, 11:37AM
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How nice!

The Twins, Garrison and Edler walked Mason Raymond to his Toronto flight!

Looks like they are boxing him in to ensure that he can't get away.

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#25 Peachy
September 12 2013, 12:19PM
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@NM00

Weird. We're on the same page. :P

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#26 BrudnySeaby
September 12 2013, 01:13PM
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The biggest problem for this team remains a legitimate 3C. I think that Grabovski would have been a wonderful option with our team as our second offensive line centre (with Booth/Jensen and Burrows). Kesler could then have been our shutdown centre (with Higgins and Hansen) while still driving play when playing the other teams toughest competition (against all but the very best teams).

I think the expectation that our recent draft pics can fill the 3C roll is far too optimistic and in the end also not good for their development.

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#27 5minutesinthebox
September 12 2013, 01:26PM
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"It's pretty clear that the Canucks will be strapped for goals next year, just like they were this past season, when they finished 19th in the league in goals. Long gone are the years of being in the top-5, I'm afraid."

I could see this actually being the opposite of the truth. With a 'healthy' Kesler back playing a full season, and Booth back playing at least 3/4 of a season. Those two could easily add 30 goals to our total, and thats on the low side. That would put us in the 238 gf over an 82 game season, which would be a shade outside of the top 5.

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#28 BrudnySeaby
September 12 2013, 02:10PM
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@ NM00 I agree with you that trying the same thing with the same players does not generate a different or rather better result (generally). However, over the past 2 seasons, a number of players had to play out of position or role (like Higgins on the 2nd line) which doesn't help.

re: Grabo, I think had they offered him similar money with a role on the Canucks 2nd line, it could've been interesting to him. Alas, that ship has sailed.

But the 3C for the Canucks is still a problem, both in isolation as in context. In isolation, we have no talented 3C with upside. In context it is made worse by the unbalance it causes throughout the team as Kesler will probably have to play a bigger role with more defence in mind and Richardson as 4C will also have to play more. So that causes 'problems' elsewhere.

Ah well, we'll see how our new head coach makes it all better.

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#29 5minutesinthebox
September 12 2013, 02:19PM
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@NM00

I completely disagree with your evaluation of Burrows worth. At 6 million I think he is right where he should be. And his salary drops 1 million each season. In reality the only number that really matters is his cap hit. At 4.5, he is right where he should be, or even below He is an under rated 2 way player, an exceptional play maker, has great hands, great vision, physical, can play up or down the lineup, hell he even played center last season and was actually pretty good. He may very well be the Canucks most valuable player from a standpoint of versatility.

I actually expect the Sedins will sign for the same or even more likely less money, if the term is right.

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#30 Ted
September 12 2013, 02:30PM
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BrudnySeaby wrote:

@ NM00 I agree with you that trying the same thing with the same players does not generate a different or rather better result (generally). However, over the past 2 seasons, a number of players had to play out of position or role (like Higgins on the 2nd line) which doesn't help.

re: Grabo, I think had they offered him similar money with a role on the Canucks 2nd line, it could've been interesting to him. Alas, that ship has sailed.

But the 3C for the Canucks is still a problem, both in isolation as in context. In isolation, we have no talented 3C with upside. In context it is made worse by the unbalance it causes throughout the team as Kesler will probably have to play a bigger role with more defence in mind and Richardson as 4C will also have to play more. So that causes 'problems' elsewhere.

Ah well, we'll see how our new head coach makes it all better.

I tink the bottom 6 will have some young guys added. I can see Torts adding Lain as 4C and then working him and mentoring him.

From what I hear, Torts is all for giving young guys an opportunity then mentoring them. There will be growing pains but those will have to come sooner or later. For the first time, in a long time, I am going to watch some Canucks pre-season. Here's to breaking up the country club!

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#31 Peachy
September 12 2013, 04:50PM
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@NM00

That's kinda my point. It's not a terrible contract, nor a great one. It's at or slightly above market value in both term and hit.

There are bigger things to criticize GMMG for. (His trade record since deadline 2011 and draft record before 2011 are the places to start.)

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#32 Lemming
September 12 2013, 06:04PM
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NM00 wrote:

Let's see what everyone thinks of Burrows' worth if he isn't playing with the Sedins for a full season.

Again, I like Burrows.

But if the Canucks wanted to keep him it should have been for an amount similar to what Dupuis is making on his extension.

As for the Sedins, I am willing to bet large sums of money that they will receive a raise on the first 3 years of their respective extensions IF they are signed before the season.

Sure, if the term is excessively long (i.e. 5 years) the cap hit might remain around the same.

But that's the wrong approach to take, imo.

I love Burrows. He's one of my favourite players. He's also not worth 4.5 million. That being said, he's been a bargain for the past 5 years or so, so in some way it's easier to swallow. I get your complaint about his hit entirely though, he's just not worth that much, unless he pots another 30 goals again.

It's also important to point out that his deployment this past season was pretty strange, which would explain his lowered production. He spent large swaths of the season as the 2nd or 3rd line center.

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#33 van
September 12 2013, 06:04PM
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Why not use Burrows as 3C again? If we're going to break up one of the best lines in hockey, we may as well maximise the return from it. Gaunce played his best hockey in the playoffs on the left wing. If necessary, he could take faceoffs for Burrows. Alternatively, Jensen looks like he could be ready.

Give Kassian a shot with the twins, reunite the AMEX line and then you have Jensen/Gaunce-Burrows-Hansen as your third line. I'm not sure what we could pick up on waivers that would be a better option. Even if Gaunce/Jensen aren't ready, wingers are a lot easier to get than centres. There are still decent unsigned wingers. There aren't any third line centres.

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#34 NM00
September 12 2013, 07:22PM
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@Peachy

"There are bigger things to criticize GMMG for. (His trade record since deadline 2011 and draft record before 2011 are the places to start.)"

Oh I've hit those areas pretty well...

I agree, Higgins isn't a terrible overpay. Heck, in any other year I'd call it a fair contract.

But with the cap going down $6 million, did the Canucks really need to lock up both Burrows & Higgins?

Especially when it was obvious that a goalie and another big ticket item (Ballard) needed to be exiled simply to be cap compliant for 2013-2014?

And, honestly, who knows to what degree the cap management affected other areas of the offseason agenda.

Did teams offer less for Schneider knowing that Gillis had no choice but to move him?

Did the Canucks draft Horvat simply because he can potentially fill an immediate need at 3LC even though he may not have been the best player on the board?

Not to bring up the Thomas fantasy again...but this is about opportunity cost.

In a vacuum, Higgins is fine and even Burrows isn't too bad.

But signing both of these guys has left little money for improvement.

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#35 NM00
September 12 2013, 07:34PM
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@Lemming

"I love Burrows. He's one of my favourite players. He's also not worth 4.5 million."

I couldn't have said it better.

He may very well be getting a little extra for past accomplishments.

However, I don't think that's a good way to manage the team.

For example, I suspect a Sedin extension will be something like 3-4 years around $7 - $8 million a year each.

Which is a little too rich for my blood but that's beside the point...

I certainly wouldn't want the Sedins to receive an extra $1 million/year or an extra year or two of term based on past accomplishments.

Overpaying players in their prime earning years is a bad idea.

Couple that with how little fruit the farm system has produced in the past few years and it's no wonder the Canucks are where they are.

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#36 NM00
September 13 2013, 11:39AM
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@JCDavies

What I mean by Gillis's job security being tied to the Sedins is that I don't think he can afford to let them go.

Self-preservation is job #1 for a GM.

A Sedin-less (and possibly Luongo-less) Canucks team is a Canuck team in rebuild mode.

While I'd be surprised if Gillis doesn't get a 7th year, losing the Sedins may shorten his life expectancy by a year.

I fully agree that for the good of the franchise the Canucks should wait on Sedin extensions.

However, I'd argue that Gillis may be entering moral hazard territory and may be doing what's best for himself as opposed to what's best for the organization.

There's a great quote from Mark Cuban on this that Aquillini should read:

“A lot of GMs measure their own mortality relative to their job. If they feel they’re at risk, they’ll make different decisions than if they feel safe. That’s typical in any job. People want to keep their jobs. Man loves hierarchy. GMs want to feel safe and have longevity, and hopefully they also want to win championships. If he feels there is a risk of losing his job, he’ll behave differently than if there’s no chance he’ll lose his job.”

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/sloan-analytics-cuban-mccracken-jedlovic/

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#37 Peachy
September 13 2013, 11:55AM
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NM00 wrote:

If the Sedins seek term, your figures seem right in the ballpark.

I have to think the baseline is between 3/21 and 5/30 and even those figures would be quite generous of the Sedins.

And let's not forget that Brian Burke is in Calgary and swiping the Sedins from Vancouver would fast forward their own rebuild.

Imagine Sedin, Sedin & Iginla in Calgary. It's not impossible.

You're bang on for the most part, but Sedin, Sedin, Iginla in Calgary is completely out to lunch.

Recall that both sides to the negotiation have publicly announced their intention to come to an agreement. The Sedins will be in Vancouver.

The only questions are term and hit.

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#38 Peachy
September 13 2013, 12:02PM
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Peachy wrote:

You're bang on for the most part, but Sedin, Sedin, Iginla in Calgary is completely out to lunch.

Recall that both sides to the negotiation have publicly announced their intention to come to an agreement. The Sedins will be in Vancouver.

The only questions are term and hit.

(Minor sidenote - Iginla doesn't appear to be a very effective player any more. Where he ends up doesn't matter to anybody really.)

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#39 Ted
September 13 2013, 12:48PM
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Wow, this thread got derailed in a hurry.

I think Torts will definitely be a change from AV. I'm hoping the young guys get a chance and they are developed (here or minors or junior). I think Torts will let them grow, make mistakes and not bench/demote them when they do make mistakes. Having said that, I think the top 4 D will be utilized differently than when AV was here. Garrison should get a shot at unit 1 PP. Bieksa and Hammy can be a top D pairing. I think Alberts will be our #6 guy just because we need more size at the back end.

Also, the Sedins should not get over 6/yr. I am all in for a max of 6 mill/4 years. If they want 7 or close to there then let them walk.

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#40 argoleas
September 13 2013, 01:26PM
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@NM00

What you state brings up another point. A deal that keeps the Sedins in Vancouver is a deal that prevents them signing with a conference or even division rival.

Sedins will be happy if they get fair money and long term deal (say a simple 5-year extension, or possibly 7/38), and I bet they will be fine trading in some of that cash if they have a commitment that Van will field a competitive team (i.e. no Edmonton-style rebuild).

We will see soon. For maximum flexibility, they could go for a 3/21 deal to see how things go. Even at the age of 36, they will have no shortage of suitors afterwards.

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#41 Lemming
September 12 2013, 09:10PM
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@NM00

It's hard to get into the head of pro athletes. Some seem to take the highest possible deal, others take less than they could have gotten.

You might be right about the Sedins. You might not.

I'm going to wait and see what their extension is like before I pass judgement, considering it seems to be a goal of theirs and the team to get it done within the next couple of weeks.

Also, in partial defense of paying Burrows a little more, team image matters to players when negotiating with them, especially when you're convincing them to take below market value. Rewarding Burrows' loyalty lets management point to it in other contract negotiations with younger guys. That's only a partial defense, mind you.

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#42 JCDavies
September 13 2013, 09:52AM
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NM00 wrote:

I agree it's hard to get into the heads of pro athletes. They all have different motivations.

At the same time, let's try and be realistic.

A lot of people have been suggesting the Sedins might take paycuts...

In my opinion, there are too many things pointing to a contract of 3/21 each at the absolute "hometown discount" minimum.

1. The cap will be up around $70 million next year. The salary cap was only $56.8 million when the Sedins signed their current contracts.

2. Datsyuk just signed for 3/22.5 and he's over 2 years older than the Sedins.

3. The Sedins have both been top 5 in points during their current contracts.

4. JP Barry is their agent (see Alfreddson among others).

5. It took a year to get the last extension done so the Sedins and their agent are willing to drag out negotiations to get what they feel is a fair contract.

6. Gillis' job security is largely tied to retaining the Sedins. Hence, he may very well overpay to get these extensions done before the season starts.

Honestly, 3/21 would be pretty generous of the Sedins in the current landscape.

In a world where Burrows gets 4/18, I can't imagine the Sedins not receiving healthy raises.

I would agree with most of this.

Not sure about #6, though.

It's beginning to feel like 3/21 would be the best case scenario.

It might serve the Canucks best to wait until they have a better idea of what next year's cap will actually be.

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#43 Ruprecht
September 13 2013, 10:36AM
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I watched a lot of Ranger games over the last two seasons and the huge thing that the stats aren't showing here is the injury to Staal. This is where some of Torts brilliance showed. He juggles his D-men and isn't afraid to double shift his performers and pair them with lower pairing guys. This is nightly and usually rolling with the hot hands. I think you'll see that a lot early on as per his coaching style.

Where it struck me as being good policy is when one of his top pairing guys in Staal went down for an extended time and MacDonagh stepped in easily with Girardi...and Stralman, although young, kinda slid into the second pairing as a nice fit. Without a little familiarity between pairings, the injury to Staal could have been disastrous as he was a minute eating machine at the time. So I think you'll see a top 4 with some interchangeability early on as Torts tries to form a cohesive defence unit with an eye on contingency. Thanks for the stats and the great piece, but if you watched some of the Rangers games I think you'd have to admit they missed something quite obvious.

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#44 argoleas
September 13 2013, 10:53AM
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@JCDavies

Got a feeling that it will be something like 5/30 or even 5/35, with actual salary front-loaded. In addition to the points already made, their last contracts were signed before they had career years. But I think the heaviest factor here may be the commitment that not only GMMG but ownership makes to fielding a competitive team for the duration of the new contract. If the argument would be that there would be a strong possibility of a rebuild happening next year if things go sour, I dont see them taking any discounts, so you may see their agent pushing past $7M/year, or otherwise having them walking after next year.

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#45 JCDavies
September 13 2013, 11:20AM
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@argoleas

Those are fair numbers, but I'm hoping for less than 5 years.

"Front-loaded Salaries"

I'm sure the players will still want this, but it will be interesting to see how teams deal with the cap-recapture clause and the risk/rewards of deferring cap-hits.

"if ... I don't see them taking any discounts"

I'm beginning to question whether there is even a "hometown discount" to be had in this case.

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#46 argoleas
September 13 2013, 01:48PM
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@Ted

But its the derailed threads that are the most interesting ones.

Just wondering where they will fit in those young guns.

The lines may be shaping up as follows

D.Sedin/H.Sedin/Kassian Booth(Jensen)/Kessler/Burrows Higgins/Richardson/Hansen Sestido/(Lain)(Schroeder)/Weise

Hamhuis/Bieksa Edler/Tanev Garrison/Weber Alberts

This is not to endorse these specific assignments (especially 3C, 4C, and 4L slots), but to make the point that there are very few of them available. The reset will be mostly new Coach. The Kassian experiment was already underway last season.

Looks like from an organizational standpoint, it will be better to have the best young guys get consistent top minutes in Utica or their junior teams, and call them up when the inevitable injuries occur (basically follow last year's Corrado approach). In this case, we will most likely see Jensen start the season with the team until Booth returns, and Corrado fill in when Bieksa or Tanev are injured.

As much as we would want it, I think that as long as Weber plays ok, and is an asset on the PP, he will get that last spot over Corrado. injury fill-in.

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#47 argoleas
September 13 2013, 02:03PM
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@NM00

I agree with your points, and from a perspective of an organization that absolutely needs to replenish their ranks with young players in the next few years, locking up that much money for the next 5-7 years is not in the teams best interest. As the GM, I too would go for a 3 year deal.

If we assume that Kassian has a career year, then his raise could be substantial (at least matching Hodgson's). I expect Tanev to have a very good year, and as per my comments above, if he has a good effect on Edler, his raise will also be substantial. Lets not forget Lack here. If he plays as the backup, and has a good year, he too gets a raise. Add to this Weise, Hansen, and indeed, it adds up.

On the other hand, 2 years from now, you get Booth off your sheet, and Jensen, if he progresses nicely, would still have one year left in his contract. At this point, you also jettison Sestido and Richardson (or at least you can), and have their places taken by developed farm hands.

So either way its doable (assuming healthy cap raises), but this then fits into the dilemma of how to keep a competitive team while rejuvenating-on-the-fly. Chicago did it, but their core is much younger than Van's.

Locking up so much money for 5-7 years is in my view not an advantage for the team. Besides, if things go well, the parties can always extended the contracts later. I think the main goal here is to make sure we have the Sedins playing here for the next few years here, and not worry about where they are in 4 years. Let that sort itself out then. No more 7-year, no-movement contracts, please.

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#48 5minutesinthebox
September 13 2013, 07:41PM
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@NM00

You actually have more what ifs with lower probability than I do. The Sedins, Hansen, Burrows, and Higgins have missed 93 games combined in the last 4 seasons, or approximately 5 games each per season.

Have have no reason not to believe that production will rise for the upcoming season.

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#49 5minutesinthebox
September 13 2013, 07:45PM
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Oh, and I was sitting next to Bieksa and Garrison at HUB in Yaletown at lunch. Welcome your new 2nd pairing... And before you say anything. Garrison was already playing on his offside and is a left handed shot.

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#50 JFR
September 13 2013, 08:18PM
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Personally I like the idea of pairing Offensive DMen with good puck possession guys. Bieksa and Hammy are a pair, Edler and Tanev and Garrison and Corrado. Edler played his best with a steady guy like Tanev that covers well and gets the puck out of the zone quickly. Looking at Defense pairings through an offensive prism is short sited. Righty lefty shot pairings of Ed and Tanev and Garrison and Corrado are a plus also. The Canicks struggled last year with all lefty shots. Tanevs offensive game normally would be a minus but the comfort level he brings will allow Edler the freedom to let it loose. The worst thing a Dman can do is hesitate and get caught in between, whether pinching or joking the rush. Torts biggest make over will come from the D corps because it is one of the deepest units in the league and was one of the worst handled by AV. Canucks will become a more defensive team that minimizes mistakes and takes advantages of the other teams mistakes. No more Sedin De Soile and I'm fine without the high risk offense from now on.

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