Throwing a wet blanket on Nicklas Jensen - Weekend Watchability Index

Cam Charron
March 21 2014 01:41PM

Earlier this week, Ben Kuzma detailed rookie winger Nicklas Jensen as "an exclamation mark" "determined" "far from an overnight sensation" "cool" with an "all-around awareness and presence."

It seems that people have begun pencilling in Jensen to the Canucks' top six next season, a top six that's painfully lacking in young bodies. Jensen has three goals and five points in just seven games this season and has arguably been the Canucks best player since his call-up.

Easy up.

First, what can Jensen's stats tell us about the player? Looking beyond the goals and points and the residual optimism that goes along with it, it's worth keeping in mind that Jensen's point totals in seven games are very, very noisy. That is to say, there's little signal when looking at a player's boxcar statistics—in this case, five points and a +5 rating with 13 shots on goal.

While I admit it's been fun to watch Jensen, a lot of the entertainment has to be because he's producing while a lot of Canucks aren't. Were he not producing, I doubt he'd be hailed as an exclamation mark in many game stories. The hockey world doesn't have a lot of patience for former first round picks who don't contribute, and nobody saw Jensen as a potential top sixer when he missed the end of camp due to injury and struggled in the early going of his season with the Utica Comets.

So yes… sample size really does matter.

Jensen scored the 1-0 goal against Nashville a couple of nights ago. In his game recap, Dimitri talked about how "the cynic inside me is thinking 'man, this team can't even tank properly!' And while that's certainly a reality … there's also the part of me that's relieved that there's finally something to be excited about."

Dimitri called Jensen "refreshing… especially on the finishing side of things". He's a sharp dude, and not somebody usually swayed by player performances in small samples. The cynic inside me however, is determined not to presume a player that wasn't even on an NHL roster a month ago can suddenly be in a team's top six next year.

Especially since... <loads up Jensen's page on ExtraSkater>

Especially since his 35-goal pace is being held up by a 23.1% shooting rate.

Especially since his PDO is at 111.5% through seven games.

Especially since he's started 41 shifts in the offensive zone to 18 in the defensive zone.

Especially since he's been playing almost every shift with a former MVP and scoring leader.

Especially when he's earned points on 83% of the goals scored when he's been on the ice. (Individual points percentage is a relatively new statistic, but I like it when looking for undervalued players in fantasy hockey. Sidney Crosby and Logan Couture are the best in the league at this, hovering at 85% between 2010 and 2013).

</closes tab. Flips table.>

Sports of course are meant to be fun, and I think it's possible to be entertained at the things Jensen is doing on the ice without extrapolating his production to next season. The minors are littered with players who have had a small hot run in the NHL.

Jensen is doing some great things with the puck, but any player's release is going to look great when it finds the back of the net every second time he gets off a good shot. In order to become a reliable top six player, players generally need a defensive element to their game, which isn't something Jensen has yet—he's mostly been restricted to playing in the offensive end of the ice, and that always looks like a good plan when everything is going in. (Think how great hardcore zone deployment looked in 2011 when Daniel won the scoring title thanks to Manny Malhotra's defensive zone prowess. It was only a few years later that we clued in that strategy looked better than it should have thanks to Malhotra's 103.1% PDO)

It's fun to watch, but that's all it is. I don't think seven games should affect what the Canucks try to do in the summer. We still have 10 games left for the Great(er?) Dane to get cold and the team will look just as hopeless as they did before. The Canucks still probably need an explosive young forward (if they draft a defenceman with the high pick I will flip tables) and should still probably be looking to bring in a veteran winger in free agency to give the team some added punch up top.

The real important thing is for those of you who have a shred of optimism for next season to not get too excited about the player with a 23% shooting percentage and a 111% PDO. It won't last, and the heartbreak will be worse than if you come to terms with the fact now that the Canucks are still up the creek without a paddle if they don't get a guy who can produce like Jensen, but sustainably.

And for all we know, that guy could be Jensen, once he gets a full camp as a pro, rounds out his game defensively and starts to take a few more shots on goal. But Jensen in his current form won't be doing it this way for much longer. Enjoy it while it lasts.

WEEKEND WATCHABILITY INDEX

While there are now 46 reasons to watch the Vancouver Canucks, that does not preclude you from not having to watch the remainder of the exciting games. Using a formula to calculate a game's impact on playoff chances, as well as severe watchability of the teams involved, here are the top five matchups of the weekend to keep an eye on.

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh - Saturday @ 10:00 a.m. PST

The hook: This is a pretty good hangover game to keep an eye on. The two best offensive players in the world are taking part (and maybe a third depending on where you place the Penguins) and both teams have hilarious defence and goaltending. Good game to kick off the weekend, if you wake up early enough to boot up the GameCentre.

Boston @ Colorado - Friday @ 6:00 p.m. PST

The hook: Tough to figure out a good hook to this game other than the fact we have two excellent, watchable teams who also happen to be two of the hottest in the NHL. The Bruins have won ten consecutive, and there's always an outside chance of Patrick Roy putting on all four of his Stanley Cup rings and slugging Brad Marchand across the face.

St. Louis @ Philadelphia - Saturday @ 10:00 a.m. PST

The hook: Given what the Blues gave up for Ryan Miller, we're just waiting around for them to slip up and make that trade look hilarious in retrospect, but unfortunately St. Louis are still winning games. Meanwhile, the Flyers are in the thick of the playoff race in the East and always seem to be prone to playing 5-4 or 6-5 hockey games. Bust open that Miller!

Toronto @ Montreal - Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. PST

The hook: Well, it's free for those of us in Canada, which is always important, the two teams usually fail to play uninteresting hockey games against one another, it's a big game for Eastern playoff positioning and both teams are always on the verge of losing 6 or 7-1 and sending their local media hordes into a frenzy.

NY Rangers @ Columbus - Friday @ 4:00 p.m. PST

The hook: RICK NASH RETURNS TO COLUMBUS! And also, the teams are tied with 78 points for third in the Metropolitan Division, meaning the loser of this game will also hold down the last wild card spot and one ahead of Washington. Blue Jackets fans have come back to life over the last 12 months and this will probably be a pretty loud game from a fanbase determined to let Nash know they've moved on to their younger, sexier girlfriend Ryan Johansen.

AND THE WORST GAME OF THE WEEK…

Buffalo @ Vancouver - Sunday @ 5:00 p.m. PST

The hook: Cody Hodgson has already made his return to Vancouver, so that can't be fun. Of the weekend's 22 games, this ranks 18th in playoff importance, and last for combined wins between the teams and neither team is particularly good offensively. I'll probably skip the first period to watch the gold medal match of the women's world curling championships.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Goon
March 21 2014, 02:07PM
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Being optimistic about Jensen and thinking that Jensen will keep producing at his current pace are two different things. I don't think there are any sensible Canucks fans out there who think Jensen's going to play 82 games next year and score 35 goals and 70 points. That would be amazing, but it's not realistic to expect.

I look at Jensen and see a guy who can hopefully chip in 15-20 goals and 35-40 points in a full season if he keeps playing well, and who might peak in the 20-30 goal, 45-60 point range after a couple of seasons. I haven't been getting the sense that other people are seeing a lot more than that in him (I'm not on Twitter though so maybe I'm missing something).

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#3 NM00
March 21 2014, 02:35PM
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A necessary article by the most realistic blogger on here.

While Jensen is doing fine, he's been put in a tremendous position to succeed.

Frankly, the most exciting winger prospect the Canucks have had in the recent past was Grabner.

He averaged over 3 shots per game in his 20 game stint with Van City and he played nearly 4 mins less a game than Jensen.

And I doubt many delusional Canuck fans on here consider him an irreplacable player.

29 other teams have a player like Jensen (or better) on their NHL roster.

The fact that some Canuck fans look to him as a saviour speaks volumes about the god awful young talent on the roster...

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#4 SEAPP
March 21 2014, 03:14PM
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Get ready for a trade. It's the showcase of Jensen to improve his trade value.

I don't really think that's true. I agree he is unsustainable, but if he is somehow better because he has good chemistry with Henrik, how is that bad? Isn't that Burrows 2.0? Why not ice Burrows with Sedins in DZone and start Jensen with Sedins in OZone if that resulted in better results?

It's really a question of how much does he regress. 8% shooting rate would be around 12 goals like you expect. Maybe with Sedins he is a 12% shooter and good for 17 goals. that's a couple of wins. If you have playmaker like Henrik and Daniel, wouldn't you expect someone with a good shot (Jensen does have a good shot) to be involved in a lot of the goals? First i've seen IPP, looks interesting.

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#5 Rob
March 21 2014, 03:23PM
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Cam Charron wrote:

Just for the record, I'm thinking a good expectation for Jensen over a full 82-game season is closer to 12 goals and 30 points, unless he improves dramatically over the summer.

Keep in mind he's below two shots on goal per game.

I don't disagree that expectations should be tempered, but the shot rate you quote is from the same sample of games as the point rate you dismiss. If the sample size is too small to draw conclusions about the one, it's also too small to draw conclusions about the other.

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#7 Goon
March 21 2014, 04:18PM
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Cam Charron wrote:

Just for the record, I'm thinking a good expectation for Jensen over a full 82-game season is closer to 12 goals and 30 points, unless he improves dramatically over the summer.

Keep in mind he's below two shots on goal per game.

Fair enough - to clarify, I was suggesting 15-20 goals and 35-40 points as the high-end of realistic (optimism!). I think you're right that the safest bet is 10-15 goals and 30 points in his first full season.

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#8 Senrik Hedin
March 21 2014, 04:47PM
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his presence in the shootout might get us some valuable extra points at least.

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#9 NM00
March 21 2014, 05:08PM
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Senrik Hedin wrote:

his presence in the shootout might get us some valuable extra points at least.

I didn't know scoring on 1 of 2 penalty shots actually meant something...

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#10 PB
March 21 2014, 07:16PM
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I don't quite get the hate-on for Jensen (not just by you). Yes, expectations should be tampered, but aren't the good feelings the fleeting rays of sunshine in an otherwise dismal death march of a season? I don't think anyone is seeing Jensen as a savior (and god I hope it doesn't somehow save Gillis' job). It's just nice to see a player who seems to have some upside and is playing with some energy and finish. As many others have said he's been put in a good position to succeed, but at least he's doing something with the opportunity.

I get the need to throw a wet blanket on/slap in the face the unrealistic expectations or that this is somehow the vaunted reset. But I don't think trashing Jensen is necessary. I think he's got a solid future as a 2nd line player; given his age and inexperience, he's been pretty decent, with the shoulder injury a pretty fair explanation for his crappy start this season.

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#11 antro
March 21 2014, 07:38PM
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I didn't read Dimitri's words as actually believing the hype. He knows as well as everyone else that reads CA that this is inflated, end of the season hot streak. He was just happy to see a wrist shot that wasn't straight into the goalie's chest.

No easy solution to the Canucks' prospect woes. . But, as several smart bloggers have pointed out on twitter, the Canucks probably aren't as bad as their record suggests.

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#12 andyg
March 21 2014, 08:39PM
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PB wrote:

I don't quite get the hate-on for Jensen (not just by you). Yes, expectations should be tampered, but aren't the good feelings the fleeting rays of sunshine in an otherwise dismal death march of a season? I don't think anyone is seeing Jensen as a savior (and god I hope it doesn't somehow save Gillis' job). It's just nice to see a player who seems to have some upside and is playing with some energy and finish. As many others have said he's been put in a good position to succeed, but at least he's doing something with the opportunity.

I get the need to throw a wet blanket on/slap in the face the unrealistic expectations or that this is somehow the vaunted reset. But I don't think trashing Jensen is necessary. I think he's got a solid future as a 2nd line player; given his age and inexperience, he's been pretty decent, with the shoulder injury a pretty fair explanation for his crappy start this season.

I hate to see people try to put numbers on what young players should produce. Like with Kass it sets up the stage for continual criticism. It can take years for some of these young players to see their potential.(like Burrows)

Jensen looks like he could be exactly what the management thought they had. ( we are beginning to get younger)

Also big thumbs up for the hiring of Green.

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#13 That's Offside!
March 21 2014, 09:15PM
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Holy crap, Cam writes a "don't get too high on Jensen" article and is called "the most realistic blogger on here."

I say the same things on Twitter and get called a "noted prospect hater" and "the grim reaper of Canucks prospects."

By the way, everything Cam wrote is 100% true and he didn't even mention the fact that Jensen has never scored like a future top-6 NHL forward at any level he's ever played at.

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#14 antro
March 21 2014, 09:48PM
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@That's offside:

You're quoting NM00...if he was on twitter, he'd probably get more Canucks fan hatred than Derek Zona and Tyler Dellow put together.

Plus, you evaluated Horvat. People wanted to be excited about Horvat. No one expects anything of Jensen.

We have all the future third liners!!

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#15 Gored 1970
March 22 2014, 08:30AM
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C'mon, this was really written by Tony Gallagher, wasn't it? Jeez, after a long and painful season for the Canucks and their fans, along comes a kid who's fun to watch and puts a little excitement into the games down the final stretch. Your response - to say he's not that good and watch him crash and burn. Just relax and watch the kid and enjoy yourself. Why not give a view from the positive side and write about the impact Jensen could have on the Canucks and their line combinations if he is the real deal?

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#16 Marsh
March 22 2014, 11:06AM
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Totally unnecessary blog. Gutless journalism. If Cam is right -woo hoo, look at how smart I am. If he's wrong and Jensen does well, who's going to remember or care?

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#17 That's Offside!
March 22 2014, 01:19PM
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@antro

NM00 is on Twitter. Follow him --> @thomasdrance

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#18 NM00
March 22 2014, 01:24PM
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@PB

Where exactly is Cam hating on Jensen?

29 other teams have guys like Jensen.

He stands out because the rest of the young talent on the roster is terrible.

If he were on the Blackhawks, Sharks or Red Wings, he'd just be another guy...

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#19 NM00
March 22 2014, 01:29PM
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That's Offside! wrote:

NM00 is on Twitter. Follow him --> @thomasdrance

Drance wishes...

For the record, I can't recall what exactly you wrote about Jensen, but your Horvat piece was quite refreshing and I said as much.

But I hope you're in the blogging game for more than just adulation...

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#20 NM00
March 22 2014, 01:33PM
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@antro

"No one expects anything of Jensen."

False.

Believe it or not, there are actually Gillis apologists out there that are using Jensen as evidence for their "he's not so bad!" delusions.

After a handful of NHL games no less...

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#21 Cody
March 22 2014, 02:01PM
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When you coming back to twitter, b?

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#22 GeezMoney
March 22 2014, 02:10PM
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Life teaches us all to be patient. Jensen has been entertaining, as was Mike Santorelli earlier in the year. Santo cooled down becore his injury. I suspect we'll see a similar event with Jensen. That said, Jensen was always expected to be a second line winger who has size and maybe a two-way game. He has shown some of that already.

Patience is a must. It doesn't mean Canucks fans need to shove their faces in a bucket of cold water. It does mean we should allow him time to develop.

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#23 Ted
March 22 2014, 02:31PM
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The sample size on Jensen is too small at this point. He seems to have good finish and is now playing with a legit, world class centre and solid NHL winger. It's nice to see him put up some good numbers; he's been given a prime spot in the lineup and is taking advantage of it.

I am more concerned about moves made over the summer. I don't think our current GM has the ability to fleece any teams in trades...quite the contrary...I'm thinking we lose on any transactions.

Does anyone remember the Detroit package for Edler at the last draft day? I don't remember the specifics but I think there were a couple of solid players in there...

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#24 andyg
March 22 2014, 05:01PM
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@Ted

You may not see a lot of moves at all. If you look at this teem next year and pencil in Santo ,Matthias,Jensen and maybe a UFA. There is also potential for Horvat to make the teem. This team is much better then what we have seen this year plus these additions.

The owners may look at things with the same rose colored glasses and not want to make too many moves. Kesler maybe. Not the time to move Edler.Wait until he has a good year.

Just thinking out loud!

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#25 andyg
March 22 2014, 05:18PM
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@NM00

"the young talent on the roster is terrible|"

Are you talking about Tanev,Kassian,Stanton?

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#26 antro
March 22 2014, 09:56PM
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@That's_Offisde

LOL!!

I once accused Thomas Drance of creating the NM00 commenter to rile us all up, just to drive up page hits and the number of comments after posts. Now you nearly made me suspicious again (speaking facetiously), but Thomas Drance is neither humorless nor delusional. Plus he knows what paragraph structure is.

(Aaand, TD recently tweeted, if I'm not mistaken, that he's okay with Gillis, indifferent to Torts...but my memory is a bit shaky on this.)

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