January 11 2017 08:00PM
Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland - USA TODAY Sports
The Canucks took a savvy, cost-free step towards infusing a blend of youth and skill into their lineup last week when they broke from the company line to place a successful waiver claim on Reid Boucher.
They've left us waiting for the second shoe to drop since, as the Canucks have kept Boucher from their lineup in the three games they've had access to the 23-year-old. Boucher is perfectly healthy, and unlike the situation that befell him and the Canucks ahead of last Wednesday's game, he has a full compliment of gear with which to play. So what gives?
If we are to believe Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins' commentary on the matter, the Canucks have a winning formula they're neither comfortable nor wont to tinker with at this juncture. On its own, that's a fairly innocuous thought process. The Canucks have won six of their last eight and secured points in seven of those matches. If ain't broke, don't fix it. And so on.
barring rash of injuries, don't see how #Canucks get a good look at either Rodin or Boucher. WD said yesterday he can't afford to experiment— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) January 10, 2017
Winning and playing well are not one in the same though and that's a concept the Canucks should share some familiarity with less than a week removed from a 13 shot victory over the Calgary Flames. Their machine isn't breaking yet, but there are signs of rust that can slow it down if left unaddressed.
And whether the Canucks were playing hockey worthy of the winning that marks this current stretch or not, there's always room for improvement. That should be something to work towards daily. There's a reason contending teams are among the most active at the trade deadline year after year.
The Canucks don't have to make a deal to get better though. They added a player last week who's point production indicates he's a safe bet to provide secondary scoring for a song in their bottom six. And they did it without surrendering any tangible asset other than cold hard cash.
You'd think it obvious, then, that they do their best to put said player into their lineup. It's not like Boucher makes the Canucks a contender, but it's the exact kind of move on the margins that might add a point or two over the course of a season. For a team expected to be on the playoff bubble as the Canucks are, that has value.
Especially when you do a player by player comparison contrary some of the Canucks mainstays in the bottom six. No matter the metric, Boucher shows as an appreciably better option.
Where I can understand seeing the whole of Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput and Jack Skille's parts as worth leaving alone, I'm struggling with Jayson Megna. It doesn't seem to matter where the Canucks play Megna, he struggles. I've seen enough plays die on his stick to last me a lifetime and all it took was a handful of games with the Sedins to accrue them.
To put this in perspective, Megna has the single-lowest Corsi For and CF% Rel. Tm among every Canucks skater. He's also the second least productive forward on the Canuck, ahead of only Gaunce.
Willie Desjardins on Reid Boucher: "I haven't seen enough of him. The games are important and our guys have been good." #Canucks— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) January 11, 2017
Whether Desjardins has seen Boucher personally or not, the odds of him being worse for the Canucks are slim. Boucher would be replacing a player that, by every model available to me, is sub-replacement level. In fact, over the course of a full season, Megna's play costs his team about half a win according to Dom Luczsyczsyn's model. Using the same model, Boucher adds a quarter win.
The statistical case for a player like Boucher ahead of Megna should be obvious though. Doesn't take much digging, and the further you go the more it hurts.
If Desjardins genuinely hasn't seen enough Boucher, that's entirely on him. Boucher's played, by my estimation, close to 500 televised hockey games at varying leagues and levels. There is game tape on Boucher, and if the coach needs to see him play, the Canucks have access to it.
Players don't start anew when they come to your franchise. If the Canucks traded for Steven Stamkos, they wouldn't need to see him in their uniform to know what they're getting. That same logic applies here, though we're at admittedly a lower level of the totem pole.
This isn't a decision that will sink or save the Canucks season. Enough of this kind eventually add up though. That should matter for a club bound to fight to the last for their playoff lives.