When the Canucks signed Kevin Bieksa but allowed Christian Ehrhoff to become an unrestricted free agent, there were naturally concerns. Ehrhoff is a quality defenseman, and was a big part of the Canucks offense, both on the power play and at even-strength. As it turns out, however, Ehrhoff misses the Canucks’ power play more than the Canucks’ power play misses him.
Here are some select statistics for the Canucks’ top four blue-line options for this season and last season. Point totals are calculated over 82 games, regardless of how many games were actually played, for ease of comparison.
|2010-11||PP TOI/G||5v4 PTS/60||PP Points*||2011-12||PP TOI/G||5v4 PTS/60||PP Points*|
Point totals are down on the Canucks’ blue line, both overall and on a per/60 basis. The slack has been picked up somewhat by an improved performance from Bieksa and Hamhuis, but there’s no doubt that the Canucks were better off when they had Ehrhoff as an option on the power play point. The team’s overall power play conversion rate is still very good, at 20.8%, but that’s down from 24.3% last season.
On the other hand, Ehrhoff’s totals have plummeted in Buffalo. The Sabres’ power play, which operated at a 19.4% success rate last season, has dipped to 15.6% this year. Ehrhoff has just nine points in 55 games – a 13-point pace over an 82-game schedule. It’s not just an ice-time decrease either – Ehrhoff is scoring 3.08 points for every hour of 5-on-4 ice-time, roughly half the rate he scored at last season.
Ehrhoff stands as a good object lesson to the fact that individual players have less impact on a power play unit than the power play unit does on individual players. He’s still an excellent power play option, and the Canucks would be better this season if they had him. However, in a salary cap environment sacrifices need to be made, and G.M. Mike Gillis decided that Vancouver would be able to get by without paying a premium for Ehrhoff.
So far, he’s been right.
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