Anson Carter and the Vancouver Canucks’ covenant

Something this blog has yet to ever have, a genuine reflection of Anson Carter. Sure, there have been mentions, but there’s a point to be made about Carter being the legitimate difference between the Dave Nonis and Mike Gillis iterations of the Vancouver Canucks organization.

We know the story, sort of. Anson Carter was somewhat of a journeyman winger who had some scoring touch. Between 1999 and 2004, Carter played for Boston, Edmonton, New York, Washington and Los Angeles, a modicum of success with five 20-goal seasons between the ages of 24 and 28.

He signed a cheap deal, reportedly $1M, for the 2005-06 season coming out of the lockout. There, Carter had a 33-goal season. He held out of Vancouver in the next summer, feigning importance on his line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Despite being 31, he believed he was worth more. Doug MacLean ended up signing Carter to the Blue Jackets for a one-year, $2.5M deal, a raise of $1.5M after a bizarre season left several players with career scoring numbers.

The NHL had 47 30-goal scorers in the 2005-06 season. One of them was Anson Carter. Carter is also one of 15 Canucks since the 2000-01 campaign to score 30 goals:

Player Season G
Markus Naslund 2002-03 48
Todd Bertuzzi 2002-03 46
Markus Naslund 2000-01 41
Daniel Sedin 2010-11 41
Ryan Kesler 2010-11 41
Markus Naslund 2001-02 40
Daniel Sedin 2006-07 36
Todd Bertuzzi 2001-02 36
Markus Naslund 2003-04 35
Alexandre Burrows 2009-10 35
Anson Carter 2005-06 33
Markus Naslund 2005-06 32
Daniel Sedin 2008-09 31
Daniel Sedin 2011-12 30
Mikael Samuelsson 2009-10 30

See look, there he is. I bolded his name and italicized it as well so you see him there.

Here’s the thing Doug MacLean didn’t really bother to look at: Two of those 30-goal scorers, the other being Petr Prucha, had a shooting rate of over 20%. 45% of Carter’s goals came on the powerplay, which ranks him third on Canucks with a 30-goal season since the start of the West Coast Express era:

Player Season Sh% PPG%
Anson Carter 2005-06 22.60% 45.45%
Todd Bertuzzi 2002-03 18.93% 54.35%
Todd Bertuzzi 2001-02 17.73% 38.89%
Alexandre Burrows 2009-10 16.75% 11.43%
Markus Naslund 2002-03 16.33% 50.00%
Ryan Kesler 2010-11 15.77% 36.59%
Daniel Sedin 2010-11 15.41% 43.90%
Daniel Sedin 2006-07 15.25% 44.44%
Markus Naslund 2000-01 14.80% 43.90%
Mikael Samuelsson 2009-10 13.70% 23.33%
Markus Naslund 2001-02 13.25% 20.00%
Daniel Sedin 2011-12 13.10% 33.33%
Markus Naslund 2005-06 12.12% 40.63%
Markus Naslund 2003-04 11.82% 14.29%
Daniel Sedin 2008-09 10.88% 29.03%

I think that we can define a definite “Burke-Nonis” era and a definite “Gillis” era, and it’s especially evident in the contract work. The Canucks missed the playoffs in 2006, but it wasn’t due to a lack of success of the second Canuck scoring line.

In 2007, the Canucks made the playoffs, but went from 256 goals to 222. Markus Naslund, now placed on the first line, scored just 24 goals. I don’t think there’s a denial that the Canucks could have used Carter in the lineup, somewhat, to balance out the scoring, let’s just say that Jan Bulis wasn’t everything he could have been in Canuck colours.

The “Covenant”

In previous posts Thom has referenced “the covenant” between Mike Gillis and his players. Dave Nonis did not have this covenant. From Jonathan Gatehouse’s new book about Gary Bettman, there’s this section that chronicles the way Gillis and Laurence Gilman deal with players:

Gillis and Gilman sat their players down and laid out everything on the table. “We showed them our cap plan; that our owner was committed to spending right to the ceiling every season,” says Gilman. “And we told them that we weren’t going to argue with them in negotiations. That we would give them the most money we could. But that over a certain point, every extra dollar inhibits our ability to sign someone else and win the Cup.”

Alexandre Burrows was the first to buy in. In the spring of 2009, in the midst of a season when he scored twenty-eight goals playing on the first line and received the league minimum salary in return, the twenty-seven year old re-signed for $8 million over four years—well below his market value.”

Indeed, the contract Burrows signed there allowed the Canucks to keep the Sedin twins, whereas Nonis failed to properly communicate to Carter the ramifications of him signing for his market value. Nonis fell into that trap with Markus Naslund as well: Coming out of the lockout, Naslund was signed to a three-year, $6M deal, as a 32-year old. For comparison’s sake, imagine if Michael Ryder signed a 3-year deal for $10.8M this summer.

Burrows being the first player to buy into the system sounds like sappy narrative. In essence, however, he was the first real “Third Sedin.” He knew there could never really be a Third Sedin, there would only ever be two, and any replacement who could hold a hockey stick the right way could score 20. If not Burrows, anybody else.