Chris Higgins seems to really miss David Booth and Ryan Kesler

"’Till you get on my level, I don’t have time for you. Later, dude."

It’s no secret that the Vancouver Canucks have missed the services of their two best play-driving forwards, Ryan Kesler and David Booth, this season. The two American power forwards have combined to play just 19 games thus far this season, leaving a big void on the second line. To the surprise of no one, the Canucks have had a tough time finding the back of the net as a result. While the team has actually been able to sustain a dominant puck-possession game, but it just currently doesn’t boast the offensive artillery to capitalize on it.

So we know just how much the Canucks as a team have missed them. But one player in particular has missed their services the most, and has found himself in a world of hurt as a result.

Read on Past the Jump for More. 

In November, I wrote a glowing article about Chris Higgins where I did everything but personally shine his abs. His play had warranted it. 

"As you can see, he has been fairly consistent across the board in recent years. While he has usually played against relatively strong competition, he took a big step up in that department last season, playing against the very best. Nevertheless, he continued to have a positive corsi rating. Even with the "heavy lifting" that he did for the Canucks, Higgins was still able to drive play for the team, often leaving them in a desireable position in the offensive zone despite having started the shift back in his own end."

The skills listed above aren’t necessarily of the sexy variety, but they contribute enormously on a successful team. Every team needs a Higgins of their own to get the job done under the radar. He was able to register 43 points in 71 games, fired 2.3 shots on goal/game, and led the Canucks in scoring chances/60 when adusted for zone starts. He played a large chunk of his 5v5 minutes with some combination of Ryan Kesler (56.0%), Jannik Hansen (41.3%), and David Booth (26.8%). When the AMEX line was in action, they crushed to the tune of a corsi rate exceeding 60%. A thing of beauty, really.

Unfortunately for Higgins, his running mates have left him hanging this season. His most common linemates have been Hansen (55.9%), Kassian (28.4%), and Lapierre (27.2%). Let’s take a look at how he has fared:

  Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative Corsi % Offensive Zone Start % Penalties Drawn/60
Last Year 0.956 2.2 54.8% 46.6% 0.8
This Year 0.695 -18.3 46.0% 46.7% 0.3

Through 29 games, he has 11 points, 1.58 shots on goal/game, and has seen his penalties drawn/60 rate fall from 0.8 to 0.3. Forget the drop-off in talent surrounding him for a second – even though it is substantial – because he just flat-out has not looked right all year. He is currently mired in an 8-game stretch in which he has registered 1 goal, 0 assists, and 7 shots on goal. 

I’ve kept a close eye on him in the past two games, and what I’ve seen is a player that has been gettting massacred by anyone, and everyone. In those games he has been on the ice for 10 scoring chances against at 5v5, while laying a big goose egg the other way. What other teams are doing to him and Max Lapierre should be illegal at this point, really. They’re essentially defiling them. It’s not pleasant.

Here’s where things get interesting, though. His 2 year, $3.8 million contract expires this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent. In that same post I linked to above, I noted that he should see a handsome pay raise, likely in the form of a multi-year deal. Now? That’s probably not happening. Especially when you consider that he’s turning 30 in June. Not the best news for a guy whose success is so heavily based on doing the dirty work along the boards. He’ll need to turn things around if he has hopes that someone will show him the money, but unfortunately, the wear-and-tear may be starting to show its effects on ol’ Higgy.

  • JCDavies

    But, if I recall correctly, Higgins made Kesler and Booth better as well, didn’t he?
    Though he hasn’t looked great this year, I’d be in favor of giving him another chance next year, if he’d be ready to sign a reasonable contract. Which after this season, I suspect he would.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      Of course I would bring him back on something along the lines of a 1-year, $1.5ish mil deal. But the point is that he was looking primed for quite the uptick after last year’s strong showing, and that is looking like a more and more distant memory by the game.

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        You mentioned you watched him the last 2 games. What do you think is he doing worse this season? Is it really something that can be attributed to wear and tear?

        I haven’t really paid attention to Higgins, but definitely will, since something has to explain this dropoff!

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    I was just thinking about, and looking over Higgys stats this yr. Wowsa came to mind. His underlying #’s have taken a dive – for sure. Since he was used at centre, he’s been on the ice for an inordinate amount of goals against. Majority were not his fault, but he’s lost a step. I’m guessing he’s nursing a nagging injury like Lappy. He’s a guy who doesn’t take a shift off so I really hope they resign him at a good price.

  • Brent

    I wondered if Higgins had an injury, anything for sure? Or just rumour? He is certainly not the same player this year. Moments of brilliance, but generally invisible offensively.

    Also the article reminded me how well the AMEX line was last year. Although I am trying to blot it out of my memory, but I seem to remember during last years playoff, they were not playing together. True? And if so, why the hell not?