Does Jannik Hansen Belong on the Power-Play?

Mason Raymond gives Jannik Hansen credit for a set up that led to a goal.
Or maybe he’s telling him that he can’t pass and looks foolish on the power-play?
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images North America

It’s not a secret that the Canucks power-play smells like stilton this season. While it appears to me that the systems are mostly fine – especially through the neutral zone – the execution, the habit of getting outnumbered down low in puck battles and the personnel’s overall reluctance to shoot have contributed to a ghastly 13.4% power-play conversion rate. That’s good for 29th in the league, quite a shocking fall from grace for a team that has consistently generated shots at an elite rate with the man-advantage and has capitalized on power-play opportunities at a top-five rate over the past several seasons.

There’s no doubt that this an area of the game where the Canucks really miss Ryan Kesler, who has been by far their most efficient power-play goal scorer since the 2009-10 season. In Kesler’s absence, the Canucks have struggled mightily to find a suitable replacement and all of Zack Kassian, Alex Burrows, Jordan Schroeder and Jannik Hansen have been given a look in this spot. It’s a veritable ploughman’s lunch of round holes and square pegs.

Recently Jannik Hansen has emerged as the coaching staff’s first choice, a tactical selection which Tony Gallagher recently described as a "pathology" because apparently Jannik Hansen "has demonstrated over and over again that he can’t pass the puck very well." Yeah okay. Let’s unpack Gallagher’s nonsense claim after the jump.

Here’s the full paragraph in which Gallagher analyzes Jannik Hansen’s suitability for the first unit:

Consider the pathology of using Jannik Hansen on the power play. Here is a guy who has one power play point in his career, but the coach insists on using him on the first unit despite the fact he has demonstrated over and over again that he can’t pass the puck very well.

His assets are huge and he’s invaluable to this team, but putting him on the power play just sets him up to look ridiculous.

I think what’s really ridiculous is the claim that Jannik Hansen can’t pass. After all, we’ve been describing him as a "playmaker" since the summer of 2011. This season Jannik Hansen is first among all Canucks forwards in primary assist rate at even-strength, a year ago he was second among all Canucks forwards in primary assist rate behind only Henrik Sedin, one of the greatest pure playmakers of his generation. The year before that, boy, he was first among Canucks forwards in primary assist rate at even-strength again. For a guy who has "demonstrated over and over again that he can’t pass," Jannik Hansen racks up so many apples you’d think he works at an orchard. 

So let’s break this down again in the simplest terms possible: Jannik Hansen has produced primary assists at a more efficient clip than Henrik "Adam Oates 2.0" Sedin at even-strength over the past three seasons, while playing a defensive role and starting most of his shifts in Vancouver’s end of the rink. But he can’t pass, and shouldn’t get a sniff of power-play time because he only has one point in roughly seventy-five and a half minutes of power-play ice-time in his career? 

About that, Alex Burrows has played twenty more power-play minutes so far this season than Hansen has played in his entire career. He only has three points. That’s despite skating with the twins for pretty much all of it.

Meanwhile Jannik Hansen had yet to break ten total power-play minutes in a season until last year when he recieved eleven minutes and forty-one seconds of power-play time. His most frequent linemate by a country mile? Manny Malhotra. I’m not going out on a limb when I tell you that Hansen’s one point in seventy-five career minutes of power-play ice-time has absolutely zero analytical value.

Finally, it’s pretty well accepted at this point that the underlying issue for Vancouver’s power-play is the inability to generate shots when the team has the man-advantage. The Canucks are third last in the NHL in power-play shot rate this season, which actually is something of an improvement over where they were at a couple of weeks ago. So has Jannik Hansen’s presence at five-on-four contributed to the team’s issues generating shots with the man-advantage? Nope:

Forward 5-on-4 On-Ice Shots/60
Jannik Hansen 45.6
Alex Burrows 41.6
Daniel Sedin 36.6
Mason Raymond 36.3
Jordan Schroeder 35.4
Henrik Sedin 35.4
Zack Kassian 23.5

Graph produced with numbers found at Only forwards who have played at least twenty games and averaged over ninety seconds of power-play ice-time in those games this season were included.

Jannik Hansen isn’t going to make anyone forget Ryan Kesler on the power-play. But he has the skill set to be productive in a power-play role and there’s really no doubt about that – or shouldn’t be. Hansen’s passing certainly isn’t the issue, rather it’s one of the major strengths of his game, and to claim that Hansen’s presence is what’s ailing Vancouver’s power-play in particular – well, that’s nonsense. It looks to me from his shot rate that he may well be part of the sollution…

All of which is to say that I hope Tony Gallagher didn’t pull a hammy stretching for this bad example. Sure the "Hansen on the first power-play unit wtf he can’t pass?" line might help justify Gallagher’s increasingly shrill criticism of Alain Vigneault and the Canucks coaching staff, but it’s also, y’know, demonstrably inaccurate.

  • chinook

    I’ve tuned out Old Man Gallagher and his kind (the non-analytical crowd) a long time ago. It will be a sweet day when they no longer infect the masses with their drivel.

  • Graphic Comments

    Can we stop even recognizing or responding to anything Gallagher says? Acknowledging his trite and oh so predictable jabs at Canucks’ management and coaching staff gives him a legitimacy he has not deserved for a decade at least.

  • Fred-65

    I don’t believe Hansens skill is compatible for the PP. The goals he scores have a different dimension to them. The PP is all about getting one player open in a shooting position. That does not require speed.

    As to Gallagher, I’ve tuned him out for the most part, but like they say even a broken clock it’s right twice a day. Did you here him mention that he believed Luongo turned down a trade to the Leafs last summer ? That tends to confirm John Shannon’s remarks that the deal to TO is done and will be announced plus of course there’s that young guy who is some how involved with Aqualini’s son also tweeted the same so although it will never officially be confirmed it seems like Gallagher was right.