The guys in this photo have been some of the lone bright spots for the Canucks. Well, except for Marty Erat; he has been invisible.
"When I look at this series in an overview, San Jose’s top players have been much much better than Vancouver’s top players. San Jose’s depth players have been better than Vancouver’s depth players. And in totality, the goaltending has been better for San Jose."
That was a quote from Ray Ferraro from his appearance on the CanucksArmy podcast with Thomas Drance yesterday. And while it’s obviously an oversimplification, he’s definitely not wrong. Not too many things have gone right for the Canucks through 3 games of their opening round series against the Sharks. I think it’s fair to say that at this point things could be going better for the team.
But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom; two players in particular, who fans have been overly critical of in the past, have put forth encouraging performances amidst all of the disappointment.
Read on Past the Jump for Some Reasons to Stay Upbeat.
Later on in the interview, Ferraro was asked about the cause of Vancouver’s scoring woes, and he provided a more in-depth answer:
"Their power play has been less effective than it was. Then you go through their lineup; Derek Roy has been a no-show. For what they had hoped they were getting at the deadline, he has not given it to them. Chris Higgins has two shots in the series. Kesler has played 30 terrific minutes in the series, and he has been in the woodwork for the rest of it. Mason Raymond it seems like he is not going to be able to produce in the playoffs. He just can’t seem to find a way to get on the inside. The Sedins have done very little, they’ve had very little zone time. Their strength is cycling the puck, taking it to the net with Burrows. But they haven’t done it enough. They haven’t found a way to do it. Maybe they can’t do it. So I mean, if you go through that, who’s going to score? If I go through this Canucks roster, the guy that I say has been the best skater, and I don’t it has been even close, has been Jason Garrison."
It should come as no surprise given the work we have been accustomed to receiving from him during TSN broadcasts, but Ferraro hits the nail on the head here. The Vancouver Canucks have managed to score 5 goals (including 1 in garbage time) in 3 games. Their stars (Sedins, Kesler) have yet to string together one full solid game, and the role players that they’ve come to count on (Roy, Higgins, Burrows, Hansen, Raymond) have been non-existent.
Just from the eye test, I would have told you that Jason Garrison has probably been the team’s best skater through 3 games. Then I looked at the numbers, and was blown away. Now keep in mind that the following are at 5v5 play:
|Corsi On(/60)||Corsi Relative||Corsi Rel QoC||Fenwick Differential||TOI/60|
Kind of supports what you’ve been seeing, no? Garrison (while being paired with Hamhuis) has been charged with handling the Burns-Thornton-Galiardi line, which provides quite the challenge. Yet they have been coming out on top, driving play in a serious way. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that they are crushing while they’re out there. Garrison has also registered 15 shots on goal, which is 6 more than any other player on the team. But ultimately, he has no points, and doesn’t really have anything to show for his play. In Game 3, he played a fine game, yet was -11 in scoring chance differential while shorthanded. That has really been this series in a nutshell.
In my books, the second best Canuck skater has been the wild thing, Zack Kassian. While he, just like Garrison, has yet to have his play generate a goal, I have been thoroughly impressed. He has shown an inherent ability to force the action (in a good way), and turn a seemingly meaningless play into a scoring chance. There has been very little excitement from the Canucks perspective, but whenever there has been anything, it seems like he has been in the middle of it. While he has been out on the ice, the team has outshot the Sharks 19-14, and have attempted 13 more shots.
Ever since the start of the series, really, the majority of fans have been clamouring to see Kassian have some more shifts alongside the Sedins. Yet through 2 games, he had only seen 5:40 of combined ice-time with them (mostly after penalty kills). He saw 5 minutes with them in Game 3 on Sunday night, but most of that came with the game out of hand late in the 3rd period.
He’s definitely not perfect; he is still prone to bone-headed mistakes, and dumb penalties (like in Game 1), but with the disappearing act by Alex Burrows, I find it perplexing that he hasn’t been given a longer look on the team’s top line. I’d say that I’d expect to see that change in Game 4, but at this point, who really knows. His best bet might be to wait it out and get in the new coaches graces come next Fall.
Which brings me to the coaching, and officially ends the positive nature of this post. I’ve long been an Alain Vigneault supporter, defending him against what I deemed to be irrational complaints about him. Regardless of what you thought about him, facts are still facts, and he has been the most successful coach in the franchise’s history. That counts for something, right?
Whenever someone has suggested that he needs to go, I’ve raised the question of who there is out there that’s a better option. I can guarantee that he will be without a job roughly as long as Bruce Boudreau was, should the Canucks choose to part ways with him.
But he has become increasingly more and more difficult to defend, and I’ve begun coming to terms with the idea that his days are numbered. The Canucks have had major issues generating any sort of meaningful offense for a while now, and he has shown a reluctance to mix things up, and be creative. At some point you have to stop closing your eyes and blindly hoping for things to magically turn around. During an intermission on Sunday, Aaron Ward called out the team’s system, and said, "the definition of insanity is doing the same act over and over again, expecting a different result."
Just look at the usage of Jason Garrison and Zack Kassian. They have been the team’s two most effective skaters, yet they have been grossly underutilized, and their talents have failed to be optimized. When you have five goals in three games as a team, that’s a problem.