A (Very Early) Look at the 2013-14 Canucks Lineup: The Defensemen

Ryan McDonagh, who flourished under John Tortorella – WikiCommons

The Canucks still possess a solid team, especially on the back end. There is a lot of negativity surrounding the team right now though. The Canucks were swept in round one, they fired head coach Alain Vigneault this summer, and the inaction from the front office has removed a lot of the optimism that was once ever-present surrounding this team.

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Much to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Canucks bought out defenseman Keith Ballard last week. And to the surprise of a few, they shopped Alex Edler at the draft. Moving Edler would have taken a very, very nice return, and I think the team just wanted to get a feel for the trade market.

Assuming the team goes forth with the defensive group they have now, how are things shaping up for this coming season?

Dan Hamhuis

Hamhuis is one of the best two-way defensemen in hockey. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get some Sochi attention (hear me out). Hamhuis plays the left side, unlike most of Canada’s top defensemen (Alex Pietrangelo, Drew Doughty, Kris Letang, Shea Weber, Brent Seabrook, PK Subban, Mike Green, and Dan Boyle, among others).

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He’s a great skater, and can pretty much play any role asked of him. With more power play time, I don’t doubt that he becomes a 40+ point defenseman.

But the Canucks aren’t concerned with Hamhuis’s chances for making the Sochi roster. They need him to continue his high level of play from the past few seasons. His play did falter a bit down the stretch and in the playoffs, but the same could be said for any Canucks defenseman not named Jason.

Much like Willie Mitchell used to, Hamhuis makes whoever he is playing with better. For a while that has been Kevin Bieksa, and then Garrison took over that role last season. Who plays on the top pairing with him this season? Let’s look at the pros and cons of Bieksa/Garrison playing with Hamhuis:



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Natural right side defenseman

Sometimes struggles with defensive play

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Has established chemistry with Hamhuis

Means that one of Garrison/Edler will be on pairing three

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No one else on roster covers his mistakes like Hamhuis

Makes mistakes

The one problem with pairing Bieksa and Hamhuis is that Garrison hasn’t shown the ability to play on the right side with any defenseman aside from Hamhuis. Is Chris Tanev (assuming he re-signs) ready to play on the second pairing?


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Bigger, stronger, better defensively than Bieksa

Natural left side defenseman

More opportunity to unleash his slapper

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Put’s Vancouver’s defensive “eggs” in one basket

The beard

A potential Edler-Bieksa pairing…

That last con is enough to suggest that Hamhuis-Bieksa makes the most sense. Whenever they have been tried together in the past, Bieksa and Edler have struggled. A lot. It’s a shame that almost $10 million can’t buy you a solid two-way defensive pairing, isn’t it?

And the rest of Vancouver’s depth chart features right-shooting defensemen (Frank Corrado, Yannick Weber – although the team will definitely bring in another veteran at some point this summer). If Garrison moves to the right side, one of the right side defensemen may have to move to the left.

The Depth

Tanev still needs to ink a new deal with the team. My guess on the pact they eventually agree upon – a two-year deal worth in the neighbourhood of $1.8-$2.2 million per season. Is he ready to take the next step as a player? We all know his confidence, poise, and defensive acumen, but the Canucks would like to see a bit more from him in other areas, too. It will be interesting to see how John Tortorella handles him. He deserves credit for how he helped to develop New York’s young defensemen.

Corrado was really good after coming in last season, but the team won’t be promising him anything at camp this year. If he plays well he will be on the team, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see that happen.

Weber is a bit of a wildcard – a lot of Habs fans were sad to see him go, which is generally a good sign when bringing a player in. He wasn’t really given a fair shake in Montreal, mostly because his talents (skating, shooting) were a bit redundant there.


The biggest change in Vancouver this offseason is behind the bench, and we don’t know how that will affect many Canucks who have spent most of their entire professional careers playing for Alain Vigneault. How will John Tortorella and his staff give the minutes to his defensemen? Unlike Rick Bowness, who liked to balance minutes across his top three or four defensemen, Tortorella tends to pick one or two and play them a lot. I have a feeling that this will be Hamhuis and Garrison, even if they end up on different pairings.

Bowness was predictable with how he handled the defensemen (I don’t mean that as a bad thing). Defensemen rarely saw over 24 or 25 minutes in a game. Vancouver relied on its depth more than most teams did/do.

Let’s look at the ice time given to the top six defensemen in Vancouver and New York over the past three seasons for a quick comparison:


1 Dan Girardi 25.24 Alexander Edler 23:50
2 Marc Staal 24:27 Dan Hamhuis 23:23
3 Ryan McDonagh 24:21 Kevin Bieksa 21:56
4 Michael Del Zotto 23:10 Jason Garrison 21:41
5 Anton Stralman 18:02 Christopher Tanev 17:17
6 Steve Eminger 13:02 Keith Ballard 15:28


1 Dan Girardi 26:14 Alexander Edler 23:51
2 Ryan McDonagh 24:44 Kevin Bieksa 23:38
3 Michael Del Zotto 22:26 Dan Hamhuis 23:25
4 Marc Staal 19:53 Sami Salo 20:26
5 Michael Sauer 18:43 Christopher Tanev 16:43
6 Anton Stralman 17:05 Alexander Sulzer 15:58


1 Marc Staal 25:44 Alexander Edler 24:17
2 Dan Girardi 24:34 Christian Ehrhoff 23:59
3 Michal Rozsival 22:02 Dan Hamhuis 22:40
4 Michael Del Zotto 19:29 Kevin Bieksa 22:28
5 Ryan McDonagh 18:44 Sami Salo 20:20
6 Michael Sauer 17:31 Aaron Rome 17:24

It’s pretty apparent that Tortorella likes to ride two defensemen above the rest of the pack. And I don’t think we will see that change much in Vancouver (it will be interesting to see if the increased travel that the Canucks face compared with the Rangers changes how Tortorella handles ice time).

If you had asked me in February or March if I would have ever wanted John Tortorella to coach the Canucks, my answer would have been an emphatic "no." However, after it was reported that the Canucks were interested in Tortorella, the move started to make some more sense. In a way, it’s kind of a no lose situation for fans of the team. Tortorella is a guy who has a limited shelf life as coach. I’m not sure this current core is even capable of winning the Cup without almost everything breaking right, but Tortorella is one of the best options if you want to win a Cup within the next few years. 

He played a major role in the development of several young Ranger players – particularly Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, and Ryan McDonagh. He changed New York from a place where old free agents went to make a bunch of money into a team that was built on grit, tenacity, two-way play, and great goaltending (the last was more Lundqvist’s doing than his own).

Vancouver is a different team than the Rangers were when Tortorella came in. Most of the good players are established. But for the Canucks to get back into contention, they need several young players to develop into good NHL players – and quickly. Alain Vigneault is a great coach, but he isn’t going to help speed along the development of young players. That’s not his MO. Tortorella will. And he will be very hands-on with the Sedins, Bieksa, Kesler, Burrows, and the rest of the veterans – the players can get back to focusing all of their attention on playing.

There are a lot of "ifs" surrounding this team. Luongo. Kesler’s health. Booth’s… everything. And on the back end, I think the key to this season could be one of Tanev or Corrado. If one of them (likely Tanev) can really emerge as a viable NHL defenseman, it would give Tortorella at least two pairings he can lean on in all situations. 

Closing Thoughts




  • Hamhuis – top penalty killing responsibilities, 25-26 minutes a night, some time on the second PP unit.
  • Bieksa – penalty killing responsibilities, 22-23 minutes a night, some time on the second PP unit.
  • Edler – 22-23 minutes a night in an offensively-oriented role
  • Garrison – 25-26 minutes a night, top PP and PK responsibilities
  • Tanev – 18-19 minutes a night, PK and EV mostly

Corrado would see more of a defensive role than Weber, but both of them would probably see minutes in the 14-16 minute range. Would Corrado be better off playing 20+ minutes a night for Utica? 

What are your thoughts on the defense in general, and the pairings in particular?

Previous Posts from Jeff (@AngusCertified)

  • Mantastic

    “Alain Vigneault is a great coach, but he isn’t going to help speed along the development of young players.”

    Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Raymond, Hansen, Edler & Tanev all developed under AV. As did Schneider, for however little that is worth.

    Much like your colleague did with Mellanson, you are making a lot of claims about coaching that imply causation without evidence or even a logical explanation.

    “(Tortorella) deserves credit for how he helped to develop New York’s young defensemen.”

    “He played a major role in the development of several young Ranger players – particularly Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, and Ryan McDonagh.”

    What is this major role he played?

    Is there actually a logical explanation for the Tortorella effect that could lead one to believe he is the cause and that no other coach could have had the same effect?

    Occam’s razor.

    Let me propose a simpler explanation using McDonagh & Edler.

    1. Edler & McDonagh were highly regarded prospects before playing NHL games.

    2. AV was the coach when Edler became an NHL regular. Torts was the coach when McDonagh became an NHL regular.

    3. Edler and McDonagh are now highly regarded NHL defenseman.

    #3 does not need #2 to make sense.

    Amongst the sabermetric community, very little player success is attributed to MLB coaches without a logical explanation as to why player X could not have learned skill Y with any other coach.

    The simplest explanation is that NHL coaches can “develop” NHL players when there are players in the organization to develop and when these players are ready to develop.

    Sidney Crosby would have been a star with any coach.

    There is no tooth fairy.

    • Mantastic

      I think you completely lost the context in your 1st point. All those players developed well under AV. However, save possibly Tanev, I don’t think a legit argument can be made that any of their development was “sped along” by him. It was all very slow and steady and many years to reap the benefits. Which I think was the authors point – hurrying it the hell up rather than waiting on it. Regardless of whether I or you agree with the point, I didn’t see it as an inference that talent didn’t develop well under AV, given a longer timeline.

      • Origamirock

        I have no idea what you mean.

        My point is that Torts is probably no more of a wizard than AV.

        If there’s a logical explanation for something unique that Torts did to develop the defenseman in NYR, I’d be interested to hear what it is.

        Otherwise it’s probably just a coincidence.

  • Mantastic


    Disagree. A coach can have a huge impact on a players development and whether they succeed or not. If your youngsters aren’t given the opportunity to play the minutes, aren’t utilized in the proper ways and given the opportunity to succeed etc., then you can argue the coach did not help them develop and reach their full potential.

    There are some athletes that just have it, while others need to work at it (harder than others) and need the proper guidance along the way.

    • Mantastic

      i would say 90% of player success is from the players natural abilities and 10% coaching. at least in the NHL level. lower level, developmental systems have a larger affect on a player development but once in the NHL, it’s mostly because of the players talent/work level.

      most of the draft picks that bust out because they never had it to begin with, not because of coaching.

      • Mantastic

        This one sticks out as being odd. These players have followed a Coaches instructions since they were really young, like 4 or 5. From the formative years into adulthood they develop as players through the relationships and teachings they have with Coaches. Nobody is born skating, nobody is born with the knowledge of the left wing lock. Hockey is not a natural ability. You need someone to tell you what you are doing wrong or right to develop. It’s a boatload of work and practice. Who runs those practices?
        Most NHL players Coach kids in their spare time even though it doesn’t pay the millions they make on the ice. So you’d have to think good Coaching is important for them to pass along.

        They aren’t machines and don’t just turn all of this training off because they are in the NHL. A good Coach is a major part of every successful team and it’s players. Why? Because you never stop learning. For these reasons I think the 10% is low.

        To reply to the article, from the Rangers games I watched it seemed to me like Torts liked to juggle his top 4 around a little. Sprinkling them in with the bottom 4, mixing them with each other. He kind of feels his way through who’s rolling and adjusts accordingly. Perhaps this was due to the injuries, but I can see a bit of juggling here to get a feel at the very least. It seems to make the forward match-up a little more difficult for the opposing teams.

        • Mantastic

          you can have the best coach and the worst players on the earth and you can’t teach them a thing. the players have to be naturally good or work hard enough, it isn’t the coach that makes a bad player good but makes a good player better.

          • Mantastic

            OK so let’s argue that you have a group of absolutely green adults that know absolutely nothing about Hockey. Horrible players, even worse knowledge. They walk into a rink and spend an afternoon with Joel Quenneville. Do you think they will walk out of that rink knowing less about the game and worse than they began? I doubt it. You’d be surprised what certain Coaches can bring out of certain people. Not just in Hockey, but in life. Hockey players are Human. They have skills, but they mean nothing outside of the Team structure. The Coach provides that structure.

            If you think preparing and leading 20 very different people with entirely different skill sets into battle isn’t that important OK. But spend a day checking the discipline out before you assign it such a low level of importance. Hit a rink somewhere and spend the entire day watching practices and how they are run, then stand behind the bench during a game so that you can hear the communication that takes place on the bench. That’s merely the tip of the iceberg for NHL Coaches. I think if you did it you’d be surprised. Like I said it’s a bigger role than your 10%

          • Mantastic

            There’s a difference between the effects a coach can have on beginners, novices and amateurs and the SEPERATION amongst coaches at the NHL level.

            Whatever “value” a coach can add, hold or subtract from an NHL roster, it is a zero sum game.

            It doesn’t break so neatly of course, but around 10 NHL coaches add value, 10 NHL coaches are neutral and 10 NHL coaches subtract value.

            You could replace the 30 NHL head coaches with accountants and the average team would still have a .500 record, 16 teams will still make the playoffs and only 1 team will win the Stanley Cup.

            So is Torts one of those 10 coaches that adds value? Is AV?

            Who knows.

          • Origamirock

            I’m not sure how this is determined with any accuracy. Care to elaborate how these numbers are reached? I think the 10, 10, 10 is oversimplifying by just dividing the league into 3 types of Coaches to seek value. To me it seems far more complicated with a lot more variables and even more intangibles.

            Wouldn’t all coaches just float between the three categories based on record? Or are the stats player driven?

          • Origamirock

            As I said, it doesn’t break so neatly as 10/10/10.

            But it’s a zero sum game.

            So if a coach is adding value, it’s because another coach is subtracting value.

            The regular season and playoffs are also zero sum games.

    • Mantastic

      You are disagreeing with a strawman.

      I am not saying “NHL coaches do nothing!”

      What I am saying is we shouldn’t be attributing abstract concepts like “player development” to coaches without evidence and/or a logical explanation as to why coach X is the key variable.


      “In baseball, the consensus among the statistically set is that managerial strategies aren’t all that important to the outcome of a game. There’s such a lagre selection of samples in the game of baseball that you can figure out the most likely outcome for any forseeable situation based on past results. Even though it doesn’t always happen, as long as the percentages are played, that is to say the manager sets situations up to increase the likelihood of the most positive outcomes possible, then a manager is doing his job as far as strategy goes. But even when he doesn’t do his job, there’s such a large amount of randomness in baseball that he can essentially get away with it.

      Therefore, the talent of the players on a team is vastly more important than the strategies that the manager tries to implement. For further study into this phenomenon, see Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers.”

      Parkes’ logic applies just as well to hockey.

      Could Torts have been the key variable in the development of some of those players? Sure.

      But the same could be said about AV with the core players on the 2011 SCF team.

      In both scenarios, a logical explanation needs to be provided to attribute the development to Torts or AV.

      Same goes for the Mellanson effect.

      Same goes for Gillis running the business well.

      In all likelihood, Torts is not a wizard and any competent NHL coach could have had a similar effect on NYR’s young defenseman.

  • Mantastic


    10% counts for something. And all I’m saying is that you can’t discount the affect a coach can have… at any age. Look at how Ovechkin improved with a new bench boss.

    • Mantastic

      All NM00 is saying is that just because AV and Torts were coaching when Edler and McDonagh became NHL regulars, doesn’t mean that AV or Torts had anything special to do with them in terms of development.

      It’s like if I bit an apple and it started raining…I don’t claim that me biting and apple makes it rain. I need to create a clear, logical connection in order to be able to claim it.

      I tend to think that AV and Torts are both fine at developing young players. I doubt they’re particularly special though. I have nothing to back that up with though.

      • Mantastic

        “I tend to think that AV and Torts are both fine at developing young players. I doubt they’re particularly special though. I have nothing to back that up with though.”

        Pretty much my thoughts too.

  • Mantastic

    For the most part I agree with your analysis, although to be honest I never thought AV was that great a coach. He had very talented teams, that should be in the playoffs and he failed to take them over the top when they should have one. He did nothing to develop younger players and made Edler a basket case in terms of his confidence. He played favourites and never gave Ballard a chance to prove himself (I know it is heresy, but I trusted Ballard gambling more than Bieksa).

    My projections are as follows: Hamhuis and Tanev as a shut down pair. Garrison and Bieksa, which means that Garrison will be rseponsible for dealing with the problems. Edler with Weber, with Weber playing only about 14 minutes and Edler playing almonst the entire power play each time to add to his minutes. PP Edler/Garrison, Edler(Hamhuis)/Bieksa.

    Just my thoughts

  • Mantastic

    If you going to give Edler a more offensive role, why not pair him with Corrado? Tanev isn’t that helpful at that end of the ice and Corrado could be a bit sheltered in his first NHL season. Also, it would make more sense to play Tanev with Garrison if you expect Garrison to have more ice time than Edler.

  • Mantastic

    I am still extremely angry that Torts is the new coach. I do not think he is an upgrade, I do not think he is a better option than Stevens, I do not think he has some magic touch with young guys. Young players- He had better young guys to work with in NY than he will in Van – which is why AV had trouble integrating young guys into the lineup in Van. Defenseman- NYR doesn’t have the defensive depth that Van has, hence the high TOI for 2 guys.

    Unfortunately, Torts is the coach- I’ll have to deal with it, here’s my thoughts:

    I never want to see Edler-Bieksa together, for any reason. Ever again. I never want to see guys playing more than 25 TOI a night. This team is top 10 in MGL to injury ever yr, lets not add to it. Also, Tanev needs increased responsibility.

    Pairings I’d like to see:

    Hamhuis-Bieksa (playing toughest minutes, 22-25 TOI max)
    Garry-Tanev (playing 2nd toughest minutes, mainly EV/SH for Tanev, 20-22 TOI
    Edler-Corrado (playing easiest mins possible. High o-zone, easy comp)

    Edler looked really good in the 2 games he played with Corrado. And if Corrado makes big club next yr, he will need to play sheltered mins. Also, Edler’s best season was in 10/11 when him and Erhoff played some sheltered mins. So it’s a win/win for both d-men next yr.

    Either Hamhuis-Beiksa or Hamhuis-Tanev. The WOWY Hammer/Tanev are crazy good. Either parings would work.

    They need to pick up another lefty d-man, I’d suggest Peter Harrold from NJD. Played rel tough mins there, can be had for about $650K contract, great underlying #’s.

  • Mantastic

    “Hamhuis is one of the best two-way defensemen in hockey”

    Where is Dan the stat man when you need him?

    For a site that promotes stats to back up opinions. this article seems coyly devoid of them.

    The Canucks will be going up against the Sharks, the Kings, and the Ducks for the three top spots in their division with an automatic ticket into the playoffs. I was hoping to see some insight into how the Canucks defence compares to the defence on those teams, and the other top teams in the league. I don’t really care if we have a better defence than the bottom feeders of the league.

    If Luongo decides not to report, I guess we will see how much difference the defence really makes on this team.

  • Mantastic

    Maybe the difference between a good coach and a bad coach is not that one makes a player better than the other, but rather that the bad coach doesn’t provide the opportunity for the player to best succeed (and a good coach does).

    For example, the Bruins have a physical, tough team with good defensive players and their coach has them playing a style of game that uses those skills.

    The Coyotes have a team made up of checkers and cast-offs just looking to stick in the NHL (Phoenix is not the most desirable team to play for in the league). Dave Tippett has his team play a defensive, low risk style of game because of the type of player he has available, and they’ve overachieved. Same with Nashville.

    On the flip side, Toronto was terrible with Ron Wilson, but a coaching change helped the team improve and make the playoffs this year.

  • Fred-65

    If MG wants to develop youngster how come he’s signing border line 7 & 8 defensemen ( Weber ). Rather than giving players like Anderson, Sauve or Polasek a go ? They’ve played their hours in the AHL. At some point you have to fish or cut bait with these guys

    • Fred-65

      The same concept applies to the actual games.

      Each game necessarily has a winner and loser. One winner plus one loser equals zero.

      As I said earlier, you could replace the 30 NHL coaches with accountants and the outcome would be the same.

      Each game would still necessarily have one winner and one loser.

      If one believes the 15 best coaches in the league add a combined 75 wins to their teams, then one necessarily believes that the 15 worst coaches subtract 75 wins from their teams.

      Coaches cannot create wins out of thin air.

      • JCDavies

        I was following you when you were talking about the relative values for coaches and replacement level/values for coaches but you lost me when you tried to turn this into a zero-sum game.

          • JCDavies

            If you apply specific constraints, you can set up a zero-sum situation, there is no doubt. If you wanted to use wins and losses as the sole measure to value coaches, you set up a zero-sum game based on that – assuming you found a way to account for the “loser point” the NHL has been using. You could also create a zero-sum game based on shot blocking if you wanted to.

            Let me propose an alternative model. Let’s say that we have 30 NHL teams that need coaches and, like all NHL teams, are different in their make-up and have different needs from their coach. Let’s also say that we have a group of coaches that are the best in the world. Of course, some of these coaches will be better than others but no other coaches are better than these 30 coaches. Let’s also assume that, being the top 30 professionals in the industry, all 30 coaches are good enough to improve the play of their teams and that because they are human beings, they each have different characteristics and skill sets and they would perform better if they are on teams that match up better with their abilities. For example, that an offensive-minded coach would be able to help a team that has many offensively skilled players than he would be able to help a team with few offensively skilled players.

            Now let’s take these 30 coaches and distribute them amongst the 30 NHL teams in a way the places them in situations that are leased desirable based on their abilities – in situations that don’t match their skill sets. Because these coaches are good coaches (top-30 in the world), they will probably be able to help their teams somewhat but not as much as a more suitable coach would.

            Now let’s take those 30 coaches and shuffle them around and place them in situations that best match their abilities. The more suitable situations will lead to better performance from the coach and from the teams. Teams with offensively skilled players will have a coach that is better able to utilize their offensive abilities and teams with many young players will have a coach that is able to connect with them better. And so on.

            In this model, all of the coaches would perform better when on teams more suited to their abilities and the teams would perform better as well. The ability of one coach to improve that play of his team does not subtract the from the ability of another coach to improve the performance of another team. The result is a net gain in hockey performance when comparing the second scenario to the first. The same coaches; the same teams; a non-zero-sum result. There doesn’t need to be a result where some coaches subtract value from their team because other coaches add value to theirs.

          • JCDavies

            I think you are overthinking this.

            “If you apply specific constraints, you can set up a zero-sum situation, there is no doubt.”

            How exactly can a coach add/subtract value that would not be reflected in the W-L record?

            “In this model, all of the coaches would perform better when on teams more suited to their abilities and the teams would perform better as well.”

            There would still necessarily be a winner and loser of each game. How exactly are you judging improved performance?

            Using the alternative model you propose, think of the potential “effect” a goalie coach can have on team save percentage.

            This is also a zero sum game.

            If all 30 coaches are “improving” team save percentage at the same rate, it stands to reason that all 30 goalie coaches have the same (nil) effect.

          • JCDavies

            You raise a good question. With all the factors that go into winning and losing, perhaps we should question whether wins/losses is an appropriate metric for determining the value of coaches.

            “How exactly are you judging improved performance?”

            Quality of team play seems like an obvious answer here. Team objectives might be another.

          • JCDavies

            “With all the factors that go into winning and losing, perhaps we should question whether wins/losses is an appropriate metric for determining the value of coaches.”

            Please note I am not talking about the team’s W-L record.

            I am referring to a coach’s ability to add or subtract wins which is, of course, impossible to fully measure.

            A team’s W-L record has far, far more to do with the players than whatever “buttons” are being pushed differently from one coach to the next, I’d suggest.

          • JCDavies

            “A team’s W-L record has far, far more to do with the players than whatever “buttons” are being pushed differently from one coach to the next, I’d suggest.”

            Quenneville replaced Savard, Bylsma replaced Therrien, Sutter replaces Murray. All midstream, so basically the same players, different Coach. What happened next?

          • JCDavies

            This is anecdotal “evidence”.

            Rosters change each year. Players may stay the same but enter/exit their primes.

            There is a whole lot of context being left out of your cherrypicking.

          • JCDavies

            More like cherrypoppin’. Anecdotal? Seems to me to be a reasonable sample size of more recent Cup winners. So at least it’s relevant and worth mentioning, as opposed to being ignored for the sake of supporting a contrary opinion.

            EGS, Thanks for the chuckle. Math is easy.

          • JCDavies

            C’mon Ruprecht. Haven’t you figured out that there’s NO possible way a coach is a contributor to the success of a team, even if common sense and any athlete will tell you differently.

            If there’s no mathematical equation for it, it must not be true.


          • JCDavies

            Aside from this being a strawman, NHLers actually suggest coaches are pretty much the same.

            The average NHLer will say he has a “good” coach.

            Hence, all NHL coaches are good. Hence, all coaches are more or less equally competent. Hence, the relative difference between NHL coaches is minimal.

            If we are appealing to the authority of NHL athletes that is.

          • JCDavies

            Once you come to the realization that you are not always going to be right, and that many will disagree with you (sometimes justly, others times perhaps not), you will be able to express your opinion and then just let it go.

            Try going outside and getting some fresh mountain air 😉

  • Origamirock

    Perusing all the comments earlier, I felt I’d like to put in my 2 cents.

    Given this site is metrics/statistically based, I believe that at the end of the day, the players and coaches are human. And that alone, to err is human, and there are emotional biases – on both sides – players and coaches. If both were inhuman and robotic in nature, then it would be easily to categorize coaches as good/bad/neutral. But alas, that is not the case.

    Coaching – I believe the two extremes are coaches who go with underlying metrics to a T vs coaches who go with “gut feeling”. Of course most are of a hybrid of both extremes to some degree. One who biases to going with “gut feeling” alot and has success, can be see as a wizard while those who stick to their underlying metrics and fails, will be seen as unwilling/stubborn to adapt to changing conditions. Metrics also are not infallible. In reference to “lies, damned lies and statistics”, that any metric can be used to bolster one’s argument provided you choose the most seemingly compelling one.

    For example a coach who uses stats will choose to use a metric to support him trusting a certain player in a certain situation (defensive zone faceoff, leading by 1 etc), but if the metric isn’t the right one to use, and he sticks to this belief that this metric is the one to use, the coach is definitely adding negative value in this case.

    I believe the “gut feeling” is the perception in the immediate time frame (ie mid game) or even stretch of games, to go with a certain player for certain situations or to not go with a certain player. I believe that despite it is a bit of a qualitative rather than a quantitative measure, speaks to the debate between using statistics based upon a longer term “what has this player been for me in the past” vs the near term upticking in a player’s effectiveness ie a player getting onto a hot streak.

    Regarding AV vs Torts and their alleged development of Edler and Girardi accordingly – It is totally a correlation vs causation. They both came into their own into the NHL with these coaches, but there clearly are too many mitigating factors to really be able to determine if Torts is a better developer of young talent in the NHL vs AV, or whether or not either of them were adding any significant value to their development and abilities.

    The last thing I will add is – players and coaches don’t necessarily get along and some will respect their coaches more than others… and some coaches just find ways to make their players lose respect for them. There is the truth that certain players respond better to certain coaching styles or even just the coach themselves (pride, age, demeanor etc)

    As much as they state about everyone is professional etc, but how many times have we loathed our bosses because of our perception of them? And some bosses just inspire us work harder and some make us less willing to go to do so.

  • Fred-65


    Ok, some of your analogies are getting a bit ridiculous now.

    Sure, you COULD replace all the coaches with accountants, heck, you could replace them with monkeys if you really wanted to. Somebody has to won or loose so it’s very easy to end up with the results you are speaking of. Don’t you think the caliber of hockey would suffer replacing the people behind the bench? (rhetorical). Don’t try to tell me there wouldn’t be some chaos and poor decisions made.

    And this particular scenario is not a ‘sum of zero’. You’re clearly off your rocker on this one.

        • Fred-65

          It 100% applies.

          Let’s break it down like this. Let’s pretend that every coach does a better job by preventing goals (a simplistic approach, but we can expand this in any direction and get the same result). A better coach will get his team to prevent more goals.

          Now let’s say the average coach in the league gets his team to prevent 10 more goals. That means that ANY coach that isn’t preventing at least 10 goals on his team is creating net-negative value relative to the average coach. Even if you’re coaching your team to give up 8 less goals than they otherwise would have, they’re still 2 goals allowed WORSE than they are with a hypothetical “average coach”.

          Hockey is always a competition. obviously all of these coaches are among the best in the world at their craft. But that’s the problem. Their results are all compared to each other. The 25th best coach in the world is likely the 5th worst coach in NHL 🙁

  • I think the easiest way to show this statistically would be with goalie coaches. They move around often, and we have enough reasonably independant statistics to see if the goalie coach had any impact on performance. It would take a long time, but I bet there are a few coaches out there that improve performance with statistical significance.
    A parallel would be the professors at a top university. These are all the top of their field, so you think they would all be equally good at “coaching” (teaching). However, certain professors have a consistently higher class average when taking tests standardized across the course.
    Ignoring self-selection bias (more reasonable before the advent of ratemyprof), the vast majority of fluctuation between class average is the quality of the professor.
    Yes they are all very good, but some are measurably better at teaching than others.
    In the NHL, there certainly must be some coaches that are measurably better at all aspects… Or there have been. I don’t know if Tortorella is one of them or not, but he could be.
    If we looked at all the young defensemen he has coached in each place, and compared it to league average… That could paint a picture.
    What were the points/game in the first three seasons playing in at least half the games? For players with an NHLe point total of at least x points the year before?
    For first round picks? For undrafted players? And what were the league averages?
    Would there be flaws? Yes, many. For one, NHLe isn’t exactly precise. Two, we can quantify expectations coming into the season.
    This wouldn’t predict with any accuracy how much better we could expect our players to be under Tortorella, but it could tell us if they have a better shift of quick success.

  • My apologies for the wall of text… It was all very nicely formatted but it seems this comments system doesn’t like iPhones.
    The gist of it was, we could certainly see if coaching can have a measurable impact (and I believe it can). We may be able to see if Tortorella can develop defensemen any faster than other coaches.

  • JI123

    You do know the main idea of this article is to size up the defensive core of the Canucks for next season and try to think of how each defenseman will be used… right?

    It is not about how a coach influences young players’ development/career…

  • elvis15

    Didn’t read all the comments, but I think if Corrado sticks he’d be used alongside Edler in 5 on 5 situations. That’d give him more offensive zone starts and Tanev is not as capable as Corrado in the O-zone and won’t likely make the same impact paired with Edler.

    Doing this would also shelter Corrado from too much defensive responsibility. Just as Corrado’s stronger than Tanev in the O-zone, Tanev’s much more capable defensively against NHL’ers at this point. Both have been sheltered to some extent, but pairing their better attributes with players more suited to them might be more beneficial.

    Corrado is still solid enough defensively to cover as needed in case the play switches to the defensive zone but adds more to Edler’s offence (which should be the focus of Edler’s minutes ideally). Garrison pairs with Edler on the 1st unit PP still as mentioned by Angus to take advantage of his shot.

    Tanev can move the puck well enough to help setup players in the offensive zone but is a better compliment to Garrison’s defence (which as a pairing should be the focus of their minutes, although Garrison’s capable of more as mentioned above).

    Both Tanev and Corrado can be used as a cover option for the PP and PK when needed but would get the majority of their minutes 5 on 5.