The Canucks Could Use A Few More Sedins: Line/Tier vs. Team Production

The Sedins have a right to look tired, considering the load they carried for the Canucks last season.
Image via Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck.

Over at NHL Numbers, Travis Yost published a fascinating research piece today, which I figured merited some discussion on this platform. Essentially, he took each Western Conference team’s most regularly used 12 forwards (based on even-strength time on ice), and broke them into 4 tiers. After doing so, he took into account each individual’s corsi (a proxy for possession, but you already knew that), before adjusting it for zone starts. You’ll note that the strength of competition was not factored into this assessment.

But why tiers? Given the amount of line tinkering that goes on over the course of a season – due to injuries, lack of production, or Alain Vigneault simply mistaking his lineup card for a blender – I like the idea of separating the top 12 into tiers, rather than strictly labelling lines 1, 2, 3, and 4. At least for these purposes. Most of the time, the two will line (pun intended) up anyways.

Past the jump we’ll take a closer look at what Mr. Yost found when compiling the numbers for the Canucks, and what it means. I’ll give you a little hint for what to expect: thank your lucky stars that the Sedins are a thing.

When thinking about this analysis, just keep in mind that this is just another way of reviewing what took place last season. It’s not the be-all, end-all, and it’s not necessarily something that we can use to predict future performance. But I do think that it still has value.

Anyways, based on total even-strength time on-ice for the season, the tiers for the Canucks were as follows:

Tier 1: Henrik Sedin (749:48), Daniel Sedin (718:06), Alex Burrows (663:19)

Tier 2: Jannik Hansen (644:30), Mason Raymond (579:59), Chris Higgins (559:34)

Tier 3: Max Lapierre (521:44), Zack Kassian (468:19), Jordan Schroeder (348:24)

Tier 4: Dale Weise (344:02), Andrew Ebbett (308:20), Ryan Kesler (234:43)

Missed the cut: Derek Roy (167:37), Tom Sestito (152:27), David Booth (148:21).

Here’s how things shook out for the Canucks:

There’s three things that stand out right off the bat:

a) It’s reasonable to expect that your top unit would have the most success, but the way things fall apart for the Canucks as you move down their depth chart is rather staggering. What you’ll quickly notice when you scan the numbers for the other teams in the West, is that the best teams – Kings, Blackhawks, Blues, and Sharks – have a level of consistency throughout their lineup. And this makes sense, because after all, having a bunch of players that can play hockey effectively is important.

b) Yet the Canucks were able to stay afloat last season, thanks in large part to their sterling goaltending, and the Sedins, who were once again marvelous. I’ll be the first to admit that I had my concerns about a potential decline heading into the year, and – despite the fact that their point totals (due to various extenuating circumstances) dropped – I couldn’t have been more wrong about it. They did everything you could possibly want from your top guys. The chart below shows that they were not only the cream of the crop last year, but that LA’s top line of Williams-Kopitar-Brown was the only one in their stratosphere.

c) The issue for the Canucks is that their support was for the most part non-existent. Obviously things would look drastically different were it not for the fact that 2/3 of their ideal "2nd tier" missed a combined 67 (out of a potential 96) games. That hurts. But so does the fact that Chris Higgins fell off of a cliff. For the team to make any sort of waves this coming season, they’ll need their AMEX line to round back into form, which will require them to actually stay on the ice. A risky proposition, but one that the Canucks appear to be banking on.

Otherwise, you get what happened last season: guys being asked to move up the depth chart, and play in roles they’re not suited for (the Tier 2 listed above is a fine 3rd line, but if you’re bumping them up like that, you’re just asking for trouble). The Canucks weren’t prepared for injuries last year, and as things stand right now, they’re still just as vulnerable.

I did want to end on a positive note, so I included the graph for Tier 4, just to show that things could always be worse – you could be cheering for the Edmonton Oilers.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Those stats prove the reason the Canucks have been terrible scoring in the playoffs lately is the opposing teams best line and top Dman shut down the Sedins and dare the rest to actually score. Refs swallowing their whistles prevent PP time therefore no scoring. Having Kassian step into the 1st line will give the 2nd line more balance with Burrows Kess and either Booth or Higgins. The rest who knows? The third line has to be tough to play against and draw penalties by staying in the opponents zone, not spending all their time scrambling in their own. Interesting group of reclamation projects youth and holdovers. Torts will have his work cut out to put the peices together. Just like in the article, I am happy AVs blender line up will be gone.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      AV’s blender produced the Sedin/Sedin/Burrows line.

      Which has been a pretty good concoction.

      It’s not fair to expect a coach to make chicken salad out of chicken s***

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        It also produced the Sedin Sedin Hanson line. My problem with AV was his constant in game juggling act. IMO Burrows was bounced around too much. Up with Sedins, then down with 3rd line

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Along with the Sedins and Kesler, the Canucks will need a lot from their goalies this year.

    Here is how the Canucks have ranked by team save percentage (including empty netters) in the Roberto Luongo era. The ranking is followed by the Canucks team save percentage as well as the median save percentage in the NHL:

    2013: 8 (917 – 909)

    11-12: 4 (924 – 911)

    10-11: 2 (927 – 911)

    09-10: 14 (910 – 909)

    08-09: 9 (911 – 906)

    07-08: 8 (913 – 906)

    06-07: 3 (921 – 905)

    Not surprisingly, the Canucks have been above the median every single year in the Luongo era.

    Aside from the last Olympic year, the Canucks have had well above average to elite goaltending every single year.

    In fact, if we adjust Luongo’s save percentage to his career average .919 for this past season, the Canucks would have ended up with a .922 save percentage and a team rank of 4th in the NHL.

    All drama aside, Luongo and Schneider have given the Canucks an elite-level save percentage tandem for the last 3 years.

    And it’s particularly impressive considering how the median save percentage keeps going up aside from last year. This may very well just have been lockout effects.

    It’s also noteworthy that Luongo & Schneider were the only two Canuck goalies to face a shot in the last three years.

    Prior to 2010-11, the Canucks had always needed at least a 3rd goalie to face shots since 2006-07 when Dany Sabourin played 9 games as Luongo’s backup.

    Here are the percentage of team shots Luongo has faced starting with 2006-2007: 91, 86, 65, 79, 71, 63 & 40.

    While Luongo in all likelihood will face more than 40% of shots this upcoming season, the chances of him facing 91% of shots are slim to none.

    Espescially in an Olympic year where Luongo may very well be Team Canada’s starter and with the Canucks playing 17 back to back games.

    For argument’s sake, let’s say Luongo puts up his career average .919 save percentage and faces 80% of team shots.

    Also for argument’s sake, let’s say that non-Luongo goalies face 20% of team shots and put up a .909 save percentage.

    And let’s knock off one save percentage point for empty netters.

    That would give the Canucks a .916 team save percentage.

    If the median team save percentage returns to .911, the Canucks would be 5 points above the median.

    That would represent the lowest save percentage advantage the Canucks have had in the Luongo era aside from the last Olympic year when Luongo posted a sub .900 save percentage after winning the goal medal.

    None of this is predictive obviously.

    Luongo may be better or worse than his career average. Non-Luongo goalies may be better or worse than .909. Luongo may face more or less shots depending on injury and performance.

    But the chances of Luongo having the impact he had in 06-07 when the Canucks were 16 points above the team save percentage median are very slim.

    A .921 save percentage isn’t as impressive as it used to be and Luongo is unlikely to soak up over 90% of team shots.

    To get back into the top 5 team save percentages, the Canucks will either need Luongo to play well above his career average or an elite backup like Schneider was for 2 years.

    Hopefully Eddie Lack is fully healthy, performs well and provides another goaltending controversy.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      Not sure why anybody would be trashing this post, which is very well spelled out.

      Unrelatedly, since I’ve seen you use it a few times, what’s your “10/50/31” referencing? The best I can figure out is the 50th of October, 2031 (when the calendar has gone base-10, like in The Simpsons).

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        10/50/31 refers to the 10 most expensive players on the Canucks (the core) eating up approximately $50 million of the cap with an average opening day age of 31.

        Shorthand for the Canucks being on the other side of the mountain.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    My question is why haven’t the Sun Province or this site done an article on What Kassian is up to this off season? Last year we read about him training with the Sedins and getting in better shape but this off season nada. Kassian is the key to the Canucks forwards this year because his youth size speed hands combo is perfect for a Power Forward on the Sedins line, which can drop Burrows to 2 nd line with Kessler. Kassian can clear room amaze sure no one takes shots at the twins for fear of a gapped toothed Tasmanian Devil coming at them. Unless he gets unfocused and start to glide and turn the puck over. Any news about his training…. Gary Roberts anyone.