Thoughts on the Canucks disastrous 3-3 start

There really isn’t enough data for us to analyze the Vancouver Canucks season on any level yet, but there seems to be an awful lot of malaise and faux-negativity for the first team since 2009 to record three wins in the first six games:

2014 – 3-3-0
2013 – 2-2-2
2012 – 2-3-1
2011 – 2-3-1
2010 – 2-4-0
2009 – 3-3-0

Ben Kuzma has already noted that the team is sixth in the seven-team Pacific Division. They are a full two points back of a playoff spot right now. Understanably, with just 76 games left in the season, the team is running out of time to make an impression on the Vancouver fanbase that has historically had no idea how to set reasonable expectations for a hockey team.

It’s clear that without young reinforcements, the Canucks are well behind the San Jose Sharks. They won’t be as good or exciting this season, but absolutely nothing that has happened in the first two weeks of the season should be enough to change your overall impression of the club going into this season. If you thought they’d struggle to be .500 and miss out on the playoffs, or if you thought that they’d contend for the Presidents’ Trophy, I don’t think any event in the first six games was particularly unexpected except for the odd bounce or two.

“Puck handling, coverage and exiting the zone have become more tedious than instinctive, and that’s why Bieksa has a team-high six give-aways and why Hamhuis is a shocking minus-4. Then again, Bieksa leads the team in hits (12) and is second in blocked shots (11) to Chris Tanev (15).”

Oh no. Six giveaways for Bieksa. Nevermind that most of the stuff found in the NHL’s real-time stats tracker is absolutely useless, but the worst thing about a ‘giveaway’ is that it doesn’t factor in the number of times a player is controlling the puck. Cruelly, often the best puck handlers in the league are the ones that lead the league in giveaways, earning them scorn among the press row robots get a print-off of an Event Summary at the end of every period.

The thing I’ve found the most fun thing about the Canucks start is that Dan Hamhuis has become the PDO-fuelled whipping boy so far (Pass it to Bulis has already written a take on how quickly media and fans have turned on him). Far from me to comment on Hamhuis play this early. Again, it’s early, but the “shocking minus-4” shouldn’t be particularly shocking when you consider Hamhuis has the fifth-lowest PDO in the NHL among defencemen, per Behind the Net, at 88.5 to begin the season. That would place him approximately six standard deviations below the mean (calculated from this list of regular defencemen in 82-game seasons), if Hamhuis were to finish the season with Canuck goalies stopping just 81% of pucks behind them.

Whatever the reason behind Hamhuis’ “shocking minus-4”, it’s stunning to me that after a couple of years of PDO being fairly mainstream to the point that pro writers are aware of it enough to comment about it sarcastically, it’s not ever brought up as a possibility for shocking fast or slow starts. During my “audition” to Replace the Kurtenbloggers back in the fall of 2011, I wrote about Kevin Bieksa’s then-shocking minus-8 after 14 games, and how he had a PDO of 93.1. To nobody’s surprise, Bieksa went +20 the rest of the way and his PDO finished at 100.6.

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If you thought the team was a 40-win team in the preseason, they’re the same team. If you thought the team was a 50-win team in the preseason, they’re still the same team. Again, there’s not enough of a sample of data to adequately judge the group going forward and it seems like they’re putting up shot rates similar to the Vigneault-led Canucks. If you thought Dan Hamhuis should be considered for the Olympic team, and now you don’t based on six games worth of plus-minus data, there is something wrong with your thought process. 

I get that the Canucks aren’t as young and exciting as they once were, but at this point it’s simply too early in the new coach’s tenure as well as too early in the season to be overly concerned or optimistic about… anything, really. Not every game needs to be analyzed in excruciating detail, and the fluid impressions you generated 10 games in a season evaporate by the 30-game mark. Seasons are simply too long to worry about every turnover, own goal or blunder resulting in a loss.

Just watch the games. Sports are supposed to be fun, innit?

  • C’mon, Cam. This is a Vancouver Canucks hockey blog. Nobody here thinks sports are any fun. The only result is soul-crushing despair, one way or another.

    Fun? You talking about FUN?!?!

    A slight modification of Dr. Strangelove’s famous title would seem appropriate for all too many Canuck fans, replacing “bomb” with “games”, methinks.

  • Seems to me based on the eye test that the Canucks are better this year. It seems like they are winning more of the puck battles and are getting all sorts of chances. The puck luck just isn’t there yet.

    Plus two losses to a team that is absolutely destroying everyone early on (San Jose) isn’t that shocking. If the Canucks were the only team to lose to them that badly then I’d be concerned but SJ is doing that to everyone.

    • andyg

      I heard that before…forty years ago. I bet I’ll hear that again when the Canucks stink again during the play offs, if they even make it there this year. LOL

  • In addition to that, the third loss goes against a Montreal Canadiens team behind an unreal performance by Carey Price. That team is no slouch either.

    I think we’ll be able to dispatch the bad teams, win some against the better teams, but will lose more often than not against the elite teams. We aren’t one of the “elite” teams any more, but the season is going about it as it should.

    Good call, Cam.

  • The measure of a team’s potential success shouldn’t be after six measly games. The 20 game mark always has been a staple for measurement, because hot teams cool off, cool teams warm up and the neutrals — they stay neutral baby. Nothing ever seems to change for them.

    What is clear to me so far is that Kesler hasn’t been very good so far. I haven’t found much to be happy with in Hamhuis play. And Roberto Luongo looks like he’ll be up and down (in a variety of iterations, including emotionally) once again this season.

    On the plus, the Canucks could have a resuscitation project actually work out for them in one Mike Santorelli. The Sedins have been good and David Booth hasn’t killed a bear yet.

    All in all it’s a meh start.

  • I’ve always wondered if the unrealistic expectations held in the Vancouver market would be so extreme if the club had won a Stanley Cup at some point.

    I really think the tendency to angrily jump on and off the bandwagon like people do in Vancouver is an extention of the fact that people really just want to see Vancouver win a cup, and the first sign that they seem to be failing, “yet again we’re disappointed” is one of those things that festers in the back of Vancouver fans’ minds.

    That being said, I agree, it’s 6 games into an 82 game season…I mean…c’mon folks. But at the same time, I understand the disappointment.

  • andyg

    So now that they have won the first game of the road trip you can all expect them to go 7 and 0 on this trip.

    Nothing else will be good enough.

    Schroeder is our lucky charm!