Hot take: The Canucks don’t dive enough

Fun story in the New York Daily News that ran Thursday, or at least a story with a fun quote from John Tortorella:

“I know the reputation from the outside looking in, when I wasn’t coaching here, everybody outside thought Vancouver dove and did some whining,” Tortorella said, according to “Our team is not going to dive. Our team has already been talked to. We’re not going to dive. I don’t think there is much whining going on either.

I can’t speak to the reputation that the Vancouver Canucks have created over the last few seasons, or whether they earned it or not. Every team in the NHL dives, and some teams dive more than others, and that’s okay. It’s usually more of a reflection of the player than an organizational philosophy. What some teams do well, without diving, is draw a lot of penalties. Getting powerplays is good. No team, not even the Canucks with an awful powerplay to start the season, generates fewer goals per 60 minutes on the powerplay than while at even strength. Failing having players that can generate penalties a lot, here’s the solution: Dive More. Take the fall, act hurt, get indignant.

This penalties issue has become a Real Thing over the last couple of days. It’s been brought up often by John Shorthouse and John Garrett on the Sportsnet broadcasts, plus last night’s poll question on the late Team 1040 show:

Closer to a), I feel. Before the season started, I noted that some recently-deposed Canucks, including Mason Raymond and Keith Ballard, were both very good at drawing penalties. Ballard, as a defenceman, drew 10 penalties, and as a Canuck, drew 35 calls and took 30, according to Behind the Net. Defencemen are rarely positive when it came to penalty differential, but Ballard, through all his warts, was. (To get raw drawn penalties number at Behind the Net, you have to visit the “old site”)

As for Raymond, one of the most obvious things about his decline post-back injury is that he was no longer drawing calls. The Canucks never really replaced Raymond and he turned into an obvious project player as he struggled down the stretch last season at both defence and offence. 

Powerplay opportunities per game for the Canucks, since 2007:

  PPO/Game (Rank)
2007 4.96 (11th)
2008 4.50 (8th)
2009 4.35 (10th)
2010 3.96 (5th)
2011 3.61 (11th)
2012 3.51 (8th)
2013 3.44 (12th)
2014 2.98 (30th)

The Canucks were always in the top half of the league under Alain Vigneault. Does this have more to do with an organizational shift or something that the Canucks’ front office has overlooked when acquiring players? If you scroll through a list of leaders in penalties drawn over the last several seasons, you’ll find that there are some noteworthy divers (Dustin Brown) and some goal-scorers that always have the puck (Jeff Skinner, Steven Stamkos) and the occasional enforcer. But few Canucks. David Booth is the only Canuck that cracks the Top 40 for the Canucks in penalty differential between the years 2011-2013.

Check the early 5-on-5 drawn penalty leaders on the Canucks. Daniel Sedin, who has been consistently better than Henrik over the past six seasons (and possibly before that) is one of two Canucks that have drawn more than two powerplays. The other is David Booth, and that guy has gone done and got himself bit by the injury bug again.

In summary…

  • The individual players on the Canucks have never drawn a lot of penalties
  • The Canucks, to generate more powerplays, need to tip the scales in their favour
  • The current roster, with Booth out, has just one player in Daniel Sedin that is drawing calls
  • To tip the odds, the Canucks must dive

Diving does not have to be a dirty word. Maybe some embellishments. If the team is going to have a diving reputation, they may as well benefit from the extra penalty calls that come with the diving territory.

No Suspension for Frans Nielsen headshot on Kesler, because Kesler dove

  • “If the team is going to have a diving reputation, they may as well benefit from the extra penalty calls that come with the diving territory.”

    Will consciously trying to dive more actually help the Canucks penalty differential?

    Why not just suggest the Canucks try and outscore the opponent…

    • Before this season, I’d agree with you. But they’re 7-4-1, having played a quality possession game and they’re getting over 4 PKs for every PP. When we do draw penalties, they’re either fighting majors, barely served like last night’s 12 second PK for NJ or calls that are instantly nullified with soft calls so refs beef up our PP count.

      But I also disagree with Cam, diving won’t help. Guys are getting hauled down and beat up all game, every game. The attempts by officials to make the penalty differential less substantial are transparent. They’ve been told what to do and they’re doing it. 6 minutes in the box for Henrik was a clear message about how the Canucks can expect to be treated.

      • To be clear, I’m not saying the Canucks don’t deserve more penalty calls in their favour.

        It’s this non sequitur that I find curious

        “To tip the odds, the Canucks must dive”

        Cam doesn’t do the work to back this up or even provide a logical explanation for why diving is going to improve the Canucks penalty differential.

        And whose to say the Canucks haven’t been pushing the boundaries of embellishment already?

        This post adds nothing new to the conversation…

        • I’d have to agree with you on this. If the refs are looking the other way on Canucks who have drawn penalties, my guess is that it’s less of a secretive decision of the Refereeing Cabal in Witgenstein, and more a series of less experienced refs not wanting to be made the fool of by a dive.

          Why? Referees rarely get reprimanded for missed calls; they are expected to use their judgement. They are, however, reprimanded for rewarding dives. The natural extension of that is that if a team has ‘too many divers’ on the roster, they will get no love from the zebras.

          Diving, embellishment, will make it worse, not better.

  • The Canucks are the jerks that got that diva Auger fired. We’re never going to have a properly officiated game until the entire current crop of referees are retired. Make up calls for Auger.

    Plus the officiating seems even more inept than usual this year. When you have Don Cherry verbally attacking Ron McLean for how horrible the linesmen are then you know something is up.

  • We have a bad reputation. We are trying to get away from that reputation…. But even though we aren’t diving, the refs are still looking for it. We can either start to dive again, and things will even out, or we could… You know… Be honest about it and re-establish a good reputation and then the calls will even out again.

    • The devil is in the detail with “re-establish a good reputation.” The Canucks have not been worse than other teams with regard to diving this season, or last year’s shortened season, or the season before. Maybe (or maybe not, it’s so subjective) there were one or two players who dove more than the rest of the team; but most teams have those.

      So if the refs are looking for dives thanks to an old reputation, they will see dives.

      Even people who self-identify as Canucks fans will see dives in very subjective video footage and post solemn, authoritative pieces stating as definitive fact, “It’s simple. [The player] dove,” after having his head “brushed” as another player skated past, when the video could really be read several ways (and no mention at all of the other player’s arm coming up off his stick).

      I’m saying it’s a Catch-22: once well-meaning people have established to themselves that a player or team “is” a “diver”, that’s what they’ll see, that’s what they’ll report, so the team’s reputation can’t change within any reasonable length of time.

  • Penalty differential is a fair measure of how the game in general is going. Teams who are dominating a game generate lots of penalties. This is because they are working harder or skating faster or passing better than the other team. Penalties are often a sign that the offenders are tired or frustrated. With the exception of the Buffalo game, I can’t think of an example of a game where Vancouver has dominated the other team (just look at how close the scores are).

    • So if thats the case then shouldnt the Canucks PP to PK ratio be pretty close to equal? The Canucks may not have overwhelmed many of their opponents (although Edmonton and Buffalo come to mind) but they havent been dominated in many games either (perhaps the 3rd periods of the Sharks and Blues games).
      The Canucks have very good possession numbers, and possession equals penalties, yet they are not there.