The Dan Cloutier era

Now Dellow has done it. That darned Toronto lawyer has gone and posted possession data from 1997 to 2007, which is excellent if you want to kill a few hours and/or scream loudly about how things went for Vancouver in the early 2000s.

Let’s look up the Canucks’ shots for rate each year, find their league rank, and compare it to that of their playoff opponents:

Canucks Lost to Beat
2000-01 52.9% (7th) COL 53.0% (4th)
2001-02 53.1% (7th) DET 54.4% (4th)
2002-03 51.8% (10th) MIN 45.3% (26th) STL 53.6% (6th)
2003-04 51.6% (14th) CGY 53.3% (6th)

It always felt like the Canucks’ best opportunity to win a Stanley Cup wasn’t in 1994 or even 2011, but rather 2003-04 was the one that really got away for the Canucks. Had they managed to knock off a powerhouse Minnesota group and their 26th-ranked Corsi in the NHL, next was 24th ranked Anaheim and their 48.1% shots for rate.

Oh well.

What I found really interesting, however, is what the possession data tells us about the Canucks between the years of 1997 and 2006. I don’t really care about 06-07 because by then, the team was completely different and built around Roberto Luongo. 97 to 06, however, was all about the rise and fall of the West Coast Express:

canucks wce possession

Isn’t that interesting? If Tyler’s data is correct, the Canucks probably peaked a year or two before people expected they did. The 2000-2001 team was the first to make the playoffs after a devastating three four-year absence. That was not only the year that Mark Messier ditched Vancouver and went back to New York, but also the Sedins’ rookie year, the first year Markus Naslund scored 40 goals, but most importantly, the day the Canucks traded Adrian Aucoin to Tampa Bay for Dan Cloutier.

To see the Canucks as a 52% possession team that won 30 and 36 games in those first two years of the Sedins in the NHL, well… back in the day nobody was talking about Cloutier’s .894 or .901 save percentages those years. Save percentages have risen now, but both marks were well below the NHL average, at least 12 goals worse than the average SV% during those years, per Hockey Reference.

As a result, the Canucks entered the playoffs with a low seed in each year and got clobbered in four straight by better teams in both respective years. The Canucks put up a hell of a fight against Detroit in 2002 and after the hot second half, it looked like the best was yet to come for Vancouver.

But these numbers disagree. In fact, had this data been around sooner, we may have expected that Dave Nonis’ squad for the first post-lockout season would disappoint. It’s much easier to make that prediction now, but they were underwhelming all year, goalie or no.

Maybe tomorrow at the Pint (yes, I’ll be there. Buy your ticket) I’ll wear my old Cloutier jersey. How young, impressionable, and stupid I was.


Tales of regression: The 2002 Vancouver Canucks

  • acg5151

    The spreadsheet data is SF% not Corsi% fwiw.

    Interesting to look at the data and have it line up with memory.

    I can recall thinking “if only the Canucks had a goalie like Luongo” during the WCE years they could have been a legit contender.

    The real tragedy of 2011 is that the team had basically everything (offense, defense, goaltending, special teams) for a fleeting moment.

    And then it was gone…

  • acg5151

    It’s funny how the early 2000’s team was up to that point the best we’d ever really had. It’s a shame Burke couldn’t have gotten us a real goalie.

    Imagine if we had Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish in 2000 instead of Florida and we’d had Lu since the beginning. It would have been amazing.

  • acg5151

    Fantastic, Cam, thanks for doing this. That loss to Minnie was unbelievably painful. (Though it was the audition for Willie Mitchell, who basically hacked Bert to bits.) I agree with the spirit of the above comments. A lot of people kept saying that Cloutier was a “3 time 30 game winner” and stuff like that. Smarter people who I read kept saying that Burke needed to find a goalie, and it was his great failing as Vancouver’s GM back then.

    • acg5151

      IMHO, from what I remember of that playoff series a decade ago, Cloutier wasn’t the only problem.

      I’m not saying he was Vezina-worthy by any means. But the skaters had a LOT to do with blowing that 3-1 series lead.

      The Wild executed their game plan night in and night out. And the Canucks got easily flustered, lost their confidence, and ran around out of position, taking stupid penalties and leaving Cloutier out to dry.

      Yeah, he should have made a few more saves. But lest we forget, Brent Sopel was one of our shutdown Dmen at the time. Jovo had free reign from Crawford to play roamer and just chase the puck and force the play no matter how it left Malik exposed. And Morrison was the only player on the WCE that consistently back checked, etc

      So yeah, I’m not trying to compare Cloutier to Luongo in terms of on-ice performance.

      But comparing Cloutier to Luongo in terms of being made a scapegoat for the sins of the entire team in a playoff loss? Yeah, that sounds around right.

  • acg5151

    To be fair to Burke’s time in Vancouver, the Canucks were under tight financial constraints during the McCaw years with a low Canadian dollar and, in light of that, the turnaround from both a financial and W-L perspective were espescially impressive.

    And, of course, he and his AGM built the core of the best Canuck team ever…

    Fun fact: prior to the full season lockout, the only two goalies with 3 seasons in a row of 30+ wins were Mr Brodeur & Dan the Man…

    • acg5151

      Best team ever? Move on brother, 44 years of this team taking the piss has really warped your standards. The team is already a 44 year old cup virgin, why bother screwing the fat ugly chick now? You guys have waited for your princess in the slammer for so many years, why sell yourself short and have a bromance with the ugly cell mate after you’ve waited all these years?

      Standards man, standards!