Canucks Army Player Previews: Derek Dorsett

When looking at the moves Jim Benning made to insulate Willie Desjardins with familiar faces, it’s reasonable to start with the acquisition of Derek Dorsett from the New York Rangers. It’s often the lost quantity in what was a whirlwind of moves in the days leading up to and during the draft, but that’s not to say it wasn’t lacking in importance.

The acquisition of Dorsett, if nothing else, validated all the talk leading up to and surrounding the beginning of the #Lindenning era. There was a decidedly unusual amount of attention paid to the fourth line by #Lindenning insofar as they paid SOME attention to it at all. It was of course Trevor Linden who wrongly stated that Shawn Thornton was an important player. Similar sentiments were echoed by Benning, who talked ad nauseam of building a fourth line.

It also showcased Benning’s ability to maximize the diminishing return that Ryan Kesler handcuffed management into. It’s often forgotten, but the acquisition of Dorsett is essentially an extension of the Kesler trade; the Canucks used the third-round draft pick they acquired from the Ducks on, you guessed it, Derek Dorsett.

We know courtesy of Scott Cullen’s brilliant research in 2009 that, at best, a pick with the 85th overall selection has a roughly 21% chance of playing 100 games in the NHL during his career. If all goes to plan, Dorsett should see about 82 this season. That’s more than three quarters of the way to a probability based victory for management!

How well will he play in those 82 games? Meet me on the other side of the jump to find out.

2013-2014 Performance

Dorsett1

Dorsett2

Dorsett3

It’s amazing how far depth can get teams that lack top-end talent. Look no further for a great example of this than the New York Rangers of last season. Yes, they had Rick Nash and Martin St.Louis. That said, Nash was a virtual no-show in the playoffs and St. Louis was a literal no-show for the blueshirts until landing with the Rangers at the deadline.

I’m getting somewhere with this, believe me. Former Canucks head coach, Alain Vigneault, was able to use his fourth line last season in New York, much like his third on the Canucks in 2010-11. They saw an astonishingly low amount of offensive zone-starts, which allowed some of his more offensively capable units to feast on favorable deployments. This shows up when comparing the 2010-11 season for Jannik Hansen, to the 2013-14 campaign for Dorsett.

Off. ZS Rel.% Corsi Rel. QoC TOI/60 G/60  A/60
Derek Dorsett 13-14 -24.16 -0.246 10.16 0.46 0.46
Jannik Hansen 10-11 -23.44 0.459 12.02 0.56 1.06

This hardly means that Vigneault saw Dorsett as a comparable player to Hansen, or that he in fact is one. Hansen is a third-liner, Dorsett is not. It does shine a light on the defensive capabilities of Dorsett, though. Especially when it’s taken into consideration that he was driving the possession bus on that fourth line, which included Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle, as the WOWY chart above seems to indicate.

Taking all this into account, it’s easy enough to suggest that Dorsett is going to be a vastly better option defensively than anyone the Canucks sent out on last year’s incarnation of the twelfth fourth line. Offensively, there are considerable limitations to Dorsett’s game that I don’t expect to change at this stage in his career. In fact, Top Sixtito’s five-goals last season would be higher than Dorsett’s totals in all but one season. 

*Need help understanding these fancy stats, click here

2014-2015 Outlook

Dorsett will be playing in an entirely different system, with an entirely different team and in a much more competitive division. Yet, I expect his results this season will be eerily similar to last. Offensively, there’s just very little Dorsett can bring aside from a mean fore-check.

One of the often underrated qualities to Dorsett’s toolbox is his ability to contribute in the neutral zone, though. In this sense, he will be a key contributor in pushing play away from our net and optimizing success surrounding the oppositions. 

While Justin Bourne was doing his “Unique Team Traits” series, he did an interesting post on how New York used their speed to control the neutral zone. In this piece, it was pointed out that Dorsett is near the top in terms of shots per entry on the Rangers:

Lower line players are not oblivious to shots being a positive, and are more prone to the old school “shoot from anywhere” plan (that gets them a back pat on the bench) instead of trying to create a quality chance. This probably explains why Derek Dorsett’s “shots per carry in” looks like like that of Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider, and Brian Boyle’s number (1.18 shots created per carry in) blows all three out of the water. Hell, Boyle and Martin St. Louis blew out the rest of the team in that category (with Boyle finishing just above St. Louis), but…well, I don’t think they’re creating the same thing.

The baseline for goals from Dorsett should be reasonably set at five, and even that seems generous. That said, the beauty of having a player in the bottom-six like Dorsett is that he brings more to the table than offense. Defensively, he could provide from the fourth line what most teams would be happy to get from their third. It provides the coaching staff with flexibility in how they choose to deploy their more offensively inclined lines. There’s value in having facepunchers that can do more than punch faces, and Derek Dorsett is more than a facepuncher.

  • asdf

    Didn’t we also give up 3rd round pick for 2015 in the Kesler trade? I get that Dorsett is an extension of Kesler trade b/c we got a 3rd pick this year to trade with the Rangers who wanted to shed some salary, but not entirely accurate b/c we also gave up 21% chance of picking a prospect who’ll play 100 games in the NHL in 2015. But I like the fact that we’re now going to have a 4th line. Now only if we can get that second line….

    • Mantastic

      For some reason, bloggers continue to reference Cullen’s great work whenever a mid-level pick is used in trade.

      The real question is whether or not there is a cost savings by acquiring Dorsett via trade as opposed to another quality 4th liner via free agency…

      • bossram

        I think people reference it because it is an excellent tool for assessing the opportunity cost of trading a mid- to late-round draft pick.

        Your question, of course, isn’t a question. Dorsett is priced as a bottom-6 tweener; yes, there is a strong likelihood that they could have picked up an UFA for less than Dorsett costs, and have kept the pick.

        On the other hand, Benning’s primary strength is as a scout; and there is no doubt in my mind that Boston scouted the heck out of the Pittsburgh/Rangers playoff series in the expectation that they would face the winner of that series. He may or may not know a random UFA 4th liner, but he would very likely have the complete book on Dorsett; and when Dorset was made available, Benning jumped on the opportunity.

        Basically, I see this trade as a well-researched shortcut to creating a bottom-6 that can take minutes away from the top-6, and hopefully thus improving the top-6’s performance.

        This, plus Miller and Vrbata, suggest to me that Benning is looking at a one- or two-year window with the current core, followed by a rebuild. My gut says that’s reasonable; your mileage may vary (as it frequently does).

        • asdf

          “Your question, of course, isn’t a question. Dorsett is priced as a bottom-6 tweener; yes, there is a strong likelihood that they could have picked up an UFA for less than Dorsett costs, and have kept the pick.”

          1. Yes it is a (rhetorical) question.

          2. You are pretty much validating my point with your second sentence.

          I like Dorsett as a 4th liner.

          And one does not need Cullen’s work (which is great as I said) to realize how little a 3rd round pick is worth.

          Just look at the history of that round of the draft.

          Forget 100 games.

          There are less than a handful of non-replacable players that emerge from that round each year.

          But the implication that JD (and others) make is that the probability of getting a player from a 3rd round pick is low enough that flipping one for a legit NHLer makes sense.

          There are a number of other components of the equation missing (service time/years of team control, salary/cap hit etc).

          “Basically, I see this trade as a well-researched shortcut to creating a bottom-6 that can take minutes away from the top-6, and hopefully thus improving the top-6’s performance.”

          As you note in your second para, they may very well have been able to accomplish the same thing via free agency and keep the pick.

          The “well-researched” is subjective delusion irrespective of Benning’s alleged scouting wizardry…

          “This, plus Miller and Vrbata, suggest to me that Benning is looking at a one- or two-year window with the current core, followed by a rebuild. My gut says that’s reasonable; your mileage may vary (as it frequently does).”

          Well that has been the organizational plan for the last few years and it has failed miserably.

          Benning may not have an alternative path, mind you.

          But it’s not reasonable to try the same thing over and over and expect different results…

      • bossram

        Probably could have had Winnik for equal to or less than Dorsett’s cap hit. And get equal to or better performance.

        If the above are true, then yes, there is a problem paying a 3rd for Dorsett.

  • asdf

    Dorsett started ~10% more of his starts in the offensive zone than Boyle and Moore, so those WOWYs are probably a bit misleading.

    A 4th line of Matthias-Richardson-Dorsett buried in the defensive zone against weak comp will probably do alright, but not that much better than what we’ve had in the past. Expensive 4th line too.