It’s been six
months since Mike Gillis was relieved of his position as general manager. Now
that we’ve had a bit of time to put away our pitchforks until next spring
and reflect on his tenure, it is becoming clear that the Gillis era was the
Golden Age of Vancouver Canucks hockey.
In September of
2013, the Chicago Blackhawks assigned Ryan Stanton to waivers. As one of the
best run franchises in the league, has developed a habit of consistently
drafting and developing excellent talent, and have been in the habit of gifting
exciting young defensemen away like goody bags at a children’s birthday party.
shrewd waiver pick up by Gillis was met with very little fanfare at the time,
it just may be the last great move of the Gillis era.
Why am I so high
on Stanton? Find out on the other side of the jump.
In the 2013-2014, John Tortorella used Stanton
on the third defensive pair, and his utilization statistics were consistent
with this. Stanton saw zero minutes on the powerplay and his even strength ice time
per game was the lowest amongst Canucks regulars, and consistent with other
third pair defensemen around the league. He also benefited from a greater
percentage of offensive zone starts (Off ZS %Rel) and easier competition (QoC
corsi) than his peers. In short, he was used pretty much exactly how you would
expect a third pair defenseman to be used.
What was unexpected was the way he
performed. At a .529 corsi for%, Stanton had the highest possession rating
amongst Canucks defensemen, and he led Canucks defensemen in points per 60
minutes at even strength. His on-ice shooting percentage was 7.86%, which is
pretty much average for both Canucks defensemen and his peers around the
league, indicating that his team leading points per 60 minutes wasn’t
attributable to luck, or prone to percentage regression.
Looking at his common playing partners, we
see that with the exception of Daniel Sedin, Stanton posted better possession
numbers without his common playing partners than with them, but the numbers
with and without Daniel, and Henrik for that matter, are worth noting. Stanton
played three quarters of the time away from Daniel and Henrik, and during this
time his possession numbers were slightly above average. However, in minutes he
did played with Daniel and Henrik, his possession numbers were north of 60%,
which is very much elite territory, which clearly goes a long way to explaining
his overall strong .529 corsi for%.
*Need help understanding these fancy stats, click here.
When Gillis took a flyer on Stanton and his $550,000
per year contract, I don’t think even the most positive Canucks management would have expected him to do
as well as he did last year. Within the context of the role he was asked to
play, Stanton significantly exceeded expectations across the board.
However, Jason Garrison and his contract were shipped to Tampa Bay over the summer, which means all Canucks defensemen will have to share a
bigger load, and all eyes will be on Stanton to see how he fares when faced
with tougher minutes. Will he be able to build off of the success he had last
year to prove that the glimpses of top four potential we saw are real? Or will
he prove himself to be the type of sound, third pair defensemen, that every
team needs at a reasonable price to fill out their roster?
Stanton is going into the final year of his
two year, $1.1 million dollar contract, so he a huge opportunity to win a big
pay day in the summer. He surprised us all last year. Can he do it again?
Editor’s Note: with a new season comes a handful of new faces to Canucks Army, and some big changes to the blog. We’re expanding our writing team this year and adding a couple of fresh faces, including MoneyPuck, who wrote the fantastic Deep Dive series this past September. Follow him on Twitter here, and stay tuned for more announcements regarding our upcoming season here at Canucks Army. Exciting times!