What Would You Do Wednesday: The Powerplay

Welcome to a new feature here on Canucks Army and all sites on the Nation Network: What Would You Do Wednesday, where we put you, yes YOU, in charge of your own imaginary Vancouver Canucks. We’ll present you with a different scenario each week, and you tell us how you’d solve it in the comments section below. Give props to the answers you do like and trash the ones you don’t. Easy! So let’s get started:

First off, our winner from last week’s WWYDW: reader JDM with an 80% approval rate –

The other question is as to what the matchups look like. Too early to tell after one home game.
But yeah, I’m not a fan of the defensive usage. Same with PK time. Give the twins a ~70% o-zone start rate. Use Brad Richardson or Bo Horvat (during his 9 games, at least) as your defensive faceoff guy.
I will note that Willie had Matthias and company out against the Oilers’ top line a number of times on Saturday. I like that strategy – create a checking line, whose job is to not let the other team’s best players score. Likely, this will be Matthias / Richardson / Dorsett. Use Burrows / Bonino / Higgins to supplement that. Have the Vey line and the Sedin line eat up the sheltered minutes.

Now, on to this week’s topic: the first unit powerplay.

The Canucks man advantage unit started off the season very well, firing at a 30% clip in two games against Calgary and Edmonton, before going 1/13 in the last three. Part of this is regression, but part of this is also that the man advantage doesn’t quite look as dangerous as it did through the preseason.

Of course, this mini slump also coincides with Vancouver’s coaching staff attempting to load up the first unit powerplay with right-handed shots. In a way, this move should make sense. The Canucks’ best puck mover and PP quarterback is Henrik Sedin, who operates from the half-wall on his off side, with Daniel not too far away hovering around the net and behind the goal line. Playing a type of 1-3-1 setup, three right handed shooters give the Sedins more options for quick one-timer options.

The problem with this theory is that Vancouver’s best powerplay defenseman is Alex Edler, who shoots left. Edler also had his best success on Vancouver’s powerplay when he wasn’t playing as the high man in a 1-3-1, but rather as the weak side D who would sneak in for back door plays, while Christian Ehrhoff manned the top position. Radim Vrbata is currently playing that position though, and with 4 goals and 25 shots through 5 games, he’s not going anywhere.

So what should the Canucks do? Should they keep trying for a right handed shooter on the first powerplay unit? If so, who? Kevin Bieksa has the longest track record of scoring among Canucks right-handed D, but what’s the purpose of Yannick Weber if not to be a PP specialist? Chris Tanev has also looked like he’s capable of reading the Sedins cycling game, and is a reliable puck mover, so should he be given the opportunity to play on the first powerplay? Or are the Canucks just overthinking things by not having their best offensive defenseman on the ice with the Sedins? Let us know what you think below!

Also, a reminder to send your questions our way for the Sunday Morning Mailbag. You can tweet your questions to myself (@Thats_Offside) or the official @CanucksArmy account with the hashtag #CAmailbag, or email them to me at thats.offside.hockey(at)gmail.com. We’re looking forward to hearing from all of you!

  • bossram

    I would lean towards throwing out a first unit of Sedins, Vrbata, Edler, and Weber. If not Weber, keep Vey there, but I feel like Weber gives this unit that hard right-handed shot and a guy who is good with the puck, so Weber is a better option than Vey in my opinion.

    I would then follow with a second unit composed of Bonino, Higgins, Vey, Kassian, and Bieksa. This would give the line at least one crasher and banger in front of the net in Bonino, and Kassian if he ever feels like using his size. Higgins can shoot and even dangle at times, Vey and Kassian can pass, Bieksa can shoot from the point. It gives them multiple options.

    Honestly, Bonino and Burrows don’t seem very to read each other very well. It almost seems like Burrows is used to playing without the puck.

  • andyg

    I think Horvat can solve a lot of the Canucks 3rd line problems and at the very least win face offs and be able to play with Kassian.

    1st PP Unit
    Vrbata H. Sedin D Sedin

    Tanev Edler

    2nd Unit
    Bonino Vey Kassian

    Horvat Bieksa

  • andyg

    I don’t understand the reluctance to play Weber on the PP in the few games that he makes it into. I can understand why he wouldn’t be a regular player unless injuries force him into the lineup but when he’s in there it is mystifying why both the previous and the current coaching staffs don’t utilize him. I also have serious doubts about the 4F 1D set up the Canucks go back to time and again — they rarely seem to work. I’d rather keep Edler and Tanev as the first PP D with the Sedins-Vrbata as the forwards. For the second unit Kassian, Vey, Burrows, Hamhuis and Weber/Sbisa. I say that only because I hate having Bieksa on the PP, he always circles back into his own end and loses the puck and never shows an ounce of urgency.

  • bossram

    The 1-3-1 set Willie is trying to employ does rely somewhat on having a RH player at the top. They’re essentially aping Washngton’s PP, with Vrbata in the OV spot and Vey playing the Brouwer slot presence.

    One of the keys for Washington’s set though is that their PP QB is usually Green or Carlson and they’re both right-handed. When they take a pass from the right-wall (where Hank/Danny would be for us) they’re immediately on their forehand and can throw a quick shot/one timer on net that Brouwer can make a play on, OR quickly and easily slide it over to Ovechkin for the one timer.

    For us, if Edler is the QB when he receives a pass, he can’t shoot right away or throw it to Vrbata right away for the one-timer. He has to make a shift and put it on the forehand first. This takes away a lot of the speed from a potential shot or Vrbata back-door play and allows PKers the extra second to get into position. This shift will also probably result in a few more fumbles and misplays at the blueline.

    Now as for who I’d put there, if we are going to continue this PP setup, I would prefer a RH player there. But I don’t think Bieksa or Tanev are really smooth enough for the role. If you’re going to dress Weber and be afraid to use him at ES, you may as well use him in his only strength. So in the 1-3-1 we run, I’d use Weber.

    BUT I think it’s probably more important to put your best PP players on the PP. I think a better solution would be to tweak the system somewhat and get Edler out there. He is our best PP pointman. Maybe run more of a traditional umbrella set up.

  • I like the first unit setup, but would ensure Edler is on the point while swapping Kassian in for Vey in the slot position. It’s working, I just would rather have Kass on it.

    Second unit should just be Higgins / Bonino / Burrows / Hamhuis / Bieksa. Familiarity wins out, with the emphasis being point shots (not necessarily clappers, just shots through) and rebounds, deflections, in-tight plays. The main thing they need there is to get the zone with possession, this is the one thing our second unit never manages to pull off.

  • andyg

    PP 1 Umbrella with stem

    Vrbata on left, D. Sedin low move to net, H. Sedin on half wall. Vey in upper slot, Edler shifting along blueline depending on where Vey and Vrbata are. Second unit, Higgins, Bonino, Kassian, with Burrows up high on left and Weber (when playing) or Tanev on right point. Burrows is able to play defense, so he is good in that role and has good hockey IQ. I would not use Bieksa on the Power play ever, he loses focus too much and gambles too much. Sbisa or Hamhuis could fill in but they are not pp thinkers. I think the right handed point desire is overrated,

  • I’d prefer Edler be put back up there but if the team really wants a right-handed shooter, then I want to see Weber get a shot.

    With him finally in the lineup due to Stanton’s injury, it’s a good time to try him there. Bieksa is a mixed bag, he takes his chances but is quite risky.

    Tanev on the other hand is smooth and can read off the play but he doesn’t have a shot that is respected by opposing defenders. Without the threat of a point shot, it allows the opposition to focus on taking away Henrik’s space.

    Weber showed that he has a good shot last year and is known as a PP specialist. It makes too much sense to not try it.

  • Trade for another right handed D man that could be used on thefirst unit powerplay they need the depth on defense . They have lots of prospects, drafts pick, an extra forward and goalies that could be included as part of a package

    • Yeah but the Canucks don’t want to pay him the amount he asked.

      They want to spend their money on real contributors, like Burrows, Luongo, Edler, The fragile Sedins and the rest of the plumbers.

      They got no money left over for anything good. Heck they even got rid of a sc coach, all in favor of Linden.

      The franchise hates winning with a passion greater than Liz Tailor in heat.

      • bossram

        You see those ppl who trash my comment? Those are the real reasons why the Canucks haven’t won a god damn thing is over 40 years.

        Not only do they hate winning, they hate anyone who tells them how wrong they are. They hate to admit it even when 4 decades of failure stares at them in the face. They hate winning, period. So trash this comment and look in the mirror after and see the real reason why the Canucks will never win the cup.

        losers love losing and losers hate winners.
        Better tel Linden that being the prez of a franchise involves something more than selling thigh-masters. Hahahaha!

  • I agree that Weber should be on the PP when he is in the lineup. The only problem is that he won’t get the regular reps in practice throughout the season when everyone is healthy.

    I wonder if stats bloggers who use the concept of regression without understanding it will still get hired by NHL teams. Prediction: yes.

    • Trying hard is for olympic or tennis athletes who won’t get paid if they don’t win.

      You’re talking about guys who are guaranteed money long before they step out on the ice.

      Then on top of that you’re talking about the Canucks… a franchise who cares more about looking exciting on the ice than actually winning something.

  • bossram

    Got to have Edler on the 1st unit. Since Erhoff left, he’s 3rd in PP goals among all defensemen in the league, top 10 in P/60 etc. (at least 500 PP mins). We have two right shooters on that unit now anyway so the focus should be Edler>>>>>Weber rather than right shot/left shot.

    2nd unit: Kassian, Higgins, Bonino, Hamhuis, Weber(Bieksa).

  • Orpo

    I honestly believe the Canucks issues on the power play isn’t the defenceman that they use but the Sedin’s themselves. They think too much, and try to hard to make the pretty play. They need to simplify things and they have to move the puck more quickly and crisply.

    Too often this season I’ve witnessed the Sedins cycle the puck behind the net and along the half wall between themselves while everybody else is watching them. Hank gets the puck on the half wall and all 9 players on the ice are standing still because the puck isn’t moving anywhere. If we look back to 2011 as the bench mark for a dominant power play, the one thing the Canucks excelled at was puck movement. If you watch a majority of their powerplays from 2011 their passes were quick, crisp, and one after the other – the puck never stopped moving. They forced teams to move around and get out of position opening up shooting lanes. This version of the Canucks power play does not do this very well at all. Until they start moving the puck around better, it doesn’t matter who they put on the point, they will not score many.

  • Orpo

    If I could block posts from certain ip addresses, I wouldn’t have to read the drivel posted by @bike lanes suck. Maybe the crummiest trolling I’ve ever seen. Unimaginative AND poorly worded, it’s just like *yawn*

  • Orpo

    Firstly, the 1-3-1 PP is really not set up for a cannonading point shot generating tip-ins, rebounds, & deflections. The point man’s responsibilities are zone retention (ie: not letting the puck skip over the blue line), puck distribution, and quickly getting the puck in play. Playing point on this PP exposes more of Edler’s weaknesses (lateral movement, strategic thinking, big wind-up) than capitalizing on his strengths (strength, speed, shot, accuracy).

    Secondly, the assertion that Alex Edler is our best PP guy is arguable. I agree that Edler *should* be the best, and he does put up points. But he’s a gun, not a QB. His problems integrating with Coach D’s PP really stem from this; a true PP QB defenceman could run this unit, leftie or rightie.

    Frankly, to fix this PP, I’d try to move Edler for Brian Campbell (we have the cap space), a middle-6 F prospect, and the remaining cap coverage on Luongo.

    But if the intent is to utilize Edler better on the PP, I’d switch up what we’re doing to an “umbrella” PP, with one of the low F’s as net presence & one behind/beside the net as a low QB/backdoor play.

  • Orpo

    I’ve liked the powerplay option with vey rather than having the second D, but I still think they need that point shot option. What ever happened to that set play where the sedins would pass it from behind the net to the half wall and then to middle of the circle where the D would be coming in for the one timer? Used to see salo score from there quite often on the pp. Then now you have the vrbata option plus vey and that point shot.

  • Chungus

    1st Unit: Sedins, Vrbata, Vey, Edler

    I think Vrbata’s going to have less and less time to make a play because the powerplay is looking predictable. When Vrbata gets the puck on that left side, his only real option is to shoot. Vrbata is in a perfect position to set up a one-timer from the point for Edler. I expect there will be less traffic in front of the net with defenders being occupied with the rest of the squad. This squad will operate pretty much the same as what we’ve seen except with an added weapon in Edler.

    2nd Unit: Burrows, Bonino, Kassian, Hammer, Juice

    Burrows would be great causing havok in front of the net but he’s an all around great possession guy. Kassian is a bit of a risk, but I think he’s tough along the boards and can retain possession. Hammer is there to be defensively responsible. I expect Bonino to play a similar role to Vey in trying to get open in the slot area. Juice can provide a powerful shot from the point (as long as he can actually hit the net ffs) and he can pinch when necessary. If Kassian isn’t working out, I wouldn’t hesitate to swap him out with Higgins.

    Thanks for reading.