A Trip Down Memory Lane: What Happened to Michel Ouellet; Was Byron Ritchie Really That Bad?

Last night (or early this morning to be more accurate) while spinning my wheels on a post about how wonderful Chris Tanev is, I got caught up in taking a look back at fringe obscure Canucks to see how they performed at the very beginning of the Behindthenet era. 

Had we been around to whine about fancystats back then, were there any guys that would’ve been fancystats darlings? How about guys that were so horrible they would’ve made Luca Sbisa look like a good player? Join us after the jump as we take a trip down memory lane and look at three former Canucks through the lens of fancystats.

Michel Ouellet

Ouellet is currently 33 years old and plays for the Thetford Mines Isothermic of the LNAH, which is quite a fall from grace for a once proficient middle-6 scorer. The Canucks acquired the winger in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning along with Shane O’Brien just before the 2008-09 season, sending Lukas Krajicek and Juraj Simek the other way. O’Brien was the centrepiece of the deal at the time and had a much longer Canucks career, which is odd because Ouellet’s performance in the years previous suggested he was a high-end second liner at the very least.

In 2007-2008, the first year of the Behindthenet era (which is as far as our data allows us to go back), Ouellet was very, very good on a relatively poor Tampa Bay Lightning team. He scored 17 goals and added 19 assists and was Tampa Bay’s 5th leading scorer while playing mainly on a line with Mathieu Darche and Jan Hlavac at 5-on-5. Ouellet’s 1.82 points/60 were good for 110th in the NHL, which was an above average 2nd line rate at the time didn’t appear to be inflated by overly favourable percentages either.

What was more impressive was that Ouellet and Hlavac were Tampa’s best possession players, each sporting a Corsi% north of 54%. This helped Ouellet carry a 61.5% GoalsFor% on a team that was a 41% GoalsFor% team with him on the bench. In a bizarre move, the then 26-year old Ouellet was waived after that season and dealt to Vancouver in the O’Brien deal as a throw-in. He was basically David Perron the year prior, so every indication should have been that the Canucks were getting an absolute steal. Instead, the Canucks gave him three NHL games (in which he had a 63.4% Fenwick while bouncing around the lineup) before they buried him in Manitoba, never to see the light of day again. After kicking around Europe, Ouellet was unable to catch on with another NHL team.

Mark Mancari

The towering Mancari was always a very high-calibre AHL scorer that hovered on the fringes of NHL duty because he was so damn slow. Mancari’s tenure as a Vancouver Canuck was largely regrettable and forgettable, but he was a low risk gamble for Mike Gillis to make that cost the team nothing but $525,000 in salary. The gamble looks better when you consider that Mancari had shown well in parts of three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres before inking that deal too.

Mancari saw action in 7 games in 2008-09 and 6 more in 2009-10, posting Fenwick percentages of 58.2% and 61.7% respectively. He finally got a more extended look in 2010-11, scoring 8 points in 20 games with a depressed 6.52% on-ice shooting percentage and posting a 54.2% Fenwick. He played the vast majority of his time with Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe, and seemed to demonstrate some NHL ability despite being slow as a snail drowning in molasses.

In 6 games with Vancouver, Mancari actually showed a glimmer of play driving ability, despite being buried in the defensive zone by Alain Vigneault and played with possession anchors like Max Lapierre, Dale Weise, and Manny Malhotra. His 51.9% Corsi in just 49.5 minutes of ice time wasn’t enough to earn him an extended look on the fourth line, and his ugly skating mitigated any other positives to his game in the eyes of the coaching staff. Had he been given an extended look, it’s possible that Mancari could have been a serviceable 4th liner somewhere in the NHL. Instead, he continues to be a high-end AHLer with the San Antonio Rampage in 2014-15.

Byron Ritchie

Thanks most notably to his exploits on the point of the first unit powerplay, Byron Ritchie’s Canucks tenure is not remembered fondly around the Smylosphere. Despite that, Ritchie’s underlying numbers were excellent and haha that’s a lie, it’s actually worse than you remember.

Ritchie, a local boy from Burnaby, was brought to Vancouver in 2007-08 to add some veteran grit and intangibles to an improving roster that was led by the then 26-year old Sedin twins and 23-year old Ryan Kesler. In 71 games, Ritchie totaled 3 goals, 8 assists, 80 PIMs, and went a minus-10. Not great numbers, but also not illustrative of just how bad Ritchie was.

Since the start of the 2007-2008 NHL season to the end of 2013-2014, 1,111 players suited up to play 500 or more minutes of 5-on-5 time on ice. Of those 1,111 players, Byron Ritchie is 1,111th in Corsi% at a staggeringly bad 38.0%. He just barely outscored Donald Brashear and Cam Janssen on a per-minute basis, and brought exactly none of the pugilistic abilities that those two had. 

In an organization that’s seen more than it’s fair share of completely ineffective depth players (recently including, but not limited to, Victor Oreskovich, Brandon McMillan, Ryan Johnson, Tanner Glass, Mike Brown, Tom Sestito, and Darcy Hordichuk) in the Behindthenet era, Byron Ritchie may have been the most ineffective. Not just in terms of the Canucks, but in terms of every significant NHL player to hit the ice in the last eight years.

And yet Michel Ouellet only got into three games…

  • peterl

    Ryan Johnson doesn’t deserve to be on that list of useless fourth liners (arguably neither does Glass). Johnson was a good face-off man and threw himself in front of every shot. Pinizzato, Gordon, Bitz, Volpatti, there are a lot of others I’d say before him…

  • peterl

    Ryan Johnson doesn’t deserve to be on that list of useless fourth liners (arguably neither does Glass). Johnson was a good face-off man and threw himself in front of every shot. Pinizzato, Gordon, Bitz, Volpatti, there are a lot of others I’d say before him…

    • Ruprecht

      RJ was a hell of a warrior, but he had to block shots because he was a terrible possession player. Byron Bitz took over an important role on the Canucks, after the departure of Tanner Glass. He fulfilled their quota of former Nanaimo Clippers. He was followed by Jason Garrison.

  • Dirty30

    You really think Brandon McMillan has been completely ineffective? I think he plays like an average 4th liner that sometimes creates scoring chances.

    I haven’t noticed him getting caught or making any egregious errors or getting caught flatfooted like Sestito and Hordichuk.

    He plays the game that WD wants a 4th liner to play and he doesn’t too bad of a job IMO.

    • Steampuck

      He may turn out to be a perfectly decent pickup. And he may become a staple on the fourth line. I think the problem a lot of fans have, though, is that since there’s a shortage of top six guys in the lineup, the bottom nine need to pick up the slack and carry the play more. That doesn’t leave much room for some of the traditional fourth line types we’ve had in the past: guys who were instant liabilities once they were on the ice. This year, we’ve seen Kenins, Horvat, etc. lighting things up from time to time. Also, I’m hard pressed to work out why he’s playing over Kenins (there has to be more that we don’t know).

  • acg5151

    One time an Oilers fan told me that Darcy Hordichuk was too good to play for the Canucks. I responded that he wasn’t even good enough to play for the Oilers.

    Yeah, it really happened.