The 2006-07 season for the Vancouver Canucks was a major turning point for the franchise. It marked the entrance of several major characters in the storyline of their march to the 2011 Cup Final, including a new head coach, and the acquisition of the greatest Canucks goaltender of all time. That’s a busy year.
This was a time of conflicted expectations. Prior to the previous season, many expected the Canucks to thrive on the new obstruction rules following the lockout, but they ended the season out of a playoff spot. Consequentially, many analysts picked the Canucks to miss the playoffs again, being a relatively low scoring team that had proceeded to lose a number of point producers in the off season.
However, this theory severely miscalculated the value of adding Roberto Luongo and the cohesion the team would find under their new head coach.
Let’s get started in unpacking the 2006-07 Vancouver Canucks campaign.
|Team Record||Total Points||Standings||Goal
|49-26-7||105||1st in Northwest Division
6th in Conference
For a team that was predicted to finish outside the playoff picture, or at best battle for the 7th/8th spot, the Canucks certainly impressed. Largely due to the efforts of new starting goalie Roberto Luongo, the Canucks became a formidable team in the West and captured the Northwest Division title for the second time in 3 seasons. The team’s .920 save percentage was far above the league average of .905. Their offensive output was less impressive, scoring just 2.64 goals per game (22nd in the NHL), but their stingy defence and impeccable goaltending (2.40 GAA, 5th best in the league) allowed them to achieve success without having to fill the net every night.
(Courtesy Hockey Reference)
The Sedins had begun to match the point production of Naslund’s line in the previous year, and with the West Coast Express dismantled, they were now officially first liners; and they produced like first liners. Meanwhile, Naslund’s production had begun to tail off as he posted his lowest point total in 8 years, though he and Morrison still put up respectable second line numbers.
The Canucks received an impressive 45 goals from their backend that year, accounting for 20.7% of their total volume of goals (217). Kevin Bieksa led the charge, amassing 42 points in his sophomore season.
(Courtesy Hockey Reference)
Luongo was freakin’ incredible in his debut season with the Canucks. He set team records including wins in a season (47) and shutout streak (136 minutes, a record he later broke), and was nominated for a Vezina (losing to Martin Brodeur – Luongo would later exact revenge by stealing Brodeur’s starter gig on the 2010 Olympic team), as well as the Hart and Pearson Trophies (losing both to some schmuck named Sidney Crosby).
Oh, and Dany Sabourin was there too.
During the off season, Dave Nonis replaced head coach Marc Crawford with Alain Vigneault, who had been heading up their farm team, the Manitoba Moose. Lorne Henning was also hired prior to this season.
(Courtesy NHL Trade Tracker)
- Dany Sabourin – claimed from Pittsburgh October 4th
- Jeff Cowan – claimed from Los Angeles December 30th
|Roberto Luongo, Willie Mitchell, Lukas Krajicek, Brent Sopel, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Cowan, Bryan Smolinski, Tommi Santala, Dany Sabourin||Dan Cloutier, Alex Auld, Ed Jovanovski, Bryan Allen, Jarkko Ruutu, Jason King, Anson Carter, Todd Bertuzzi, Keith Carney, Mika Noronen|
This was a hell of a draft, even by Vancouver’s standards. Not only did none of these players play a game in the NHL, not one of them even became a regular in the AHL. Sixth rounder Taylor Matson led all picks with 39 AHL games. That’s unbelievably pathetic, prompting its unofficial designation as the:
The only saving grace here is Patrick White, who Mike Gillis eventually magicked into Christian Ehrhoff in a salary dump from the San Jose Sharks.
The Regular Season
After missing the playoffs the previous season, the Canucks made some major off season changes and re-geared for a new year. They got off to a mediocre start, scoring far too few goals, including a streak in which they scored 2 goals or less in 15 out of 17 games between the end of October and the beginning of December. As the calendar turned to 2007, they sorted their crap out, adapting to the new coach’s system and scoring at a more respectable pace (around 3 goals per game), while also allowing very few, climbing the standings and silencing many of their critics.
Luongo was the lone representative for Vancouver at the All-Star game, although low-minute defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick was nearly Zemgus Girgenonsed into a spot.
In the 81st game of the season, the Canucks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime, on a Matthias Ohlund power play marker, locking up the Northwest Division.
The season featured a multitude of milestones. Both the Sedins, Taylor Pyatt, Kevin Bieksa, and Sami Salo set career highs in points, Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen made their debuts, and Luongo set his aforementioned shutout streak and wins records. Alain Vigneault broke the record for most wins by a Canucks first year coach, and then broke the team record for wins altogether, landing on 49.
Those Fancy Stats
Ever wonder what the 2006-07 Canucks season would look like if we assaulted it with charts and graphs? Well the wait is over!
The Canucks were a fairly strong possession team in 2006-07, despite a huge midseason dip, posting a 51.9% CorsiFor percentage at even strength, good enough to be in the top third of the league.
The Sedins of course led the charge on this front. The team’s CF% dipped to around 50.3% when the Sedins weren’t together on the ice. Daniel and Henrik controlled possession to the tune of 57.6 and 57.8% respectively in terms of CF%, both cracking the league’s top 20 in that particular statistic.
Over the course of the seasons, the Canucks penalty killing became elite, mostly due to Luongo’s stellar .914 4-on-5 save percentage, with help from the slow reduction of unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes of short handed time (from dreadful mid-season to an average rate near the end). They finished the season having killed 86.9% of man advantages, topping the league for the first time.
But what was the real reason the Canucks had success in 2006-07?
Here’s a neat graph:
The Canucks began the campaign holding the opposition to a reasonable number of shots. I can only assume that around the December area, they looked behind them and thought “holy s#$t, that’s not Dan Cloutier back there!”, and completely relaxed their attempts to suppress shots at even strength.
You’d think this would blow up in their face, but like a barrage against the Hulk, all it did was anger Luongo into a puck stopping frenzy, as evidenced by the team’s (read: Luongo’s) rising even strength save percentage.
Luongo’s transformation into an impenetrable barrier allowed the team to post a rising Goals For percentage despite being routinely outshot and outpossessed through the middle of the season. Vancouver did manage to balance their possession numbers by season’s end, while at the same time Luongo stubbornly refused to lower his ridiculous save percentage, leading to all around good times for a Canucks team that won 19 of its final 27 games to plow into the playoffs.
The Canucks entered the playoffs as the 3rd Western seed, having won their division and were rewarded with a first round matchup against the powerful Dallas Stars. This series, which was Luongo’s first ever playoff series, would become a goaltending battle for the ages. Stars netminder Marty Turco pitched 3 shutouts, becoming the only goaltender to ever do so while still losing a playoff series.
The most memorable moment of round 1 is right here. In Roberto Luongo’s first ever playoff game, the team set a record for shots against, allowing 76, while Roberto stopped 72 of them, as the game went into the fourth overtime before the Sedins took care of business:
In round 2, the Canucks took on the Anaheim Ducks, a top four possession team stacked with greats like Chris Pronger, a couple of Niedermeyers, Teemu Selanne and up-and-comers Ryan Getzlaf and Cory Perry. The Canucks offense dried up and they were tossed around, failing to score more than 2 goals in any game and getting outpossessed in 4 of 5 tilts, including getting slaughtered in the series deciding game 5 in which they posted a horrendous 28.2% CF% at evens. The series, and their playoff dreams, finally ended on this whoopsie of a goal:
Poor Jannie. How is that not a hit to the head?! With the loss to the eventual Cup champion Ducks, the Canucks were in the midst of an impressive streak in which they were eliminated by the eventual champions 6 times in 9 playoff berths between 2000-01 and 2011-12 and 5 times in 6 playoff berths between 2006-07 and 2011-12. How’s that for consolation? What? It means nothing?
Points: Daniel Sedin, 36G 48A 84P
2006-07 marked the first season since 1997-98 that Markus Naslund did not lead the Canucks in points, and began a run of 9 consecutive seasons (to date) that the Canucks scoring title was won by a Sedin. Altogether, that’s 16 straight seasons in which a Swede has led the Canucks in scoring. I can’t be bothered to check, but that must be close to a record. The organization’s “best” (also, only) Swedish forward prospect right now is Ludwig Blomstrand, so Trader Jim better hit the market if he wants to keep this most obscure of streaks alive.
Goals: Daniel Sedin, 36G
Back before Duncan Keith RUINED EVERYTHING, Daniel Sedin made a regular habit of scoring a lot of goals. This was the first of four times he would break the 30 goal mark and one of 9 times he potted 20+.
Of particular note: this was just one season after the Oilers made a run to the Stanley Cup Final, but that didn’t stop the Sedins from exerting their traditional dominance. Daniel dummied the Oilers to the tune of 7 goals (and 13 points) in 8 games (including a hat trick on February 6th), which accounts for nearly 20% of his total goal output that season.
Assists: Henrik Sedin, 71A
Henrik had one of those seasons of his where he just tries to get more assists than anybody has points. He accidentally stumbled into 10 goals here and there, but what are you gonna do? He placed 4th in the league in assists, but later redeemed himself by pacing the league in helpers three years in a row from 2009-10 to 2011-12.
Rethinking the 2006-07 Vancouver Canucks
2006-07 marked the beginning of Vigneault’s habit of putting the Sedins in extremely favourable situations, and their Offensive Zone Start percentages relative to team average (ZSO%rel) jumped from +5.6% +6.9% in 2005-06 to +18.4% and +20.3% in 2006-07. These ZSO%rel numbers were top 5 in the league among skaters with at least 400 minutes of even strength ice time.
One of the most impressive things about the Sedins is that even their ridiculously high possession statistics don’t tell the full story of their dominance. Take the following clip for instance, taking from March of 2007. The situation in question is 4-on-4, though it actually looks like a power play.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the clip:
- The play is 60 seconds long from faceoff to goal.
- The 4 Red Wings players touched the puck a total of 3 times.
- The Canucks completed 18 passes, while the Red Wings completed zero.
- The Canucks put 3 shot attempts towards the net: 1 blocked, 1 save, 1 goal.
When you watch this clip, you will see one team completely dominate another, with the Sedins in command. Yet when the shift is over, the Sedins are only +3 in Corsi and +2 in Fenwick. 5 hypothetical seconds of a shot-and-a-rebound goalmouth scramble at the other end could even their possession numbers.
What makes the Sedin brand of possession incredible cannot be measured purely in shot attempts. Throughout this shift, Red Wings are routinely pulled out of position, they run into each other multiple times, poor Dominik Hasek is swimming left and right, overplaying wraparounds Tim Thomas style, and Detroit’s defense is outright bagged, allowing Lukas Krajicek to waltz into the slot and bury an easy goal. Vancouver Goal: [insert name here] from Sedin and Sedin. Done and done.
I don’t really feel the need to go through the rigmarole of trying to suggest alternative options to fix what was ailing the Canucks mid season, as Alain Vigneault did a tremendous job of adjusting. If I had a time machine at my disposal though, I could go ahead and tell the Canucks that they didn’t need to sign Marc Chouinard to a multi-year deal, and save from from waiving him a few months into the season. I’d also tell Luongo to keep his eyes on the goddamn puck instead of trying to call a penalty while the series clinching goal floats past him. C’est la vie.