The 2012-13 season (which was really just the 2013 season – thanks a lot NHL Lockout!) was another season that began with high expectations. The Canucks were coming off of back-to-back Presidents Trophies, and although the team was already weaker than the incarnation that went to the Cup Final two seasons previous, there was still enough skill and potential in the lineup for them to be considered a Cup contender.
In reality, this season signified the end of this core group of Canucks in relation to realistic expectations of contention. Everything was very similar to the previous 3 or 4 years, except a little worse. Let’s dive in and dissect the year that closed out the Alain Vigneault era – the most successful era in franchise history.
|Team Record||Total Points||Standings||
|26-15-7||59||1st in Northwest Division
5th in Western Conference
Vancouver performed well in 2012-13, winning the Northwest Division yet again. However, in comparison to the previous few years, there was plenty of evidence that this version of the Canucks was passed its peak. The power play that had been a driving force for the offensive minded Canucks sputtered. It ended the year ranked 24th in the NHL, after finishing 5th, 1st and 4th in the 3 seasons leading up to this campaign. At one point, the powerplay went 0-for-36, over an 11 game stretch – the worst in franchise history.
(Courtesy Hockey Reference)
The Sedins leading the team in points is no surprise at all. Jannik Hansen coming third in points is probably not the greatest sign. This was a team marred by injuries for much of the year. Kesler, coming off of shoulder and wrist surgeries, got a late start and only played 17 games. David Booth totally David Boothed this season, injuring himself in training camp, and then again shortly after returning to play. He dressed in just 12 games, scoring only 1 goal – which happened to be in an empty net.
Dan Hamhuis led the defence corps in points, which is…. suspicious.
(Courtesy Hockey Reference)
Now here is a real goaltending controversy. 26-year old Cory Schneider stole the starter’s gig from Luongo to begin the 2012-13 season after starting the final three playoff games the previous campaign. Luongo struggled as the backup, posting some of the worst numbers of his career, reaffirming in most people’s minds that the correct choice was being made. Schneider was the goalie of the future. Luongo’s time was over and he would soon be moved. Obviously that’s what would be happening soon, right?
(Courtesy NHL Trade Tracker)
|Tom Sestito||Aaron Volpatti|
Net Gains and Losses:
|Players Gained||Players Lost|
|Derek Roy, Jason Garrison, Tom Sestito, Derek Joslin, Patrick Mullen, Guillaume Desbiens, Cam Barker, Jim Vandermeer, Kellan Lain||Sami Salo, Samuel Pahlsson, Aaron Rome, Kevin Connauton, Aaron Volpatti, Mark Mancari, Marc-Andre Gragnani|
Following back-to-back Presidents Trophies, the Canucks were expected to be a Stanley Cup contender once again, so all that was done was some minor tweaks. Jason Garrison was added to replace Sami Salo in an offensive defenceman capacity, although the results were quite disappointing. Derek Roy was brought in at the deadline to shore up the centre position which was mired by injuries, although the results were quite disappointing. Future top six forward and powerplay specialist Tom Sestito was claimed off waivers.
(Courtesy Hockey DB)
It’s far too early to be evaluating the 2013 draft class, but I’m gonna give it a whirl anyways. It looks pretty damn good. By Canucks standards, it looks absolutely incredible. Vancouver should get three decent players out of the 2013 class, and could get as many as 5 if a lot of things go well. The last Canucks draft class that had 5 players dress in NHL games for the Canucks was 1992, and only one player from that group played more than 50 games for the Canucks.
Bo Horvat has already established himself as a Canuck, and fans are clamoring for more. The Hockey News has recently praised both Shinkaruk and Cassels (not that they can always be trusted, but hey, it’s cool to hear nice things these days). Subban and Cederholm will both get shots with the Comets this season.
The Regular Season
The 2012-13 Vancouver Canucks season will be defined by three things: the NHL lockout, a whole lot of injuries, and the goalie controversy to end all controversies.
When the CBA expired on September 15th, a lockout was imposed as everyone argued about money and money-related things. As the two sides dug their heels, more and more of the season was axed, until a hard deadline was put in place by Gary Bettman. Eventually, everyone agreed on the terms of a new CBA and the lockout was ended just in the nick of time. 48-game seasons are kind of goofy, but they beat the heck out of zero game seasons.
During the lockout, the Canucks players had dispersed throughout various professional leagues, with many of the youngins being sent to the AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves, and many of the medium-aged players heading overseas. Without the lockout ended, all players rushed into Vancouver for an abbreviated training camp. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I believe it was this large rush of people arriving at the same time that caused David Booth’s 6-week injury. In addition, Ryan Kesler had not fully recovered and could not start the season.
The sudden opening of the campaign was highlighted by the soap opera in the Canucks’ crease. Luongo had been the subject of trade rumours all summer long, and those rumours returned in full force once a new CBA was signed. Schneider was given the start on opening night and was promptly shelled for 5 goals, getting yanked and paving the path for Luongo to receive an ovation as he stepped in to take Schneider’s place. To top it off, Luongo started the following night, and although it was a “scheduled start” (it was the second of back-to-backs), it didn’t stop the rumours. So that was fun.
The Canucks started slow, paralleled by the Sedins having their least productive starts in almost a decade. This was despite having
burgeoning power forward Zack Kassian score 5 goals in the first 7 games on their right side. In order to kick start the struggling twins (and the team), Alex Burrows was reunited with Daniel and Henrik, a move that paid immediate dividends and began a 6 game winning streak. At the conclusion of this streak, Kesler returned from injury, and in a concurrent move GM Mike Gillis shutdown Manny Malhotra for the season, feeling that his recovery from the eye inury sustained in 2011 had not been sufficient to allow him to properly protect himself. The legal team was satisfied with this decision, though Malhotra was certainly not.
Over the course of the season, the Canucks battled with the Minnesota Wild for top spot in the division, finally locking it up with just a few couple games to go. This allowed them to enter the playoffs as the third seed, with inherent home ice advantage.
Down the stretch, as Vancouver locked up the Division title, I remember seeing San Jose and Los Angeles battling for the 6th spot and thinking, “please be San Jose”, the logic being that Los Angeles had eliminated the Canucks the year previous, and the Canucks had handily disposed of San Jose in 2011. Unfortunately, I got my wish, and the Canucks played a short and frustrating 4-game series with the Sharks.
The story was once again between the pipes: Schneider had been injured the last couple games of the season, necessitating that Luongo take the reigns to begin the playoff series. They Canucks lost two close games to start the series, and Schneider came back to start game 3. Despite claiming to be fully recovered from the groin injury, he was tagged for 5 games and pulled, with the Canucks falling 5-1. In the final game, the Canucks squandered a third period lead, allowing the game to go to overtime. With their season on the line, Daniel Sedin was given a boarding penalty following this play:
Even mild mannered Henrik thought the call was bulls#$%. The Sharks scored on the ensuing powerplay, completing the series sweep, and we all died a little inside, feeling that the window may have just shut on this Canucks core.
Points: Henrik Sedin, 11G 34A 45P
By their own standards, the twins struggled at points in the 2012-13 campaign, starting off a little slow. Henrik’s 0.94 Points/Game was his lowest since the 2007-08 season, though he still managed nearly a point per game and, most importantly, he passed Markus Naslund to become the club’s all-time leading scorer on this play:
Goals: Alex Burrows, 13G
It doesn’t look great when your leading scorer has 13 goals, even in a 48 game season (that works out to about 23 goals in a full season). It is indicative of a team whose offense is slipping away from them. Nonetheless, we should appreciate Alex Burrows work this season, considering how incredible the contrast would be with his 2013-14 season.
Assists: Henrik Sedin, 34A
Oh gee, what a surprise, Henrik led the team in assists. Real original.
Seriously though, Henrik is a pretty damn incredible set up man. This was the 8th straight year that he led the Canucks in assists, and the 7th straight season that he had more assists than the highest scoring non-Sedin had points. It was also the first year since 2008-09 that he didn’t lead the entire NHL in assists, so.. sheesh.
Rethinking the 2012-13 Vancouver Canucks
This shortened season was an interesting one for the Vancouver Canucks. The first thing that I’d like to approach from multiple angles is the play and production of the twins.
The Canucks as a whole were in decline in terms of possession (51.4% for 11th in the NHL, a step down for a team that had been consistently at the top), which in turn pushed the twins’ CorsiRel percentages even higher.
As mentioned above, this season represented the lowest points per game for Henrik in 5 years, and the lowest for Daniel in nearly 10 years. However, it also marked one of the highest possession ratings of their careers, with both twins breaching 60% in CorsiFor over the course of the season, the highest mark either has held since the full season lockout.
(Data courtesy war-on-ice.com)
Game 9 marks the point that Alex Burrows replaced Zack Kassian on the top line. Subsequently, the twins’ Corsi began to drop, but their actual production began to increase. Though the switch result in a lower ratio of shot attempts, it led to a marked increase in Shots on Net per 60 minutes for the entire top line. For whatever reason, although Kassian caught fire when placed with the Sedins, the Sedins themselves produced relatively poorly.
One of the major facts that contributed to the Sedins decreased point totals was the tire fire of a powerplay, once the team’s greatest weapon. Outside of a hot spurt in the last month of the season (in which Daniel recorded 4 powerplay points in 6 games), man advantage production was few and far in between for much of the season. Though their even strength contribution was down from their Art Ross years (although relatively stable with 2011-12’s 5-on-5 production rate), the twins appeared to have regressed considerably, largely due to an ineffective power play.
In the past the powerplay had garnered a large amount of its effectiveness by the Sedins setting up right handed shots, particularly Kesler and Sami Salo. With Kesler playing only 17 games, and recovering some surgery on his shoulder, he contributed little to powerplay totals. Salo meanwhile had been let go and replaced with the left handed Jason Garrison, who could not replace Salo’s production. Garrison had just 3 powerplay goals in 48 games compared to Salo’s 7 in 69 games the prior season.
Beyond the twins, the Canucks simply fielded a weaker lineup in 2012-13. Their major failing throughout their dominant years was the complete and utter lack of production from their 4th line, an issue they still hadn’t solved in 2013. The fourth line staples held Corsi percentages in the low 40’s, while Max Lappierre and Dale Weise had on-ice Goals For percentages of 37% and 27% respectively. Weise’s GF% ranked 337th of 342 among forwards with more than 300 minutes that year.
As the twins’ production began to tail off, the Canucks simply had no one to pick up the slack. They won their division due largely to the fact that it was extremely weak and they had the advantage of playing Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado so many times in a season, and avoided playing some of the conference’s stronger teams too often. When the division realignment arrived the next season however, they would not be so lucky.