Emerson Etem Needs Time to Turn the Corner

The Canucks are struggling to score and no one player embodies this on a personal level to the extent of Emerson Etem. He’s a part of their miserable sum, every bit as culpable as the rest.

Etem, a gifted goal scorer in all but one league he’s played in, has been held off the scoresheet since putting two past the Ottawa Senators on February 25th. You’d like to think that’s a one off, but Etem was goalless in nearly as many days immediately upon joining the Canucks in a January 8th trade with the New York Rangers.

To their credit, the Canucks found Etem for a song. The New York Rangers weren’t so lucky, surrendering Carl Hagelin for the privilege. Such long-winded swings in value carry the players reputation with them and before you know it you’re every bit as polarized as the gamblers throwing their chips. 

In all fairness, hockey is a goal scoring contest. It’s hard to reconcile a players effectiveness in contributing to that end if we don’t see the means either by way of goal scoring or suppression. For forwards, it’s much more the former and that’s where Etem is starting to find himself in the crosshairs of fan ire.

In a perfect world, you want the player with a first-round pedigree, acquired for your favourite team’s former first round selection to score goals – and lots of them. That’s easy enough to understand, but soon enough you find yourself so fixated on that end that you lose the forest for the trees.

One group of people that have likely kept this perspective are Etem’s teammates, who are collectively generating shots and shot attempts at a much higher rate with him than without. Etem’s 2.13 SF60 RelTM and 1.85 CF60 RelTm rank highly among Canucks skaters with north of 100-minutes.

The Canucks have also developed into a remarkably efficient team in transition with Etem, who averages the second-highest successful zone entries per 60 among regular skaters with 27.2 per 60. Etem’s averaging 11 shots per 60 on entries, too, suggesting that he’s putting these forays to excellent use with little to show for it.

This begs the question of whether the offence Etem’s house is built on has crumbled beneath him. That would be a fair question if we were talking about a player in their thirties. Etem’s not even 24 yet, though, and that’s the age generally associated with the physical prime of scoring forwards in the NHL. 

Occam’s razor suggests it’s more likely Etem is suffering ill luck for transgressions made in hockey life’s past. A cursory glance at Etem’s even-strength data suggests validates as much, as he’s shooting 3.7% at evens – a lower mark than one might expect of a middle-six forward. Similarly, Etem’s low IPP (41%) is 20-points south of what we’d expect from someone at his position.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt the Canucks to put Etem in a position to succeed, either. Etem is a thoroughbred and they’ve got him playing with glue factory fodder and a mule more often than not. I’ve all the time in the world for Linden Vey. If he’s Etem’s regular running mate, temper expectations accordingly.

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At one point or another, the little things don’t matter. A lot of players get there and I’m not ruling out that we won’t have to cross that bridge at some point with Etem. I don’t think a 40-game sample of a 23-year old is that point, though. Etem fits what the Canucks are looking for. He’s fast, shifty and has a good, hard shot. The goals are more likely to come than not. Maybe not this season, but I’ve seen enough to hold out hope for next.

  • SnatchByThePool

    Considering how little the Canucks gave up to acquire him, even if he’s just a quality 4th liner that drives possession and chips in the occasional goal it would be a win.

    It’s not as though he is making David Booth money.

    The Canucks are lacking high end young talent but the options for the middle and bottom of the roster are a lot more interesting than they were a few years ago.

    • SJ

      Oh King Corsi David of Fenwick, how I do not miss thee.

      As for Etem, a physical fourth-liner who can truly skate and isn’t afraid to take the puck to the net? All for the price of $850,000 per year? That’s great value. At times he looks capable of more. He is only 23. In two years, he could explode (I am in no way expecting that, nor am I expecting spontaneous combustion either). But maybe this is what he is. There is a little of Viktor Oreskevich in him as well. That didn’t work out so well.

      However, when rebuilding you can’t afford to go full Oilers. You need bigger players who can protect the high-drafted talents. If Etem can fill that role because he can keep up with them, he is a useful player.

  • SJ

    I have no problem with what Etem is bringing to the lineup. Yeah, he could be scoring more goals, but at least he looks CAPABLE of scoring those goals. That’s more than can be said for a significant portion of the young guys on the ice right now. He also strikes me as a good teammate with a good attitude (at least since the trade that brought him here).

  • Muscles@Brussels

    Etem walked through the looking glass when he came here.. I would hope that he stabilizes over the long off season and starts the next here , with aggressive focus and purpose…

  • Lots of oh so close with Etem. He’s making $850,000 this year, so he’s not an overpay. Another year around the same salary is probably in line for a 4th line depth guy.

    Etem – Granlung – Grenier

    Dorsett fills in on the 4th line as he can play both wings, also with his style of play he can’t play 82 games per season. Due to waivers Grenier makes the team and Gaunce finds himself in Utica one more year.

  • Dirty30

    Please put him with the Sedins for the remaining games and see if they can’t make an Anson Carter out of him.

    Etem has decent size, good speed and seems to know where the net is on the ice. I don’t like him with Vey because Linden is still playing like he’s a superstar in Junior and drags Etem’s game into the gutter.

    By way of comparison, name one player who Mason Raymond made better and that’s the result you can expect from Vey on his teammates.

    If Etem plays the final 10 games with the Sedins and turns out to be Steve Bernier then assign him to the 4 th line next year and be grateful for whatever he does produce.

    Isn’t this the purpose of having vets on a team to mentor the young guys?

    Burrows was a decent player who didn’t score a lot of goals. Raise your hand if you thought he would score as many as he did with the Sedins … give Etem an honest chance to turn it around … It’s not like there are 10 guys in line ahead of him.

  • SJ

    don’t see what the big deal is here. etem’s not the only one not scoring. seems like a serviceable guy with speed. he’s a good option as bottom 6 and great option as bottom 3 imo.

  • JuiceBox

    Excellent work on this one JD.

    It seems like we are rinsing and repeating these types of articles for almost every winger on the roster.

    “Etem is a thoroughbred and they’ve got him playing with glue factory fodder and a mule more often than not.”

    I think if we were to do a deep dive into the numbers we would find that the biggest problems on this roster lay right down the middle. This team desperately needs a center (not named Sedin) with some high end play making ability.

    Part of Etems low shooting percentage can probably be attributed to having to take a lot of shots from low percentage areas. Give him a more skilled center who can get him the puck in high percentage areas and we might be telling a different story. Not just for him, but for everybody else too.

  • This article could have been published a few years ago with “Jannik Hansen” in place of “Emerson Etem” and it wouldn’t have read any differently.

    A younger guy who drives possession and creates chances but hasn’t figure out how to score consistently is exactly the kind of player you want on your third line. If he sorts his scoring issues out, he can move up the lineup. If not, he can still tilt the ice in your favour in a depth role.

      • If guys are destined to be in our bottom 6, I just want them to bring that bottom 6 game. Get in on the fore check and make life difficult for the opposing dmen, finish some checks.

        I like the idea of players that have some speed in their game, but not when it is used to do circles and turn away from hits.

        • SnatchByThePool

          This is what drives me crazy about Etem and the St Louis game was classic in that regard. The man simply does not finish checks and instead does a friggin drive by. It not public skating!!

          If Etem (and numerous others) finish their checks, the next time the defenceman might just cough up the puck. And then you make a pass to an open man and Boom! back of the net she goes.

          Its infuriating watching the Canucks play like the lightest team in the league (which they are).

  • Glad to hear that cooler CA heads prevailed and we aren’t tossing Etem out after a full 2 1/2 months with the team….

    He has driven the play and battled well on the boards. The guy has also drawn penalties, which we can’t score on… But that’s another conversation.

  • Cageyvet

    He seems to be a handy player with upside potential, and while there is room for more physical play he certainly doesn’t shy away.

    I’d like to see him playing with Granlund or Gaunce next year, or even Sutter. Asking him to learn to play with the twins might be too much, players with longer resumes have struggled in that role.

    I’m really curious to see how they’re going to deploy some of these players next year with a healthy roster.


    Seem like 2 pretty stable lines. How do you mix up the rest? A couple more players have to go, but we need to do everything we can to get some assets back.

    Keepers in my book for next year are



    Vrbata (gone)
    Higgins (gone)
    Prust (gone)
    Dorsett (I suppose we keep him but not sure I’d miss him)
    Burrows (sounds like a buy out is coming)
    Vey (something has to give and I suspect it’s him)
    Grenier (depth here or in the AHL)

    Barring a stud forward who walks on immediately courtesy of the draft, or trades/UFAs, am I missing anybody?

  • LTFan

    Lots of stats on Etem, however the game is not played on paper. I am hoping that he becomes a useful player for the Canucks, but so far, not so much. At best, based on his past history, I wouldn’t expect more than 10 goals from him in a season. IMO will probably wind up in the AHL.