5 Categories in Which the Canucks Rank Dead Last

The Vancouver Canucks have started their 2016-17 season terribly, and critics of this team’s architects haven’t been shy about voicing their displeasure.

The Canucks 5-3 win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday busted a nine-game losing streak and had the added effect of calming their discontent fans. They’re hardly out of the woods yet though.

Perhaps one of the more amazing things about this losing streak is that, before it began, the Canucks were the at the very top of the NHL standings — 1st overall with a 4-0-0 record. 19 days and nine losses later, they sit 29th, and a loss against the Rangers could have put them in 30th, if not for a series of busted goal droughts.

Though they’ve managed to avoid 30th in the overall standings, they haven’t been so lucky in other areas. Here are five categories in which the Canucks rank dead last.

1. Points Percentage – 0.393

Even though they managed to avoid 30th overall in the standings with their last win, the Canucks are still at the very bottom of the league when it comes to points percentage. They share their 0.393 mark with Calgary, as the only two teams to achieve less than 40 percent of potential points so far.

The Canucks do have the luxury of looking down on three teams right now: Arizona, Carolina and Colorado are each sitting on 10 points. However, each of those teams have played 12 games, compared to the Canucks’ 14.

2. Goals per Game – 1.86

Much has been made about the anaemic offence of the Canucks so far this season, and even with ten goals in their last three games, they still rank dead last in goals per game with 1.86. Heading into Tuesday’s game, they also ranked dead last in raw goals, but have since managed to pass Colorado and Buffalo.

Many of those goals are coming from familiar places, with Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Bo Horvat accounting for 13 of them. Up until Loui Eriksson, Sven Baertschi and Alex Burrows busted their goal droughts on Tuesday, the Canucks only had goals from seven different forwards. So much for their bottom six outscoring other teams’ bottom sixes.

3. Shooting Percentage – 6.77%

The Canucks may be having trouble scoring goals, but it’s not solely from a lack of shots. Granted, that’s still a big issue – their 27.4 shots on goal per game also ranks 29th in the league. On top of getting very few shots on net, the vast majority of those aren’t going in. The Canucks’ all-situations shooting percentage of 6.77 percent is easily the worst in the league.

Not helping them in this cause so far are Sven Baertschi, (21 shots on net, shooting percentage of 4.7%), Loui Eriksson (22, 4.6%), Brandon Sutter (32, 3.1%), Philip Larsen (22, 0.0%), Brendan Gaunce (12, 0.0%), and Jake Virtanen (13, 0.0%), although last game was a step in the right direction for a few players.

4. Games in Which They Scored First – 2

This used to be an area in which the Canucks were dominant – in 2010-11, they scored first 49 times, while in 2011-12, they scored first 56 times. Heck, even in the Tortorella season they scored first 38 times.

This year, the Canucks are on pace to open the score an abysmal 12 times, after doing so just twice in their first 14 games. On top of that, their four first-period goals also rank 30th in the NHL. Their inability to get a lead early in games is a major reason for why they’ve only got five wins – and that they got their first three wins without ever holding a lead. Worse yet, the one time they opened to scoring in the first period, they relinquished the lead before the period ended, meaning that they’re the only team yet to lead after 20 minutes. They also have the league’s fewest leads after 40 minutes, with one.

Speaking of holding a lead…

5. Time With a Lead – 47:47

In one of the most ridiculous statistics of the season, the Canucks have spent just 47 minutes and 47 seconds in 2016-17 with a lead, including the 15:27 they banked against the Rangers on Tuesday. The second lowest such time belongs to the Philadelphia Flyers, who have led for over 106 minutes – that’s just short of a full game more than the Canucks. Needless to say, spending that much time chasing in games is not a recipe for success.

Just Missed the Cut

The truly impressive thing about this list is that I restricted it to items that the Canucks are not just horrible at, but the absolute worst in the league. If we were to consider stats in which they ranked close to the bottom, the list would get a whole lot larger. Here are some examples:

Power Play Percentage – 9.3% (29th)

Part of the Canucks’ offensive woes are due to their brutal power play conversion rate. Despite having 41 opportunities, the Canucks have just four power play goals – only Arizona, with 3, has fewer. This is surely an indictment of two of Jim Benning’s offseason acquisitions, Loui Eriksson and Philip Larsen, both of whom were charged with helping with the power play – while Eriksson finally got off the schneid (at even strength mind you), Larsen’s latest accomplishment was being relegated to the press box in favour of Troy Stecher.

On the bright side, they scored a power play goal two games ago – which is the only reason that they’re no longer ranked 30th here as well.

5v5 Score-Adjusted Corsi – 46.8% (28th)

Considered to be among the greatest predictors of future goals and wins, 5-on-5 Score-Adjusted Corsi is also one of the Canucks’ biggest weaknesses. No doubt the league leading 467 minutes they’ve spent trailing is to blame for this – without adjustment, the Canucks are nearly a 50 percent possession team. But shots are easier to come by when your opponent is protecting the lead, and the Canucks’ “average” shot differential is even worse than it appears. The Canucks have been 30th in this category a couple of times already this season, and they’ll probably get back there again.

It’s neat that the Canucks were able to get the win in New York and stop a complete and utter free fall, but if they want to make something out of this season, they’ve got a lot more areas that need a tonne of work.

Besides, some would argue that when it comes to what they really should want to get out of this season, they actually took a step back last game.


  • Killer Marmot

    The Canucks’ biggest problem is simple — their shots have not been going in.

    Can sniping be taught? Mike Bossy had a career shooting percentage of over 20%. If they hired him or a similar person as an assistant coach, would he be able to teach the players how to get more shots past the goalie?

      • Killer Marmot

        Yes, I am serious. I do not claim that Canucks can “magically become excellent finishers”, but they can almost surely be better than they are now. Don’t overstate my position, thanks.

        So far as I can tell, every skill can be taught and improved upon. You can’t turn an elephant into a cheetah, but you might be able to produce a faster elephant. The idea that improving a player’s shooting percentage is an exception to this would be surprizing.

        Players, of course, are always working on and being coached on their shooting, but are they being coached by the very best?

        And what is there to lose by trying?

        • Hack-smack-whack

          The one thing that frustrates me with their shot attempts, is too much time taken to get them off. Again and again the defender has time to get a stick in, or a push on the shooter, the goaltender has time to get into position. How many one-time attempts have we seen? A crisp pass and some killer instinct when shooting would go a long way I think. And yes I think this should be addressed by the coaching staff, if not specifically coached. A large part of this is probably from lack of confidence and overthinking. It seemed against the rangers, when Loui finally succeeded, that there was a collective burden lifted from the rest of the players, resulting in renewed intensity and jump going to the net. Players looked like they believed the shot actually had a chance to go in when they shot. Confidence really cannot be overstated in sports; how can you have killer instinct if you don’t actually believe your shot can beat the tender?

      • Freud

        Sadly, I think they are serious.

        They should hire Bobby Orr to be Sbisa’s mentor. And Milt Schmidt to coach Virtanen on how to act more mature. And Guy Carbonneau could teach Gaunce how to average more than 5 points a season as a 4th line centre. I’d hire Scotty Bowman to teach Benning how to evaluate and plan. Maybe hire the Maple Leafs equipment guy as he sharpens skates in a way that makes them skate fast….

        • Killer Marmot

          I never claimed that you can turn lead into gold. I do, however, claim that almost any skill can be improved upon.

          Address what I actually said, not what you dreamed I said.

        • Killer Marmot

          Last year the Canucks were horrible at faceoffs, winning 45.5% of them, dead last in the league.

          So what did they do? They hired Malhotra as an assistant coach, one of the best faceoff men of his time. This year, the Canucks have won 51% of faceoffs, sixth in the league. Their last game against the Rangers was especially impressive.

          So yes, when a team has a serious problem that’s just killing them, hire someone who might be able to help.

          • Donald's Hat Trick

            They got rid of McCann (McCan’t) and his 35% faceoff success rate. Addition by subtraction!

            What if shooting percentage is more a function of mood than it is actual technical ability? Like compare Vrbata year 1 vs year 2.

          • Killer Marmot

            What if shooting percentage is more a function of mood than it is actual technical ability? Like compare Vrbata year 1 vs year 2.

            I doubt it was mood that hurt Vrbata last year. Maybe he had nagging injuries or he wasn’t in shape. I really don’t know.

            But I have yet to see a skill that defies improvement through good coaching. Maybe a high shooting percentage is a bizarre innate talent that can’t be taught, but I’m skeptical.

            But as I said before, there is little to lose by trying.

          • Big D, little d

            You are right that any skill can be taught, but there is a lot more going on here. You can teach better shooting accuracy, changing the release point, faster release. You can learn to process the game faster, but I don’t know that it is a teachable skill. What you can’t teach is the ability to distinguish between situations when you need to shoot as soon as the puck hits your stick, or when you need to hold it a fraction of a second, or change the angle, or any of the other dozen things you might do to improve your chances of scoring. The game moves too fast to consciously decide what to do, so you have to have the knack of doing what you need to score.

            I believe it was Jacques Lemaire who said you can teach anyone to play defense, but you can’t teach a 10 goal scorer to score 20 goals. Unfortunately that somewhat invalidates the current management’s strategy of acquiring defensively responsible two-way players. It would appear to be a better strategy to just take the top scoring player available regardless of their defensive capability. If it turns out that they can’t score, you teach them to be a defensively responsible player. It’s virtually impossible to go the other way.

          • Killer Marmot

            I believe it was Jacques Lemaire who said you can teach anyone to play defense, but you can’t teach a 10 goal scorer to score 20 goals.

            Perhaps not, but you might be able to turn them into a 12 or 14 goal scorer. Make a similar improvement to a bunch of players and it adds up.

          • Freud

            Good gawd. Stop it with the weak narratives. You honestly think teams have never experimented with improving shots?

            Horvat and Sutter actually have worse faceoff numbers this year then last year. Good job Malhotra.

            Sedin couldn’t bend over for faceoffs after November last year and won only 46%. Now he’s healthy and is back to a career avg of 52%. Sutter was also out most of last year and his replacements were poor.

            There’s actual evidence that might make the difference plausible.

          • Killer Marmot

            You honestly think teams have never experimented with improving shots?

            Since I stated above that all teams work on shooting, obviously I know that teams “have experimented”. But just as obviously, something’s not working in Vancouver. Therefore I suggest the Canucks bring in an assistant coach who can bring something different to the table.

            The one thing they should not do is ignore the problem, hoping it will go away on its own. That’s not management, that’s wishful thinking.

            You may be right about faceoffs, but we’ll see by the end of the year. Certainly Canucks management seemed to think it was an area that needed work.

            And no more snark. Be respectful.

          • Donald's Hat Trick

            Ok, so as Manager you’d bring in a guy that teaches shooting, someone with a history shooting good.

            When and for how long would you start with these shooting exercises? And what drills do you sacrifice to get this practice in, or are you expecting them to schedule extra time?

          • Killer Marmot

            Obviously only Desjardins is qualified to make those decisions. It seems argumentative that you should demand to know such details, when neither you nor I are in a position to make such calls

            They already do shooting drills. A new assistant coach with different ideas would likely both expand and change those drills. Some extra practice time might not be amiss given the Canucks’ current situation.

            I am puzzled by the over-the-top response to my suggestion. I’m not quite sure what’s behind it – perhaps a feeling that scoring is a mysterious innate skill that defies improvement through coaching.

          • Cageyvet

            Colour me puzzled too. You didn’t say it was a magic formula, and when you’re this bad, try anything. Hell, it’s a confidence thing, and we know lots of players do superstitious things to break slumps. Even if it was just the placebo effect, what do they have to lose?

          • Andy

            I can’t find the exact articles, but there are strong correlations between shot location/distance to the net and shooting percentages.

            High Danger shots are within the home plate area in front of the net, Medium danger is near the slot, low danger near the hash marks, etc.

            Players like Iginla and at angus have carried ting percentages, and corresponding shot distances, so there’s something to be said for ‘better quality shots’, and I do agree that there are things that can improve their likelihood of going in.