Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

CanucksArmy Monday Mailbag: January 15th — Part Deux

Coaches are judged on wins and losses, and as such, you’ll never find a coach who will do things that he sees as not being in the best interest of the team winning hockey games. Canucks head coach Travis Green isn’t going to make coaching decisions based on Vancouver’s insatiable appetite for a younger team.

If Jake Virtanen is to get a larger role or Philip Holm is to get a shot with the big club, it will mean that the Canucks have either lost a lot of bodies to injury or the trade deadline. Virtanen’s had a rough go of it in 2018, but he should probably get the opportunity to play his way out of this funk.

Holm has gone above and beyond the call in Utica and has earned a call-up to the Canucks. The Canucks blue line is already overflowing though so who else sits to facilitate Holm’s NHL debut? I’m not sure I want to see Holm playing if it means that Ben Hutton sits.

The framework of this question is a bit clumsy (I mean no disrespect, I’m just being frank) given that your expected success rates in the first-round can vary greatly from picks 15 to 25 and even the second-round is subject to these swings. I’d need more specific parameters to do your question justice. And ideally, I’d know who was available with the first-round pick before making the decision.

However, generally speaking, the analytics community favours trading down and going for volume ahead of quality. I’m not sure if I’m fully on board with that, but I can see the logic. More cracks at the bat is always a good thing.

I hope this was somewhat helpful and I didn’t sound too harsh.

I could see Elias Pettersson playing in the NHL next year and Jonathan Dahlen in the AHL.

This is a fair question. Based on the work that analytics pioneers have done in the public sphere with the draft, height plays a role in determining a player’s odds of NHL success, but they don’t determine how good a player will be. Basically, a tall player has better chances of making the show, but there’s no proof that being tall makes them inherently better than their shorter peers.

With Jared Spurgeon as a clear-cut number one defenceman in my mind, I think we have proof of concept that a player that small can lead a blue line. I’m sure there are other (perhaps even better) examples of successful short blueliners, but that’s the one that comes to mind.

For me, the calculus for what makes a number one defenceman is simple. Is the defenceman in question one of the 30 best defencemen in the league? Then yes, he’s a number one defender.

  1. Chris Tanev
  2. Troy Stecher
  3. Derrick Pouliot
  4. Alexander Edler
  5. Ben Hutton
  6. Michael Del Zotto
  7. Erik Gudbranson
  8. Alex Biega

Nic Dowd is a 13th forward, in my estimation. He is what he is, and there’s not that much to it. He’s not terrible, but Dowd shouldn’t be playing anywhere near as often as he has been since joining the Canucks.

Ask me this again in May.

The Bulldog.

28th overall.

Ask me this again in May.

At the time, I’m sure there are a few that would offer something comparable to what the Canucks did. An anti-analytics team like the Colorado Avalanche that desperately needed help on their blue line might’ve offered up a lot if they had known that Gudbranson was available to them.


  • Canucks3322

    He asked to rank the Canucks D prospects not the current D. I’m guessing you misread this but I would love to see your prospects rankings but maybe that’s a question for Ryan Biech

  • TheRealPB

    Do you know if there’s anything that quantifies what the effect of trading down is in terms of actual outcomes? I have seen the argument that you want more kicks at the can several times, but in terms of the actual quality rather than quantity, I wonder what we know now. For example, for TB trading #28 for #33 and #72 was hailed as a good move at the time in 2015, but would they rather have Anthony Beauvilier now or Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Cirelli?

  • Rodeobill

    I’d like to know why D men are harder to rate on the draft board than forwards, and is that changing with new statistics and variables being looked at? It seems in the past more D men per capita than forwards came from further down the draft board, but this year especially, scouts seem much more confident in rating them further up (not just Dahlin).

    • Hockey_Fan

      My guess is that it’s related to the fact that the primary job of high end forewards is to score. Scoring is easy to quantify whereas as defensive play is much more nuanced.

      • I think it’s partly this, but also two other factors – defensive play relies on size and strength more than scoring or goaltending does, so players who are more physically mature at 17 might show disproportionately better in their draft years than less-mature players, even if those less-mature players are actually more skilled. There’s also a difference in the speed of the game, in the systems used, and in the skill of opposing players at the NHL level compared to junior – this affects forwards too, but I think for defensemen, there are definitely situations where a player who reads plays well in junior and looks like an ace defensive prospect has trouble keeping up at the NHL level. I think this is what we’ve seen from Juolevi at the past two training camps – he’s rocking it in lower leagues but he’s just not keeping up with the pace of an NHL game yet (hopefully he’ll be there next season).

        • I think hockey sense is a harder thing to judge for defencemen. Gap control, directing backcheckers on odd-man rushes, knowing when to pinch, picking spots to get points shots on net, QB’ing a powerplay, keeping aware of teammates so you can execute breakout passes instead of chipping off the board…no metrics directly measure that. Plus you have to be able to do a lot of stuff skating backwards at full speed. And as Goon pointed out, the game gets faster (and more structured) so it’s hard to know who’s have the cognitive ability to make those adaptations.

  • jaybird43

    Even if the question about the defensive prospects was misread, I think JD was pretty close on the overall Canucks blue line. Stetcher, as much as I like his smarts, energy and drive, not sure he’s the #2 guy. I’d be like more #4, but I’d like to hear JD thoughts on why he thinks he’s better than Pouliot or Edler?