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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto - USA TODAY Sports

Deep Dive: How did Brandon Sutter fare as the team’s shutdown centre?

As ironic as it sounds, Brandon Sutter’s biggest supporters are probably the ones doing him the most harm as it pertains to his public reputation.

Whether it be the lucrative extension he was given, the “foundational” label he was branded with, or the peculiar on-ice situations he’s been deployed in, it always seems as if the 28-year-old’s been given a responsibility or role he’s ill-suited of fulfilling.

The 2017/18 season presented perhaps the toughest challenge of all as first-year coach Travis Green entrusted Sutter with arguably the toughest deployment of any centre in the league.

Viz courtesy Bill Comeau

Sutter was one of five NHL centres to finish among the top 25th percentile of forwards for time on ice, quality of competition and defensive zone starts. He did all this while playing with decisively inferior teammates relative to the other centres in the cohort.

As you might expect, his on-ice performance paled woefully in comparison to the elite, two-way players of the group.

Viz courtesy Bill Comeau

Sutter’s results across the board insinuate that he was in way over his head in this extreme checking role. Unfortunately, Travis Green lacked options to balance the defensive load — Henrik Sedin needed sheltering, Bo Horvat was doing the heavy lifting offensively and the fourth-line hosted a rotating cast of mediocre pivots.

The problem with analyzing Sutter’s play is that it’s difficult to accurately adjust for quality of competition based on the publicly available information. There’s just not enough data to quantify the impact quality of competition has for on-ice results.

The closest thing currently available is CF.QOC which provides the weighted shot share of a player’s opponents. Unsurprisingly, Sutter finishes near the top of this list, though the discrepancy between him and the lowest Canuck forward(Jussi Jokinen) stands at a few hairs under one percent.

Theoretically, this means that quality of competition should create roughly a 1% discrepancy on a player’s shot attempt differential in extreme situations. This may sound alarmingly low, but it tends to align with the work of analytics pioneer Eric Tulsky.

Tulsky’s study theorized that quality of competition has a massive effect on a player’s on-ice results for a given shift, but that a player’s deployment is never extreme enough over the course of a season to create a substantial difference.

In other words, he’s saying that quality of competition isn’t black and white — a shutdown centre like Sutter will face the opposition’s top players for a higher proportion of his ice-time, but it’s not as if he’s exclusively playing against top-level talent. By that token, it’s inaccurate to qualitatively state that player x always plays against the other team’s best players or that player y always faces the weakest competition when those factors tend to normalize over the course of a full season.

Fortunately, Micah McCurdy’s deployment visual can help us quantify the difference.

Chart courtesy Micah McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

The right side of the chart is pertinent for quality of competition. Here, the red line serves to represent the competition spread that the average forward faces.

As expected, Sutter spent a notably higher proportion of his ice-time against the other teams’ top line. But also look at the regularity with which he played against the opposition’s bottom-six(forward ranks 7-12). We can’t precisely pinpoint the proportions, but it’s apparent that he’s against those players for at least half the time relative to the average forward. Not as lopsided as you might expect.

Meanwhile, for defencemen, Sutter’s deployment more or less aligned with the spread of a typical forward.

In Sutter’s case, teammate quality may adversely affect his on-ice performance more than the typical shutdown forward. I think this because there’s a high possibility that studies don’t pick up a large quantifiable difference when examining quality of competition due to the fundamental way players are deployed.

Elite players usually draw other elite players, while sheltered players are typically matched against the opposition’s equivalent. This evens the playing field to an extent with the studies conducted on this matter. Think of this way: playing against top competition would likely hurt Sam Gagner more than it would Bo Horvat.

But since Sam Gagner will never actually play against the other team’s best players on a consistent basis, a study can’t quantify the difference like it can for a player like Horvat. This is relevant for Sutter because he had mediocre wingers by his side unlike his comparables Couturier, Barkov, Kadri, and O’Rielly.

As such, quality of competition was likely a greater factor for Sutter than it is in most cases. That’s all we can really say though; analysis beyond this scope would be speculative at best.

With that context out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at his contributions on both ends of the rink.

Defence

There’s a convincing argument to be made that Sutter shutdown the opposition to the best of his abilities.

Shot suppression may have been mediocre, but the Canucks conceded high danger shot attempts, expected goals, and actual goals against at impressive rates with Sutter on the ice.

The former first-round pick benefitted from a .948 on-ice five-on-five save percentage that was tops among Canucks’ forwards, but all the evidence suggests that he did well irrespective of his good fortunes.

Offence

To say the Canucks struggled to generate offence with Sutter on the ice would be an understatement.

Number in bracket represents ranking among NHL forwards(minimum 500 mins TOI to qualify)

Sutter finishes near the bottom of the league in nearly every on-ice offensive metric. For reference, here are the forwards that had worse expected goals for rates.

No offence to the other names on this list, but Sutter’s among some ugly company in this regard.

You’d be fair to point out that his actual on-ice goals for rate wasn’t as paltry, but research has shown that shot attempts and expected goal models are better predictors of future scoring than raw goals anyway.

Individually, Sutter’s 26 points in 61 games sound respectable, but it turns out to a pretty poor scoring rate when considering that he was within a minute of Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser for average even-strength ice-time.

In fact, if you consider his usage over his entire tenure in Vancouver, you’ll realize that he’s been producing points at a 4th line rate for the past three seasons.

Perhaps most concerning is the alarming year over year decline in Sutter’s individual offensive play creation.

Data and visualization courtesy Ryan Stimson

It’s hard to attribute Sutter’s disappinting offensive results as the product of his subpar linemates when he himself struggled mightily to make plays.

Data courtesy Corey Sznajder, visualization by CJ Torturo

Of course, it’s entirely possible that these rates slipped because his line struggled to get into the offensive zone in the first place, but that would require admitting that they were consistently chasing the puck on the wrong side of the rink.

Regardless, it’s a big issue that the team was unable to score goals for nearly a third of the game.

Is the offensive tradeoff worth it?

This past season’s results portray Sutter as a one-way, defensive player. That certainly has value, but much like a scoring forward with defensive issues, the positives have to outweigh the deficiencies for a worthwhile net result.

For this season, the raw scoresheet results tilted in Sutter’s favour, as he finished as one of five Canucks’ forwards with a goal differential above 50%. Of course, that fails to take into account his aforementioned .948 on-ice save percentage; one that is both ranked eighth highest among league forwards who played at least 500 minutes and quite frankly unsustainable.

Percentage fluctuations are a big reason why on-ice metrics are relied upon as predictors for future goals rather than raw scoring. By this method of evaluation, Sutter fared far worse.

Sutter once again found himself near the bottom of the league through the lens of underlying numbers; this time falling short with his shot attempt, scoring chance, high danger attempt and expected goal shares.

On the brighter side of things, he was still able to prove his mettle through a disciplined playstyle and continued faceoff success.

This circles us back to my original assertion about Sutter being asked to do too much. It’s tough to pinpoint how much deployment is skewing his play, but it’s clear nonetheless that he needs some help.

As much as I hate Jay Beagle’s contract, Jim Benning was on the mark with his idea of finding a fourth-line centre to provide defensive support. Unfortunately, Henrik Sedin’s departure means that Beagle will more or less soak up those minutes, which while helping Sutter defensively, will put the team at a massive disadvantage offensively.

Without a clearcut second-line centre, Sutter will likely be asked to continue playing 17+ minutes a night. It’s an unfortunate reality because he’d likely be far more effective with reduced minutes and easier deployment as a traditional third-line pivot.

Author’s note: Since this article went well beyond the scope of a typical year in review piece, I decided it deserved its own standing. Given the article’s analysis of Sutter’s play this year, there will be no additional year in review article for him.

  • Killer Marmot

    For this season, the raw scoresheet results tilted in Sutter’s favour, as he finished as one of five Canucks’ forwards with a goal differential above 50%. Of course, that fails to take into account his aforementioned .948 on-ice save percentage; one that is both ranked eighth highest among league forwards who played at least 500 minutes and quite frankly unsustainable.

    Sutter has had an abnormally high on-ice save percentage his entire career. He doesn’t shut down opponents by preventing shots but by preventing dangerous shots. Delving into how he does this would make for an interesting article.

    • Except that high-danger shots / shot attempts against is discussed in this article and Sutter does not fare well by this metric. Nor is it the case that Sutter has had an “abnormally high” on ice save % his entire career. This past season, he was well above average. The season before that, he was well below average, and his first season in Vancouver, he was about average. Over his career, Sutter’s on ice save percentage is just a hair over 93%. This is *average*.

      I think the reason you’re consistently making this claim is that you’re confusing even-strength save percentage and all-situations save percentage. All-situations save percentage over Sutter’s career has averaged around .915 – if sutter were consistently posting between .92 and .94 seasons, he’d be above average. But *on ice save percentage* is calcuated at even strength only, and even-strength save percentage has hovered around .93 for NHL goalies for Sutter’s career. That actually puts Sutter’s on-ice save percentage in his time in Vancouver (.924) at slightly *lower* than average.

      He’s not suppressing high-danger shots or scoring chances at an above-average rate, he just got lucky last year.

      • Killer Marmot

        High-danger shots are NOT discussed other than a one-sentence claim with no stats to back it up. The two accompanying heat maps just seem to indicate that Sutter is good at preventing shots a few feet in front of the goalie — presumably shots off the rebound.

        And the even-strength save percentage over Sutter’s career has been about 92%, not 93% as you claim. Sutter’s on-ice ESSP last year 94.1% — admittedly a particularly good year for him.

        • Killer Marmot

          Let me clarify that second to last sentence…

          And the NHL even-strength save percentage over the last ten years has been about 92%, not 93% as you claim. Sutter’s on-ice ESSP last year 94.1% — admittedly a particularly good year for him.

          • SISMIM

            Just to add to your original point: as far as his career numbers go (numbers per Corsica Hockey), Sutter has posted a +1.79 Rel Sv%, -0.51 Rel GA/60, and -0.63 RelT GA/60 during his total 5v5 minutes from 2008-09 through 2017-2018.

            There definitely seems to be something going on there. Those numbers are actually the best seen in the entire NHL (in all three categories) over the past decade by players with similar TOI totals to Sutter. And once you start talking about data from 8000+ minutes of 5v5 ice time, it’s probably worth considering that there’s more than just mere luck creating these kinds of effects on Sv% and GA/60.

            Sutter appears to somehow be raising on-ice save percentage and lowering team goals against rates during the 5v5 minutes he’s on the ice. And he’s somehow doing so while playing with poor quality linemates, facing high quality competition, and with some of the more extreme defensive deployment seen in this league.

            I won’t pretend to understand exactly how he’s doing it, but I’d certainly love to see somebody take a stab at an explanation. As you said, it would make for an interesting article.

            All I know is that, at least when it comes to the goals data (which I believe deserves consideration in samples as large as 8000+ minutes), Sutter seems to be achieving a significant “shut down” effect.

            Unfortunately, stats.hockeyanalysis.com is no longer available (so I can’t access some of the data for the past two seasons), but a couple years back I pulled some numbers on Sutter’s 5v5 GA/60 (listed here as GA60) versus his teammates’ GA/60 (TMGA60) and his opponents’ GF/60 (OppGF60):

            2015-16: 1.184 GA60; 2.32 TMGA60; 2.18 OppGF60
            2014-15: 1.553 GA60; 2.17 TMGA60; 2.27 OppGF60
            2013-14: 1.749 GA60; 2.49 TMGA60; 2.21 OppGF60
            2012-13: 2.072 GA60; 2.22 TMGA60; 2.28 OppGF60
            2011-12: 1.649 GA60; 2.73 TMGA60; 2.42 OppGF60
            2010-11: 1.868 GA60; 2.65 TMGA60; 2.33 OppGF60
            2009-10: 2.183 GA60; 2.54 TMGA60; 2.41 OppGF60
            2008-09: 2.033 GA60; 2.18 TMGA60; 2.27 OppGF60

            Hopefully that pasted well enough to be legible.

            Pretty noticeable on-ice effect, at least to my eyes. Again, not sure how to explain *why* it’s happening, but hard to deny that he’s producing some sort of an effect that’s significantly lowering goals against, compared to both his teammates and his opponents.

          • TD

            This article about using analytics to predict future success combined with SISMIM’s post about Sutter’s career results demonstrates the problem with relying strictly on the predictive stats without comparing them to ongoing results.

            Hockey is a dynamic game and no two situations are alike. At this point, there is no way to measure the minor details in every play that can effect the results. Boxing out a player preventing a rebound, hurrying the shooter, clearing out the screens, etc.

            SISMIM’s post was very impressive and showed why teams are lining up the acquire Sutter.

          • liqueur des fenetres

            If teams are lining up to acquire Sutter why hasn’t he been traded yet? Benning was defended for not trading Hamhuis because the offers weren’t good enough and he didn’t want to weaken his future position in trades. So is that the same thing that’s going on with Sutter? and Miller before him?

          • Killer Marmot

            If teams are lining up to acquire Sutter why hasn’t he been traded yet?

            That would leave the Canucks with two proven capable centres going into next season — Horvat and Beagle. Every other position that have good depth, but not at centre.

          • TD

            LDF: I think the Canucks value Sutter which is why he hasn’t been traded. I think Sutter provides more than his analytics show. That said, I hope they do trade Sutter at the deadline if the return is good enough. The Canucks are really short on bonafide NHL centremen. Picture what they look like down the middle if they trade Sutter: Bo and Beagle would be the only proven NHL centreman, and Beagle should stay on the 4th line. Hopefully Gaudette could prove himself, but they are short.

  • rootofroots

    Very interesting! A good piece to add to the Sutter debate, it is really #$%#ing hard to pinpoint really what he brings to the team but he also doesn’t seem as terrible as some make him out to be. still waaay too expensive

    • bobdaley44

      Ya sure 4.3 for a guy who can play up and down the line up, win draws, skate, has size, can check, has leadership and can score twenty goals. Way less a defensive liability than Bo. Funny how analytics guys and fans here hate on the guy but other teams coveted him.

      • LorneM

        It seems like Sutter can only play down the lineup from this article. You don’t want an offensive black hole like him in your top 6. However you also have a point that 4.3 isn’t way too much for him. That seems to be the price tag for decent 3rd line centers these days which is probably what Sutter is.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Checking and preventing goals, having someone who can match up against 1st line players in the defensive zone are extremely important. Did I mention being able to skate with most of the elite players, win key faceoffs too.
        Brandon Sutter (or Nazim Kadri, Sean Coutorier) is an important part of a team.

  • Defenceman Factory

    Pretty clear Sutter is an imperfect player being asked to do too much. The emergence of Pettersson or Gaudette can’t come soon enough so that Sutter can move into that 3rd line role or moved out all together.

    Again a writer has commented on the drop in offence from the Sedins departure. Did they really have a net benefit last season or was their need to be sheltered and dismal goal differential actually hurt the team? That is a question not an opinion.

        • bobdaley44

          Thats the problem they don’t have anybody besides Pettersson, if he does end up in the middle. Gaudette if he pans out will be a third or fourth line center which would entail learning how to play in his own end. From what i saw last year he’s not even close. They desperately need some youth coming up who can play the middle hence their reluctance to trade Sutter.

          • Doodly Doot

            Gaudette is a 2nd line NHL center down the road. As he will prove in Utica. The sooner he’s with the big club, the sooner he can grow into that role. Can match Horvat’s growth in as many years? Its plausible.

          • Killer Marmot

            Gaudette will likely get sent down at the start of the season because he’s waiver ineligible. Benning doesn’t want to expose too many players to waivers. It has nothing to do with how good Gaudette is.

            Mind, if there are a couple of injuries in the preseason then even that might not happen.

          • Silverback

            You remind me of my cousins chihuahua which constantly tries to dryhump my leg. I want to pick it up and throw it against the wall, but realize it is someone’s pet. Besides it is a dumb animal and it isn’t it’s fault.

          • Ramzy18

            wow your a sad human being , honestly get a life other then trolling , make a friend , touch a woman for the first time instead of consistently reminding canucks fans how pathetic your life is @lakid

    • Nuck16

      In terms of roster spots, I don’t rule out the possiblity of Jake starting in Utica assuming he doesn’t need to be waived. I saw him out on Thursday night, and well, let just say he gained back all the weight he lost last season. If he shows up at camp like that, they will need to send a clear message.

  • PQW

    Guys, there is a huge reason the Pens moved Sutter OUT in a heartbeat to us for Nick Bonino (plus a pick) and promptly won TWO CUPS in doing so. Bones was the missing piece in Pittsburgh… Sutter was surplus to requirements being unable to deliver anything worthwhile, especially in the playoffs and as usual, Benning got fleeced and we got burned.

    Even Sutters face off percentage means NOTHING when you realise that Ryan O’Reilly is the best in the league… and how many playoff appearances did he make for Buffalo again… yep, the same as Sutter guys — NONE!

    Trade this bum and let’s stop wasting time trying to paper over the San Andreas fault sized cracks in canuckland already – the PAYING fans deserve way better than this – don’t they?

    • East Van Milan

      wow great post dude, spot on. and lets not forget jim raised expectations by calling sutter a foundational player and likened him to bergeron, or was it toews. scary.

    • bobdaley44

      They moved him because of cap issues. Bonino? A lead footed power play specialist? Guy couldn’t check to save his life. Loved watching him wave his stick at guys as they blew past him. If you think Sutter’s over payed how’d you like that Bonino extension?

      • Dahlenfan

        I’m hoping pettersoncan grab the reigns of our 2nd line and force TG to play him. Hes gonna be a stud. I keep hearing a line of goldobin/leipsic with petterson and virtanen
        Would loveto see that happen. Start with 10 mins a game and force TG to be playing them 15 mins by end of year. It may be a pipe dream but a pleasant one

        • Dahlenfan

          Do for petterson what they did for Henrik and Danny last year. Pampered offensive starts and first unit pp time. Last year in Sweden he played in henriks spot on the pp. Having him and boeser opposite each other with two lethal shots. Wow. Sounds good to me. Unlike Henrik. Petterson is a threat to score as well as set up boeser. Thinking our pp could be dangerous this year

          • Dahlenfan

            I’m also really hoping gaudette gets his chance this year. Would love to see him make the lineup in October but if not he can come in when injuries happen and force the issue. I think beagle was brought in so when petterson or gaudette take a center spot they can trade Sutter. At least that’s my hope. We need more offense and I hope they do move out veterans if the kids out play them. But this hasn’t happened in the past so we will see.

          • detox

            hoping to see some guys have bounce back seasons, like Gagner and Granlund. make some trades for picks, don’t really care what round, just make room for the young guys after they have spent a little time in Utica. don’t want to rush the youth into the lineup.

      • PQW

        What part of played a key role in TWO STANLEY CUPS don’t you get ret@rd!

        “Nick’s being out of the line up is a big miss for us, he’s a guy who does all the little things well you need to win in the playoffs” – Sidney Crosby… but a gutless blowhard nobody like you knows better huh…. nexttttttttttttt

          • PQW

            Uhhh… TWO TIME SC CHAMP Nick Bonino played centre on a line with Kessel and Hagelin – two of the fastest skaters in the league you sad little man… together they were a three man wrecking crew. Period. Keep sucking on those sour grapes kid.

            “Remember when they (canuck fans) said PIT wasn’t going to win the SC after the Sutter-Bonino trade lol?” – Pens fans on SN

            “Remember when they (canuck fans) said Sutter would score 25 plus goals 60 points and shut down all the top players in the Pacific and all the math that showed Sutter wouldn’t do a single positive thing for them over Bonino was all wrong? I’ll never get over how dumb those fans are. Never.” – Pens fans on SN

        • DogBreath

          Teammates tend to use the press to pump each other’s tires in the playoffs. Sid would only state those things publicly, especially in the playoffs and to the press. Don’t read too much into it.

        • Silverback

          The minute you use the word “ret@rd” I’m afraid you have crossed the line.
          First of all it is an affront to those who are mentally challenged. Secondly, for you, my friend, I would suggest counseling, and perhaps learn some social awareness.
          In real life, my guess is you are a bully or the complete opposite, someone who doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for himself and uses this forum to get back at the humanity that has “seemingly” picked on him, and not recognized his self perceived genius. Unfortunately your behaviour remains unchecked…but hopefully new management will have you removed. You don’t bring anything worthwhile to this forum.

  • LorneM

    Very well thought out article! It does a good job pointing out the negatives and the positives of Sutter. It seems that paying 4.3 for Sutter is still a slight overpayment, but with contract inflation over the last few years you could probably find a lot of similar contracts out there. I’m totally fine with him being on the team while they’re rebuilding since a team needs someone like him to soak up the tough minutes (even if he’s doing a below average job of it), but once they get competitive again I hope they either let him go or seriously reduce his role

    • I think the context of his signing – trading a solid player and draft pick to get him and then calling him a “foundational” player – was a lot more problematic than the dollar figure, which I think everyone now agrees is a modest, but not egregious, over-pay for what Sutter brings.

      • Freud

        You are correct Goon. The Sutter cheerleaders can’t grasp the context of the criticism.

        The GM drastically overestimated Sutter with his poor decision making and 1980 type evaluation of Sutter. The “foundational player” quotes remains one of the most astounding things Benning has ever done. The coaches overvalued what Sutter could bring to the team and put him in bad situations. The proof is in the extremely poor record the team has had in the standings and penalty killing.

        Sutter is a below average 3rd liner or a decent 4th liner. He’s overpaid and overplayed by this organization. That’s not his fault.

        So when I see criticisms of Sutter, it’s clearly understood the criticism is against the organization. Trying to justify Sutter with face-off stats or “shut-down” talk is just how the cheerleaders try and distract from the truth. The team thinks Sutter has significant value and the cheerleaders try and let the team off the hook with rationalizations. Pieces like this show Sutter has some value, but it’s minimal and his overusage will just make Sutter continue to look bad on a bad team.

        • bobdaley44

          He is foundational. He does the dirty work. Do you think that foundational means points and goals. Theres way more to the game than that. If you can upgrade on him great but nobody’s giving away centers so good luck with that.

        • Canuck4Life20

          Only the simplest of minds feel the need to categorize everyone as either ‘haters’ or ‘cheerleaders’. But then, we’re talking about a poster who can’t get over a quote that Benning made years ago, and has called him things like a deadbeat dad. You’re really one of the dumbest people to post on this site.

      • LorneM

        I absolutely agree with this. For the first season I hated Sutter simply because of how he was brought it. Now that it’s in the past I’m on the “Sutter is a useful player just slightly overpayed” side

      • truthseeker

        except for the fact Bonino wasn’t a “solid” player for the canucks. He f…king sucked. Biggest floater to ever wear a canuck uniform. The only guy I can think of in the history of the team that drifted around the neutral zone doing nothing as much as him was MAYBE Krutov. But then at least Krutov would bury his break away chances. Bonino didn’t even score.

        I was so happy when they traded Bonino. Just an awful player.

        Sutter hasn’t been good. But he’s definitely been better than what Bonino was as a canuck.

  • Locust

    Stopped reading after first sentence – not worth my time – another teenage girl angst of Sutter piece – straight to comments.
    JD lives on….. unfortunately.

      • Bud Poile

        Read it.Not a mention of his stats in the dot,which is a primary responsibility of every center.
        10 of every 18 faceoffs Sutter took were in the Canucks d-zone.
        Six were in the neutral zone.
        Two faceoffs per game were in the o-zone.
        Two,with an AHL-er that can’t score as his primary winger and the lowest scoring D in the league.
        ‘Speering Major’ is a rare exception here that rose above the stats.

        • Harman Dayal

          I guess you didn’t read it closely enough because I not only explicitly mentioned his faceoff success, but included a GAR chart right below that shows his proficiency in the faceoff dot.

          • PQW

            LOL – Don’t sweat it Harman, that’s just class clown and multi id troll Dud tripping over his own forked tongue as usual… guy is a proven idiot with comments like…

            “The Canucks are over paying for the assets they are acquiring. The Sutter trade is a good example. They trade Bonino, Clendening and a 2nd for Sutter and are paying him double Bonino’s salary.” – Bud Poile 2017

  • argoleas

    So, let’s suppose that Green will indeed want Beagle to soak up some of Sutter’s defensive duties, and will want Sutter to play a more balanced 2-way game (so, more offense). What wingers would you see him getting to promote that? Let’s assume that Boeser will remain with Horvat AND Pettersson will be on a separate, more sheltered line?

    Can 2 of Leipsic, Virtanen, Goldy and Granny be the best candidates?

    • speering major

      I like Eriksson and JV

      The line will still have defencive responsibility. JV is not really a creative guy and neither is Sutter. JV’s future is a power forward. He needs to be able to succeed in tough matchups, and I think he can. Jake doesn’t learn the quickest but he is learning. He also is a fantastic skater and very strong. It may not work out but I think this is a line that should be given some tough match-ups and that can drive the play towards the o-zone. Basically you’re hoping that could be a good looking 3rd line that’s given a bigger role on a rebuilding team

      • argoleas

        That could definitely work. My thinking is that Eriksson, as well as Baertschi, could end up as Pettersson’s linemates. This could really help Eriksson recover his scoring touch with a great setup guy in a way more offensive role, and would surround a rookie like Pettersson with two vets.

        In your scenario, a possible lineup could be:

        Goldy-Horvat-Boeser
        Baer-Pettersson-Gagner
        Eriksson-Sutter-Virtanen
        Roussel-Beagle-Granny

        With Leip and Schaller interchangeable as needed.

        • speering major

          I was thinking the same except switching Baer and Goldy. I hope Goldobin takes another step forward this season but if he struggles then Leipsic is the obvious guy to insert in his place. Also with Goldy- Ganger- Petterson, you can shelter them and if they aren’t doing well give them 4th line minutes. Petterson should get decent minutes in with PP time. It doesn’t seem like the Canucks are going to put Baer in a situation to fail given his contract situation. Gagner is on the way out and Goldobin needs to prove himself or will be shown the door. It makes sense to make these guys a 4th line that gets rewarded with good play since Petterson should rack up decent minutes on the PP and will work his way up the line-up as it’s justified. Baertschi’s contract situation makes it unrealistic to slot him in a bottom 6 role (to start the season)

        • TD

          I don’t think Gagner should play with Pettersson. I like Eriksson and Baertschi/Goldobin/Leipsic. Like you said, he may help Eriksson get his offensive touch back, but he brings the defensive side of the game that would be a big help to Pettersson while he’s learning the league. If Pettersson struggles defensively, having Gagner on his line would be a disaster in that case.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            I don’t think Gagner should be on the team, period. What exactly does he bring that you wouldn’t get from a young player who is being developed for the future? Waive him.

          • argoleas

            I’m more and more a fan of Pettersson with Eriksson and Baertschi. In fact, here’s how I would structure my lines:

            Goldy-Horvat-Boeser (lots of Edler-Stecher)
            Baer-Pettersson-Eriksson (mix of top 2 D-pairs)
            Leipsic-Sutter-Virtanen (lots of MDZ-Tanev, because you know Green will put those two together)
            Roussel-Beagle-Schaller (lots of Pouliot-Guddy)
            Granny

            And as TD states, I too see Gagner as being expendable, irrespective of his contract. Simply put, if there are inevitable injuries, I rather see Utica callups getting time than Gagner. His time has come and gone. Nothing personal. Just business.

      • argoleas

        My only concern with this line would be that it does not seem to have a playmaker, and thus this is where Baertschi may not flourish. Baertschi seems like a very good complimentary player, hence why he seems to work so well w/ Bo’n’Flow. Looks to me that what could really help Sutter and Virtanen is someone like Goldy.

  • speering major

    Sutter’s zone starts, line mates, and competition all tilt the rink against him. If he was playing 15 minutes a night with neutral zone starts and quality linemates on a winning team, his numbers would be padded. The other thing that gets badly under rated is the defensmen on your team. Not only was Sutters most common linemate not even an NHL player that didn’t score much in the minors, he was then matched up against the other teams best line. Then on top of that they needed to get out of their own zone with an abysmal D. Tanev and Gudbranson missed half the season. Edler and Stetcher missed over 10 games each. The rest are bottom pairing D (and not even NHL D on other teams) and asked to play in all situations. Even Sutter winning a D zone draw with these guys is an uphill battle.

    Sutter was a 3rd line center in Pit that was going to command a healthy raise next contract that they couldn’t afford. Pits (under rated) management wisely identified Bonino as a target in trade who could play a 3rd line role well and had his salary under control for two seasons. Once Bonino’s contract expired and he was due for a raise, Pit also let him go. Bonino got a raise from $1.9 – $4.1M. Other teams are calling on Sutter for a reason. Yes Benning touted Sutter as a guy that could step up to a #2 center role (who in theory was being held back by the best 1-2 centers in the league) but Sutter just doesn’t have the creativity or instincts offensively. He is a rock solid #3 guy though.

    If you go to Capfriendly and sort centers by salary you will find that 23 Centers make between $3.5 and $4.75M. 67 Centers make $4.25 million+. 64 Centers make 4.5 Million +. With 31 teams that’s roughly 2 centers per team considering a handful of teams have 3 centers making 4.5M+. Long story short, this puts Sutters salary at the high end of # 3 center and the very bottom end of #2 centers. Not a bargain but not great deal either.

    Long story short, the phone was ringing for Sutter because he is a high end 3rd line center and is paid accordingly. The Canucks are sellers and many teams would be upgrading their 3rd line center at a fair salary with him. Benning would be wise to move Sutter this season since a high end 3rd line vet center isn’t a great asset for a rebuilding team. I think and hope that the Beagle signing, Gaudette playing well in Utica, and Petterson living up to his hype will free Benning up to make this move. I don’t like the Beagle contract but if he isn’t costing any assets and he frees up Benning to move Sutter, it actually helps the rebuild.

    • argoleas

      To your last paragraph, I fully agree with that, although I do not believe Sutter can be traded until such time as Pettersson AND Gaudette look like they are comfortable in the NHL as Centers. So for Pettersson, that means getting a strong grip on that 2LC, and Gaudette on 3LC shared with Beagle. It could happen this season, but a safer bet may be 2020 Feb TDL. But in any case, that looks like the path that mgmt is taking in respect to Sutter’s future tenure here.

    • TD

      Nice post SM, the only place I some what disagree is the benefit Sutter has to the Canucks while rebuilding. He protects the young centres from the tough matchups. Bo has yet to show he can be that shut down guy. If Pettersson does play centre this year, I don’t think he should be playing against McDavid, Crosby, etc. Same with Gaudette. I would trade Sutter at the deadline if offer great value, but I think Sutter has (and will for the first 2/3 of this year) has been important for this rebuilding team.

  • Bud Poile

    “The problem with analyzing Sutter’s play is that it’s difficult to accurately adjust for quality of competition based on the publicly available information. There’s just not enough data to quantify the impact quality of competition has for on-ice results.”
    “Sutter…. had mediocre wingers by his side unlike his comparables Couturier, Barkov, Kadri, and O’Rielly.”
    “Of course, it’s entirely possible these rates slipped because his line struggled to get into the offensive zone in the first place.”
    “The former first-round pick benefitted from a .948 on-ice five-on-five save percentage that was tops among Canucks’ forwards, but ……….”
    “As such, quality of competition was likely a greater factor for Sutter than it is in most cases. That’s all we can really say though; analysis beyond this scope would be speculative at best.”
    “….a shutdown centre like Sutter will face the opposition’s top players for a higher proportion of his ice-time….”
    ” He did all this while playing with decisively inferior teammates relative to the other centres in the cohort.”

    • Harman Dayal

      For some reason I can’t reply to your post regarding faceoffs so I’ll just drop it here.

      You don’t even need to know about GAR to understand and read the chart. The horizontal bar pertains to the player’s percentile ranking as per the x axis label. So if you look at the faceoffs section, you’ll see that he’s in the 93rd percentile. Percentile to me is more important than the raw faceoff win percentage because the latter isn’t taking his performance relative to the league into account.

      • Bud Poile

        Harman,you state your data is inconclusive and analysis speculative.
        There are web sites devoted to face off data.
        The “league” wasn’t paired with an AHL’er that couldn’t score while tasked with d-zone starts.
        So,yeah,scoring probabilities and scoring chances don’t really require a chart.
        He spent the season in a defensive role.

    • Beer Can Boyd

      Why do you see him as a winger when he has played center for virtually all of his 657 NHL games,(except for the ridiculous Sedin experiment), and for his entire junior career? Know something we don’t?

  • truthseeker

    I’ve posted this before on one of those million other sutter threads about if he’s worth it…

    https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/vancouver-canucks-brandon-sutter-salary-cap-comparable-players/

    This was time of signing so I don’t want to hear a peep from any illogical idiot who tries to say that any of those guys are “way better” than Sutter due to the hindsight seasons SINCE the signing.

    Looking back at the time, measured against the stats and performance of the others it is clear that Sutter is on the high end of the pay scale for guys like that but that he’s on the lower end with regards to performance.

    Seems to me almost nothing has changed. He’s still over paid for what he brings but it’s NOT much of an over pay. He’s pretty much in line with what guys of his age and ability get.

    I think there are many of you here who don’t seem to understand that there is a pay scale in the NHL. If you’ve put your time in and shown you’re an every day average younger player then you WILL get a certain dollar level. You all might think he’s only worth 2 million….(hell…I probably do too) but that’s not how it works. Guys that have put in their time like he has get around 4 million a year. That’s just how the are paid. Like a middle manager at a company in a generic industry “just gets” xxx dollars per year.

    • speering major

      The most simple way to look at how Sutter is paid is to compare him to other centers. He is 66th highest paid center in the league. Given there’s 31 teams, he’s outside being paid a top 2 on average. Just off the top of my head that doesn’t even include Mathews or Eichel, but then again maybe there’s guys like the Sedins rolling off the books that I didn’t notice.

      Anyways, Bennings comments and expectations shouldn’t cloud how good or bad the player or the contract actually is. Sutter had the least favorable deployment in the entire league. He is on one of the worst teams in the league. To clown on Sutters offensive numbers is kind of misguided. Only 65 centers scored 18+ goals. Again that basically lines up with top 2 centermen. That’s about Sutters average over the prior 3 seasons. Last season he played most of his minutes with an AHL player that wasn’t even a scorer in the minors. His other linemates were 4th liners and fringe NHL’ers. He was given the most difficult deployment in the league. On top of that, he was also on the ice with one of the weakest D groups in the league. His numbers dipped. He was still a + player on one of the worst teams in the league while getting the least favorable deployment.

      Sutter is clearly a high end 3rd line center. He is also paid like one. Sutter is no bargain and you could argue his contract is a bit rich but he has performed and is paid like a high end 3rd line center. A statistical argument that Sutter is a 4th liner is an exercise in demonstrating why a little knowledge can be dangerous

      • Macksonious

        “Sutter is clearly a high end 3rd line center. He is also paid like one. Sutter is no bargain and you could argue his contract is a bit rich but he has performed and is paid like a high end 3rd line center. A statistical argument that Sutter is a 4th liner is an exercise in demonstrating why a little knowledge can be dangerous”

        That’s it in a nutshell.

        Reason to be careful about putting too much emphasis on certain stats when evaluating players.

      • TD

        66th highest paid centre and guys like Eichel, Matthews, Keller, etc are on entry level deals. If you factor those players in, Sutter is probably in the middle to bottom of third line centres.

  • Kootenaydude

    The team sucks and Sutter is a big part of that “Suck”. This team will be better when he’s finally gone. The only guys that don’t suck on this team are Brock, Bo and Tanev when he’s not injured. When the Canucks finally make the playoffs. What guys from last years team will be left? Not many….. because they suck!!

  • TheRealPB

    Very interesting article — this is probably the most balanced analysis of Sutter that I’ve seen, suggesting that he’s neither as bad (or overpaid) as some suggest, nor as good or reliable as his supporters argue. I don’t have a problem paying a strong third line center what he gets but as the article suggests, it is unrealistic to ask him to be more than he’s capable of. I also think there’s been some serious ill-usage of him — for example on the Sedins’ wing — during his time here. He’s a straight-line player so you’re also limited in terms of who you can play with him; he’s not exactly creative and he’s really not the shut-down center *some* people imagine him to be. So the big question is who amongst that group of wingers do you want to play him with? If he’s supposed to lead a sort of scoring line you need at least one playmaker and one shooter; Sutter has a decent shot and can retrieve the puck, but he can’t lead the offense on his own line. Horvat, by contrast has gotten much better at using his line mates as he’s matured. If Horvat-Baertschi-Boeser is the scoring line, and Beagle-Granlund-Roussel the shutdown line, who do you put on the ice with Sutter? I feel like he’d be the death knell for any hope of Virtanen getting into a good offensive groove and it would similarly stifle Pettersson. So Eriksson and Leipsic? And hope that it doesn’t depress all of their relative values?

    • Beefus

      I agree PB. Having Beagle and Sutter gives the Canucks two defensive centres who will stifle the scoring of any skilled wingers put along side them. Hopefully Benning was just blowing smoke when he told us that Sutter would be put in an offensive role this season. If Beagle is here for the long term then Sutter must be moved at some point this season.

    • TheRealRusty

      By default i would try Leipsic and Goldphin with Sutter. Both of them show surprising creativity and I would turn them both loose offensively with Sutter as their defensive conscience.

        • argoleas

          Not necessarily, if we look at forming 3 scoring lines, and whatever you want to call Beagle’s line. THat’s the better way of looking at forwards in a top 9 vs. top/bottom 6.

          Furthermore, with two PP units each with 4 forwards, basically all of your top 9 will get time on the PP. I epxect Sutter to be the odd man out as he will have lots of PK duty.

    • speering major

      I’ve said it before but I like him with JV and Eriksson. JV isn’t going to be Todd Bertuzzi. He just isn’t as skilled. JV doesn’t need highly skilled guys, he needs competent guys. I also think Sutter will still have a defensive role, Beagle can’t handle all of it. JV has the physical tools to be a solid two way player that drives the play towards the OZone. He’s not really a fit on a line that is zig zagging and making tic-tac-toe plays. With another good skater and solid player in Sutter they can gain the zone with their speed, retrieve loose pucks, and win battles. They are the kind of players that score with a lunch bucket. Win pucks, get em to the point or net, and bang away. JV has the speed and shot to bury some off the rush but he’s not going to be threading the needle or weaving around and breaking down coverage like a Gaudreau. Eriksson is solid all around and if the puck is in the Ozone he can score.

      Offense goes to die with Sutter because of who he is matched up against, zone starts, and his linemates. Yes a skilled guy like Sven would probably be a disaster on his line while he could contribute with Bo. Same with Goldobin. It goes both ways with Sutter, his linemates are actually far worse than him and bringing his numbers down. In the 3 prior seasons Sutter scored goals at a rate that put him over an average of 18 goals/82. That’s high end for a 3rd center and low for a 2nd. He needs linemates that can step up to his level. Archibald and Granlunds offensive didn’t go to die with Sutter, they don’t play the game on his level (chemistry aside) and hurt his performance. If JV takes another step forward this season he could be a solid 200 foot player. That’s also a reasonable expectation for his career. Quality 3rd liner than can fill in on the second when called upon. He’s not there yet but he showed some hope in the second half of last season. Give him a shot IMO

  • Fortitude00

    Harman never has liked Sutter he put same bias stats on Nuckmisconduct last year. Fact is Sutter lead the team in +- the stat no one likes. He makes others better defensively all the while taking most defensive face-offs and playing against others tops competition. Who cares if he rarely scores if he is stopping other top lines from scoring. That is his value.

    • LTFan

      Agree. I really don’t know why all this negativity on Sutter. I suspect it is the money he is being paid compared to the points he gets. IMO his value is far more than just points.