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Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

What the Canucks have in Jordie Benn

On the first of July, mistakes are always made in the NHL. Teams want a certain player and poison their entire cap structure to get a middling player just because they don’t cost any future assets to acquire.

The Vancouver Canucks are certainly no stranger to those unfortunate mistakes made on that one particular day on the hockey calendar. Big-name free agents that are a shell of what they once were are now seen as anchors and future buyout candidates just several months after pen has been put to paper.

But luckily for them, a big man from Victoria wanted to come back to his home province and play for the team he grew up watching, and they got him on a fairly team-friendly deal.

Jordie Benn has been all over the league and was simply known as “the other Benn” throughout his time in the barren depths of the minors. Spending time in the Central Hockey League after graduating from the BCHL and going undrafted, Benn worked his way through the Dallas Stars system, signing there as a free agent presumptuously because of his brother Jamie.

Bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL until he found consistency at the age of 26, sticking with the Stars.  Then going to the Montreal Canadiens in a deadline day trade in 2017, he’s moved into the echelon of a regular, everyday NHL defenceman.

Signing with the Canucks on a two-year, $4-million deal was simple enough. At the age of 31 now, Benn is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he still has a lot of effectiveness left. Just last year he set his career-high in points on Montreal, while points doesn’t mean everything coming from a defenceman and it was only 22, it still shows that Benn was able to be a productive top-4 defenceman on a playoff bubble team — something that Vancouver might be next season.

But the Canucks didn’t sign the left-handed defenceman to be an offensive stalwart, it’s Benn’s defensive game that earned him the contract and what has kept him around in this league.

It’s not just some mysterious scouting report either, Benn has true defensive effects while he’s on the ice and had a significant impact on why the Canadiens were able to win as many games as the did. Ignoring the hyperbolic statement, but the fresh Canucks defenceman was able to play important minutes at even-strength and contribute to Montreal being ranked seventh in the league in expected goals against per hour.

While Benn was on the ice for the Habs this past season, they were simply a better defensive team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Micah Blake McCurdy’s shot rate viz, it’s easy to see what a difference Montreal was with and without Benn. While he was playing, the Canadiens suppressed shots to seven per cent lower than league average — especially around the net, where they hardly gave up any shots.

Without Benn, Montreal was still a solid defensive team, but not at the same level. They still gave up some significant chances, enough to raise Micah’s threat level metric by five per cent.

Not only are the quality of chances lessened with the 31-year-old defenceman on the ice, but the quantity as well. Benn had an on-ice CA/60 of 53.55, while Montreal over the whole entire season and every minute accounted for, had a 55.61 CA/60. Lowering that number still holds a significant value to teams. Since in basic theory, the less the opponent is attempting shots, the less they have the puck, the less likely they are able to score goals to win the game — extremely simplified.

Considering that the whole margin of CA/60 between all 31 teams was only 14.34, lowering that by a couple ticks can be important to prevent some scoring. That number is also including the horrid 65.43 CA/60 of the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators. If that is forgotten, the range shrinks to only 9.17.

While Benn easily makes the Canucks defensive game much better, he shouldn’t be relied on to contribute much on the other side of the puck. Small point totals aside, even Benn doesn’t personally attempt shots that often — throughout his entire hockey career he has only passed the 10-goal mark once and that was with the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL, 11 years ago.

But what Benn has done really well this past season with Montreal is get the puck to skaters that are open to attempt a shot.

viz and data via Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine)

On the Habs, Benn had the highest rate of primary shot assists among defencemen. And significantly in the upper tier of defencemen across the entire league. While this could just be a result of Benn hardly shooting the puck when he has it on his stick in the offensive zone, he was still able to contribute more shot attempts than teammate Victor Mete.

If Benn is cemented into the Canucks’ group of top-four defencemen, then he will likely be playing with some highly-skilled forwards that would appreciate his ability to get them the puck in key areas of the ice just like he has done in the past.

It’s one of the small things that often go unnoticed, but if tracked, like Corey has done here, the improvement on offence overall can increase. It historically hasn’t for Benn, but if just a quick break of luck and the right goal-scoring threats are on the other end of those shot assist numbers, perhaps Benn’s assist totals can increase. With that, his overall value to the boxscore-lookers might rise and we can see some praise for smart business for getting him on such a cheap cap hit.

A lot would have to go right, but Benn could possibly, theoretically, set his career-high in points, two years in a row. It’s reaching, but the little things that lead to that production is there.

All of this at even-strength is great, but where Benn does a lot of his work is on the penalty kill.

With the Habs last year, Benn averaged 2:46 TOI shorthanded per game, second only to the 2:48 TOI of Shea Weber. They were Montreal’s primary PK partnership throughout all of last season and they did an above-average job at restricting opposing teams from scoring on their powerplays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Micah’s viz again to demonstrate how effective Benn was on the penalty kill, it was clearly a major difference between having him out there and not. It could be the presence of Weber with him, but a total of 225 minutes should average out the individual impact.

Tallying up the last two seasons of Benn’s penalty kill ability, the estimated individual impact level is four percent below league average on Micah’s threat level metric. Taking away all of the teammate impact and focusing on the individual, Benn still has a positive effect on a team’s ability shorthanded.

All of this combined into one package presents a very unassuming and under-the-radar defenceman. Benn won’t necessarily have any particular burst onto the scene in Vancouver and won’t impress in any significant way. But he’ll just be there and able to hold off the opposition successfully enough, as he has done historically in this league.

At just two years and a cap hit of $2-million, he can provide some much-needed veteran value on this improved Canucks blueline. He’ll play his role and be competent at it.

Things sometimes change with a new environment –Montreal had a very structured defensive system under Claude Julien last season, but if Travis Green is up to the task of improving this team’s overall defence, they certainly acquired one defenceman that should be able to perform.

Especially with the first full season of Quinn Hughes approaching, the addition of Benn is an interesting case study on balance throughout the group of defencemen. They both are left-handed shooters, so they will likely rarely see the ice together, but a Benn-Stecher pairing is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

It’s natural to always want balance, so if a pairing involving Benn and one of the Canucks’ young offensive defencemen is a thing next season, it would be interesting to see what exactly the results are.

This signing should have an overall positive effect on the upcoming Canucks season as a whole. He has certainly shown that he is much better than any of the previous blueliners that were able to get a mountain of minutes for Vancouver last year, so for just a $4-million dollar commitment, it makes all the sense in the world.

  • Solid defensive players are, on the whole, underappreciated and underpaid in the league. There’ seems to be a market inefficiency there. A player who’s highly effective on the power play will surely get paid well, while those who are highly effective on the penalty kill are often overlooked.

    That doesn’t mean that a team should load itself up with Selke candidates, but I think Green is right to want an effective shut-down line. It’s an affordable way to improve the team that gives the coach situational flexibility.

  • AHL/NHL tweener slotting in between 6th-8th dman on any decent team (see healthy scratches) who will inevitably play 75+ games in a role above his head when Tanev & Edler go down with their annual injuries.

  • This is a great signing by GMJB. His 22 points are more than Hutton’s 20 points and Ben likely would have gotten close to 4 mil in arbitration.
    The PK was good last year, but adding Benn to the mix will give TJ more options! Having Tanev play less defensive zone starts and PK minutes should help with injuries.
    If Stetcher plays with Benn, I expect Troy to have a very good season. Having a dependable guy next to him will give Troy the freedom to use his speed through the neutral zone.
    Great signing by Jimbo

  • getting sick of the trolls on this site, I suggest not reading their crap, give them a trash and do not reply to their ignorant posts, maybe they will crawl back under the rocks they came from.

  • Fun fact – The Canucks defence will be older on average to start the 2019-20 season than it was during the disaster that was the Torterella 2013-14 season.

    2013-14
    Garrison – 28
    Bieksa – 32
    Edler – 27
    Hamhuis – 30
    Tanev – 23
    Stanton/Weber – 24
    Avg. 27.3 years

    2019-20
    Edler – 33
    Stecher – 25
    Tanev – 29
    Hughes – 20 (October bday)
    Myers – 29
    Benn – 32
    Avg. 28 years

    • The good news is that Stecher, Hughes, Juolevi, and Woo are all young. In 2013, the Canucks’ prospect pool was so shallow you could barely get your toes wet.

        • Toronto
          Colorado
          Arizona
          Los Angeles
          Those were the last place teams ,in those four years-2015-18.
          Funny how T.O. and Colorado are now the league’s top teams,eh.
          Vancouver finished three wins below Colorado this past year and they were a playoff contender.
          In spite of ZERO top-three lottery picks EXCELLENT DRAFTING has accelerated the rebuild.

  • Potential to be one of GMJB’s best UFA signings if he can avoid any injuries. I for one will be cheering on this local kid, who possibly gave up more money and term to play for his hometown team.

  • Canucks loaded up with sandpaper:Benn,Myers and Miller.

    Jordie Benn on bringing a physical presence: “I can definitely play that roll. We’ve got to give our forwards room and take care of the young kids and show them the ropes. If anyone really messes around, I can step in and take the brunt of it. I’m excited to do that.”

        • Myers is 6 feet 8 and plays 5 feet 8… 97 hits Dud hahaha the league leaders had between 250 and 300!!!! Guddy had 184, Motte had 200 and Bulldog Biega had 101 in half as many games! 97 Dud… NINETY SEVEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Dud the troll, there’s a reason the team who drafted Marshmallow Myers traded him and there’s a reason Winterpeg waved him buh bye… but keep dreaming that Tyler Myers is the second coming of Chara you utter trolling nonce.

          • So,you’ll be happy when the Gagner hire you credit Gillis with is traded, banned PQW tolllololo.
            29 hits is figure skater numbers.

          • You drunk again Dud? WTF are you talking about!! Even for you this senilegarbage makes zero sense… but a pathetic 97 hits by Marshmallow Myers makes total sense – Benning overpay BUST!

          • Isn’t Gagner a Benning hire and isn’t he an Oiler now? Need to put down the bong man lol.

        • Bud, Myers has his strengths and definitely represents a significant upgrade on last season’s D. I do think people should keep their expectations of him realistic. I believe Myers played almost every game last season so he averaged barely over 1 hit per game. Everyone knows Tanev doesn’t through a lot of hits. That doesn’t change the fact Myers isn’t a particularly physical player. Half his hits are from him just standing in the way and people running into him.

      • Chamois will soak up all of the delicious tears from some of the writers and commenters on this site. Maybe they can stop crying and start enjoying the ride…

  • This is the potential to be the best FA signing of the Benning era. Low-bar there, but this is a great deal for an effective player, a kind of Tanev from 5 years ago, but with more grit. He is definitely a professional upgrade on the hoser Hutton. Sure they overpaid for Myers, but balancing these two players out is decent management. I do hope they keep on to Tanev; if he can regain health and get back to his élite shot-suppression ways, the Nucks will finally have a decent NHL defence. Myers is also less of an egregious overpay than J.T. Miller. That has the possibility of disaster in multiple directions.