It has already been an up-and-down Canucks season just five games in. Starting out with two road defeats killed all the hype going into the year with the much-improved roster.
Then spirits were slightly lifted during the emotional home opener, unveiling Bo Horvat as the franchise’s 14th captain in its history. From there, the team is currently undefeated and sit with a 3-2 record after a dominant performance against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.
But even with young right-handed defenceman Troy Stecher scoring his first goal of the season, he is still finding himself towards the bottom of the depth chart every single night. He is currently sixth among Canucks blueliners in even-strength time-on-ice and is on the bottom pairing with newcomer Jordie Benn.
In theory, the group of defencemen this team is currently rolling with is improved compared to last year. It makes sense that a player like Stecher might find himself with less ice-time when the team brings in players like Tyler Myers to play on the top pairing and get the prime spot on offensive opportunities.
Whether it is the necessity to see exactly what the team has in the free-agent signing or believing that he can be the answer next to Edler for this hopeful season, it’s undetermined. But right now it’s diminishing the potential Stecher could bring with more minutes.
At the age of 25, he’s approaching his prime and might just need more opportunity. The way this current team was built this summer was not exactly sticking to any plans for the young core, but rather trying to make minimal improvements that create an unnecessary logjam for positions.
Stecher averaged 19:55 TOI all of last season, but now he’s jolted into this awkward role and down almost more than six minutes a game on average, with 13:42 TOI.
It’s early and the small sample size narrative is present, but there appears to be no immediate room for change when it comes to giving more opportunities this season. Stecher won’t simply jump ahead of Tanev or Myers on the right side of the defence, so it appears that he will be on the bottom pair unless something drastic happens.
Within these minutes, he’s not getting the right number of offensive chances either to really get the most out of the agile blueliner.
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Again, it’s early in the season. The percentage of offensive starts for Stecher might not continue to be his career-low, but as of right now, he has been given no true opportunity to demonstrate the side of the game that he’s better suited for.
How he’s deployed could be seen as the root of any stat where the righty isn’t seen in the best light. Through five games, Stecher is carrying a 43.59 on-ice CF% at even-strength — absolutely dreadful considering he was above-50 per cent for the first time in his career last year.
Being given not many chances to be on the ice when the Canucks have the puck in the offensive zone is hindering his ability to raise that stat and have his overall season appear to be better.
This can all balance out by season’s end, but right now it appears that Stecher is being deployed in a different way and the team is suffering because of it.