Though the news broke a little early, the Vancouver Canucks made it official on July 1, 2019 — signing Tyler Myers from the UFA market to a five-year contract with an annual cap hit of $6 million.
That certainly made Myers a big-ticket acquisition, even if his actual price-tag came in a lot lower than the numbers the rumour mill had been churning out a few days prior. Jim Benning and Co. may have avoided breaking the bank wide open for the then 29-year-old right-handed defenseman, but they still paid him enough to court controversy – and, indeed, Myers would remain under heavy scrutiny throughout his first season in Vancouver.
As of now, the fanbase and mediasphere are both split on the matter.
There are some, like this author, who will contend that Myers’ debut was largely successful and represents a major upgrade on the Canucks’ blueline — even if questions about the long-term value of his contract linger.
There are others who claim they would use a future compliance buyout on Myers, not Loui Eriksson.
That’s quite the disparity in opinion, so let’s dive into the facts and figures to see what they actually say.
Myers By The Numbers
It’s difficult to say where exactly Tyler Myers’ 2019/20 performance ranks among defensemen, even in the limited context of the Vancouver Canucks’ blueline.
Myers led all Vancouver defenders in average even-strength ice-time with 18:35. He might not have been the top dog when it came to special teams, but head coach Travis Green clearly trusted Myers in all situations — his powerplay and shorthanded minutes rank second and fourth, respectively, on this year’s defence corps.
Offensively, however, Myers had a down year by his own standards. With just 6 goals and 21 points in 68 games, Myers was producing at his lowest rate since leaving Buffalo in 2014. Put into the context of the Canucks, Myers scored one more point than Chris Tanev in one fewer game, and only four more points than Troy Stecher.
There are, of course, explanations for Myers’ dip in productivity readily available. His powerplay ice-time, despite being second-highest on the blueline, was the second-lowest of his career. And that makes sense given that, through no fault of Myers himself, Quinn Hughes quickly began to eat up the majority of the man advantage minutes this season.
Myers also had a shooting percentage of 4.5%, a little below his career average, indicating some bad puck luck.
He did bring some of his promised physicality to the table, ranking fifth on the team with 99 hits and engaging in some memorable tussles – including the tallest wrestling match in NHL history with Zdeno Chara.
Zdeno Chara didn't like Tyler Myers' hit on Karson Kuhlman. Two tallest players in the league pic.twitter.com/ATpQJXPkSt
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 23, 2020
He also obviously earned the respect of his coach and teammates enough to wear an “A” on his jersey for a few games.
But in order to get to the real truth of how well Myers performed in 2019/20, we’re going to have to dig a little deeper than his basic statline.
Tyler Myers Vs Advanced Stats
Two weeks before the NHL went on hiatus, this author wrote an article entitled “Tyler Myers Vs. Advanced Stats.” The article posited that, although Myers’ analytics seemed to be so universally poor, he still somehow found a way to positively impact his team and his teammates — perhaps through some as-of-yet intangible qualities.
But before we get to those, let’s dredge up those advanced stats one last time.
As previously mentioned in that March column, Myers’ possession-related numbers all tell the same tale.
His 49.52% Corsi For is second on the blueline – and a smidge below breaking even.
The same is true for his 49.27% rate of Expected Goals.
And for his rate of scoring chances generated.
The only possession category in which Myers notched a passing grade is High Danger Scoring Chances, where he picked up a percentage of 51.03% — and ranked second on the blueline, behind Quinn Hughes.
Relative to his teammates, Myers’ Corsi For was tied for second-highest on the blueline with Alex Edler.
In other words, Myers’ possession numbers weren’t fantastic in 2019/20, but they were also better than those of any other Canuck defender, save for Hughes.
Micah Blake McCurdy’s visual charts at HockeyViz.com are great for their graphical depictions of a player’s on-ice impact, and they tell a similar tale of Myers’ offensive impact – a bit above average in terms of the NHL, but well above average in terms of the Canucks.
McCurdy’s charts also work on the defensive side of the puck, and there they’ve also got an interesting story to tell about Myers. When this author last checked them midway through the season, they showed the Canucks as allowing significantly more shots to be directed at their net with Myers on the ice than without.
Now, however, after 68 games, Myers has smoothed things out considerably – standing tall as a positive impact player defensively, albeit only slightly.
This would suggest that Myers’ apparent defensive shortcomings have been overblown, perhaps due to a combination of a bad reputation and early season jitters. His errors often take the form of blatantly obvious gaffes, as well, which doesn’t help matters – but it seems that his overall defensive play is sound, if unspectacular.
Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Chart goes a step further, combining Myers’ deployment, quality of competition, and possession stats into a result of “Average Top-Four Two-Way Defenseman,” which sounds about right, all things considered.
Impact On The Team
Tyler Myers arrived in Vancouver, led the team in even-strength minutes, and the Canucks’ points-percentage jumped from .494 to .565, placing them in playoff contention once again.
That alone is testament that Myers made a positive impact on the team, but what about on his teammates?
Although it is a controversial stat, Myers’ WOWY chart shows that both Alex Edler and Quinn Hughes played better with Myers than without him, and most would agree that the eye-test backs that up.
Myers was less successful at holding up less talented partners, like Jordie Benn and Oscar Fantenberg, but that’s still something he was asked to do a lot. In fact, any notions that Myers was carried by either Edler or Hughes should be put aside, because he played the bulk of his season alongside a bottom-pairing defender despite his heavy minutes.
From Dobber’s Frozen Tools
It could be argued, however, that Myers’ production was carried by those two, because he scored almost all of his points either alongside them or on the powerplay. Then again, it’s important to note that Myers’ scoring rate, when paired with Edler and Hughes, was roughly in line with his season-by-season production in Winnipeg.
From Dobber’s Frozen Tools
To summarize, Tyler Myers is a roughly average defenseman by most measures, and yet he has conversely made a massively positive impact on the Vancouver Canucks and some of his more talented teammates. Alex Edler and Quinn Hughes play better when paired with Myers, and Myers plays better when paired with them — and if they’re all at their best, the team is usually winning.
Perhaps the best call moving forward would be to get Myers away from the Fantenbergs and Benns of the world and start deploying him like a true top-four defenseman. After all, they’re already paying him like one — so why not try to get the absolute most out of him?