Further analyzing the Vancouver Canucks’ team numbers from the 2022-23 NHL season
Photo credit:© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
By Michael Liu2 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks’ 2022-23 season was one filled with disappointment. For a team that had ambitions to claw their way into the postseason, they fell well short of that mark with spectacularly bad stretches of hockey along the way. It’s another lost year.
But, like every single hockey game in the NHL, there were plenty of stats tracked throughout the season, stacking up to paint a picture of how this team succeeded and failed. Off-the-ice turmoil aside, the product on the ice had some serious issues but also some glimmers of hope.
So what do the numbers have to say about the Canucks’ 2022-23 campaign?
Well-deserved 22nd-place finish
If there is something the Vancouver Canucks did exceptionally well, it’s being just good enough to not be a basement dweller and bad enough to be below average. When looking across the board statistically, this team consistently showed that it didn’t have any particularly impressive categories at even strength play, which isn’t the greatest considering most of the game is played at 5v5.
Vancouver’s Corsi of 47.62% ranked them 23rd in the entire NHL, with the Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights just ahead of them at 48.15%. While this might suggest the notion that teams don’t necessarily need good puck possession numbers to succeed and win (and it is true to an extent), the Golden Knights proved to be more efficient in chance generation and scoring goals than the Canucks. Vegas finished as the 11th-best team in GF%, while the Canucks sat in the same peg at 23rd.
It does provoke thought as to how Vancouver might want to approach the game in the coming season. If they aren’t a strong puck possession team, perhaps they can build themselves into a counterattacking ground that can strike teams off the rush. This would see their CF% remain around the same but have their expected goals and scoring chances rise with a majority of their 5v5 offence coming off the transition. Ideally, they would be able to dictate the pace of the game from effective puck possession, but if that can’t be achieved then there are realistic options to win hockey games.
The Canucks struggled mightily to generate much offence at 5v5 last season. It’s something the eye-test has shown, but the stats help contextualize just how bad it was. Vancouver’s xGF on the season was 159.04, putting them at 26th, while their xGF% sat at 47.01 to give them a slight bump to 25th in that category. It doesn’t help matters that the Canucks were the 12th-worst team when it came to xGA, their 179.28 total only made worse by the fact that Vancouver actually conceded 192 goals, the 7th-worst in the league.
These numbers are only supported more when looking at the chance metrics across the season. Vancouver was 25th in scoring chances for (1727) and 18th in scoring chances against (1930). This was not helped by the fact that the chances the Canucks generated were not the highest quality, while also giving up a lot of high-danger chances the other way. Vancouver finished 22nd in HDCF (737) and 23rd in HDCA (827) for a grand total of 24th in HDCF% (47.12). The 5 worst teams in HDCF% were actively tanking in the season, while the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, and St. Louis Blues filled in the gap between them and the Canucks. Generally speaking, that isn’t the type of company that a playoff team keeps.
The lack of offence is interesting when coupled with the fact that Vancouver finished as the 7th best team in shooting percentage. This probably comes from Andrei Kuzmenko’s insane finishing rate but also highlights that this team was pretty consistently scoring on their shots. The only problem seems to be that they didn’t have the volume to match, or that they were often looking for the perfect opportunity and missed out on shots or high-danger chances as a result. Unfortunately, this team was let down by their goaltending going the other way, with a 28th-place ranking in SV% (90.34). If Vancouver got league-average netminding, then it isn’t unrealistic to expect this team to improve enough to be on the playoff bubble.
Very contrasting special teams
We know how historically bad the Canucks’ penalty kill was last season. The numbers tell the ugly picture on the ice – 25th in CF% (10.98), 19th in xGF% (10.48), 28th in GA (69), and 22nd in HDCA (175). If there is some consolation, it appears that Vancouver got seriously unlucky between their xGA and GA. With a 55.27 xGA, only the Los Angeles Kings had more actual goals than expected goals conceded than the Canucks (14.01 vs 13.73 GA-xGA).
What’s striking is that Vancouver actually didn’t do awful in limiting scoring chances. They were the 12th-best team in SCA while on the PK, just behind the notoriously defensively-sound New York Islanders in that regard. The issue came due to the fact that when the Canucks broke down, it usually ended up being recorded as a high-danger chance.
The Canucks scored the third-most short-handed goals in the league with 14, far outstripping their 17th-place xGF (6.47). It’s probably not realistic to expect them to continue scoring at the rate, but it provides interesting data to look at when trying to figure out how the Vancouver penalty kill will look next year.
On the entire flip side, the Vancouver powerplay finally looked like one of the more dangerous units in the NHL. Their 11th-best powerplay percentage (22.71) was backed up by the advanced stats, with the Canucks being 6th-best in CF% (88.78), 9th-best in xGF% (90.50), 11th-best in GF (62), 7th-best in SCF (749), and 8th-best in HDCF (203). If there is anything to pick apart here, it’s that the Canucks should be generating more chances with their puck-possession superiority than what they currently are, but that’s just a nitpick. It had been years since Vancouver had a functioning powerplay, and it should provide encouragement and a foundation to build on to see that their man-advantage was solid even through the 2022-23 campaign. The only thing for them to keep in mind is to not give up any shorthanded chances – they were 30th in high-danger save percent and save percent on the powerplay.
In all, the Canucks were likely buoyed by their powerplay, sunk by rough goaltending, ineffective 5v5 offence, and a really bad penalty kill. Not much of this is a surprise, but the numbers offer a look at how bad they were in comparison to the league, while also offering up insights as to what went right. There’s a lot to improve on before this team can make the postseason (and make noise), but the stats have shown exactly where to address their shortcomings.
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