Conor Garland’s future with the Canucks is murky but his value at 5-on-5 is crystal clear
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Faber1 year ago
Conor Garland has not had a good six weeks of hockey.
He is without a goal in his past 17 games and only has six assists over that timeframe.
Even with this horrendous slump, Garland has been one of the Canucks’ best offensive contributors at five-on-five. The future of Garland in Vancouver is surely in question with a new management group in place who may look to the trade market this offseason. Garland clearly has value on the trade market and could be used to acquire a young defenceman and potentially return the partner for Quinn Hughes — arguably the most crucial position that Patrik Allvin needs to address.
Before the fanbase prepares their goodbyes for Garland, let’s look at the season he has had with the Canucks in his first year with Vancouver and if it’s better to keep Garland and move on from different forwards.
When it comes to production at even strength, Garland posts strong numbers with four of his five most consistent linemates.
Stats from NaturalStatTrick
There hasn’t been a great fit with Garland on Bo Horvat’s wing but being on the ice for 14 goals for and 15 against isn’t a bad number either. The Horvat and Garland duo also possesses the lowest on-ice save percentage of the five pairs with a .903% save percentage.
According to the simple counting stats, Garland seems like a good fit with many of the Canucks’ top forwards. Garland does a good job of extending possessions in the offensive zone and he sets up his teammates with his high-end passing ability.
Garland’s best asset this season has been his playmaking. There is no other Canuck with more primary assists at five-on-five this season. Garland has had the primary assists on 15 goals this year, five ahead of second place.
Stats from NaturalStatTrick
So, yes, Garland has been good at five-on-five. He possesses the highest goals for percentage on the entire team at five-on-five. Garland has been on the ice for 43 goals scored and 30 goals against at five-on-five this season.
Garland also leads the team in control of shots percentage and control of scoring chances percentage, all while not having the best on-ice save percentage of the players with positive control of the goal share.
Stats from NaturalStatTrick
So, what do all of these numbers mean?
Well, simply put, there’s a strong argument that Conor Garland has been the Canucks’ best player at five-on-five this season.
That’s a statement that not many would likely say if they were just evaluating Garland’s play with the eye test.
Early in the year, Garland was excellent in his role as a shift disturber who was able to fish pucks out of corners and find his teammates’ sticks near the net. This hasn’t necessarily disappeared from Garland’s game but his production has definitely fallen off after the coaching change while much of the rest of the team has thrived.
Garland had seven goals and 11 assists in the first 25 games of the season under Travis Green and has the exact same stats in 40 games under Bruce Boudreau. Garland’s individual scoring chances per 60 have gone up since playing for Boudreau but he’s seen his shot rate drop from 10.25/60 to 9.28/60.
It’s an interesting situation as Garland looks like he provides so much value to the Canucks at five-on-five but there’s something about his game that doesn’t seem to thrive with Boudreau behind the bench. These past 17 games have obviously been tough for Garland, who continues to shoot and get scoring chances but can’t seem to buy a goal. Garland is far and away ahead of every other Canuck when it comes to shots on net at five-on-five — he has 153 shots on net with Tanner Pearson the closest to him with 129 shots.
The takeaway here is that Garland doesn’t have the most accurate shot but by his shot chart, you can see that he attempts a ton of shots from in tight.
With many questions around Garland’s fit with this team, the thought of him being a trade piece in the offseason makes a lot of sense. Garland is on a good contract for the next four seasons and teams that are looking for a boost could acquire Garland if they are willing to move on from a right-shot defenceman.
The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils have been two teams rumoured to be interested in Garland and both of those teams boast a strong pool of prospects to offer in a trade proposal.
I still can’t quite put my finger on why Garland isn’t the best fit in Vancouver. Some nights he is the best player on the ice but there seem to be many other nights where he fades into the back row of the Canucks’ top-six forwards. Garland’s offence would be missed at five-on-five if he were to be traded but a player like Nils Höglander has shown that he is another winger who thrives at creating offence at five-on-five and could be the replacement for Garland next season. Vasily Podkolzin has been playing good hockey of late and is another option for the Canucks to try in the top-six if they move on from Garland this summer.
If a highly-touted right-shot defenceman prospect like Brock Faber, Helge Grans, Reilly Walsh or Sean Durzi is involved in the trade, the Canucks should definitely hear a team out on a trade offer. With Garland’s production at five-on-five, it’s going to take more than just a prospect to acquire the winger in a trade.
Losing this much five-on-five production would hurt and it may be in the best interest of the Canucks to hold onto him, as there’s no rush to deal him with four years remaining on his contract. The simple logic remains on Garland — if a trade offer comes across the table that makes this team better now and into the future, you need to take the deal.
If that deal doesn’t come, the Canucks can return Garland to their lineup and let him continue to thrive at creating offence at five-on-five.
And heck, maybe we will see him get more power play time in the future to prove that he has even more value than he has shown this season.
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