Contextualizing Ilya Mikheyev’s struggles and the Canucks’ “alarming” rush offence stats: Canucks Conversation

Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Clarke Corsan
5 months ago
On today’s episode of Canucks Conversation, David Quadrelli and Harman Dayal discussed Ilya Mikheyev’s struggles and how the Canucks have so few chances but so many goals when creating off the rush. 
The guys introduced a new segment from Mr. Lube called The Tune-Up, where Harm takes a close look at a particular aspect of a player or the team as a whole, and Mikheyev was his first subject.
In the 2022 offseason, Ilya Mikheyev signed a four-year, $4.75m AAV deal with the Canucks after he had requested a trade from the Leafs but didn’t get one. His first year with Vancouver, he put up 13 goals and 28 points in 46 games. This year, he is on a slower pace with 10 goals and 23 points through 45 games. These numbers aren’t great, but the Canucks didn’t bring him in to be a scoring star or drive play. Allvin coveted his all-around game: high speed and high motor, the ability to be disruptive, kill penalties, and complement elite linemates like Pettersson. Despite the Canucks having the worst PK in the league last year, he delivered on those things, all on one leg after tearing his ACL ligament in Vancouver’s first preseason game.
Harm: “There’s been a lot of talk about Ilya Mikheyev right now. He no longer has Andrei Kuzmenko taking all the bullets from fans as far as ineffective top-9 forwards go. We spoke about this yesterday as well, how his skating doesn’t look as dynamic, so I went and looked at NHL Edge tracking data, because now we have the objective numbers to look into whether this is true or not. You look at the 2021-22 season, his last season with the Leafs before he signed with the Canucks, Mikheyev ranked in the 95th percentile of all NHL forwards for speed bursts above 20mph. He was in the top 5 percent, clearly one of the fastest skaters. This year, however, he ranks only in the 63rd percentile, meaning he’s only been slightly above league average for speed bursts above 20mph. What’s even more interesting is last season he was in the 69th percentile, so he was actually slightly faster last season playing with a partially torn ACL than he is right now. I just thought that was interesting; I think we’ve all seen it with the eye but to have the objective data to back up what we’re seeing and why he’s been less effective; it really comes down to the lack of explosiveness in his skating right now.”
The guys then moved on to discuss another recently discovered stat, which states the Canucks are tied for first in goals off the rush, while ranking 32nd for rush chances created. 
This led to many people online talking about why the Canucks are sure to regress and that their offence clearly isn’t sustainable. Harm helps to contextualize it.
Harm: Let’s start with the chances component; their lack of rush chances is sort of by design. When Rick Tocchet took over, it’s not as if they said, ‘we don’t want to create offense off the rush,’ it was more a mentality shift of, ‘we’re not going to make controlled entries and passing plays off the rush unless we’re 100% certain it’s a high percentage play.’ That was to cut down on a lot of the offensive entry turnovers from the likes of J.T. Miller, for example, where you’re carrying the puck through the neutral zone and instead of dumping it in, you’re trying to thread the needle on an east-west pass. It’s been no more east-west; let’s go north-south. When you cut down on those rush turnovers, when you elect to dump the puck in more often than not, that also means you’re defensively not going to give up a lot off the rush. Most rush chances the Canucks surrendered under Bruce Budreau started with some kind of turnover in the neutral zone. I think the Canucks are okay playing a low-event style, in terms of rush chances both ways, which also shows up in their defensive numbers where they’re one of the NHL’s top teams in defending against rush chances. When it comes to number one in rush goals, if you’re committing to a style where you’re not creating a high volume of chances, it’s going to come back down to earth at some point. The top 6 has finishing talent, players that are going to convert at a higher ratio on their chances. The bottom 6 is where that goal output is going to start to taper off down the stretch, that’s where you’re going to have to get comfortable winning some lower-scoring hockey games.”
You can watch the full replay of today’s show in the video below:

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