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Quinn Hughes’ leadership and elite play helped elevate the Canucks this 23/24 season: Year in Review

Year in Review for Quinn Hughes' 2023-2024 season with the Vancouver Canucks
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
15 days ago
While there were so many storylines in what was the third most successful season in Vancouver Canucks history, but none bigger than the evolution of Quinn Hughes. And that’s not to say he wasn’t already elite, but Canucks fans watched the young defenceman take that leap into superstardom and solidify himself into the conversation for one of the league’s best.
In his exit interviews, Hughes had this to say as he reflected on his season:
“Obviously really proud of the team and the steps we took this year. It was a great season, and I thought we had built a lot. A lot of different guys stepped up in the playoffs, and hopefully, we can carry that into next year. I’m really proud of everything we accomplished, and I think that we’ll use this as momentum into next season.”
Well said by the young leader. Quinn Hughes started this season by being named the 15th captain in franchise history. And the Captain led by example from the season-opening puck drop.

Quinn Hughes’ Season

The season started off hot for Hughes as he finished with three assists and a +3 rating on his way to whomping the Edmonton Oilers 8-1. This high level of play continued throughout the first two months of the season and included a span between November 20th and November 23rd, where Hughes was in sole possession of the league lead for points with 30.
And it was at this point of the season when Hughes was considered the frontrunner for the Norris trophy.
But it begs the question, what changed? Where did this next level of play come from? Because he had been a perennial 60-point pace NHL defenceman, where did this explosion come from?
Well, it starts with the evolution of his shot and the fact that he wasn’t afraid to show it off at the beginning of the season. Hughes’ volume skyrocketed with 47 shots through his first 12 games, on pace to more than double his previous career high of 154 shots on goal.
Hughes spoke on how he was able to get his shot off more successfully this season. “A lot of times I’d beat a guy, and then I couldn’t get away from him to have enough room to shoot, and now I can do it with fluidity and my stride to get myself in a shooting position.”
And Hughes proved that on this play.
It’s not just his ability to get around the defender, though. He’s got a snipe of a shot, especially in clutch time.
The hard work in the offseason paid off, as Hughes had surpassed his previous career-high in goals in the 25th game of the season.
The book was out on Quinn in previous seasons. He was a shifty, playmaking defenceman who rarely utilized his shot. This gave him another threat level. Defenders now have to worry about a potential shot, and it allowed him to make more of those same shifty plays in limited space like he always has.
The Canucks captaincy wasn’t the only ‘C’ Hughes wore on his sweater this season. In February, Hughes was selected as a team captain in what was only his second All-Star honour. This selection was well deserved as he led all NHL defencemen with 62 points in 49 games to that point of the season.
Hughes would have a solid finish to the season, with five goals and 30 points in the final 33 games, as he prepared for his first playoff run in front of the Rockus Canucks home crowd.
“I think that learning how tight the game is out there and I think the travel is different. Obviously, in the bubble, we didn’t have to move,” Hughes said as he explained what he had learned about this playoff run. “I did get an experience there with how tight and physical it is and playing the same team over and over.”
That last sentiment bodes true, as in the first series against the Nashville Predators, Hughes was their number one target. Hughes led all Canucks players in hits taken with 20 in just six games. Hockey fans could notice the discomfort and timidness to dive into a battle in the corners, as he knew he was going to get hit, hacked and slashed.
Despite the increased aggression he received after the Nashville series, he was still able to make them look foolish to keep the play alive in the epic Game 4 comeback.
“As far as the physical abuse, that’s just something that everyone’s going to have to deal with, and I think that’s just continue to be mentally tough,” Hughes said when asked about the beatdown he took throughout the playoffs.
Hughes would finish the playoffs tallying 10 points while averaging 24:25 minutes of ice time in 13 games. While these are strong offensive numbers, it wasn’t Hughes’ favourite part of his game in the playoffs:
“Honestly, I liked my game in the playoffs. To be honest I thought I played pretty solid. It would have been nice to pitch in a little more offensively and I think the main thing would be the powerplay and how we struggled there at the end. For the most part, I liked my game. I thought I was really solid defensively. I didn’t give much up.”
And Hughes is right! He had an exceptional defensive playoffs. Despite leading the defence corps in average time on ice, he allowed the fewest goals at 5-on-5 (5) and did a great job of keeping play around the perimeter, considering his smaller stature. Hughes’ defensive play led by example as it funnelled down to the rest of the defence corps.

The Final Stats

Here are the final 2023-2024 numbers from Quinn Hughes.
If you hadn’t already thought this was Hughes’ best season, all of these stats listed are career highs. Not just career highs, but across the league, he ranked sixth in goals, first in assists, first in points, ninth in shots on goal, and fourth in plus-minus of all NHL defencemen.
You might be asking, hits? Why did Tyson count hits? Well, it might be so I could include this massive open-ice hit on Buffalo Sabres forward Victor Olofsson. But maybe not.
But it’s not all about offence; Hughes had the defensive analytics to back it up.
These percentages are an equation comparing the specific stat the team produces with a player on the ice to what the team allows when that same player is on the ice. So anything above 50% is good and shows that the player is producing more offensively than they allow defensively.
Among NHL defencemen, Hughes ranked eighth in shots for percentage, second in goals for percentage, fourth in expected goals for percentage and scoring chances for percentage, and seventh in high-danger scoring chances for percentage — a great node to his defensive improvement this season. These, again, were all career highs for the young Captain.
We can all agree that Hughes elevated his own play. But what about how he elevated every defensive partner he played with this season?
As you can see, in almost every analytical statistic, the Canucks defender played better with Hughes than away from him. And that shouldn’t be a surprise; players should play better when they’re on the ice with Hughes. Heck, there’s a reason he’s the betting favourite for the Norris trophy. But the discrepancy in their stats when they’re away from Hughes is astronomical, considering this team won 50 games this season.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a leader as “One who guides others in actions or opinions.”
To not only elevate your play but elevate those around you, so much so that he had a hand in seven Canucks players having the best statistical seasons of their careers. He led by example, leading the entire NHL in points in November and finished as the top-scoring defenceman at year’s end. All at just 24-years-old, in his first year as the Canucks’ Captain.
That’s a true leader.
And that’s the type of leader the 2023-2024 Vancouver Canucks got from Quinn Hughes.

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