Just six games into his injury, Dakota Joshua’s absence from the Canucks is already measurable

Photo credit:© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
Dakota Joshua exited the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup following February 13’s matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks, a game in which he notched a Gordie Howe hat-trick in the form of a goal, two assists, and a fight. It was that last piece that seems to have resulted in the upper body injury that has since kept Joshua out of action, but it’s those other pieces that the Canucks are missing more.
Vancouver won their very next game, a 4-1 drubbing of the Detroit Red Wings, but then dropped their next four in a row in regulation, all with Joshua out of the lineup. That skid stopped in the hard-fought and hard-won Saturday night redemption attempt against the Boston Bruins, a game in which the absence of Joshua was distinctly felt.
But when it comes to discussing the presence that the Canucks are missing while Joshua is on the IR, we don’t need to rely on feelings and vibes. Just six games into his injury, the absence of Joshua from the lineup is already statistically measurable, and that stands as a pretty strong testament to the contributions he was making prior to needing recovery time.
Injury or not, Joshua has already ensured that 2023/24 will be a career season for him personally. Through 53 games played, he’s earned career highs in goals (13), assists (13), and points (26), all the while exceeding his career average ice-time by about three minutes (up to 14:02). He’s become a crucial component of the Canucks’ third line alongside Conor Garland and Teddy Blueger, and he’s far and away the Canucks’ leader in physicality.
But right now, he’s injured, and it shows.
It’s easy enough to state that the Canucks were 36-12-8 prior to Joshua’s exit, and are 2-4-0 without him. The numerical evidence of Joshua’s importance to the team goes well beyond their record.
Joshua is not the Canucks’ top offensive forward, nor anywhere close to it. But it may be fair to say that his impact on the team’s offence goes beyond his own personal points, because the Canucks are scoring a whole lot less in his absence.
Prior to Joshua’s injury, the Canucks were scoring at a clip of 3.69 goals-per-game, second in the league to the Colorado Avalanche. In the six games without Joshua, they’re down to 3.17 goals-per-game, all the way down to 17th in the league and a drop of more than half-a-goal per game.
Nor is Joshua the team’s top defensive forward. And yet, there, the difference is even more stark.
Prior to Joshua’s injury, the Canucks were allowing just 2.57 goals against per game, the fourth-best rate in the NHL. Without Joshua, they’re averaging 4.17 goals against per game, which is sixth-worst.
Now, we’re not here to suggest that Joshua is solely responsible for those swings in fortune. No one player could be. In this case, for example, that increase in goals against has at least as much to do with giving the Minnesota Wild a full 57 two-man advantages as it does with Joshua.
But we’re not ready to chalk it entirely up to coincidental timing, either.
Joshua has become one of the team’s leading penalty killers under Tocchet. And while the overall PK prior to his injury was nothing to write home about (80%, 16th place), it’s been far worse without him at 72% and 23rd overall.
When looking for Joshua’s most direct impact, it’s always a good idea to check the Miscellaneous tab. Here, we find something interesting, because although Joshua has been the Canucks’ most frequent hitter in 2023/24, the team has actually been hitting more since he hit the IR. Prior to the injury, the Canucks were averaging 23.85 hits-per-60, sixth most in the NHL, with Joshua himself throwing 15.63 per 60. Without Joshua, they’re throwing 24.89 hits-per-60, which is more, but is also only 13th in the league during that same span.
Don’t think too much about this statistical anomaly, however. It can be explained away almost entirely by a combination of the Canucks having played some particularly physical games over the past six, and a handful of individuals like Phil di Giuseppe, Sam Lafferty, and JT Miller really stepping up their checking as a result.
When it comes to measuring Joshua’s absence most directly, we have to look at him as what he has become, which is a true lynchpin of the bottom-six.
The Joshua line was on a roll in 2024. Since January 1, they’d played 18 games, and notched a combined 30 points. In the opening five games of February following the All-Star Break alone, Joshua and Garland had a combined four goals and six points.
But since then?
Garland and Blueger each have one singular assist since Joshua’s injury, and have subsequently been split onto separate lines.
The entire bottom-six, it would seem, has fallen apart as a result.
Through these six Joshua-less games, the current top-six of Miller, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Pius Suter, Elias Lindholm, and Nils Höglander have combined for 30 points.
The rest of the forwards have combined for four points.
Sometimes, players make a much larger impact on their teams than their stats would indicate. And, to be honest, Joshua’s stats alone already indicate a sizeable impact.
But the way the team has played in his absence, and in particular the way the entire bottom-six looks lost without him, is a clear indication that Joshua’s importance to the Canucks is far greater than the sum of his parts.
There is, as of yet, no indication what exactly Joshua’s injury is, or how long he’ll be out of the lineup. He was placed on IR, but not LTIR, which means he is eligible to return at any time. But that may or may not be a clue, because with Carson Soucy already on LTIR, the Canucks have plenty of relief space available, and thus no need to put Joshua on LTIR.
So, he could return shortly. Or he may still be out a few weeks. We just don’t know. But what we do know is that whenever he does return to the lineup, Joshua will continue to make a difference.
He’s certainly making a difference by not being there.

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