Stats say the Vancouver Canucks had the NHL’s worst defence pairing of the past 15 years

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
22 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks have been blessed with some strong defencemen since the turn of the century.
Quinn Hughes. Alex Edler. Chris Tanev. Mattias Ohlund. Sami Salo. Dan Hamhuis. These guys and more have patrolled the blue line in Vancouver with poise and skill.
But sometimes, for whatever reason, a pairing just doesn’t work. That was often the case for the Canucks back in the late 2010s, when the Canucks repeatedly missed the playoffs due in large part to the struggles of their various overwhelmed defenders.
The most egregious example might’ve been the pairing of Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton, who just couldn’t hack it at all in their 1,226 minutes spent together at 5-on-5 from 2016 to 2019.
As Twitter personality and EP Rinkside hockey analyst JFresh shared on Wednesday, the Hutton-Gudbranson duo fared the worst from a statistical perspective of every single defensive pairing that has played more than 1,000 minutes together at 5-on-5 since 2007-08, when the NHL expanded its data collection practices.
With Hutton and Gudbranson on the ice together during their respective tenures in Vancouver, the Canucks managed a startling 34.3 percent goal share — meaning, on average, they were outscored approximately 2:1in the long run over all those shifts. No other pairing was outscored nearly as much over such a large sample of ice time.
The Canucks were also typically run roughshod with Hutton and Gudbranson on the ice, even when they weren’t being scored on. According to the data, the Canucks managed just 44 percent of the expected goals during their shifts. All told, the Hutton-Gudbranson pairing finished at the very bottom of JFresh’s sample.
None of that is an indictment of what the Canucks are today. It also doesn’t mean Hutton and Gudbranson haven’t been valuable players in the right situations. Hutton is currently a valuable depth piece for the Vegas Golden Knights; Gudbranson had solid tenures with the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames after leaving Vancouver.
On the flip side, the Canucks have also had one of the strongest pairings by goal share over the last 15 years. The duo of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa graded out at 12th on JFresh’s list of the best pairings, posting a 59.2 percent goal share in 2,126 minutes together at 5-on-5.

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