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What can the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights teach the Canucks about the size of their roster?

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Photo credit:© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
8 months ago
Every year, the ranks of hockey punditry take a look at the two Stanley Cup finalists and try to determine what the secret is to their success.
Every year, local media types examine the attributes of the teams duking it out for hockey’s ultimate glory and try to figure out what the team they cover needs to do in order to get there one day, too.
And almost every year, folks come away with the same answer: we need to get bigger.
The impact and importance of size is a talking point that never really goes away in hockey. It is true that bigger and stronger teams do seem to thrive in the postseason, where penalties are harder to come by and physical shenanigans are more actively encouraged.
But how much of that is reality, and how much is perception?
We decided to look at the Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights vis-à-vis the Vancouver Canucks in order to find some answers.
Size-by-Numbers
First and foremost, we need to get some actual basic biographic statistics down on the paper before we can start properly talking about size.
So, what we did was take the 18 skaters who have played the most games in the playoffs for Florida and Vegas, and we averaged out their heights and weights. Then we did the same for the Vancouver Canucks who played the most regular season games this year, minus the departed Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn, and Curtis Lazar, along with the possibly departed Kyle Burroughs and Jack Studnicka. We replaced those five with Filip Hronek, Anthony Beauvillier, Phil di Giuseppe, Nils Höglander, and Vasily Podkolzin, all of whom seem more likely to play major minutes moving forward.
The results were as follows:
 Florida PanthersVegas Golden KnightsVancouver Canucks
Average Height6’1”6’1.5”6’0.5”
Average Weight195.6lb205.8lb192.3lb
 
It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that the Canucks are, on average, smaller than this year’s Stanley Cup finalists.
In terms of height, the difference appears negligible. The Canucks average to half an inch shorter than the Panthers, who are in turn half an inch shorter than the Golden Knights.
One should keep in mind, however, that with an 18-person sample size, anomalies can have a big impact, and the Canucks have one heck of an anomaly on hand in Tyler Myers and his preposterous 80 personal inches. Take him out of the mix, and the Canucks average drops another half-inch to just 6’0” flat.
It is in weight — or “muscle,” if you simply must — that the differences appear to be more significant.
The Panthers and the Canucks aren’t too terribly far off, with the Panthers outweighing the Canucks by an average of 3.3 pounds. (Again, take Myers out, and the Canucks’ average drops a full two pounds).
But the Golden Knights outweigh the Panthers themselves by an average of 10.2 pounds, and are ahead of the Canucks by an average of 13.5 pounds.
That seems like it almost has to be significant, especially when the Golden Knights are A) representing the same conference that the Canucks play out of and B) currently pasting the Panthers in the Finals.
It should be noted that the Panthers and Golden Knights are older teams than the Canucks, and players do tend to put on muscle as they age, but there’s little hope of the current Vancouver roster each adding an average of 13.5 pounds to their frames over the next couple of years.
To get bigger and stronger in the way that the Golden Knights are, the Canucks will have to adjust their roster.
Or, find another way to win.
With all that being said, however, there are some additional lessons beyond “get big” that can be gleaned from the basic size and shape of Florida and Vegas, and we’ll touch on those lessons now.
Jonathan Marchessault and the myth of small player wilting in the playoffs
As of this writing, Jonathan Marchessault leads the Golden Knights in goal-scoring with 12 and is second in points with 21 through 19 playoff games.
Officially, Marchessault stands at 5’9” and 183lb, but definitely appears to be a fair bit smaller than that.
So, for all this talk of size, we have on hand at least one clear example of a small player absolutely thriving through four rounds of the postseason.
This is an important reminder that the old maxim of “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” still rings true in hockey. As far as the Canucks are concerned, it’s a reminder that simply adding bigger players to the roster isn’t the be-all and end-all, and that the quality and character of those players matters just as much.
It’s evidence that those players on the smaller size shouldn’t automatically be discarded in the hopes of making the roster more playoff-ready, so long as those smaller players have “what it takes” to compete.
When we say this, we’re primarily thinking about Conor Garland and Nils Höglander. They’re the two smallest forwards on the Canucks’ roster, but they both hew pretty close to the Marchessault model of determination and relentlessness.
It might be tempting to look at Garland and Höglander’s height and believe that neither will ever make much impact in the postseason, and that the Canucks might be better off replacing them with beefier wingers.
The Jonathan Marchessault Experience says that that’s not necessarily true.
Florida’s Six-Foot Blueline
While size does seem to be important to playoff success in the general sense, it is definitely believed to be of the most importance when it comes to the blueline.
Big, rangy defenders tend to get away with more come the postseason, and that can allow them to dominate in ways they simply cannot during the regular season.
But an enormous blueline isn’t the only way to make it deep into the summer, as the Florida Panthers are currently proving.
The Panthers’ top six right now consists of Brandon Montour, Gustav Forsling, Aaron Ekblad, Radko Gudas, Marc Staal, and Josh Mahura.
Of that bunch, only Ekblad and Staal stand any taller than 6’0”.
Now, the same is not true of Vegas’ blueline, and it is true that the Golden Knights do seem to be seriously outmuscling the Panthers in the Finals. But just the fact that the Panthers made it this far with a shorter-than-average set of defenders should give pause to anyone suggesting that big D are the only way to win, and especially to those who think that smaller defenders can’t thrive in the playoffs.
With this train of thought, we are, of course, primarily talking about Quinn Hughes.
Sure, at 5’10”, Hughes is shorter than any defender playing in the Finals. But, then again, he’s also probably more skilled than any of them, too.
If 6’0” Gustav Forsling can make it through four rounds of 25 minutes a night, we figure that the 5’10” Quinn Hughes can probably do it, too.
It’s just the finding of the appropriate Ekblad types to supplement Hughes that will prove the real challenge.

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