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Why the PDO stat now brings glimmers of hope for an Elias Lindholm turnaround with the Canucks

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
3 months ago
There are some real benefits to doing one’s shopping well ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline, as GM Patrik Allvin and the Canucks did this season.
You avoid the rush, and at least some of the bidding wars. You reduce your chances of getting left empty-handed. You give your acquisitions more time to acclimate with the team.
But there are some potential downsides, too, and one of them is the chance that you might get to Deadline Day and already have some idea that your big addition is not exactly working out, but limited options to do something about it.
As of right now, that looks to be the case for the Canucks and Elias Lindholm.
That Lindholm is “not working out” is a subjective statement. But that Lindholm is not working out as well as the Canucks hoped when they sent a blockbuster package to the Calgary Flames in return for him is all-but-objectively inarguable.
Lindholm, who notched 64 points last season and 82 the year before has just seven points through 19 games with the Canucks.
And it’s a little bit worse than even that indicates. Six of Lindholm’s seven points came in his first eight games with the Canucks. He’s got just one assist in his last 13 games, which occurred March 7 against Vegas.
His production has been a major letdown, as has his inability to stick in the top-six. Throw in the fact that the Canucks are 9-7-3 since Lindholm arrived, technically a losing record and one that pales in comparison with their record prior, and it all adds up to a multilayered disappointment.
But we’re not here to dogpile on Lindholm, nor the Canucks for targeting him. The deadline is over, and the player and the team are stuck with one another until at least July 1. So, we’re here to dig for some glimmers of hope that Lindholm might be able to reapproach his former gold standard of play over the next couple of months in Vancouver.
That record we just mentioned might be our first nugget.
Lindholm did arrive in Vancouver at a less-than-ideal time. Prior to the trade, the Canucks had needed to rally just to comeback and force overtime against the St. Louis Blues and the Columbus Blue Jackets of all teams, resulting in a loss and a win, respectively.
Then the trade, and then it was the extended All-Star Break, where Lindholm was the only Canuck to not get to play on a team with his new teammates.
He wouldn’t actually make his Canucks debut until February 6, and that went well enough, with Lindholm scoring two goals against the team that drafted him en route to a 3-2 defeat of the Hurricanes.
But then the next game was a demoralizing 4-0 pancaking at the hands of the Boston Bruins. And that precipitated a month-long slide.
Now, one can point at the fact that the Canucks’ worst month occurred right after Lindholm was acquired, and associate those two events. Or, one can assume that one singular player can’t be to blame for what happened in February, and reason that this was a terrible time for Lindholm to have to try to fit into the lineup.
Regardless, Lindholm certainly didn’t help the situation. But then the situation didn’t help Lindholm, either. Here, we’re talking about all those fancy stats that get thrown around like cold water whenever the Canucks are outperforming expectations, but never seem to get mentioned when they are underperforming.
That’s right, we’re talking PDO.
“PDO” became a dirty initialism in Vancouver this year when it was pointed to as the reason why the Canucks were doing so well so early despite most pundits predicting them to miss the playoffs. In short, it’s a combination of a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage, and the general thinking goes that when the PDO is higher than it should be, a team is benefitting from puck-luck, and will eventually suffer regression.
Well  in a sense that regression came. The Canucks are still unexpectedly at the top of the Pacific Division standings, and they’ve still got the top PDO in the league, but it’s no longer completely out of whack with the rest of the contenders. As of this writing, the Canucks have a 1.034 PDO, ahead of the Boston Bruins at 1.028 and Winnipeg Jets at 1.020.
The month of February is a big reason why the Canucks’ PDO came back down to Earth.
Which coincides with Lindholm’s arrival.
As a result, Lindholm has the second-worst personal PDO on the Canucks. The only player to have had it worse than him is Arshdeep Bains, who made his debut and played all five games of his NHL career to date during that February slide.
Lindholm’s on-ice save percentage with the Canucks is 91.67%, which isn’t all that bad. It’s about tenth-worst on the team, or the lower-end of the middle of the pack.
It’s the on-ice shooting percentage that has really tanked him. That’s at just 6.73%, which is the lowest experienced by any Canuck to have played six or more games this season.
It’s about half of the on-ice shooting percentage experienced by the likes of Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, and Brock Boeser.
And before you go thinking that Lindholm is the reason for his own low on-ice shooting percentage, know this: Lindholm’s personal shooting percentage with the Canucks has been 14.8%, which is actually slightly higher than his (already quite high) average during his stint in Calgary of 14.3%.
Lindholm’s shots are going in as frequently as they ever have. It’s his opportunities to shoot that are down – his rate of shots-per-60 in Vancouver is 4.8, when that number never dipped to below 7.0 in Calgary. That’s probably a sign of lack of chemistry and having not settled onto a line, and some of that is on Lindholm.
But then his linemates shots are not going in anywhere near as often as they should. At least some of that is bad puck-luck, and right now it’s all falling on Lindholm’s shoulders. It’s impossible to know what portion of his productive struggles are a result of this, but there’s little doubt that it’s a factor.
Okay, so, here’s the good news on bad puck-luck: it can turn around in an instant. As soon as Lindholm’s linemates start scoring on more of their shots, he’s almost automatically going to get more points. And once more points start going in, the confidence and comfortability will grow.
Speaking of which, there’s plenty of glimmers hiding within these stats themselves upon which Lindholm can continue to grow. He is still facing above-league-average quality of competition in Vancouver, especially since taking over as the ostensible third line center. He’s still got a better Corsi than Miller and a positive control of scoring chances when on the ice.
None of this is to say that Lindholm doesn’t need to play better himself. No one thinks that this is anywhere near him at his best. This is just to say that there are at least a few factors that have conspired against Lindholm’s first six weeks with the team being a raging success, but that those factors could just as easily become nonfactors over the next six weeks.
Forget the regression of the Vancouver Canucks. For now, PDO is all about the resuscitation of Elias Lindholm.

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