Are the Vancouver Canucks running a pastry shop or a hockey team?
Given the amount of talk about turnovers lately, it’s getting hard to tell.
During a week in which the Canucks won two and lost one, a handful of big, juicy giveaways still dominated the discussion of the team’s performance. That discussion was, of course, made all the easier thanks to our own Lachlan Irvine’s expertly-cut clips.
It’s hard not to notice that the bulk of these turnovers seem to be coming off the sticks of the “usual suspects;” JT Miller, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Tyler Myers. And the most egregious of the set was also the most costly, as on Saturday night, Miller threw a blind power play pass into open ice, only to have it predictably picked off by Connor Dewar and converted into a shorthanded goal.
With all this in mind, one could reasonably assume the Canucks to be one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to giveaways. A quick glance at the NHL’s official statistics, however, yields the exact opposite result.
As of this writing, the Canucks have actually made the sixth-least giveaways, and the fifth-least giveaways-per-60. In other words, they’re not actually one of the teams most prone to turning the puck over, but one of the least prone.
So, why does it seem like the Canucks give it away like a bunch of Anthony Kiedises on ice?
The answer could be individual. It wouldn’t be unexpected, based on anecdotal evidence, to find that players like Miller, Ekman-Larsson, and Myers contributed an outsized amount to the giveaway tally, thus pumping up the perception of the numbers.
But that’s not true, either.
Sure, Miller leads the team in giveaways, but he’s only made three more of them than Elias Pettersson, who nobody thinks of as a turnover machine. Miller’s giveaways-per-60 ranks third on the team, Myers ranks sixth, and OEL doesn’t even crack the top-ten. Nestled within that same top-ten are reliable names like Pettersson and Luke Schenn.
Clearly, whatever the Canucks are doing when it comes to turnovers, they’re mostly doing it as a team.
The answer, then, must be situational.
The folks over at MoneyPuck.com keep track of a lot more than just raw giveaways and takeaways, and through clicking around their stat categories, a few deeper truths can be gleaned.
One of the first things that jumps out is that, as infrequently as the Canucks give the puck away, they take it away even less.
That leaves them with a “takeaway share” of 49.1% in all situations and 48.6% at 5v5, both of which are close to the bottom-ten of the league, but not far off of break-even.
With memories of that Miller giveaway still fresh, one might hazard a guess that the Canucks give up the puck a lot in special teams situations, but that doesn’t appear to be true, either. The Canucks have only given the puck away six times while on the power play, fourth-best in the league, and only ten times while shorthanded. That last stat has them ranked best in the entire NHL.
So, we return to our central question.
If the Canucks don’t give the puck up very much at even-strength, and even less on special teams, and if certain individuals don’t give up the puck an exceptional amount more than their teammates, why does it seem like the Canucks are always giving up the puck?
One singular stat may hold the answer.
According to the folks at MoneyPuck, the Canucks have made 114 of their 196 giveaways in the defensive end of the ice.
That gives them a “giveaways in the defensive zone” percentage of 58.16%, and that’s where the Canucks finally rank among the worst in the league: eighth-worst overall, to be specific, but with very little separating spots five through eight.
Defensive-zone giveaways are, naturally, significantly more dangerous than giveaways made anywhere else on the ice. Therefore, it may just be that the Canucks’ turnover reputation is not an issue of quantity, but one of quality.
The Canucks don’t make a lot of turnovers, but they do make costly turnovers. And when it comes to sticking around in the minds of fans, those are the ones with staying power.
Think about it. A Canuck turns over the puck in a game, the opposing player fumbles it, and the puck is quickly recovered. Do you ever think about that play again? Probably not.
But if that turnover had resulted in said opponent tearing in off the blueline and blasting a rocket past the head of Spencer Martin? That one, you’re going to remember.
It’s worth noting, here, that some turnovers are just plain more noticeable than others. A giveaway in the corner is just not going to stand out quite like a giveaway on a dramatic cross-ice pass. If that trio of Miller, Ekman-Larsson, and Myers have a propensity for anything in particular, it’s making those showy, large-scale gaffes that can’t help but be noticed, even if they’re functionally no different than any other giveaway.
Really, though, it’s the results that matter. There’s no stat for “giveaways leading directly to goals against” available to the public. But we’d suspect that, if there were, the Canucks would rank pretty close to the lead in that category.
To circle all the way back, we’ll end by offering our best possible answer to the question in the headline.
Why does it seem like the Canucks are always giving up the puck, even when they’re not?
Because it costs them when they do.