Another week, another mailbag.
Apologies to the folks who were refreshing the site this morning for the regularly scheduled mailbag. This author had to do almost a complete rewrite of the mailbag that was written before the Canucks’ 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars last night.
Almost all of the questions were asking about the power play’s struggles and how many more losses the Canucks could put their fans through before changes are made.
It’s only one win, sure, but the Canucks did the right things last night and came away with a victory as a result. This is all to say, it’d simply be weird to come to you this Monday morning and just absolutely drag them.
So with that being said, let’s get into our fresh batch of questions!
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The translation of this tweet reads: “How much longer can the Canucks put up with Jason Dickinson at centre?”
When the Canucks acquired Dickinson from the Dallas Stars this offseason, the club had hopes of Dickinson solidifying their forward group with his strong defensive play and two-way abilities. Dickinson can also kill penalties, which was a major boost to his value to the Canucks.
The only issue has been, Dickinson has been far from the best version of himself to begin the new season.
Dickinson is winning just 37% of faceoffs right now, which is not only lower than his worst career year for the stat — 42.9% in 2018-19 — but it’s far below the league average.
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The only real positive to pull from Dickinson’s start with the Canucks is that he’s held his head above water at 5-on-5 in terms of chances for and against, and has an even goal share at 5-on-5.
The Canucks have scored two goals with Dickinson on the ice and allowed two goals with Dickinson on the ice at 5-on-5.
But there are some more numbers that paint a clearer picture of Dickinson’s troubling start.
The centre has created very limited offence, and is currently sporting the lowest expected goals percentage expected goals for of his career.
And while holding your head above water defensively at 5-on-5 may seem fine, it’s important to also take a look at the high-danger chances portion of Dickinson’s underlying numbers:
Dickinson is certainly benefiting from the otherworldly play of Thatcher Demko right now. If Demko exhibited more signs of being human, Dickinson’s numbers would be a whole lot worse.
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As for Dickinson on the penalty kill? Those numbers are the most troubling of all:
Dickinson is being relied on to kill penalties more than he has at any point in his career, and putting up the worst numbers of his career across the board.
Chances against per 60, goals against per 60, expected goals against per 60 — you name it — Dickinson has struggled in it.
Now, it’s important to note that Dickinson has not once been the only penalty killer on the ice this season, and that the Canucks’ penalty kill as a whole has been a disaster at the best of times.
But for Dickinson in particular, his struggles have been noticeable and the Canucks are certainly hoping he can turn things around in a hurry.
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This isn’t a live mailbag, but as I write this, I’m about an hour away from leaving for the rink for Canucks practice. I’ll give my answer, then check back later to hear Travis Green’s answer to this same question!
My answer: The Canucks have played better defence at 5-on-5 this season. It’s why they have serious potential to become one of the most dangerous teams in the league this season, but more on that later.
When Shaw was hired, a lot of the discourse was around how he would help solidify the Canucks’ defensive systems, and that certainly appears to be what’s happened.
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Travis’ answer: “It’s been great,” said Green. “Both him and Kyle have different voices, different opinions different views, not just on systems, but on players, and that’s been important. Both guys have a fresh set of eyes and a veteran set of eyes as well. We collaborate… we have open discussions every day, talking to them as a group. Obviously, I have to make the final call on a lot of things but I’ve value listening to Shawsy talk about certain things and sometimes it’s a different way of explaining things, and I think he’s been a great addition.”
This is an interesting one.
Justin Bailey showed relatively well in the two preseason games he managed to play in after being forced to miss training camp and the majority of the preseason due to a positive COVID-19 test while crossing the border.
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He was sent down to the Abbotsford Canucks with clear instructions from Green and the organization: get good at killing penalties.
Not only did Bailey do that in Abbotsford, but as the fastest man in the AHL, he also put up three goals and three assists in five games, making him a bit of a no-brainer for the Canucks to call up.
Once arriving in Vancouver, he was relied upon to kill penalties and brought speed and size to the fourth line.
He hasn’t blown the roof off the place by any means, but Bailey has looked fine in the role he’s been given.
That being said, it’s hard to imagine him bumping out Justin Dowling once Tyler Motte and Brandon Sutter return to the lineup. He certainly hasn’t been that good.
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Bailey likely won’t stay up with the big club as a healthy scratch either, mostly because it’s hard to imagine the Canucks sending Alex Chiasson to the minors, even if that’s what the majority of fans likely feel should happen.
So to answer the question, no, Bailey isn’t on this roster when everyone is healthy.
Alternate question: will everyone on this roster ever be healthy at the same time? I’m not convinced.
Help this guy out in the comments! What jersey should he get?
I’m saying Conor Garland.
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And for the grand finale, let’s answer this question.
Not only am I saying yes, the Canucks’ top guys will turn it around — I’m saying yes, the Canucks top guys will turn it around, and the Canucks will be one of the most dangerous teams in the league once they do.
Let’s examine what’s happened so far.
The Canucks have a Vezina calibre goaltender in Thatcher Demko. It appears he’s somehow taken another step forward from the otherworldly performances he turned in last season, and is showing no signs of stopping.
In front of him, the Canucks have played better defence than they ever have, not including the series against Vegas in the 2020 bubble playoffs, of course.
That commitment to team defence has led to the Canucks being right there in every game they’ve played this season. Every game they’ve played this year has been close, and they’ve seldom looked outmatched by an opponent.
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The Canucks are also currently one of the most disciplined teams in the NHL when it comes to taking penalties, and are at the top of the league when it comes to minor penalty +/- per 60 minutes.
If I told you ahead of this season that the Canucks’ power play would be costing them games, would you have believed me? Probably not.
The thing that’s held this team back in recent years hasn’t been a lack of production, it’s been a lack of any sort of coherent defensive structure in front of their goaltenders.
Now that the 5-on-5 play is finally there for this team, the special teams need to follow suit and get back to how they were before.
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If last night was any indication as to what the Canucks’ power play can accomplish, then teams should be on the lookout.
Quite literally, the Canucks’ power play made the difference last night.
The Canucks converted on three of their six power play chances and won the game by a score of 6-3.
When you take into consideration that Brock Boeser scored an empty netter to ice the victory, if the Canucks’ power play hadn’t converted, the final score likely could have been 3-2 Dallas.
Wouldn’t you know it, that’s the score they lost by when the Nashville Predators were in town and the Canucks’ power play was ice cold, going 0 for 5 on the night.
The power play made a difference for all the wrong reasons in that game, and it made a difference for all the right reasons last night against the Stars.
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If the Canucks can continue to limit chances and outwork their opponents at even strength and manage to maintain a potent power play from here on out?
Look out, because this team could do some serious damage.
That’s all for this week, folks! Be sure to follow Chris Faber and myself on Twitter and keep an eye out for the weekly call for questions. Have a great week everyone!