Vancouver needs a D overhaul

According to our statistical metric, the Advanced Bracton score (AB), Vancouver could miss the playoffs in 2016 unless they blow up (almost) their entire defensive corps.  In 2015 the Canucks were 17th in the NHL in AB at a -13.09.  Of playoff teams, only Winnipeg was lower at -17.43 than VAN.  The reason for their defensive futility was obvious; with the exception of Chris Tanev (+1.27 AB), the other defensemen combined cost VAN -18.44 unearned goals at the margin (UGM) – a statistic we tabulate as the total of AB over key men, in this case defensive pairings.  As we have stated previously, in 2015 teams with positive ABs made the playoffs in almost all cases.  For teams like the Canucks, they are on the bubble and vulnerable if WPG, COL (-20.02) and DAL (-24.29) improve themselves with roster moves, transactions or changes in coaching philosophy in the offseason.  One of the only saving graces for VAN is that they play in the Pacific Division in which only Calgary generated a positive AB for the year and SJ, ARZ and EDM were among the league’s worst AB scores.

To compound the woes in VAN, only Chris Higgins (+3.33 AB) and Henrik Sedin (+2.77) produced outsized ABs to somewhat counteract a marginally productive remainder of the top 9 forwards.  The Canucks were constructed around the prowess of the Sedins, and were especially potent when they were achieving top quintile ABs in the 2009-2012 timeframe.  Now that the efficacy of the identical duo has waned, the rest of the team as currently constructed is simply not skilled enough to compensate for the unanimous inattention to puck possession on the back end.

According to thecanuckway.com, VAN has only about $3mm under the salary cap for next year.  Therefore they are somewhat hamstrung in their upgrading options.  However, if they could move a player like Kevin Bieksa (-4.15 AB, $4.0mm) for a cheaper defensive alternative with better AB (assumedly to a team that doesn’t value metrics like AB), it would be a coup.  The good news is that the Canucks are not necessarily compelled to resign or negotiate with players who are anything but middling or worse in terms of AB this summer  In fact, letting Ronald Kenins and (-3.07 AB) and Yannick Weber (-1.83 AB) to walk might be addition by subtraction depending on the ability of their replacements to generate positive (or at least less negative AB).

With respect to Bracton score only (see our explanation here), which is a measure of the ability to produce power plays and not man down situations, we were astounded that VAN has eight (mostly defensemen) players that generated at least one minute of man down time for the Canucks per sixty minutes they played.  It appears that the only reason VAN was able to make the playoffs at all was that they were second best in the NHL in killing penalties at 85.7%.  If this number were to dip to a league median of roughly 81% next year, VAN will most likely miss the playoffs and finish roughly 10th in the Western Conference (and 4th in the Pacific).   In this regard, VAN is a team on the edge; they require an overhaul on their back end immediately during an offseason where good help may be hard to find within a price range affordable to the nearly tapped out men from the Pacific Northwest.

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