Vancouver Canucks 2015 State of the Team


With training camp only a few short months away, let’s take a look at a franchise that made their return to the playoffs last year – the Vancouver Canucks.

By most accounts, the Canucks were a pretty average team last year, posting a 50.1% in score adjusted corsi, ranking 20th in the NHL.  Additionally, they were 22nd in corsi for per 60 minutes, 16th in corsi against per 60 minutes, 14th in goals scored at evens, and 23rd in goals against at evens.  Across the board, fairly average stats with only their elite penalty kill (2nd in the league) being a true strength.

With these stats, you might ask yourself, how did the Canucks get the second seed in the Pacific?  Well the answer is a little bit of luck.  The Canucks posted a record in the shootout of 6-2 and a record in one-goal games ended in regulation or overtime of 17-4-2, stats that are usually prone to lots of variance year to year.

Have the Canucks done enough this summer to return to the playoffs despite the rest of the division seemingly getting stronger?  Let’s take a look.


The honeymoon period with GM Jim Benning appears to be over.  After starting out with some hits (Radim Vrbata signing) and some misses (Ryan Miller contract) Benning has been on a pretty bad run.  Most of this stems from his inability to properly value players and how they fit in a salary cap world.

Example #1 and #2 are the Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett contracts.  Luca Sbisa, a player who by basically all stats is terrible, and Derek Dorsett, who is nothing more than a 4th line grinder, were given contracts for 3 years and $3.6 million AAV and 4 years and $2.65 million AAV, respectively.

These next charts show Sbisa’s most common defense partners and Dorsett’s most common linemates, showcasing the CF% of when they play together, when it is just Sbisa on the ice, and when it is just the other player on the ice.

As you can see, universally, their Canucks teammates perform much better when they are not paired up with either Sbisa or Dorsett.  Giving these types of players both money and term is inexcusable.

Another error was the handling of Eddie Lack.  Out of Cam Talbot, Martin Jones, Robin Lehner, and other young talented goalie Anton Khudobin, the return for Eddie Lack was by far the worst.  At the time, one could talk himself into saying that it was Lack who had to go as there would definitely be no way to trade the contract of Ryan Miller – until it was revealed that Benning had the chance to trade Miller and his albatross of a contract instead.

Re-signing Yanick Weber and Chris Tanev were solid enough moves, though losing Shawn Mathias and Brad Richardson will hurt the depth a little bit.  Matt Bartkowski should be a solid puck mover on the third pair and will be an upgrade over an aging Kevin Bieksa (where the 2nd rounder was a fine return) for sure.

However, it must be said, the Zack Kassian trade was bad enough when it was for Brandon Prust (noted pugilist who can at least not be a total liability on the 4th line) and a 5th rounder.  I mean Kassian is 7 years younger and only put up 2 less points than Prust last year, despite playing in 40 less games.  But when it was corrected that it was actually the Canucks who were sending the fifth?  It seems as if Jim Benning and the Canucks have learned all the wrong lessons from the series with Calgary.  My favorite quote in there is when Jim Benning explains that the Canucks lost because the Flames had more emotion that they did, not because they were purposefully hurting themselves by sending out guys like Sbisa shift after shift.

Grade: D+


Starting with the back end, Chris Tanev and Alex Edler make up a very solid 1st pair, posting a 52.6 CF% playing together last year despite getting tough usage.  Chris Tanev in particular, has finally started to turn heads with his great play in his own zone, becoming one of the best defensive defenseman in the league.  Together, their CA60 was 48, a mark that would have put them 3rd in the league on a team wide basis.  Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber also make up a pretty solid 2nd pairing, posting a 52.5 CF% last year when playing together.  However, as long as Luca Sbisa continues to get significant minutes on the 3rd pair, the depth of the team will be severely hurt.  Adam Clendening and Frank Corrado should get minutes before Sbisa, and if they do, used in easy usage roles with Bartkowski, they should make up a satisfactory 3rd pair.

Among the forwards, the Sedins are still amazing, despite their roles becoming increasingly challenging.   Back in the Alain Vigneault days, the Sedins were extremely sheltered, as Manny Malhotra and Ryan Kesler used to see the other team’s top lines.  Now the Sedins are tasked with that challenge and they have responded amazingly, with a 55.1 CF% this past year when playing together.

If you are Vancouver, you better hope that Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi grow up sooner rather than later or a team that ranked just 22nd in CF60 will have a tough time generating offense again.

Radim Vrbata has provided very much needed scoring, potting 31 goals last year, 12th in the entire league.  However, guys like Alex Burrows, Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, and Jannik Hansen seem better suited for 3rd line depth roles rather than the top six roles they will be relied on for.  If you are Vancouver, you better hope that Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi grow up sooner rather than later or a team that ranked just 22nd in CF60 will have a tough time generating offense again.  Having a dearth of 3rd liners though works to your advantage sometimes, as last year’s eventual 4th line of Horvat, Ronalds Kenins, and Hansen posted a great CF% of 52%.

Ryan Miller will probably post around league average goaltending, though going into his age 35 season, a sudden major drop off in production wouldn’t be out of the norm.  In that case, the Canucks will be relying on long time prospect Jacob Markstrom, a guy who has never had success at the NHL level.

Grade: C+


Among Canucks prospects, their strength lies mainly in their forward group, featuring a list of solid but probably not top tier prospects.  Headlining this list is power forward Jake Virtanen, who destroys people on a regular basis and Cole Cassels, who was 2nd in the OHL playoffs in scoring en route to leading his team to winning the Memorial Cup in the CHL.  Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen also figure to be in the forward mix in the coming years.  Other regarded prospects in the system include defensemen Jared McCann and Jordan Subban (brother of P.K.) and goalie Thatcher Demko, who has been solid for Boston College.

The main question for the Canucks is what to do with impending free agents Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber, and Radim Vrbata.  For a team that is probably closer to sellers than buyers, a tough decision may need to be made around the trade deadline to trade some or all of them for picks and young talent.

Also, it has to be said, how many years of effectiveness do the Sedins have?  Are we witnessing a case similar to Jarome Iginla in the Sedins, where a team waits too long to capitalize on an aging asset, thus decreasing his(their) value year to year until when finally pulling the trigger the return value is not nearly what you hoped for?

If the Canucks were willing to eat half their salary for the final two years of their deal, I am sure some team would be willing to pay a premium price to have both Sedins at only $7 million combined.  This would help jump start a team that is on the slow path to becoming a rebuilding, medicore team (if they aren’t there already).

Grade: C

Without making any significant upgrades and their probable regression in one-goal games and shootouts, I am not sure the Canucks have enough fire power to return to the playoffs this year.  The Ducks, Flames, Kings, Sharks, and possibly Oilers will all provide a great challenge to a team that is probably too top-heavy to be considered serious contenders.  As members of the greatest team in Canucks history ever continue to leave, the transition to a different era will be painful and probably feature more sad goodbyes to all-time greats before a return to contender status is complete.

(All stats courtesy of,, and

Next: LA Kings State Of The Team