Monday, August 13, 2012

The deepest blue are Canucks

Outside of Vancouver – with the exception of the most observant NHL followers – the Canucks' group of defencemen may be among the league's most underrated.  For virtually as long as the team has been in existence, the Canucks have lacked a bonafide Norris Trophy candidate and this past year's edition was no exception.  But what the Canucks' blueline may lack in a world class player à la Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara, they make up for in, arguably, unparalleled depth.  This was reflected in the Norris's most recent voting results, as the Canucks were one of only two teams to have three defencemen receive a vote for the award – Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa.  (The other team was the New York Rangers with Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonaugh.) 

Offensively, this was further exemplified by the Canucks' fifth place ranking in defensive goal-scoring (see table to the right).  Among the top five teams, Vancouver and Los Angeles were the only ones to statistically do so "by committee".  Alex Edler led the Canucks' defencemen with 11 goals, accounting for just over a quarter of the Vancouver blueliners' total output.  Comparatively speaking, the other three teams topped the league by virtue of one standout player.  At 19 goals a piece, Shea Weber and Erik Karlsson scored nearly half of their teams' defensive goals, while Niklas Kronwall's breakout 15-goal campaign accounted for more than a third of Detroit's total. 

Statistically, that may all change for Vancouver if newly-signed Jason Garrison (who himself accounted for 53% of the Panthers' goals by a defenceman – the highest proportion in the league) can match his 16-goal output from last season.  And while Edler's play in the post-season left many wondering how he ever got voted best defenceman by Canucks fans, the reality is, when he's at his best, the big Swede could be just a few years out of a Norris nomination.  All things considered, however, Vancouver remains a balanced force on the blueline with no individual head-and-shoulders above the rest.  Garrison and Edler will share their equal portion of the load with Bieksa and Hamhuis, not to mention the ever-enigmatic Keith Ballard and the ever-improving Chris Tanev representing the blueline's potentially high-reward wild cards.

No one's saying that a player like Weber wouldn't put Vancouver over the top, cause that could very well be the case.  But Canucks fans would be wise to appreciate the group of guys we do have, 'cause collectively, they're among the league's very best.  So in salute of Vancouver's standout rearguards, here are the Top Five¹ of the group's 40 total goals from last season:


¹ Technically 4 of the Canucks defencemen's 40 goals, as Edler's shootout goal does not count towards official statistics.  Bonus fact: Edler had four shootout goals to lead all league defencemen.

*See the online discussion regarding this article on the forums here.

1 comment:

  1. AHAHA ENIGMATIC BALLARD! Made me "laugh out loud" ahah!