One of the biggest questions heading into this season for the Canucks was how they were going to replace the scoring of Christian Ehrhoff. The German blueliner had a career-high 50 points in 2010-11, leading all Canucks defencemen in scoring by a margin of 17 points.
Many worried that Ehrhoff’s absence would be gravely missed, particularly since the Canucks didn’t acquire anyone to replace him. Back in September, we noted that while the Canucks would miss his potent offensive talents, they would be able to replace his production from within, and they wouldn’t miss his defensive lapses. Henrik suggested they wouldn’t miss Ehrhoff at all, saying “I don’t think we lost anything,” which seemed a bit strong at the time.
Turns out, he might have been right.
Ignore for the moment that Edler averaged 0.647 points last year and Ehrhoff averaged 0.633 points and that Edler is on pace for 62 points this season. It would have been awfully nice to have Ehrhoff’s production on top of Edler’s. But the Canucks have been able to fill Ehrhoff’s role and his production. Sami Salo has stepped into the first powerplay unit and Edler’s right side and Dan Hamhuis has begun scoring at an impressive rate.
Surprise surprise, the guy we call “Community Man” is contributing far beyond expectations.
Through 21 games, Ehrhoff has 2 goals and 9 assists. Dan Hamhuis has identical statistics. After just 1 point in his first 10 games, Hamhuis has 10 points in his last 11 games and is a big and overlooked reason the Canucks are 7-4-0 in those 11 games.
His career-high in points, from his sophomore season with the Nashville Predators, is 38 — he hasn’t come close to it since. Last season, he scored 23 points in 64 games. This season, he’s on pace for 43 points and, while he’s unlikely to continue his near-point-per-game pace from the last 11 games, he’s certainly capable of sustaining his 21-game pace.
His PDO, a measurement of luck that trends towards 1000 over time, is currently 986. That’s not so low that he’s going to experience a dramatic upswing (he’s currently enjoying a dramatic upswing after his early struggles), but he’s not due for a regression either. He’s become a legitimate offensive threat after being used in primarily a shutdown role last season. He and Bieksa are still playing that role, but Hamhuis has been able to increase his point production at the same time.
One of the big reasons has been the emergence of the second unit powerplay, largely thanks to Cody Hodgson’s savvy playmaking. The Canucks are once again leading the NHL in powerplay percentage, but this season the pressure isn’t all on the first unit. Hamhuis has been the only consistent defenceman on the second group of five, with Bieksa, Aaron Rome, and Alex Burrows rotating on the other point, and the Community Man and Hodgson have shown some chemistry quarterbacking the unit from the point and the half-wall.
Last season, Hamhuis averaged just 1:34 per game in powerplay ice time. He’s up almost a minute this season, averaging 2:27 per game. He has 6 powerplay points, tied for fifth on the team with Sami Salo. He had 7 powerplay points all of last season. In fact, Hamhuis has one more point with the man advantage than Ehrhoff does with the Sabres. Ehrhoff is leading the Sabres in powerplay time on ice, but is still only averaging just under 3 minutes per game from the first unit as the Sabres have drawn 15 fewer powerplay opportunities than the Canucks.
Hamhuis has been a solid secondary contributor on the powerplay, but he is of primary importance at even-strength. He has faced the toughest competition at even-strength amongst Canucks defencemen, yet is second amongst Canucks defencemen in Relative Corsi, just behind his partner, Bieksa. The two of them have continually pushed possession into the offensive zone, and they have done so while getting significantly fewer offensive zone starts than Edler and Salo.
That Bieksa and Hamhuis are ahead of Edler and Salo in Relative Corsi despite starting far less often in the offensive zone is remarkable. As mentioned above, they are still playing a shutdown role and are excelling. But with Hamhuis getting additional time on the powerplay (trickle-down from Ehrhoff’s absence), he’s been able to equal Ehrhoff’s production. Thing is, he’s doing it while being far more defensively responsible than Ehrhoff ever was.Tags: Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, featured, Statistics, Stats