We’ve been extolling the vices of Jannik Hansen a lot over the past few months — his violence and behaviour, his inability to be calmed down, his cross-checking of referees, and his fictional elbows to the unmentionables — but he also has a fair number of virtues. He’s a speedy, defensively sound two-way forward, who’s great on the forecheck and penalty kill.
Also, after his goal against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, Hansen is tied for third in Canucks scoring with 6 points in 10 games. To put it another, more exciting and inflammatory way, Hansen has the same number of points as Henrik Sedin.
While we’ve long said that Hansen is an underrated playmaker, this new scoring pace is still a surprise. He’s on pace for 49 points if this were an 82-game season, a full 10 points more than his career-high last season. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen.
Hansen’s production is particularly unusual because of how he’s being used. Along with Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows, Hansen has spent most of the season checking the opponents’ best players. His QoC (Quality of Competition) is second to only Burrows among Canucks forwards and he has started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. While his zone starts aren’t at Manny Malhotra levels, it’s clear that Hansen is being used primarily in a defensive role.
Henrik, on the other hand, is starting in the offensive zone his usual near-70% and leads all Canucks forwards in powerplay ice time. He and Hansen should not have the same number of points.
Here’s the odd thing to me. Henrik and Hansen lead the Canucks in one particular statistic: goals scored while they are on the ice. The Canucks have scored 3.88 goals for every 60 even-strength minutes that Hansen has been on the ice and 3.02 goals for every 60 even-strength minutes that Henrik is on the ice. Last season, that number was 3.29 for Henrik, so not too far off considering how few games we are into the season.
So why do Henrik and Hansen have the same number of points? For Hansen, there’s a fairly easy answer: he’s riding the percentages. The Canucks’ shooting percentage when Hansen is on the ice is 14.81%, a pace that is extremely unlikely to continue. The highest on-ice shooting percentage in the entire NHL last season was 12.93% from Steven Stamkos, and even that was considered unsustainably high for him.
For Hansen, the bounces are simply going his way at this point in the season. Consider his first goal of the season, against Edmonton: he worked extremely hard to score it, but he also got a fortunate bounce, banking the puck off Devan Dubnyk and in from a bad angle.
Oddly enough, his current rate of goal-scoring is actually pretty likely to continue: Hansen is taking more shots than he has in previous seasons and his shooting percentage of 8.7% is actually a little lower than his career average. He’s getting fortunate bounces so far this season when he’s on the ice, but he’s also getting the puck to the net enough that he’s likely to score around 10 goals in a 48-game season.
The troubling part for Hansen is that he, along with Higgins, are actually struggling in their role as defensive forwards. The two of them have the worst Corsi on the team and have frequently gotten trapped in the defensive zone and been bailed out by the work of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Hansen currently has the highest PDO on the team, a statistic that combines on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage. PDO numbers tend to regress towards 1000: Hansen’s PDO of 1106 is the 20th highest in the NHL right now, which is not a good sign. He’s due for a healthy regression on both sides.
As for Henrik, his lack of points is a little more strange. His on-ice shooting percentage is actually pretty high at 10.29% and, as mentioned above, the Canucks are scoring goals at a fairly high rate when he’s on the ice. The only thing is that he’s not getting assists on those goals. For Henrik, it’s not as simple as looking at his PDO, which at 1064 is likely to go down over the course of the season, and say that Henrik is due for a regression.
The truth is that the Canucks are scoring at even-strength when Henrik’s on the ice, but he’s not getting points. Henrik will start picking up assists at a higher-rate as the season continues and it’s quite bizarre that he hasn’t already. Once the Canucks figure out their powerplay woes (which I think is inevitable), Henrik should be back at the top of the Canucks’ scorers.
If Hansen continues to play a checking role, however, he won’t be there with Henrik. At some point this season, Hansen will stop getting the bounces: a great shot will hit the knob of the goaltender’s stick or a shot that he would have gotten an assist on will hit the post. At that point, let’s remember this adage from Ecclesiastes 9:11:
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
Simply put, don’t be too quick to either praise or condemn. Hansen isn’t as good as he might seem right now, but he’s also not as bad as he will likely seem in the future.