Big Numbers: Worst offensive season ever; Kassian’s strong finish

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

***

1 - 20-goal scorers for the Canucks this season. It was Ryan Kesler. To put that into perspective: in 2009-10, they had six 20-goal scorers. 1 is, uh, five fewer. It wasn’t a very good season.

191 - In fact, it was historically terrible. The Vancouver Canucks scored just 191 goals in 2013-14, one shy of their goal totals in 1998-99, their previous worst offensive season ever. (And keep in mind that they only got this close by scoring 5 goals versus Calgary in their final game.) Is it any consolation that this season wasn’t just bad, it was so bad that now it’s a trivia answer? I say yes.

97 - Combined points for Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who still finished the year first and second in team scoring. Both players have had seasons with more points than their combined points totals this year. That’s rough.

.71 - Zack Kassian’s points per game over the final 17 games of the season. The big winger put up 12 points in the months of March and April, which is an impressive pace for a guy playing primarily on the third line. He appeared to be putting things together towards the end of the campaign, and if he still has it together next year, that’s a 57-point pace over 82 games. Could Kassian hit 60 points with continued development and perhaps a larger role next year?

1031 - This is how many shots the Canucks missed this year, 6th in the NHL and third in the West. But before you lament the statistic, note that the two Western teams ahead of them are LA and San Jose. You miss a lot of shots when you take a lot of shots, and you take a lot of shots when you have the puck a lot. To Vancouver’s credit, they actually outplayed their opponents more often than not, which is a good sign for next year if they do decide to return with the core mostly intact. The one tweak they should make, though, is winning more.

3 | Teams with a corsi rating above 50% that failed to make the postseason, one of which was the Vancouver Canucks. The other two? The Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils. Meanwhile, the 10 other teams that outpossessed their opponents over the course of the season are in the dance. Possession metrics like Corsi and Fenwick aren’t the be-all and end-all — there’s simply too much randomness, luck, and other junk that goes into deciding an NHL game — but it’s generally the best indicator of a good team, which is why most of the teams that win the possession battle are playoff teams. Unfortunately, as with every statistic, there are always outliers, and this year, the Canucks were the Western Conference team that couldn’t turn their puck possession into playoff spot possession.

-39 | Alex Edler’s plus/minus, a league-low. Just an incredible accomplishment here. Even Steve Ott had to recognize it:

It was a helluva race but congratz to Edler for taking @ovi8 and myself down! Gold jacket Green jacket who gives a shit.

— Steve Ott (@otterN9NE) April 14, 2014

 

Here’s the thing, though: the only player that got worse luck on the ice was Steve Bernier, who finished the year with a league-low PDO of 95.0. Edler’s right behind him at 95.2. PDO is basically a stat that measures luck, combining your team’s shooting percentage and save percentage, two elements you can rarely control, when you’re on the ice. It tends to settle around 100, which is where most of the Canucks lie. But not Edler. He had a bad year. He was at fault for many goals against and he didn’t produce as much offence as he can. But you don’t get anywhere near minus-39 without a staggering amount of rotten luck, and the stats bear out just how much rotten luck Edler faced.

1217 | Shots blocked by the Canucks in 2013-14. It’s 198 more than they blocked in Alain Vigneault’s last full season. As if you needed any more evidence that the team’s philosophy has changed somewhat. Similarly, the Rangers went from 1338 in John Tortorella’s last full season to 1119 this year. Thus, in effect, the coach swap of Alain Vigneault for John Tortorella was good for a blocked shots swing of 200.

6.2% | The Canucks’ chances of winning Tuesday night’s draft lottery and with it, the right to draft first overall. I like those odds! Sadly, this may be yet another instance where the Canucks are beating out for the first overall pick by Buffalo, who have the best odds, at 25%. No doubt they end up with Gilbert Perrault, and we end up with… *sigh*… Dale Tallon.

30 comments

  1. naturalmystic
    April 14, 2014

    196 – The number of goals scored by Vancouver. Which would make it second worst season for goals scored by the team.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 8 votes)
    • Zach Morris
      April 14, 2014

      Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. I was specifically paying attention to that number watching the Calgary game.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
    • NdGT
      April 14, 2014

      Don’t know where you’re getting your number from, but NHL.com agrees with Mooney.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 8 votes)
      • naturalmystic
        April 14, 2014

        NHL.com shows Vancouver having 196 goals.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: -2 (from 4 votes)
        • Daniel Wagner
          April 14, 2014

          It shows 191 on one page (Goals For under team stats) and 196 on another (Standings). I believe the one under standings includes game winning shootout goals, as the Canucks have 5 shootout wins this season. So, the one Harrison posted is correct.

          VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
          Rating: +11 (from 11 votes)
          • steveB
            April 14, 2014

            how many Own Goals went in off of Canucks’ Defencemen this season?

            VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
            Rating: +4 (from 6 votes)
    • shoes
      April 14, 2014

      Oh good….lets keep Torts and turn this baby around. Next year we can get over 200 and have the 3rd worst season ever.

      Who said “making the same mistake twice and expecting different results is the epitomy of idiocy”?

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +5 (from 7 votes)
      • Doop
        April 14, 2014

        Nobody. Somebody said that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ It probably wasn’t Einstein. Einstein didn’t really talk like that.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +8 (from 8 votes)
  2. Amor de Cosmos
    April 14, 2014

    Barry Trotz has been fired.

    G’wan Trev. You know it makes sense.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +9 (from 11 votes)
  3. iain
    April 14, 2014

    Dale Tallon would make a pretty good GM. I like those odds.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +1 (from 5 votes)
  4. naturalmystic
    April 14, 2014

    Aquilini still has a man crush on Tortorella. Feaster for GM and Tortorella for one more season? I wonder if they sign another fringe NHLer with Italian heritage in the off season?

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -8 (from 18 votes)
  5. Chris the Curmudgeon
    April 14, 2014

    I am of a very firm opinion that the Canucks’ apparent bad luck (or the apparent disconnect between the possession stats and the results, if you prefer) is in fact not an anomaly but a consequence of the over-reliance on advanced statistics in personnel decisions. I know I have made this point before, but I think it bears repeating.

    The recent concept of “analytics” in sports aims to take advantage of inefficiencies in the existing, traditional statistics in relating individual results to team accomplishments. It has proven particularly alluring in baseball, as anyone who has seen the movie Moneyball knows, partly because the statistics that have always been most highly valued there were, in essence, randomly chosen, for example glorifying base hits but ignoring walks. More recently, similar thinking amongst hockey minds has led them to take a similar approach, developing metrics trying to quantify hockey performance beyond goals, assists and +/-. While I don’t deny that there is some value in these numbers, they make an assumption that I think is unreasonable and partly underlies the limits in their predictive ability. The assumption is that possession of the puck is anything more than weakly causative of scoring, of which I have serious doubt.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think that puck possession can be extremely well correlated with scoring. However, a big part of this is likely because, for the most part, the players who are most skilled at maintaining possession of the puck on the ice are also the most skilled at manoeuvring it past the opposing goaltender. Both possession and scoring ability are largely linked to similar intangible qualities in players, which are generally intuition (so-called hockey IQ) and strong hand-eye (“stick-eye”) coordination, or the ability to physically make the puck go where your mind wants it to. Players like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Lemieux were off the charts in both categories, and while they had other more tangible gifts (eg: Orr’s breakneck speed and Lemieux’s massive frame), it is their smarts and skill that were most instrumental to their greatness. The Sedin twins have also had considerable success thanks to their combination of these attributes. The problems arise when you start thinking that because many of the same players have strong possession numbers and strong scoring numbers, that one of these is causative of the other, and that for any player who can get the puck more often, goals will follow. I believe it is this mistaken impression that leads one to search for hidden value in possession numbers, and explains the overvaluing of players like David Booth and Jannik Hansen. Here are players who, because of attributes like superior speed and physical strength, are able to control possession of the puck an above average amount of time despite not possessing superior intangible attributes. However, as a result they are also players for whom, unlike with their more skilled brethren, possession and scoring do not seem to correlate. Some would write that off to luck and suggest that a regression is due, whereas I think it’s clear that it’s because an underlying assumption was incorrect.

    At face value, it might seem to be a strange assertion that I’m making, but I think there’s a key reason why these advanced metrics in hockey simply cannot match up to the ones used in baseball, and it lies in the nature of the two sports. In baseball, advanced statistics tend to evaluate the ability of the players to reach base. Reaching base, and moving runners to the next base, is directly instrumental to moving said runners across home plate, which is of course how the score is counted. In other words, the amount of runs scored can be pretty reasonably predicted by the number of runners there are attempting to score them. In hockey, however, scoring can happen at any moment of the game, and with very little warning or lead-up. I once read an article that suggested that if you were to watch a hockey game with the sound off, and blacked out the 30 seconds leading up to each goal (and of course the celebrations), you’d have no way of really knowing who was winning. How is it possible to predict a team’s ability to score when only a tiny fraction of any game is actually leading up to the scoring of its goals?

    This is where my gripe with advanced statistics comes in. While at face value, they can separate who is good at getting and keeping the puck from who is not, they do not reflect the fact that not all possessions are created equal. When only a tiny fraction of the possessions in a game actually lead to goals, it’s clear that more important than getting and keeping the puck is what you can actually do with it afterwards.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +31 (from 43 votes)
    • iain
      April 14, 2014

      wow. i’m stunned. you got the website to accept a comment this long.

      anything of mine that goes over 2 sentences disappears.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +17 (from 17 votes)
      • Naturalmystic
        April 14, 2014

        He’s crazy brave investing his time crafting a well written and thoughtful post with the knowledge it might disappear forever when he presses the submit comment button. This blog website is more unstable than GG Allin.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +10 (from 10 votes)
        • Chris
          April 15, 2014

          I’ve taken to writing my longer comments in word and thn just copying and pasting.

          VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
          Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
          • Pavo
            April 16, 2014

            I’ve taken to typing even my shortest comments in Word and then cutting and pasting.

            VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
            Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  6. Jeff
    April 14, 2014

    How about we dispense with rotten luck and conspiracy theories and call a spade a spade – Edler isn’t a good hockey player. Bad things happen when he’s on the ice, and he was rarely made accountable for his poor play.
    And tired of hearing Torts talk as if he’s some teaching guru. He had bad systems, and I’ll go on a limb and say players don’t like playing for him.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +10 (from 16 votes)
  7. Bolderevolution
    April 14, 2014

    This is compelling logic against the OVERuse of advanced stats. I think I’m with The Curmudgeon.

    What we really need is a stat that measures how many goals a player scores or aids the scoring of. We could add these two together and get a really useful stat.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +14 (from 16 votes)
  8. naturalmystic
    April 14, 2014

    If you guys are going to put out ridiculous predictions why not predict 100 points for Kassian? I recall you guys saying that Edler should score 50-60 points before the season started. Ridiculous. Kassian isn’t a veteran, he is raw, he does dumb stuff on the ice, he is a defensive liability at times. He could stink out the joint in pre-season games or camp. Aquilini might hire a coach that has no use for Kassian and he ends up riding the bench with Sestito. Predicting a whole season based on a 17 game sample, really? I am glad you guys aren’t gm’s because you would have traded the farm for Gary Leeman or Stephane Richer or maybe just some magic beans.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -16 (from 22 votes)
    • Daniel Wagner
      April 14, 2014

      I don’t recall us saying that about Edler. Do you have a link? I think Edler is capable of scoring 50+ points in a season, but I don’t recall ever predicting he would actually do so.

      And you’re misreading Harrison’s comment about Kassian. He’s not making a prediction, he’s asking a question to start discussion.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +15 (from 15 votes)
      • iain
        April 15, 2014

        right now, Kassian has untapped upside, but he needs to show development in the maturity side of the game. not sure if he is the sort who can or will show that, and that is the issue with him. his creativity isn’t at issue and there is clear potential for him to be a top 6 forward in the NHL, but he needs to curb the dumb side of his game or coaches will continue to bury him in the bottom 6 and eventually he will wind up on ‘where are they now?’ type posts. that would be a shame, since some of canucks’ prettiest goals this past year were created by him. fingers crossed for next season – it will really be make or break for Zack.

        as for Edler, well where do you start? as noted earlier, coaches (both AV and Torts) steered clear of fixing his defensive lapses (or maybe they tried and failed) for the sake of his shot and points scoring ability. this year the shot and points largely dried up and we were left with the bad alex, even worse than last year. that game on saturday against the Oilers was typical: he gets an assist on one oiler goal (perfect setup in the slot, btw), and then one bounces in off his shoulder. awful, with bad luck as well. I really think he needs a fresh start elsewhere, and since he is one of the few assets that might bring a decent return, i really hope that the Canucks can find a trade for him.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
    • shoes
      April 15, 2014

      Well Kassian looked very good once Coach Genius let him play more than 2.5 minutes a game. And as to Edler, we have seen much better from him. Not sure if it is back injury related or scared of Shanny, but he has a serious problem. Can he fix it? Yes, just not with Torts and probably not in a Canuck Uni. Detroit is calling Edler and the Canucks need one or maybe 2 of their young prospects. And while people howl at Edler many GM’s in the league value that size of D and will think they can get him back to the form of 2 years ago.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
  9. popple
    April 14, 2014

    What is the stat on own goals this season? Are they the league leaders? ;)

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)
  10. Andrea
    April 14, 2014

    Shoes, that’s the definition of insanity.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)
    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      April 15, 2014

      I’ve always found that quote about “repeating the same thing…insanity” to be very glib and a little naive. For one thing, is it even possible for people to repeat the exact same thing the exact same way? But more so, I think hockey is a great example of how the statement just doesn’t hold water. A lot of teams have successfully taken the strategy of making only few changes in personnel and tactics from year to year and allowing themselves to improve with repetition and better learning of their systems. Not saying that’s what the Canucks should do, just pointing out that making changes for their own sake isn’t some kind of panacea against failure.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
    • shoes
      April 15, 2014

      works for me……if Aquilinis keep Torts…..they are insane? Correct?

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        April 16, 2014

        I suppose, but if they keep the Sedin twins, are they still insane?

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  11. BBoone
    April 15, 2014

    I am also unable to post anything over a couple of sentences.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  12. Aaron
    April 15, 2014

    I think the big issue this year with scoring is the type of chances and the inflexability allowed by the coach. Not all players play the same and Tort’s doesn’t seem to properly recognise this. Why put Biesksa with Edler. Thats just a recipie for disaster. Why are the twins forced to dump and chase? Why is Garrison not regularly on the PP? Why put Lack ahead of Lou in the first year as #1. What was with the constant line juggleing when a line looked good it was gone next game. To many little things just seemed wrong in player deployment! Edler is not a safe stay at home defense man you can’t play him like one. Give him the bit and let him go. I think Tort’s is a good Coach but he needs to adapt to his team not force them to adapt to him. I can’t wait to see what/who next year brings!!!!!!!

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
    • steveB
      April 16, 2014

      If I may use another old saw: I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

      It seems to me that Torts needs another tool besides a hammer.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)