Along with the overall disaster that was the Canucks’ 2013-14 season, many of the tales of individual disaster have been well-covered. Alex Edler is squarely in the spotlight thanks to his eye-catching league-worst plus/minus, the Sedins’ fall to 40-points forwards has been well-documented, and Alex Burrows’ unexpected goalless slump was one of the biggest stories of the season.
Lost a little in the hubbub was Jannik Hansen. That’s not unusual for the Dane, as he usually flies a little under the radar, winning the Fred J. Hume award as the Canucks’ unsung hero twice in the last three years. This season, however, he was unsung for a legitimate reason: there was nothing to sing about.
Coming off his career best season in points-per-game, a year in which he finished third on the team in points behind the Sedins, Hansen appeared poised to continue his upward progression. He was projected to score 40+ points.
It didn’t happen. Hansen managed 20 points in what was easily his worst season in terms of points per 60 minutes played. Last season, Hansen averaged 2.32 points/60 minutes at 5-on-5, the best rate of his career and a nice progression from his 1.96 points/60 the previous year. This year, he dropped to less than half that, scoring just 1.11 points/60 minutes.
How did he fall so far? Hansen went from being a key member of the core whose versatility meant he would always have a role to play on the team to being a square peg in a number of round holes, never quite fitting in the top-six and being one of far too many third-line forwards.
At the end last season, Hansen seemed indispensable. A year later, I’ve even seen talk that the Canucks should consider trading him before his limited no-trade-clause kicks in with his new contract on July 1st.
That would be a mistake. Here’s the thing: Hansen’s season wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed to be.
Like Edler, Hansen had a career-low on-ice shooting percentage this season; it’s just that Hansen’s wasn’t as brutally low as Edler’s so his numbers didn’t tank quite as much. The Canucks’ shooting percentage with Hansen on the ice was 6.25%, well below last season’s 10.78%. His individual shooting percentage, however, remained largely the same, from 10.1% to 9.8%.
Hansen’s shot-rate did drop, however. He averaged 2.11 shots per game last season, dropping to 1.58 per game this season. To be fair, that’s partly explained by a drop in power play ice time, but it’s why he scored fewer goals this season despite playing 24 fewer games.
The biggest drop in his points was assists, though, which was previously a strength of his game. His 9 assists this season is the second lowest of his career, ahead of just his sophomore season in which he played just 47 games with the Canucks. That can be explained by his on-ice shooting percentage, which was one of the lowest on the team.
Many of the Canucks saw uncharacteristically low on-ice shooting percentages this season, to the point that it seems more systemic than something that can be pinned on individual performance or bad luck.
Part of the problem may also have been a confusion about his role. When he was on the Sedin line, he looked remarkably out of place, like he was trying to be someone he was not. In addition, he barely played on the penalty kill, partly due to the Sedins taking up those minutes. What was previously his identity as a speedy, defensive winger with offensive upside was compromised. He tried to be an Alex Burrows clone for the Sedins and a distributor for Ryan Kesler, instead of playing the same game he had always played.
Overall, however, Hansen still got the same puck possession results he always did. His Corsi% was 51.8%, better, in fact, than in previous seasons. He did this while starting more often in the defensive zone than last season and facing tougher competition than last season.
By these statistics, it seems likely that Hansen could see a bounce back season next year, assuming that any systemic issues that are driving down shooting percentages are adjusted, and assuming that is part of the problem. While he shouldn’t be relied upon to be a second line winger next season, there’s no reason why he can’t return to being a reliable third-line winger who can chip in offence as needed.Tags: Jannik Hansen