Time To Panic Over Jannik? Not Yet.


He’s an exciting, dynamic forward, who’s got a strong right-handed shot, and he’s already scored with the Sedins on their new-look 2014 power play. If you guessed that I’m talking about Linden Vey, well…I could be, but I’m not. Take a look at this:

Yes, that’s right. I’m talking, instead, about Jannik Hansen, currently the most-maligned member of the Canuck’s early season forward corps. Granted, this clip is from pre-season, but it’s still the most current proof I can find in the argument against all of the unfair criticism that has been leveled against Jannik Hansen from many vocal members of the Canucks’ fan-base so far this season.

Now, I’m not saying that Hansen hasn’t played poorly so far this year, because, well, he has. But what I am saying is that it’s just two games, and it’s way too early to freak out about a couple bad games and a couple of defensive miscues from a player who not only has such a long history of being an energetic, pesky, versatile and dynamic middle-6 winger, but who has also shown us this year that he’s capable of so much more than what he has offered over the first two regular season games.

Current example aside, let’s take a look at Hansen’s career track record overall. Ever since the 2010-11 season, Hansen showed steady improvement, reaching 29 points in 2010-11 and then 39 points in 2011-12, increasing his goals, assists and shot totals two years in a row. Then, in the lockout shortened season, Hansen looked likely to hit the 20 goal mark, had he been given a full year. That really only leaves us last year’s season as a slight downturn–an outlier in his overall trend of steadily increasing point totals. However, we all know painfully well how last season went for everyone, with Hansen in particular dealing with injury as well as what seems like a not-altogether-positive relationship with coach Tortorella. (Something that already seems changed this year.)

What this means, of course, is that this year is a proving year for Hansen, much like it is for a number of the current Canuck’s core. Given the amount of middle-6 depth the Canucks boast, at the seeming expense of legitimately elite top-end talent, this is probably a make or break year for Hansen to either show us that he has untapped potential and can continue his pre-2013 trend of upward production, or to show that he’s peaked, and that it’s time to give someone else a shot in his place.

Fortunately for Hansen, all the advanced metrics we have at our disposal show us that he’s right where he’s always been in terms of possession and driving play towards the offensive zone, and away from his defensive end. As detailed in Canucks Army’s in-depth Player Preview series, while Hansen’s Goals For% of  .431 looks fairly bad on its own, all of his other percentages (A Corsi For % of .517 and a Fenwick For % of .512) show that the goals scored against while he was on the ice were probably more a result of bad luck, than any fault of Hansen’s, as over the full season he helped the team steadily direct more shot opportunities against the opposition than he was giving up. These numbers are in-line with all of his career averages, as well, so statistically, there is no reason to believe that this year Hansen’s luck shouldn’t improve enough to at least bring him in line with his just-sub-20 goal seasons gone by. And, those who remember his stints with the Sedins, or time spent on the second line, know that he might even have potential to improve on those totals, given enough minutes, confidence, and a bit of a reversal of last year’s luck.

This all seems like a pretty air-tight case for optimism to me, which is why I’m shocked by the short memories so many fans have regarding Hansen so far. On a myriad of online media forums, I’ve already seen a number of calls to see Hansen traded, or benched when Horvat slots in, or complaints that his contract is too large–even though having a guy that can slot anywhere from the 4th to the 1st line and play both special teams effectively seems to me to be worth a lot more than his current $2.5 million hit. I  just find it confusing that people can quickly forget such a run of great, consistent and passionate play due to a slight down year (shared by most of the team) and a couple bad games to start the year. (There are still 80 games to go, which…is a lot more than two.) Then again, there were people calling for Hamhuis’ head last October as well, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

In any case, I realize that I might be biased, because Hansen has been one of my favourite players for a long while, and I’d personally hate to see him removed or marginalized from the team. At the same time I also realize that hockey is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ type sport, and if Hansen can’t pick up the slack from his early season funk, then maybe it will be time for him to move on and try to rejuvenate his career elsewhere. However, I think that the ridiculously small sample size of two games is not near enough time to jump to that conclusion, especially since he has given his heart and soul–as well as a convincing enough number of counting and fancy stats–to us over the past six years to merit at least another 80 games against the Oilers (If you extrapolate everything in two game samples, they’re the only team we play now, right?) before we send him packing.

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