Radim Vrbata 2015-16: The Year of the Snake Bite
No question, this has been a tough year for Radim Vrbata.
After a team-leading 31 goals in 2014-2015, the Czech sniper has managed only 13 goals and 27 points in 61 games this season, putting him on pace for 33 points — among the worst single seasons of his career.
Even worse than mediocre offensive numbers are bad defensive numbers: Vrbata is among worst Canucks in plus-minus, with minus-30. This has a lot to do with deployment — Vrbata has spent much of the year playing with Bo Horvat.
In the absence of Brandon Sutter, Horvat found himself the go-to defensive zone faceoff man, by a wide margin: Bo took over 13 percent more face-offs in his own end than in the opposing end. (The next closest is Adam Cracknell, at 4.4 percent more).
Unfortunately for Vrbata, an offensive player, this means as long as he is playing with Horvat, he is forced to start many of his shifts in the defensive zone. He is ill-suited for this role, and it has shown.
Look at this chart from puckalytics.com and see how Vrbata’s offensive zone face-off percentage (OZone%) skyrockets when playing away from Horvat:
If Horvat lost the defensive face-off, the pair would often get pinned in their own zone and watch the opponent score a goal.
Note the low save percentage that Canucks goalies have with Horvat and Vrbata on the ice together. Now, think back to their plus-minus number. Suffice to say, opponents have scored a lot against this duo.
On the other hand, if Horvat won the draw and the Canucks were able to clear, they might generate a scoring chance in the opponent’s end. But with neither Vrbata nor Horvat having much luck converting their shots into goals, those scoring chances were often saved, blocked, or missed.
This in turn would sometimes allow the other team to generate yet another scoring chance in the Canucks end — and ultimately more minuses for both players.
At least for Horvat, this tragedy has moved toward a happy ending: Horvat has a 12.8 shooting percentage since January 1st.
Unfortunately for Vrbata, a continuing lack of finish has meant banishment from the top-six forward group, down onto a third or fourth line role with lesser linemates.
The unluckiest Canuck indeed.
Next: One More Chance for Vrbata