Vancouver Canucks Daily Rumblings: Horvat Deserves the ‘A’

Apr 7, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) during the face off against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) during the face off against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks lost one of their top defensemen and a great leader in Dan Hamhuis. Is Bo Horvat ready to fill the void?

Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning is still looking for another forward addition for the middle six, but we are already talking about the next captain. The Canucks will have plenty of time to make a decision on what to do with the alternate captain vacancy Dan Hamhuis left once they are done in free agency.

But once the time comes, they will have a tough decision to make. Oh, and can Philip Larsen really lead a power play or even make the Canucks this season?

So many questions…

Philip Larsen, the PP savior

Jason Botchford — The Province: Can Philip Larsen save the Canucks power play?

"Cam Barker, who flopped in the NHL, led KHL defencemen in scoring so Larsen is no sure thing. But there are several indicators that suggest this is a good bet by the Canucks.Larsen averaged 4.31 points-per-hour on the Oilers power play in 2013-14. No Canuck came close to that last season. And Alex Edler, who was mostly a first power play quarterback, averaged just 1.17 power play points-per-60 minutes played."

Philip Larsen, a right-shot defenseman and former Edmonton Oiler, was not just signed to play a minor role on the bottom pairing. Instead, the Canucks want him to lead the power play from the blue line. Vancouver hasn’t had a true power-play quarterback since Christian Ehrhoff, so it is good to see a new player come in. But Jason Botchford is right — Larsen is anything but a sure thing.

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Looking at the numbers, it becomes clear that bottom-pairing players seldom become the top power-play guys. The NHL’s top-10 defensemen in points per 60 minutes are all at least top-four players on their respective teams: Kevin Shattenkirk, Keith Yandle, Jared Spurgeon, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty — and the list goes on.

The only bottom-pairing player in the top 10 is the New Jersey Devils’ David Schlemko, who averaged 5.44 points per hour on the PP. So, it is possible, but it is rare.

Larsen’s 4.31 points per 60 in 2013-14 would have ranked 27th in the league this season. That doesn’t sound that great, but Ben Hutton and Alex Edler are the Canucks’ top power-play defenseman and they finished 61st and 73rd, respectively. If Larsen can get back to his production from two years ago, that would be a great improvement. And with the help of the Sedins and Loui Eriksson, the Canucks could have at least one extremely dangerous power-play unit.

However, hockey isn’t always played on the man advantage. Being a solid player on even strength is much more important. So, no matter how good Larsen is on the power play, he has to prove he can play five-on-five before he even gets his chance.

Is Bo Horvat ready to be a leader?

Jeff Paterson — The Province: Jeff Paterson: Send a message, sew the ‘A’ on Horvat

"Give Horvat a letter now and let him soak up all he can in the way of leadership from the Sedins and Alex Burrows. Let him sit in on leadership meetings and be a part of the inner circle that has the ear of the coaching staff and management.In essence, use the remaining years of Sedin service to the organization to help groom the next captain of the hockey club. It seems like a logical decision and a way to link the present to the future."

Despite recording 40 points in his sophomore season, Bo Horvat struggled. First, it took him an eternity to get rolling offensively. He fixed that issue halfway through the year, but he still struggled.

Thanks to a long-term injury to Brandon Sutter, who was supposed to be the team’s new second-line center and leader on the penalty kill, Horvat was thrust into a role he wasn’t ready for. Tons of defensive-zone starts, facing the opposition’s top lines and leading the team in short-handed ice time was just too much.

While Sutter posted by far the best Corsi-for percentage at 24.6 percent, through 42:33 of short-handed ice time. Meanwhile, Horvat saw 184:17 of short-handed time, posting a 5.9 Corsi-for percentage. In other words, Sutter made sure to prevent the opposition from taking shots while gaining possession himself while all Horvat did was struggle to prevent shots and wait for the opportunity to go for the change.

What does any of that have to do with Horvat getting Dan Hamhuis’s ‘A’?

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Well, with Sutter back in the lineup, the Canucks finally have the chance to take some pressure off of Horvat. So why put any of it back on? Just let veterans like Alex Burrows, Alex Edler or new acquisition Erik Gudbranson do the job and give Horvat a totally sheltered developmental season.

If Horvat gets the ‘A’ next year, when Burrows is gone, he will have it soon enough. He deserves it — just maybe not right now.

*Stats via