The Vancouver Canucks needed a right-shot defenseman to quarterback the power play. But is the one they found really the right one?
Contrary to the belief of many, the Vancouver Canucks’ newest blue-line addition, Philip Larsen, didn’t leave the NHL because he wasn’t good enough. He, himself, decided the Edmonton Oilers weren’t the right fit, and he didn’t want to play with them anymore. We can’t blame him, eh? But that doesn’t automatically make him a lock to crack Vancouver’s opening-night roster.
Which is a bit of an issue when he is supposed to quarterback the first power-play unit and finally make it successful again. Plus, there aren’t even guarantees that he has what it takes to make a power play successful.
Jason Botchford — The Province: Philip Larsen’s shot key to Canucks’ power-play success
"Larsen may not have the booming one-timer of some others, but scouts do believe he has a natural ability to get shots on net, a skill that worked very well with the Sedins when Christian Ehrhoff was in Vancouver.Of course, Larsen still has to make the team and earn his way into the top six for opening night."
You might be wondering about the “151” that I not-so-secretly included above. I will get to that in a second.
Philip Larsen is mostly an offensive defenseman. He is said to have good vision as well as stick-handling and passing skills. His shot is certainly not his standout attribute, but he gets them on net accurately, which is often all that matters on the power play. A wrist shot at the net through traffic actually has a higher chance of going in than “random” slap shots.
But let’s get to Larsen’s numbers from his first NHL stint, which is where the “151” comes in. Between 2010 and 2014, Larsen played 123 games in the NHL, and he got 182:19 of power-play minutes in that time span. His output, however, has a very low chance of knocking you off your chair.
More from Canucks News
- Canucks are in “wash, rinse, repeat” mode after Monday’s 5-1 loss
- Canucks send Jack Rathbone and Vasily Podkolzin down to Abbotsford
- Canucks acquire Ethan Bear, Lane Pederson from Carolina
- Brock Boeser, Curtis Lazar placed on injury reserve
- Canucks officially unveil Reverse Retro jersey in latest aesthetic change
The most important thing to do on the power play is score goals — it’s that simple. Other than an occasional odd-man rush or breakaway after an inaccurate pass, teams don’t get a lot of scoring chances against when they are on the power play. So, instead of focusing on Corsi numbers or anything like that, let’s just take a look at Larsen’s offensive output.
In 182:19 of PP time, Larsen recorded three goals and four assists for seven points. That is an average of 2.3 points per 60 minutes, ranking — you guessed it — 151st among NHL defensemen. Now get this: a very comparable player is Luca Sbisa, who got 177:15 of PP time between 2010 and 2014. Sbisa had a goal and seven points for 2.37 points per 60 — 147th in the league.
Fact is, at least four players who are on the ice during a power play should be able to set up high-danger scoring chances and/or be able to finish those chances and bury the puck in the net. The fifth one, in this case, is the net-front player, but even that one provides more when he has decent puck skills. What I am getting at is that all five players on a successful power play tend to have high point totals on the man advantage. Larsen, however, does not.
Between 2010 and 2014, he recorded .33 primary assists per 60. That number seems to make sense, judging by the fact that the PP quarterback often just distributes the puck to either side of the offensive zone, from where a scoring chance is then created. However, thanks to rotation on the power play, every player finds himself in a position to set up a scoring chance more than once per man advantage, and there is always the aforementioned screened shots.
The only decent stat about Larsen on the power play is his goals per 60, at .99, having him tied for 54th in the league. I say that’s decent, only because it is so much better than his assist or overall point totals. But being the 54th-best scoring defenseman on the power play doesn’t scream savior. Oh, he is also tied with Radko Gudas, so there’s that.
Last but not least, Larsen has to crack the top six first, if he wants to see any ice time at all. Which is exactly the part Yannick Weber couldn’t do, although he did a decent job on the power play. A decent job, in this case, means Weber had 3.02 points per 60 minutes on the PP last season.
I honestly have not the slightest clue about how Larsen developed over the past two years. After all, he recorded .69 points per game in the KHL last season, which is pretty good for a defenseman.
But, if we get the same Larsen the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers had on their power play, he won’t be the savior Jim Benning seemingly makes him out to be.
*All stats via stats.hockeyanalysis.com