The Vancouver Canucks power play has been among the NHL’s worst over the last few seasons. With some new faces and a different head coach, what should the first power play unit look like?
It’s been a long time since the Vancouver Canucks offence struck fear into the hearts of the opponent. The Sedin twins are past their playing primes, Ryan Kesler is long gone and the Canucks haven’t found any superstar scorers since their domination of the old Northwest Division.
Because the Canucks haven’t been able to score a lot, their power play has obviously failed to scare the opponents. Just take a look at their power play statistics over the last four seasons:
2016-17: 14.1 percent (29th)
2015-16: 15.8 percent (27th)
2014-15: 19.3 percent (ninth)
2013-14: 15.2 percent (26th)
2012-13: 15.8 percent (22nd)
So with the exception of the 2014-15 season, the Canucks power play has been quite atrocious. The good news is that head coach Travis Green has a large quantity of players who are capable of forming the first unit.
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For starters, Daniel and Henrik Sedin are probably better off on the second unit. Vancouver’s power play has been way too predictable with the twins passing back-and-forth until one of them took the shot. Daniel had just 14 power play points last season, while Henrik had 15.
One should expect Bo Horvat to centre lead the power play unit. But with a plethora of wingers and some solid puck-moving defencemen, it becomes a question as to who else should start on that first unit.
Horvat figures to start the first line with Sven Baertschi and Brock Boeser, but the former had just six power play points last season. But the latter is an intriguing option, given he’s a right-handed shooter with a dangerous release.
So is newcomer Sam Gagner, who was a power play specialist in 2016-17 with eight goals and 10 assists for the Columbus Blue Jackets. But do the Canucks want two right-handed shooting wingers on the same power play unit? Unlikely.
Though Baertschi struggled on the power play, he provides good size with the ability to score the ugly goals in front of the net. Throw in Gagner’s strong track record with the man advantage, and these two guys alongside Horvat should probably round out the forwards on the top unit.
On the back end
Though it’s undeniable that Chris Tanev is Vancouver’s best defencemen, he doesn’t come with any offensive upside. He’s a penalty killing specialist, not a power play stud. As usual, expect veteran puck-mover Alexander Edler to be a quarterback on the top unit.
After Edler, it becomes a question as to who his partner should be. Troy Stecher is a good option, given his terrific puck-moving abilities and right-hand shot. But in all honesty, free agent addition Michael Del Zotto — who has 66 career power play points — may be the better fit.
But then that means the younger and inexperienced tandem of Stecher and Ben Hutton form the back end on the second unit. Does Travis Green want to put his two best power play blueliners together, or should he mix it up?
This is where Green should mix it up and put Edler and Stecher on the first unit. We saw some flashes there in 2016-17. If it doesn’t work, then he can always give Del Zotto the promotion to the first unit.
As loyal as the Canucks have been to the Sedins and their playing time, the twins simply have to accept a demotion to the second power play unit. Like I said earlier, they’ve made the PP too predictable and less dangerous as the two have declined in production.
The first power play unit should consist of Horvat, Baertschi, Gagner, Edler and Stecher. This gives Vancouver the ideal set-up man (Horvat), the sniper (Gagner), the big body in front (Baertschi), and two good puck-moving blue liners to complement the forwards.
Vancouver has plenty of options on how to craft their two power play units. But on paper, Horvat-Baertschi-Gagner-Edler-Stecher appear to give Green his best shot at fixing a woeful power play.
Who do you think should be on Vancouver’s top power play unit? Let us know in the comments.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN and Hockey Reference*