Analyzing Canuck luck and PDO during the 2017-18 season

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 28: Sven Baertschi
VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 28: Sven Baertschi /

Luck is still an important factor to consider when analyzing players and teams in the NHL. Let’s see how the Canucks did compared to the league.

As the old saying goes, you have to be good to be lucky. In the sporting world, that means individuals do the best that they can to make their own luck. Training harder, honing their skills and breaking down obstacles in their path. The same can be applied to teams and managers.

I like using stats. A lot. But I do understand that luck plays an important role in this game. If anything, the playoffs are the perfect presentation of that fact. No matter how good your team is in the regular season, they can be victimized by poor luck.

We see the most unlikely of squads ascend to the top because nobody can predict which team’s goalies will have the hottest hand at the perfect time. The right bounces going the right way can’t be determined with absolute certainty.

Luckily, we can quantify this (pun very much intended). If you don’t already know, PDO combines shooting percentage and save percentage. This covers the bounces you would get at both ends of the ice. Over at CanucksArmy, Stephan Roget did a great job breaking down individual shooting percentages to see who is due for a rebound and a comedown.

I want to look at a different area; to see how the Vancouver Canucks performed compared to the league average and how certain players fared relative to their teams. When I focus on individuals, keep in mind that on-ice shooting percentage is not the same as their own statistic. The latter is just the success rate on their shots alone. On-ice percentages refer to the team’s statistic with a given player on the ice.

Players who qualify for this must 1) currently have a contract with the Canucks and 2) played at least 400 minutes at 5v5 last season to establish themselves as regulars. I will include two of the new additions made on July 1st for seperate reasons. Let’s do this!

League-wide measuring stick

Today’s stats come from Natural Stat Trick. As always, we are only looking at 5v5 situations. So, the good thing about league-wide stats is coming up with an average for the season. For PDO, it was exactly 100 (rounding to the nearest tenth).

That’s perfect because we expect the average PDO to be 100. This is our reference point. Above that is good luck and below is bad. There are certain ranges to be mindful of, but that’s the gist of it. As this comprises the sum of shooting and saving percentages, let’s look at those.

The average team shot success rate in 2017-18 was 7.76%. Stephan’s article mention that average individual shooting percentages are around 10% for forwards and 5% for defencemen. That works out pretty darn well.

As for save percentage, the average at even strength was .923. So where do the Canucks stand around the average? Last season’s squad walked away with a shooting percentage of 7.17 and their goaltending was good for .922 at even strength.

Bet you didn’t see the average goal tending coming. When you remove the terrible penalty kill (the Canucks were particularly awful in the goaltending area here), it appears you can’t blame the goalies for last season. Shooting percentage isn’t that far below average and Buffalo had the worst at 6.14. Vancouver wasn’t getting as many bounces, but other teams had it worse.

That gives a final PDO of 99.3. Slightly unlucky, but ultimately what you saw from the Canucks last year was what you got. It’s no secret they are a bad team that struggled to score. Although, if you were clinging to the goaltending excuse, that was put to rest.

The good, the bad and the lucky

Luck on their side

The top five luckiest Canucks on the current roster (by PDO) were Sven Baertschi (102.5), Bo Horvat (102.1), Brandon Sutter (102.0), Jay Beagle (101.9) and Brock Boeser (101.3).

The Canucks’ deadliest scoring line were benefiting from bounces (a lot of them). Horvat and Baertschi had on-ice shooting percentages hovering around 10 and Boeser was closer to 9. They are likely due for a regression, especially with increased assignments.

However, PDO isn’t perfect. Just because someone is likely to regress does not mean that they will right away. We can’t predict when this will happen, just that is should occur eventually. Brandon Sutter was on the ice for a team-best .948 save percentage. I guess the Canucks’ netminders like him better? It’s not sustainable, so we may see a few more goals against with Sutter on.

I have talked about this before concerning Jay Beagle. He was on a loaded team that won the Stanley Cup, but his PDO was still quite high. Generally, when your PDO is high, your shot metrics are likely to take a hit when those percentages normalize.

Beagle already has awful shot metrics, so I’m not looking forward to see how this goes. Throw in his age and the harsh decline for his type of play and this could get ugly quick. Or not. Luck is weird like that in the NHL. Although, I believe it is more likely that we will see a decline for the 2018-19 season.

Swimming upstream

Antoine Roussel had neither good nor bad luck. His PDO of 99.8 is exactly where it should be. That may not bode well for his raw production next year, but we will see what happens soon. Five current Canucks with the worst luck were Nikolay Goldobin (96.2), Markus Granlund (96.8), Sam Gagner (96.8), Derrick Pouliot (96.9) and Tim Schaller (97.0).

More from The Canuck Way

I don’t know why, but goaltending was extra terrible with Goldy on the ice. He had a team worst .882, likely due to the sloppy play from the team towards the end of the season. Some of this is due to his defensive play, but that save percentage is ridiculously low. I’m sure the frequent scratches did not help either. Derrick Pouliot suffered from the same albeit to a lesser degree.

This may have been due to defensive partners, but the team is bringing the same squad back, so don’t expect any changes soon. Pouliot’s shooting percentage wasn’t low, so I can’t imagine he will produce much more in the soft minutes he already receives.

Gagner just has below-average luck. He could be primed for a bounce back season, but with a cluttered group, he may find it tough to play regularly. We all know how important defence is to Travis Green. Granlund’s shooting percentage is very low, given his tough defensive assignments. We can’t count on him for offence anymore, but maybe he will pot in a few extra goals, assuming he is even in the starting lineup.

I did not expect Tim Schaller to have such a low on-ice shooting percentage. Boston was a very strong team with solid goaltending, yet only 4.77 of shots were successful with Schaller on the ice. His individual shooting percentage isn’t much better (5.0), so it will be interesting to see how Green deploys him. He may be a tertiary scoring option.


Looking strictly at bounces, the Canucks were neither lucky nor unlucky as a team last year. There were as bad as they seemed over the whole season. Mr. Aquilini, if you are listening, this team was not as good as the first 15 or the last eight. They also weren’t as bad as they were during that stretch in December. Like all extremes, the correct answer is somewhere in the middle.

Can I say for sure if the Canucks will have good or bad luck next season? Nope! I can make predictions, but knowing my luck, things won’t work out. The Canucks could plummet all the way to 31st by next March or stumble into a playoff spot by April. I sincerely hope it’s closer to the former, but we won’t know until it happens.

If there is anything else I can leave you with, it’s this. Don’t let one season determine everything you know about a player. This goes for the most promising of rookie seasons to the downright terrible. Now, if a player is consistently bad, there is nothing you can do.

Next. Canucks pursuing Erik Karlsson trade. dark

Luck is fickle and cruel. Canucks fans don’t need to be reminded of that. For every 2018 Golden Knights, there is another 2011 Canucks. All the team can do is build towards being the best there is. I agree that good teams can make moves to create their own luck. Bad teams just wait for something good to fall in their laps.