Vancouver Canucks: Standings, projections, point percentages and K

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 2: Elias Pettersson #40 of Vancouver Canucks celebrates his third period power-play goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammates Alexander Edler #23, Sven Baertschi #47 and Bo Horvat #53 at Canadian Tire Centre on January 2, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 2: Elias Pettersson #40 of Vancouver Canucks celebrates his third period power-play goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammates Alexander Edler #23, Sven Baertschi #47 and Bo Horvat #53 at Canadian Tire Centre on January 2, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Vancouver Canucks are just outside of a playoff spot. We can use a couple measures to project where they may finish or simply default to a model created by the helpful folks who work in analytics. Let’s see how things may shake out.

Currently a .500 club through 44 games, the Vancouver Canucks are one point out of a playoff spot. So, is this the going to be the second time Jim Benning’s team makes the postseason in five years? Maybe. However, I wanted to look at projections to see how this may play out.

Let’s start with the simplest method of projection. Since the Canucks have earned 44 points in as many games, they are on pace for 82 points. That’s just simple math. The Canucks are ninth in the Western Conference and fifth in their Pacific Division.

This year has been volatile in the West. Strength is fluctuating between the two divisions, which is why the playoff race is a lot more open. Granted, it’s still the first week in January and the Canucks have played more games than other teams.

And if we organize the standings by point percentages, what does a .500 team give you? 23rd in the NHL and 11th in the Western Conference. This is my regular reminder why being a .500 club means very little.

Going off of those percentages, unless the Canucks substantially improve in play, finishing 11th overall in the West is not a bad guess. A 23rd overall finish is a bit of the dagger to the old draft position (9th overall with the possibility of sliding down).

But hey, what do other models say? Micah Blake McCurdy (aka @IneffectiveMath) tracks NHL teams throughout the season. His model projects the Canucks finishing the season with around 85 points (updated before last night’s game in Montreal). He also projects a 23% chance at playoffs. Over at The Athletic, they project the team to finish with 83 points and have a 12% chance at the postseason.

So, let’s go with a number in the low 80s. That’s not enough for a playoff spot. In fact, that would have been good for 11th in the Western Conference and 20th overall last season. Fancy that. Given the pace teams are on this year, it could be lower.

Suffice it to say, the team has a chance to play meaningful games in April, but let’s not kid ourselves here. They aren’t guaranteed. There is a higher chance when compared to losing 12 of 13. So, I guess you can hang your hat on that.

K ratings

The one last thing I wanted to look at was Special K. No, not the cereal. K ratings were something I talked about once last year and I want to do it again. Sometimes we get caught up only shot attempts (i.e. corsi). But at times, there are flaws when using raw, unadjusted attempts.

The Washington Capitals were a poor corsi team last year (ranked 24th) and still won the Cup. For some that’s enough to discount the use of shot attempts. That’s just lazy and disingenuous analysis. Having one of the best goal scorers in NHL history certainly helps and like nearly every cup winner, they got the right bounces and the right saves at the perfect time.

Luck plays a bigger role in the playoffs since the sample size is smaller, but it doesn’t mean you cobble together a team of random players and hope for a deep run. Vegas pretty much did that, even though it was largely on the backs of their goalie and devastating first line.

More from The Canuck Way

What we can use to show you why Washington was still one of the elite teams last year with their K rating. This model doesn’t just factor shot rates (for and against). It accounts for the quality of shots, the effect of goaltending, shooting percentages and penalties (drawn and taken). This produces a value for defensive contributions and offensive ones, combining them for an overall value.

Where did Washington rank last year in K rating? Fourth in the NHL. By the way, Vegas was ranked sixth. You got to give to George McPhee for building one hell of a team with cast offs. And also for stupid people like Dale Tallon who gave him two thirds of a first line to protect a defenceman that he just shipped off for a third round pick.

Looking at the Canucks this season, their K rating is 18th in the NHL (their current place in the standings). Although, it has a value of -4.6. Oddly enough, the largest effects on their K rating has been due to shot rates for and against. They have a positive value for their defensive rating, limiting a high number of shots against. However, they are not directing enough shots at the other team’s net, which gives them a very negative offensive rating.

The Canucks are a defence-first team and I know I give them a lot of flack for bleeding goals against (fifth most in the NHL), but Travis Green is pushing for defensive responsibility like all NHL coaches. They just aren’t generating enough towards the other team’s net. Keep in mind, that K ratings are at even strength. So a mediocre power play and penalty kill (both ranked 20th) don’t even factor in the rating.

What this tells me is that the Canucks likely don’t have enough to make a real playoff push at the rate that they are going. But we see teams rise and fall all the time after the trade deadline. Playoffs can give teams false hope and nothing is more dangerous than being too good to get a high draft pick, but not good enough to make the playoffs.

Next. Should the Canucks trade Nikolay Goldobin?. dark

Yet, the Canucks seem to be trending in that direction. It’s a shame, because I do think one more tank year to get another elite forward or defenceman is enough to start expecting wins again. The rebuild won’t be complete, but at least they would be good enough to make things interesting. I don’t expect the team to be sellers and pray that they don’t become buyers to chase a first round exit. It’s a fool’s game to become a perennial bubble team. You won’t get very far that way.

*Stats from NHL.com and Corsica.hockey