Canucks: Quinn Hughes is vital to the defence

Quinn Hughes returned to the Vancouver Canucks lineup for their 4-1 road win over the Chicago Blackhawks. He was sorely missed in the 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

Hughes got the assist on Tanner Pearson’s second period goal and had a total ice time of 23:19. That is six minutes less than the 29 minutes he played in Detroit in the loss to the Red Wings.

That was Hughes’ 100th career point and he did it in only 133 games. He is the tenth fastest defenceman since the 1981-82 season to hit the 100 point mark and joins some elite company.

https://twitter.com/PR_NHL/status/1451375188227117057

In the loss to to Buffalo, the Canucks defensive coverage was poor and they had a very tough time trying to break out of their own zone.

Without him, the defence is a mess.

In Chicago, the Canucks still had trouble with the defensive coverage but the breakouts where cleaner with Hughes around.

You will want to watch this clip a few times. Hughes displays his smooth skating with a clean breakout before drawing a penalty.

Hughes was signed to a six-year contract worth 7.85 million dollars per season. That’s the richest contract in franchise history to date. It’s a good thing they went long term on Hughes. He’s going to be the the biggest part of the Canucks blue line for a long time.

Hughes had a great rookie season where he surpassed the 60-point plateau before the league was suspended due to COVID-19.

Last season his great offensive abilities continued but his defensive play was very bad.

One of the things he was good at was the zone exits.  The data is courtesy of Corey Sznajder.

(I was looking for this season’s data but the season is still very young so it was understandable that they didn’t have any.)

So far this season, Hughes looks more composed defensively. (Despite giving up the second most high danger chances against according to Natural Stat Trick.)

We haven’t seen much of the glaring mistakes of last season though there were still times where he easily beaten by an opponent on the rush.

Having Tucker Poolman as a partner helps as he hasn’t looked too bad on the defensive front so far.

With Hughes, the Canucks defence is more capable of breaking the puck out of their zone and entering the offensive zone. Hughes has got to be there for the breakouts up the ice and transition game. While his defensive game still needs to be improved, he is still very important to the blue line.

The Canucks defence as a whole hasn’t been great but without Hughes they are even worse.