Throughout the summer, I’m going team by team and reviewing the relevant fantasy performances from the 2016-17 season. Next in line is the Vancouver Canucks.
It was obviously a tough campaign for Vancouver and their fans. They finished the season with the second-lowest point total, tied for the third-worst goal differential, and the second-fewest total goals for. This combination will not often lead to much success fantasy-wise for anyone on the roster. There is some hope, however, particularly among the younger skaters.
The 22-year-old centre has increased his goal- and assist-per-game rates every year since entering the league, and finished with his first 20-goal and 50-point season of his career last year. He led the team in both categories despite finishing fifth among their forwards in time on ice per game, though that was still a healthy 18:02.
I get that 52 points might not seem like a huge total, but keep in mind that just 10 of those came with the man advantage. His points per 60 minutes at five-on-five was 1.88, which also led the team. That in and of itself isn’t a huge number either, but considering that Sven Baertschi was the only other forward anywhere close to Horvat, it gives some context of just how productive this season was. For reference, that 1.88 points per 60 minutes from Horvat would have led the Flyers, finished second on the Blues behind Vladimir Tarasenko but ahead of Robby Fabbri, Alex Steen, and Jaden Schwartz, and finished third on the Ducks behind Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. In other words, this was a very, very good output by Horvat on a very poor scoring team.
One concern is that his individual shot rate has been pretty static since entering the league, finishing between 6.55 and 6.75 shots per 60 minutes in each of his three seasons. His shot attempts have increased every year, but it seems he’s had some trouble finding the net. It’s not like he’s completely barren when it comes to shots, and did finished with more than 150 last year for the second year in a row. However, it’s hard to be a significant goal scorer managing so few shots on goal; there have been 380 forwards to play at least 75 games in a season and manage under 160 shots on goal in any of the previous for years, and just three have managed at least 30 goals (0.8 percent of all forwards), and nine have cracked 25 goals (2.4 percent). If he is going to improve the goals column next year, he needs to either have a huge outlier shooting percentage season, or greatly improve those shot totals.
It is kind of a shame. Horvat is improving offensively, but there’s just not much help on this roster. Yes, they have some nice prospects that can maybe help in two or three years, but as for the 2017-18 season, how much better can he really be? The one hope is some additional power-play usage – he was outside the top-four forwards in PP minutes per game – and he could add a handful of PPP if he’s used as such. But will he? And how much can he really add on a team lacking significant scoring threats? It’s hard to see much improvement in the near-term in his fantasy value.
It is kind of cheating to include two players in the same section, but if there were ever two players deserving of it, it’s the Sedin twins.
Time is undefeated, and it apparently has caught up to the Twins; Daniel posted his lowest point total since before the 2005 lockout while Henrik posted his lowest point per game mark since before that same lockout. Sure, they had poor seasons back in 2013-14 – Daniel had 47 points in 73 games while Henrik had 50 points in 70 games – and they rebounded afterwards to produce a couple of solid fantasy seasons each from 2014 through 2016. This feels different though.
Not only does it feel different, it actually is different. These two were once consistent play-drivers, where even in just 2014-15 they were leading the team in adjusted shot attempt differential at five-on-five. In 2016-17, they were outside the team’s top-3 forwards in this regard, and were last in scoring chance differential among the Canucks forwards, per Natural Stattrick’s scoring chances. Even if we assume the lack of line mates or top-end puck-moving defencemen was the problem here, this won’t change in the upcoming year.
To pick on Daniel specifically here for a second, we saw his shooting percentage crater last year to the lowest of his career. I always like to check the shot maps from hockeyviz.com to see if anything is changing, and sure enough, it has. The first two are from 2011-12 and 2015-16, the last two seasons where he scored at least 20 even-strength goals, and the third is from 2016-17:
We see in the first two seasons he was often sitting at his offside post, looking for those tap-in goals. When you have chemistry like the Sedin twins do, you can put yourself in situations for these types of goals, no matter how much the opposing team prepares for it defensively. That all changed last year as his shots started leaking out to the slot, and more towards his strong side. This has not been where he’s usually been at home, and it shows in his goal and shooting percentage totals. You can shoot all you want – and he did still manage 216 shots on goal, mind you – but getting further away from your wheelhouse is going to hurt totals.
It always sucks as a hockey fan to watch Hall of Famers in decline (unless it’s Jaromir Jagr, he might never decline), but it seems that’s what is going on here. There is only one year left on their deals, so maybe at the trade deadline or in the off-season they can pick where they want to go next, take a reduced role, and thrive in sheltered situations with power-play time. As far as 2017-18 goes, however, I don’t see reason for optimism in the fantasy game.
It was an almost impossibly bad season for Eriksson. He had scored at least 20 goals in six of the seven previous 82-game seasons he played; he managed 10 in 65 games. He tallied 24 points(!), his lowest total since his rookie season, and his 0.37 points per game was the same mark as Washington’s Jay Beagle. He had 15 five-on-five points last year; he had 16 five-on-five goals in 2015-16. Mercy.
Playing on such a low-scoring team obviously didn’t help. Despite the awful box numbers, he did have roughly the same shot-per-minute rate in 2016-17 as he did over his final two seasons in Boston. He increased his shot attempt rate, and also increased his individual scoring chance rate. He did everything right on his end, and yet his shooting percentage still cratered.
It wasn’t even that he didn’t get to play with the Sedins, as he still managed about 40 percent of his five-on-five minutes with Henrik. The team, however, scored less when Eriksson skated with Henrik than when he skated with anyone else. Even though their play-driving numbers were good, their goal-scoring numbers were not. At least scoring-wise, he was better off with Brandon Sutter or Bo Horvat than he was with the Sedins. This isn’t an aberration, either, as Henrik has seen his on-ice goal scoring decline for several years now. They just aren’t the players they were, as outlined above.
It's curious how bad Eriksson was, and obviously some of it is related to the team. He’s on the wrong side of 30 years old, so the decline is inevitable. His individual shot metrics were still fine, it’s just no one on the team could score. Again, does this change much next year? I can’t imagine he’s a 30-point player in a full season, and maybe he can find some chemistry with Horvat. He will be better offensively, but I don’t imagine it’s enough to be much of a contributor in the fantasy game in most leagues.
Just as an aside, and I don’t mean to really pick on Vancouver here, but there’s just not much to get excited about for the upcoming fantasy campaign. Maybe Sven Baertschi can become the player people thought he could be, building on his success from last year; Alex Edler still has value in real-time stats leagues; perhaps Brock Boeser continues to show promise.
Realistically, though, unless you’re in a dynasty league or a deep redraft league, how many players off this roster are going to be drafted? The Sedins will probably come at a good value in case they can magically rebound for a season, and Horvat looks to be a decent end-of-the-roster option in points-only leagues. But again, how many players on this roster in, say, a 12-team league with 20-player rosters will be drafted? Keep an eye on ADPs, but this is going to be ugly in 2017-18.
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