Prior to the 2020-21 season, Nate Schmidt was sent to the Vancouver Canucks by the Vegas Golden Knights for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. His first season in British Columbia was disappointing, as he was expected to fill a hole left by the departure of longtime fan favourite Chris Tanev. Tanev thrived in Calgary, while Schmidt had a poor season compared to his usual standards.
As a result, the rumour mill has begun churning out notions that he wants out of Vancouver; however, Canucks general manager Jim Benning has denied the rumours. With Schmidt’s name in the news as of late, here’s his 2020-21 season report card, which takes a deep dive into his inaugural season in Vancouver.
Difficulty Adjusting to a New System
Although Schmidt is left-handed, prior to arriving in Vancouver he typically played on the right side. Normally, right-handed blueliners play on the right side, while left-handed defenders play on the left side. He thrives when doing the opposite. For example, in the clip below, he unleashes a one-timer, cannon of a shot from the point in Game 5 of the series against the Golden Knights in 2020.
Normally, players will skate on the opposite side of their good hand while on the power play so they can quickly release a one-timer (e.g. Alex Ovechkin is right-handed, but shoots from the left faceoff circle). However, Schmidt successfully has done so at even-strength on his past teams. With the Canucks, he was often jumbled between skating on the left or right side, which may have impacted his effectiveness, as in the past he’d always played from the right side of the ice.
How Schmidt Played
In 54 games played (GP) in 2020-21, Schmidt scored five goals and produced a total of 15 points. This is equal to a point per game (P/G) ratio of 0.28. Compared to his previous seasons, this number was low. In three seasons with Vegas, before arriving in Vancouver, these were his totals:
2017-18: 76 GP, 31 Points, 0.41 P/G
2018-19: 61 GP, 30 Points, 0.49 P/G
2019-20: 59 GP, 31 Points, 0.53 P/G
Prior to arriving in Vancouver, Schmidt’s offensive game flourished and improved each season, but it crashed this season. Whether this was due to the Canucks’ struggles this season bringing his game down, or him being used in a different way with Vancouver than Vegas, his offensive numbers were disappointing this season. Among the Canucks’ blueliners, he ranked third in points behind Quinn Hughes (41) and Tyler Myers (21).
Furthermore, his defensive game seemed to regress. Schmidt threw 15 hits this season, which ranked 20th on the Canucks. This was his lowest number of hits in a season throughout his entire career. He blocked 72 shots in 2020-21, ranking fourth among the team in this regard. His 1.33 blocks per game with Vancouver pales in comparison to his 1.59 blocks per game throughout his three-year stint with Vegas. Finally, his plus/minus of minus-7 is the worst he’s put up throughout his career and is ranked 25th on the Canucks.
Schmidt’s 5-on-5 analytics were on par with the team in general. He had a slightly worse Corsi for percentage (CF%) than the team, but a slightly better Fenwick for percentage (FF%). He slightly bested the team’s average in shots for (SF%), expected goals for (xGF%), and goals for (GF%). On the downside, he had a slightly lower scoring chances for (SCF%) than Vancouver’s average. However, his analytics with Vegas were better than in Vancouver and his 2019-20 analytics in these statistics all were above 50%, but this year were all below 50%, showing a significant regression.
Overall, Schmidt’s 2020-21 season grade is a C. He had difficulty meshing with his team, and overall his numbers were much lower than in years prior. Furthermore, many expected him to fill the hole left by Tanev, but this didn’t come to fruition. However, compared to other Canucks defenders, he played decently. He ranked third in points and fourth in blocked shots among Vancouver’s defensive corps (additionally he ranked fourth on the team in blocks). His analytics were on par with the team average and bested the team in a number of statistics.
Lastly, Schmidt dramatically underperformed expectations and had one of the worst seasons of his career. However, he was adjusting to playing on a new team and his stats were among the best compared to other Canucks’ defenders; hence his grade of a C rather than a lower grade.
I am a lifelong hockey fan who will be covering the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks here at The Hockey Writers. Before joining The Hockey Writers I spent two years blogging about hockey.
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