If the naughty and nice list was based on the last Vancouver Canucks game, their likely wouldn’t be a naughty list. The Canucks spanked the Arizona Coyotes 7-1 to send them into the holiday break humming Christmas classics. All but two Canucks secured a point in the victory. It was a much-needed win after a five game losing streak and a narrow win over the Calgary Flames.
There are some Canucks who have exceeded expectations thus far, along with those who have under-performed based on what they were expected to do. The team as a whole has also excelled in some areas, such as goal scoring, while they haven’t been stellar in other areas, such as keeping pucks out of their net.
The Nice List
The Canucks Offence
Does this feel like a bit of a cop-out, choosing the entire Canucks offence? Perhaps, but they deserve it thus far. The team ranks tied for fifth with 2.94 goals per-game, and the scoring is coming from throughout their line-up. 11 forwards on the Canucks have more than ten points this season. That is every forward who has consistently stayed in the line-up.
You could argue each line has stepped up on different nights this season. While you expect to get scoring from your top two lines, the Canucks have played games where the third line and the fourth line have taken over.
Here is the fourth line stepping up against the Chicago Blackhawks:
And the third line dominating the score-sheet against the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Considering the Canucks finished 28th in goals scored last season, their ability to put the puck in the net so far has been nice to watch.
Chris Tanev and Alex Edler
These two have given the Canucks stability on the back-end. Their effectiveness on the ice has been even more apparent with the absence of Dan Hamhuis. You could say this team hasn’t had a pairing this stable since Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa teamed up during the Canucks run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The two defencemen both have a Corsi around 53%, whereas every other Canuck defender, other than Yannick Weber, possesses a Corsi under 50%. They are also one and two in terms of points from the Canucks blue line this season.
Willie Desjardins has to like what he has seen from his top defensive pairing so far.
The Naughty List
When Miller signed a three-year, $18 million contract in the summer, Jim Benning thought he was giving the Canucks some stability in net. The wins have been there for Miller this season as he sits tied for third with 18 victories. However his numbers are less than stellar and sit below his own career averages.
His goals against average sits at 2.59, while his save percentage is at .906 on the season. Of the top 15 goalies with the most wins so far, Miller has the lowest save percentage.
At 34-years-old, it is fair to suggest that Miller could be in decline. At the halfway point of the season though, there is still ample time for Miller to turn it around.
Hopefully the wins can continue to mask his sub par play, but for failing to live up to his contract so far, Miller deserves a spot on the naughty list.
Sbisa has not had the easiest path to the NHL in his young career. After being drafted 19th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008, he has played for two Western Hockey League teams, two American Hockey League teams, and three different NHL teams. He also endured a slew of injuries last season in Anaheim as he fell down the depth chart.
There hasn’t been much stability for the 24-year-old, so it was predictable that he may struggle a bit this year. He has made some ill-advised turnovers for the Canucks. Some can be compared to coughing up a pizza.
His Corsi is hanging around 48%, and he has the worst plus/minus on the team at -7. He has also struggled when asked to step up into a top four role with Hamhuis out of the line-up.
One of his best attributes is the physical game he brings, but he needs to clean up the mistakes in his own end to escape from the naughty list.
New Years Sleeper Pick
While the Canucks offence has produced just fine without Kassian, it would obviously be nice to see some bigger contributions from the 23-year-old. He has only made it into 17 games so far this season as injuries have sidelined him.
There could be opportunity for him in the New Year. Even with the Canucks scoring goals frequently, the second line has lacked consistency of late. Alex Burrows was playing on the fourth line during the last game, and if he and Higgins can’t regain some consistency then a spot for Kassian could open up on the second line.
The downside for Kassian is that three different Canuck coaches have been cautious to play him in the top six. However he has shown during some stretches that he deserves a shot at more minutes.
During the last ten games of the Canucks forgettable season last year, Kassian put up ten points. That included a four assist effort against the Buffalo Sabres. Despite the Sabres ineptitude, Kassian displayed an ability to skillfully distribute the puck to his teammates.
If Kassian continues to flounder in the bottom six, then at least the Canucks know that Cody Hodgson is on the Buffalo Sabres naughty list.
KPU Journalism Graduate. Trevor has been writing for The Hockey Writers since October 2014. He has contributed articles related to the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, and other issues/stories regarding the game of hockey. Trevor currently lives in White Rock, B.C.