Yannick Weber Becoming Key Player for Canucks

(Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
(Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2014-15 Vancouver Canucks have been churning out pleasant surprises at a high rate. From Eddie Lack, to Radim Vrbata, to Bo Horvat, to Shawn Matthias, there is no shortage of names that come to mind when one thinks about which Canuck has surpassed expectations the most this season. However, the player that might fit that description the best, may be Swiss defenceman Yannick Weber. Weber, signed in the off-season leading up to the nauseating 2013-14 campaign, was brought on to provide depth for the blue line, but quietly went about his business and was cracking the lineup on a regular basis as the season wore on. Weber was pushed down the depth chart as the page turned on the Mike Gillis era, as the Canucks brought in Luca Sbisa as part of the Ryan Kesler trade, and part way through the 2014-15 schedule, Jim Benning traded for Adam Clendening, who at the time was thought to be a regular in the Canucks lineup, from the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming out of the all-star break, the Canucks back-end became decimated by injuries, and Weber made the most of the opportunity presented.

Seeing as three of the Canucks top four defensemen, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, were all out of the lineup at once, Weber, along with Sbisa and Ryan Stanton, was forced into a top-four capacity, and held his ground playing on the top-pair alongside veteran Dan Hamhuis. Since then, Weber has been a staple on the Canucks’ blue line, and as the Canucks delved into the stretch run of the season, he’s become one of, if not the most consistent offensive threat from the back-end.

Since February 16th against the Minnesota Wild, the first game of Weber’s stretch as a regular, he has the fourth highest even strength Fenwick% of all Canucks skaters and the best among Vancouver defenders at 52.63%, and second among Canuck d-men (behind only Dan Hamhuis) in terms of CorsiFor% at 52.25% . Prior to that stretch, Weber was near the bottom of the team in that category, sitting at a mere 49.93% and 48.68% respectively. Yes, part of that improvement is almost certainly due to playing alongside the aforementioned Hamhuis as opposed to some of the others Weber has played with throughout the season (Sbisa, Stanton and Clendening to name a few), but it’s safe to say that it’s a case two players being compatible for each other, rather than Weber relying on Hamhuis to keep him afloat. Before playing with the Weber, Hamhuis wasn’t exactly tearing it up on the advanced statistics front, with an unspectacular 49.73 CorsiFor% and a 49.28 Fenwick%.

However, as rock-solid as Yannick Weber has been at keeping pucks out his own net, he’s also contributed greatly to putting them behind opposing goaltenders. Since March 1st, Weber has six goals in 19 games tied for second on the team during that stretch, and his four power play goals rank first among all Canuck skaters. In fact, during that stretch of 19 games, Yannick Weber leads the entire National Hockey League in power play goals. Yes, you read that right, not a single NHL player has more power play goals than Yannick Weber since March 1st. During that time period, Vancouver has the eighth most power play goals in the NHL with 15, meaning Weber has scored a third of the team’s power play goals during their run to the playoffs. On top of all that, the Canucks have risen from 21st with the man advantage, all the way to ninth.

Yannick Weber may not be the flashiest name in the league, but his importance to this hockey club cannot be undersold. He has developed into a top-four defender for this team, and has become an integral part of a power play that is catching fire at just the right time. You don’t get many power plays in the playoffs, so it should be reassuring to Canuck fans that they finally have one that can score on a regular basis. Canuck supporters and media have (rightfully) maligned the lack of a power play quarterback on defense, but they may have just found one now.