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[Article] The worst defence pairing of the last 17 years played for the Canucks


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The worst defence pairing of the last 17 years played for the Canucks

 

Patrick Johnston 

April 4 2024

 

You don’t need any fancy data on this one, just the simple results: Since the beginning of the NHL’s expanded data era, no pair of defencemen played as much as Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson did for the Vancouver Canucks while doing so badly.

 

That’s the finding of a big study of NHL data recently completed by the always-intriguing analyst known on X as JFresh.

 

They looked at every defence pairing in the NHL that played at least 1,000 minutes together since 2007-08, which is when the NHL first started collecting expanded shot and time on ice data, notably the beginning and end of shifts. JFresh found that the duo with the worst share of goals for and against while they there on the ice were the Canucks’ Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson.

 

When those two were playing, the Canucks scored just 34.3 per cent of the total goals scored, a truly miserable rate. Hutton and Gudbranson were teammates from 2016 to 2019.

 

Somewhere, Jason Botchford is screaming.

 

The next closest duo were both about four percentage points better. The Edmonton Oilers’ Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry, two otherwise pretty solid defencemen, saw their team score just 38.6 per cent of their goals while they were on the ice. Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets scored just 38.4 per cent of the total goals while Andrew Peek and Slava Gavrikov were on the ice.

 

The 25th-worst of the 335 pairings who have played at least 1,000 minutes together since 2007, by the way? Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers for the Canucks. Just 45.7 per cent of the total goals scored with them on the ice were by the Canucks.


https://theprovince.com/sports/hockey/nhl/vancouver-canucks/worst-defence-pairing-17-years-canucks

 

pjohnston@postmedia.com

 

 

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I don't this takes into account deployment. It isn't a coincidence most of the pairings have players who have reputations as defensive dmen who you put out against other teams top lines. 

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To give it context, most of these pairings look like "shutdown" pairings, even if the only thing getting shutdown is their own team's offense.
Most of those were rugged or shot-blocking D with little to no offense to speak of, so it's hardly a surprise that they look like they got cratered in their own zone. 
With that said, I do agree that Gudbranson and OEL-Myers were terrible.

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29 minutes ago, Hammertime said:

This has so much to do with deployment. Fake news. Though in Hutton Guddy's case it may be true they were pretty terrible. Many of those pairings dont deserve to be on that list though. 

 

4 minutes ago, AK-19 said:

I don't this takes into account deployment. It isn't a coincidence most of the pairings have players who have reputations as defensive dmen who you put out against other teams top lines. 

 

Part of being a good defensive defenceman in today's NHL is the ability to actually clear the puck out of your own zone.  This is why you don't see players go down to block shots anymore.  Skaters are too crafty and agile to shoot into someone, and the blocker takes himself out of the play.

 

Pure offensive D-men can't even move the puck up when someone's forechecking them.  It's a crucial defensive skill to have, especially if you're someone being deployed in your own zone most of the time.

 

Here's the best defensive pairings according to this metric:

 

Image

 

A bunch of predictably elite names out there, but also some elite shutdown units like Roy-Gavrikov.  Both of those guys are defensive specialists who start the majority of their shifts in their own zone.  These guys get deployed SUPER defensively, and yet they're rated to be one of the most efficient pairings in recent history.

 

Team systems certainly come into play here.  If I'm not mistaken, quite a few of these pairings played under the infamous 1-3-1 trap.

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14 minutes ago, Phil_314 said:

To give it context, most of these pairings look like "shutdown" pairings, even if the only thing getting shutdown is their own team's offense.
Most of those were rugged or shot-blocking D with little to no offense to speak of, so it's hardly a surprise that they look like they got cratered in their own zone. 
With that said, I do agree that Gudbranson and OEL-Myers were terrible.

 

As the NHL modernized, teams began to realize something.  The true elite defensive defenceman doesn't focus on blocking shots and clearing net traffic.  Instead he denies opponent's zone entries and is able to quickly retrieve/move the puck out of his own zone.  Think of guys like Devon Toews or Esa Lindell or Adam Pelech.  Even Chris Tanev for that matter.  

 

Today's NHL is all about controlling the neutral zone.  Big hulking guys like Hal Gill would be useless in that situation.

Edited by Miss Korea
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The lack of depth left behind by Gillis truly fucked over the Canucks. From 2014 onwards, the Canucks engaged in some desperation type trades to fill gaps. Benning obviously sucked at pro scouting. Rarely did his trades work out, except Miller.

 

Regardless of how Benning sucked throughout his tenure, Gillis should no longer be remembered solely for the playoff runs. We should remember them and all the glory days that he did. But his playoff pushes clearly cost us the future. So many ill-advised trades (Ballard trade), as well as lots of trading of draft picks.

 

And it didn't help that Benning was not the right person for the job, even though it probably would've been very difficult when you have super barren prospect pool with NO valuable roster pieces to rebuild. It should be mentioned that the core itself on this team was built by Benning, which was greatly supplemented by the contributions of this current management.

 

History has given us the benefit of hindsight, but we should learn from it. Drafting, pro-scouting (including trades/FA signings), cap management and so forth are all CRITICAL components of the job of a GM. If a GM fails in any one of these, the team will suffer for years.
 

Finally we appear to have a competent team of management running the team.

 

 

Edited by PureQuickness
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One guy has his name forever etched on the Cup:

 

hitton-nhl.jpg

 

(a guy that cost us nothing more than a 5th round pick (the round in which he was drafted by Mike Gillis)

 

The other guy on that pairing will have to pay admission to the Hockey Hall of Fame "museum" to get close to the Cup.  And he cost us a 1st round pick + future 40 goal scorer (ok, guy only did it once 🤣).

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6 hours ago, PureQuickness said:

The lack of depth left behind by Gillis truly fucked over the Canucks. From 2014 onwards, the Canucks engaged in some desperation type trades to fill gaps. Benning obviously sucked at pro scouting. Rarely did his trades work out, except Miller.

 

Regardless of how Benning sucked throughout his tenure, Gillis should no longer be remembered solely for the playoff runs. We should remember them and all the glory days that he did. But his playoff pushes clearly cost us the future. So many ill-advised trades (Ballard trade), as well as lots of trading of draft picks.

 

And it didn't help that Benning was not the right person for the job, even though it probably would've been very difficult when you have super barren prospect pool with NO valuable roster pieces to rebuild. It should be mentioned that the core itself on this team was built by Benning, which was greatly supplemented by the contributions of this current management.

 

History has given us the benefit of hindsight, but we should learn from it. Drafting, pro-scouting (including trades/FA signings), cap management and so forth are all CRITICAL components of the job of a GM. If a GM fails in any one of these, the team will suffer for years.
 

Finally we appear to have a competent team of management running the team.

 

 

Calgary got a 2nd round pick, a prospect & conditional 3rd round pick after 4 seasons with the Lames for Tanev (after getting him for free because Jim Benning let him go for *NOTHING*).  He's only one in the list of players Jim Benning let go for *NOTHING*.  Jim Benning was dealt a bad hand but he played that hand badly (extremely poor use of the few assets he was left with).   Benning dealt as many 1st round picks than Gillis & Nonis did combined.  Look at the farm club JR & Alvin inherited.  

 

Old man JR (brought out of essentially retirement) took how long to hire a coach of the year candidate?  Jim Benning took 7 years & he still couldn't find the right one for the Canucks.

 

I'm not saying Mike Gillis shouldn't have been fired (he clearly should've been & probably earlier).  Canucks are better off neither guy is employed by the Canucks.

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8 hours ago, PureQuickness said:

The lack of depth left behind by Gillis truly fucked over the Canucks. From 2014 onwards, the Canucks engaged in some desperation type trades to fill gaps. Benning obviously sucked at pro scouting. Rarely did his trades work out, except Miller.

 

Regardless of how Benning sucked throughout his tenure, Gillis should no longer be remembered solely for the playoff runs. We should remember them and all the glory days that he did. But his playoff pushes clearly cost us the future. So many ill-advised trades (Ballard trade), as well as lots of trading of draft picks.

 

And it didn't help that Benning was not the right person for the job, even though it probably would've been very difficult when you have super barren prospect pool with NO valuable roster pieces to rebuild. It should be mentioned that the core itself on this team was built by Benning, which was greatly supplemented by the contributions of this current management.

 

History has given us the benefit of hindsight, but we should learn from it. Drafting, pro-scouting (including trades/FA signings), cap management and so forth are all CRITICAL components of the job of a GM. If a GM fails in any one of these, the team will suffer for years.
 

Finally we appear to have a competent team of management running the team.

 

 

 

I really hope we will prioritize drafting and developing no matter what path we take. One or two impact ELC players is necessary to get ahead in this league.

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12 hours ago, PureQuickness said:

The lack of depth left behind by Gillis truly fucked over the Canucks. From 2014 onwards, the Canucks engaged in some desperation type trades to fill gaps. Benning obviously sucked at pro scouting. Rarely did his trades work out, except Miller.

 

Regardless of how Benning sucked throughout his tenure, Gillis should no longer be remembered solely for the playoff runs. We should remember them and all the glory days that he did. But his playoff pushes clearly cost us the future. So many ill-advised trades (Ballard trade), as well as lots of trading of draft picks.

 

And it didn't help that Benning was not the right person for the job, even though it probably would've been very difficult when you have super barren prospect pool with NO valuable roster pieces to rebuild. It should be mentioned that the core itself on this team was built by Benning, which was greatly supplemented by the contributions of this current management.

 

History has given us the benefit of hindsight, but we should learn from it. Drafting, pro-scouting (including trades/FA signings), cap management and so forth are all CRITICAL components of the job of a GM. If a GM fails in any one of these, the team will suffer for years.
 

Finally we appear to have a competent team of management running the team.

 

 

It'd be nice to have a thread for once that doesn't devolve into Gillis vs. Benning.....

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1 minute ago, AK-19 said:

It'd be nice to have a thread for once that doesn't devolve into Gillis vs. Benning.....

Articles like this pointless one from Canucks Army tend to guide the conversation in that direction. Not sure how slow of a news day it is on that site, but who cares about a defensive pairing that hasn't existed for over half a decade?

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1 hour ago, PhillipBlunt said:

Articles like this pointless one from Canucks Army tend to guide the conversation in that direction. Not sure how slow of a news day it is on that site, but who cares about a defensive pairing that hasn't existed for over half a decade?


On the flip side, many current fans recall that time period vividly, and as such do discuss the team both in retrospect and contemporaneously.
 

Besides, they were commenting on a recent project by JFresh (which is now apparently a widely recognized stats account) that compiled data and was recently released for public consumption. That data compares/contrasts against active players and pairings too.


It’s relevant to some in the fanbase and the hockey world in general. 

Why comment if it doesn’t matter to you? 

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It doesn't take a genuis to figure that out.   What still f!cking boggles my mind, is how people on this site felt we were going to go with a tandem of Edler and Tanev and somehow be ok.   And after it ... this.   Or somehow lose Kesler and Luongo, Hamhuis and Bieksa (all past their best year's but still) and everything would be ok.   There is another pairing on this list, OEL and Myers, and yep, it was better. 

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Let's just be grateful we have 7 legit NHL D's again.   Not that Guddy and Hutton weren't,  but wow they weren't nearly qualified as top four.   See Del Zotto on that list too.   

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9 hours ago, NewbieCanuckFan said:

One guy has his name forever etched on the Cup:

 

hitton-nhl.jpg

 

(a guy that cost us nothing more than a 5th round pick (the round in which he was drafted by Mike Gillis)

 

The other guy on that pairing will have to pay admission to the Hockey Hall of Fame "museum" to get close to the Cup.  And he cost us a 1st round pick + future 40 goal scorer (ok, guy only did it once 🤣).

Yep, Brockville.  

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18 hours ago, Miss Korea said:

 

As the NHL modernized, teams began to realize something.  The true elite defensive defenceman doesn't focus on blocking shots and clearing net traffic.  Instead he denies opponent's zone entries and is able to quickly retrieve/move the puck out of his own zone.  Think of guys like Devon Toews or Esa Lindell or Adam Pelech.  Even Chris Tanev for that matter.  

 

Today's NHL is all about controlling the neutral zone.  Big hulking guys like Hal Gill would be useless in that situation.

You sound a lot like Travis Green.  Seriously, that was his thing, zone entries and exits.   Was having his staff record these before they were a thing.  With pencils and paper.   And who wouldn't get in and why.    There is still room for guys who can stand folks up on the blue line.   And have size.  

 

  As for Hall Gill, he was no Darian Hatcher or Ludwig, or a lot of guys like them.  Not nearly as good at blocking shots or being a big meany despite being a big guy.  Just kind of slow and useless aside from being a big guy, didn't have much else going for him,  but teams wanted him because he was big, and had enough skill to make it work. 

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1 hour ago, IBatch said:

You sound a lot like Travis Green.  Seriously, that was his thing, zone entries and exits.   Was having his staff record these before they were a thing.  With pencils and paper.   And who wouldn't get in and why.    There is still room for guys who can stand folks up on the blue line.   And have size.  

 

  As for Hall Gill, he was no Darian Hatcher or Ludwig, or a lot of guys like them.  Not nearly as good at blocking shots or being a big meany despite being a big guy.  Just kind of slow and useless aside from being a big guy, didn't have much else going for him,  but teams wanted him because he was big, and had enough skill to make it work. 

 

Nothing wrong with a guy like Hal Gill for most of his career.  He was a perfect player for a pre-lockout game.  Fantastic leader who was loved by his teammates.  The fact he played forever is a testament to his ability.

 

You tell me - you think there's room in today's league for slow, lumbering defencemen?  

Edited by Miss Korea
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26 minutes ago, Miss Korea said:

 

Nothing wrong with a guy like Hal Gill for most of his career.  He was a perfect player for a pre-lockout game.  Fantastic leader who was loved by his teammates.  The fact he played forever is a testament to his ability.

 

You tell me - you think there's room in today's league for slow, lumbering defencemen?  

Nope I don't.   Thing is the majority of his career was post-lockout.   Wasn't it?   Again, no Craig Ludwig or Darian Hatcher.   Those guys went fast post lockout.   Age for sure had something to do with that.   Hal Gil was a gentle giant really.   

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21 hours ago, Miss Korea said:

As the NHL modernized, teams began to realize something.  The true elite defensive defenceman doesn't focus on blocking shots and clearing net traffic.  Instead he denies opponent's zone entries and is able to quickly retrieve/move the puck out of his own zone.  Think of guys like Devon Toews or Esa Lindell or Adam Pelech.  Even Chris Tanev for that matter.  

 

Today's NHL is all about controlling the neutral zone.  Big hulking guys like Hal Gill would be useless in that situation.

Then again, both of those are 6'3" and mobile, and units that are strong at locking things down (e.g. Vegas) have guys who are all above 6' and who are either mobile, physical and good defensively or all of the above (Alec Martinez is their smallest at 6'1", compared to several 6'3" guys and Hague at 6'6", so size is still useful if the guy can move well also.

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2 hours ago, IBatch said:

Nope I don't.   Thing is the majority of his career was post-lockout.   Wasn't it?   Again, no Craig Ludwig or Darian Hatcher.   Those guys went fast post lockout.   Age for sure had something to do with that.   Hal Gil was a gentle giant really.   

 

It speaks to his insane longevity (and to college hockey) that he played for so many games.  His metrics actually look good late into his career.

 

image.png.4e0aba60eb569dbe2fe3daab1e519078.png  image.png.c11cb2d070bd5d4d6e539afa36d0e52e.png

 

The NHL did not change overnight.  There were players who excelled under the new rules and others who stuck around despite struggling.  Coaches didn't suddenly transition towards skill-based hockey - that took time as younger players came into the league.

 

1 hour ago, Phil_314 said:

Then again, both of those are 6'3" and mobile, and units that are strong at locking things down (e.g. Vegas) have guys who are all above 6' and who are either mobile, physical and good defensively or all of the above (Alec Martinez is their smallest at 6'1", compared to several 6'3" guys and Hague at 6'6", so size is still useful if the guy can move well also.

 

NHL players continue to get taller.  I thought maybe it would get shorter as the league transitioned towards a more skill-oriented game, but what really happened was that tall guys figured out how to skate and use their hands.  We've seen it in other sports - especially tennis, where some of the tallest guys are now surprisingly considered the most agile.

 

How Big Are Hockey Players? Historical NHL Heights - Chart

 

I'll say this about Vegas, though.  Keep in mind who they added at the deadline.  Their blueline was extremely old and slow.  Theodore's return and Noah Hanifin's arrival has really helped them move the puck out of the back and get them back into winning form.  Don't forget they were in danger of crashing out of the playoffs not too long ago.  Now they're fine.

Edited by Miss Korea
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Rating defensemen by percentage of goals scored by their team. Uh, ok, weird metric to determine worst defensive pairings. Not saying Hutton and Guddy were a good pairing, but that is a weird measure of defensive capabilities. How about goals against per 1000 mins TOI, wouldn’t that be a better comparison

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