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Just put Jannik Hansen with the Sedins

Seriously, do it.
Seriously, Jannik Hansen should be with the Sedins
Seriously, Jannik Hansen should be with the Sedins

Who will play with the Sedins?

 

For years, this was the burning question heading into every Canucks season. Every Canucks GM has tried to provide their own response.

 

Dave Nonis struck gold with Anson Carter, then got struck by Taylor Pyatt’s pretty eyes. Mike Gillis nabbed Steve Bernier to skate with the Sedins, then tried again with Mikael Samuelsson. Jim Benning’s biggest free agent signing was Radim Vrbata, with the understanding that he’d be the trigger man on the Sedins’ wing.

 

None of those players stuck with the Sedins long-term; instead, Alex Burrows, the unlikeliest of first-line forwards, keeps ending up back on the top line. Burrows has consistently proven that he’s a great fit with the Sedins, perpetually winning the job back from anyone who tries to take it away.

 

That’s why Jannik Hansen should start the season on the first line with the Sedins.

 

Wait, let me back up a bit. I think I skipped over the part where I make sense.

 

Most Canucks fans recoil in horror at the idea of Hansen with the Sedins. When Burrows was injured during the playoffs last season, there was a great outcry when Willie Desjardins promoted Hansen to the top line instead of Vrbata. With the Sedins dominating puck possession, it just made sense to add a sniper to their wing to start potting some of the glorious chances they were creating.

 

Instead, Hansen stayed with the Sedins, Vrbata stagnated on the second line with the struggling Nick Bonino, and the Canucks just couldn’t put enough pucks past Jonas Hiller to avoid elimination.

 

When it comes to the eye test, Jannik Hansen with the Sedins just doesn’t add up. The common complaint is that Hansen changes his style when he plays with the Sedins, failing to play the hard forechecking, aggravating style that earned him the promotion. Instead, he tries to get fancy or join the Sedins’ cycle when he should focus on driving to the net.

 

Another complaint is that Hansen isn’t a natural finisher, lacking the soft hands and sniper’s shot that would make him an effective goalscorer. Not only that, but Hansen’s most useful attribute -- his speed -- is neutralized when he plays with the slower, more methodical Sedins.

 

This would appear to be a pretty solid case against putting Hansen with the Sedins. There’s just one problem: the numbers completely disagree.

 

I wrote earlier this week about having more respect for the eye test, but in the case of Hansen with the Sedins, the eye test appears to be leading us massively astray.

 

Here are all of the Sedins’ wingers since 2007 and how the Canucks did when that winger was on the ice with both Sedins. All numbers are from Puckalytics’ super-handy Super WOWY tool.

 

The chart includes goals-for and goals-against per 60 minutes of ice time, as well as a goals-for percentage -- ie. what percentage of goals scored while they were on the ice were goals for the Canucks. It also includes corsi-for, corsi-against, and corsi-for percentage. The last number is offensive zone start percentage. All of these numbers are 5-on-5, even-strength.

 

Player

TOI

GF60

GA60

GF%

CF60

CA60

CF%

Ozone%

Mikael Samuelsson

321.68

3.92

3.17

55.3

69.76

44.20

61.2

68.4

Jannik Hansen

469.13

3.58

1.66

68.3

62.29

43.36

59.0

59.1

Alex Burrows

3,254.42

3.48

1.66

67.7

62.54

43.79

58.8

70.9

Pavol Demitra

259.73

3.23

1.16

73.7

54.06

48.74

52.6

52.9

Ryan Kesler

272.22

3.09

1.76

63.6

66.12

42.32

61.0

49.5

Mason Raymond

185.08

2.59

2.27

53.3

64.19

49.28

56.6

67.0

Markus Naslund

546.30

2.53

1.98

56.1

55.68

39.98

58.2

62.3

Zack Kassian

244.85

2.45

1.96

55.6

58.08

44.60

56.6

63.8

Taylor Pyatt

363.12

2.31

1.98

53.8

57.01

48.58

54.0

57.7

Radim Vrbata

540.03

2.22

1.56

58.8

55.55

46.00

54.7

53.9

Steve Bernier

143.92

2.08

2.08

50.0

50.86

47.11

51.9

47.7

 

I decided to sort this list by goals-for per 60 minutes, because I think it provides the most surprising result. We shouldn’t be shocked to see Samuelsson at the top of this list; he was very effective with the Sedins offensively. It’s noteworthy, however, how many goals the Canucks gave up when that trio was on the ice, however, the most of any Sedin winger.

 

No, the real shock comes with who is second on that list. The assumption has always been that Hansen is a solid defensive forward and might help the Sedins defensively, but that he limits their offensive production. That doesn’t seem to be true at all.

 

Honestly, if you want the Sedins to put up points at even-strength this season, Jannik Hansen appears to be the best option.

 

Meanwhile, Vrbata is at the bottom of the list, just behind Taylor Pyatt and ahead of only Steve Bernier. While Vrbata did put up points with the Sedins last season, it was predominantly on the power play. At even-strength, they didn’t score all that much.

 

Hansen continues to look like the best option by the numbers as you go through the table. In goals-for percentage he’s second, behind only Pavol Demitra. In puck possession, he’s third in corsi-for percentage, behind just Samuelsson and Ryan Kesler.

 

Now look at offensive zone starts: unlike Burrows, with whom Burrows has similar numbers across the board, Hansen has started far less often in the offensive zone when he’s played with the Sedins.

 

Another thing to consider is that Burrows, like the Sedins and Vrbata, is 34 and he plays a style that is much harder on the body than the Sedins do. He’s struggled through injuries recently and he might not be able to replicate his past success. Hansen isn’t young, in hockey terms, but at 29 has fewer miles than Burrows.

 

So, that's why Jannik Hansen should start the season on the first line with the Sedins.

 

And heck, if it doesn't work, you can just put Burrows back with them, just like every other season.