The Canucks Bottom 6 Is Just That, A Bottom 6: Oh And They Are Terrible
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The Canucks Bottom 6 has been less than stellar to start the 2021 season. Should that really be any surprise to Canucks fans though? Did we really think Jake Virtanen was going to slot in seamlessly for J.T. Miller in a top 6 role? A veteran presence in Jay Beagle and so many “penalty kill specialists”. What is Vancouver even getting from the bottom 6?
For this article, I will be looking at the bottom 6 as projected to start the season. Even with Miller in the lineup the bottom 6 is just not good enough. I will be focusing on Virtanen, Brandon Sutter, Adam Gaudette, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Tyler Motte and the contributions, or lack thereof they have had.
The Canucks Bottom 6 Contracts
Let us start with the bottom 6 contracts for the Vancouver Canucks. As I mentioned earlier I will be leaving the Big Fella Zack MacEwen out of this. I think he has a lot of potential upside in the bottom 6. But I will touch on that at the end when I go over who I think would be a good fit for the Canucks. I know what you are going to say. We already know about the contracts. Just stay with me I promise I will tie everything together.
Brandon Sutter was the first to get his deal as a free agent in the 2016 offseason. After 3 seasons with the Penguins where his best season managed 21 goals and 12 assists for 33 points. He was given a 5 year 4.375 million AAV a year contract. At the time it was a terrible contract. It remains now a terrible contract and one that Vancouver should have looked to a buyout in the offseason.
Next up is Jay Beagle. I understood this signing at the time for the Canucks. Beagle was fresh off a Stanley Cup victory with the Washington Capitals. 3.0m a year for a veteran presence who was brought in before any expectations made a lot of sense. He did after all have his best year with 7 goals and 22 points in 2017-2018. As a journeyman forward who kills penalties and is great in the face-off dot it made sense.
Another player that was rewarded by the Benning Management group was Antione Roussel. Good years in Dallas with the Stars as a bottom 6 player. 4 years at 3.0m for some sandpaper and grit. No one really expected Rooster to put up big numbers with previous highs of 29 points in 2013-14 and 2015-2016. But he was that penalty kill specialist that coach Travis Green always talks about.
Shotgun Jake Virtanen had 18 goals and 18 assists in an abbreviated season. He was rewarded by the Canucks with a 2 year 2.55 million AAV contract. A bit steep but it was very evident that the organization did not want to part ways just yet with someone they drafted 6 overall in 2014. I have been so torn on Jake and what he can truly become.
Tyler Motte also re-signed this past offseason. Inking a 2 year 1.25 million a season. A depth signing to fill The Canucks bottom 6, Motte has NHL speed and provides a bit of grit. Finally, Adam Gaudette, who signed a 1-year “show me” deal for 950k. The 6 players make up 18.6% of the Vancouver Canucks salary cap for the season.
What Has The Bottom 6 Brought On The Ice?
Now let’s examine the impacts that the Canucks bottom 6 has brought on the ice. For reference, I will not be using any advanced stats. Just games, goals, assists, and points but breaking down numbers of any kind is a step up for me. And just in case people want to complain about how I went about my numbers I will break things down in several different ways.
I mentioned the bottom six has been terrible. It is in fact in the title! Here is why they have been so terrible and why they are going to need to be better if Vancouver wants to make another long playoff run. In the last 3 seasons, the Canucks bottom 6 played 988 games. Motte and Beagle have numbers with other teams in the 2017-2018 years. But for the most part, it has been a time with Vancouver.
In those 988 games, they have contributed 134 goals, 176 assists for 310 points. That works out to 1 goal every 7.4 games, 1 assist every 5.6 games, and one point every 3.2 games. I am sure you can figure out why this isn’t very good. Half of your forwards only contribute every 3 games and score every 7!
Okay, I know what you are thinking. Josh you just found the stats you wanted to tell a certain narrative. Let’s look at their top seasons in the last 3 years for each player points wise. Averages improve a bit to a goal every 6.2 games, an assist every 4.2 games and a point every 2.5 games. Also imagine if I took Jake Virtanen out of the equation.
Jake Virtanen stays in the equation though because he doesn’t score goals all of the time. And when he isn’t scoring or doesn’t have the puck his play isn’t fun to watch. In the next game notice how many times Jake has to re-adjust his position all of a sudden in the defensive zone.
Sure, But What Does This Mean?
“Okay, people who run [hockey] clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins and in order to buy wins, you need to buy your [goals]…When I see [Brandon Sutter], what I see is an imperfect understanding of where [goals] come from. The guy’s got a great [heart], he’s a decent [penalty killer], he can [win face-offs]. But is he worth the [four point three seven five] million dollars a year the [Vancouver Canucks] are paying him? No! No! [Hockey] thinking is medieval.”
Remember at the beginning when I brought up all the contracts. The 6 deals account for 15.1 million on the books for the Canucks. 18.6% of the overall salary cap. Do they account for 18% of the scoring? In fact last season they did account for 18.6% of the points and 22.7% of the goals. So what’s the problem you may ask? Well, 80% of the scoring from your top 6 and defense doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.
It also means that opposing teams can load up on the Canucks first and second lines. This means the lotto line is matched up the entire game against the top pairing defense, and the top pairing line. It hasn’t helped to have the last change through the early part of the season either. The home stretch could tell us a lot about what the team really has in them this year.
Last season the Canucks were saved by the top 6 scoring: 113 goals, 168 assists, and 281 points in 232 games. Oh and that guy who played goalie, what was his name? Right, Jacob Markstrom. If the Vancouver Canucks are going to rely on the top 6 forwards scoring 50% of their goals like last season it could be a long year.
Where Do The Canucks Go From Here?
This season? Not much is going to change right now with the salary cap situation where it is and trades being incredibly difficult this year. There could be some players moved in and out to try and improve things on the bottom 6. But it will still be a bottom 6. Travis Green has always said he wants 3 scoring lines and for whatever reason, he still doesn’t have it.
Hopefully, the series with the Montreal Canadiens can turn things around for the Canucks. On a 3 game losing streak, taking too many penalties, not being able to kill them, and not being able to score on the powerplay. The positive thing is that all of these are fixable.
I am not worried about the top 6. Petey will figure things out, he is elite and has that next level of work ethic we saw with the Sedins. But what I am worried about is the Canucks bottom 6!
Sports Talk Line And The Vancouver Canucks
What do you think of the Vancouver Canucks bottom 6? Make sure to let me know in the comments and create your own profile on the Sports Talk Line website. Make sure to follow me on Twitter for the latest news and notes on your Vancouver Canucks.
Time will only tell as the season continues. One thing we need is more production from the Canucks bottom 6. Or the top 6 will have to go off once again.
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