So the question is do the Canucks really have what it takes to make it to the Stanley Cup finals.Of course the last time this happened was 1994.
While reading a fanboy article, I was thinking about this year’s edition of the Canuck’s as a group and whether they had what it takes to make it to the finals like the 1994 team.
I have been under the impression that this group was not as talented (scoring wise) as the '94 team with Bure, Linden, Courtnall, Ronning, Craven and Lumme but may be better defensively and in goal with Roberto Luongo.
Of course there are the intangibles like luck, matchups and the indomitable spirit of Trevor Linden.
But being the analytical sort, I thought I would play with a few statistics and see what they had to say.
What follows is what comes of an afternoon reminiscing and contemplating whether the 2009 edition of the Vancouver Canucks might be worthy of mention when compared to the 1994 Stanley Cup runners up.
First, here's how I went about crunching the numbers for comparison.
In 1994, the average number of goals in the NHL was 6.4, last year 5.24; this creates a factor of 1.22.
So, I took the current numbers from the top 6 scorers on each of the Canucks teams, prorated the 2009 yearend totals to 82 games (82/72=1.139) and applied the average goals factor.
Pavel Bure 60
Trevor Linden 32
Geoff Courtnall 26
Cliff Ronning 25
Gino Odjick 16
Murray Craven 15
2009 Team adjusted for 82 games and factored to account for overall drop in NHL scoring (note players who have missed games are adjusted on games played only e.g Demitra, Wellwood)
Daniel Sedin 38
Alex Burrows 33
Ryan Kesler 32
Henrik Sedin 24
Pavol Demitra 24
Kyle Wellwood 22
So indeed the 2009 team does not score as much but it’s much closer than I would have thought.
Just for fun, here’s the teams with the factor applied to points (yah I know, not valid but fun none the less)
Pavel Bure 107
Geoff Courtnall 70
Cliff Ronning 68
Trevor Linden 61
Murray Craven 55
Jyrki Lumme 55
And the current team prorated to the end of the year,
Daniel Sedin 80
Henrik Sedin 79
Ryan Kesler 60
Pavol Demitra 54
Alex Burrows 49
Kevin Bieksa 46
Once you apply the factor of 1.22, the adjusted number is 447 or 31 points better from the top six than the 1994 team. Interesting I thought but what about goaltending...
When the factor is applied to McLean and Luongo's numbers here's what you get.
Kirk McLean GAA 2.99
Roberto Luongo GAA 2.39
adjusted Regular GAA 2.92
So the goaltending is better but only marginally when you factor in the drop in overall league scoring.
END number crunching.
So what about the intangibles?
Well in 1994 we saw the emergence of Linden as a rugged leader of the team.
While already the captain, it was in the playoffs that Linden truly showed what a gritty performer he was scoring 12 goals and 25 points.
Linden was great and then there was Bure. He led the team in scoring during the year and scored 16 times and added 15 assists in 24 games.
It was clear to everyone that if Bure had a breakaway that year you could almost take it to the bank.
It would also be unfair not to mention the heroics of Kirk McLean. He simply had a remarkable run in the playoffs.
His play in the first round against Calgary was the best we have seen in Vancouver until the arrival of Luongo.
So what about the intangibles you say? How can you compare the two?
Here’s my take:
On the offensive side of the puck:
In 1994 - Lumme and Jeff Brown were the top 2 offensive threats
In 2009 - Bieksa and Salo fill that role
The lean: 1994 team
While I think Bieksa’s toughness and Salo’s shot are to the plus side both Brown and Lumme could be counted on to move the puck out of their zone pretty consistently.
While not quick, Lumme was a deft skater and knew how to protect the puck in the neutral zone.
Brown was a gifted playmaker with a hard, accurate shot and a great skater.
On the defensive side of the puck:
In 1994 - Dave Babych and Bret Hedican with a smattering of toughness from Gerald Diduck, Dana (the human pylon) Murzyn, Brian Glynn and Robert Dirk.
In 2009 – Mathias Ohlund, Willie Mitchell, Shane O’Brien, Alex Edler, Rob Davison and newly acquired Ossi Vanaanen.
The lean: 2009 team
The 1994 team had it all over the current group in an all out street fight. They were tough, but other than Hedican not particularly fleet of foot.
While I loved the way in particular that Diduck and Dirk swept the crease it’s just not allowed in today’s game.
Did I mention what a joy it was to see anyone try to hit the wall that was Dave Babych? What a brute.
The current group does it more with brain than with brawn and while this can be a mistake during the playoffs, I am hoping that the refs will continue to call the game the same as the regular season. They did last year.
The key will be limiting bad giveaways (Mr. Bieksa are you listening?) and being physical without getting penalized (Mr. O’Brien sit up straight).
The overall decision for defense: 2009 team
They are a very talented group if they can stay healthy. They have some depth with Nathan McIver being reacquired and already having played a few games with the team.
All in all the 2009 group have way more weapons than the 1994 group with Edler and Ohlund capable of delivering great shots and passes in the offensive zone.
If they can play physical but disciplined they are as good a group as any the city has ever had.
The Achilles: Gillis missed an opportunity to secure a puck moving defenseman at the deadline. One can only speculate that the price asked was too high and hope that he will address it in the off season.
If the Canucks are to go all the way to the dance Bieksa or Edler is going to have to find that part of their game (see bad giveaways: above) in a hurry.
On the offensive side of the puck:
In 1994 – Bure, Linden, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Greg Adams, Murray Craven
In 2009 – The Sedins, Burrows, Kesler, Sundin, Demitra, Bernier, Wellwood, Raymond
The lean: 1994 team
The truth is Linden was every bit as good if not better than Messier or anyone else he matched up with that year, Bure was money and the supporting cast were veterans with great skills.
It’s very close but for the 2009 team to live up to 1994 Sundin, Bernier, Wellwood and Raymond are all going to have to elevate their games.
Bernier needs to have a little of the burning nasty juice that Geoff Courtnall had and Raymond, Wellwood and Sundin need to find consistancy like Ronning, Craven and Adams delivered in the 1994 run.
On the defensive side of the puck
In1994 - Linden, John McIntyre, Martin Gelinas, Tim Hunter, Sergio Momesso
In 2009 – Burrows, Kesler, Ryan Johnson, Darcy Hordichuk, Taylor Pyatt
The lean: 2009 team
While the 1994 team had a defensive specialist in McIntyre so does the 2009 team in Johnson (although he is still rounding into form after some injuries).
Once again the tandem of Burrows and Kesler are the reason the 2009 team gets the nod. They are tenacious and dangerous on the penalty kill.
Hordichuk and Pyatt will have to pick up their games but in the context of the way the game is played now this group is solid.
The overall decision for offense: 2009 team
Since Vigneault split Burrows and Kesler the team has gone on a tear. Kesler has helped to get Sundin and Demitra going as has Burrows with the Sedin’s.
Not since watching a young Trevor Linden have I seen players in a Canucks uniform that are playing with the intensity and all out determination to succeed of these two.
The 3rd line with Raymond, Wellwood and Bernier/Pyatt has been showing signs of life. If they can continue to improve they will be a threat and make life miserable for opposing teams.
The Achilles: Vigneault has a penchant for juggling lines after a short lapse of productivity.
For the first time in his tenure, it appears he has found the key to open the door with this group.
Despite a tendency to “believe” the team’s success is due mainly to the “systems” put in place by the coaching staff he needs to be wary of the chemistry developing with his lines.
A little more number crunching
As stated McLean was incredible in 1994 his GAA went down 70 points in the 24 games or a reduction of 23%. So if we take that and apply it to Luongo’s current GAA we get a GAA of 1.83.
McLean playoffs GAA 2.29
Luongo adjusted playoffs GAA 1.83 (a 23% reduction)
So is Luongo capable of posting a 1.83 GAA? Certainly, last year Chris Osgood posted a 1.55 and Marc Andre Fleury 1.97.
In fact, in 1994 Mike Richter’s GAA was 2.07 or adjusted it would be 1.58 so it would appear Luongo must get hot.
The lean: Draw
While Luongo is touted as one of the games best he hasn’t proved it yet when it counts.
His adjusted regular season stats are only marginally better than McLeans but when the crunch came Captain Kirk delivered.
I honestly believe that Roberto is capable of stealing a Cup the way Patrick Roy did in 1986.
During the regular season Canucks fans have been witness to a dizzying array of acrobatic saves from the netminder.
Achilles: Barring that which shall not be named, not this year. The earlier injury to Luongo has meant that he was forcibly rested while Curtis Sanford and Jason Labarbera filled the void admirably.
After a slow start following rehab he is rounding into mid season form, which is bad news for the teams facing him.
And the decision is: Yes, the 2009 edition is the best team Vancouver has iced since the 1994 team. They have a great defensive team that is finally starting to score some goals.
With respect to leadership, Kesler and Burrows have stepped up and with Luongo, Sundin, Ohlund and Mitchell in the dressing room they appear to have no issues here.
If the Sedins can continue to hit the scoresheet on a regular basis in the post season the Canucks could very well be a contender for the hallowed mug.
So, yes Canucks fanboys it's alright to talk about the 2009 edition and Lord Stanley in the same sentence.
The team has righted the ship and with a few "intangibles" going their way could be due for a short summer break.