Last week, we took an optimistic look at which Vancouver Canucks might be due for an individual scoring increase in the 2019/20 season—and found the list to be rather lengthy.
This week, we’re back to examine whether or not the Canucks as whole can be counted on to score more goals in 2019/20—because if they can’t, there isn’t much hope of them securing a playoff berth.
The team scored just 219 goals last year—good enough for a tie with the New Jersey Devils for 25th in the NHL. Add an even hundred goals to that and you’ll get the final total for the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning—which makes for a stark statement about how far the Canucks need to go before approaching any sort of elite offensive status.
So, is there any reason to hope that the Canucks can begin to close the gap in 2019/20?
Please, keep in mind as you read this article—prognostication is a very inexact science and there are a lot of moving parts-type factors to consider when it comes to hockey.
For example, the Canucks added Micheal Ferland, who scored 17 goals last season—but he was on pace for 20. So, did Vancouver add 17 or 20 goals to the roster? Hold up, there’s still the roster spot to consider. Ferland can’t join the roster without booting someone else out—let’s say it’s Tyler Motte for hypothetical purposes. Motte scored nine goals himself, so really by adding Ferland the Canucks have only added 8 or 11 goals to their total.
And that’s assuming that everyone scores at the same pace they did last season, which is highly improbable.
In other words, prepare yourselves for some wild and mathematically dubious speculation—starting with some simple calculations before moving on to more complicated material—and take everything below with a grain of salt.
Who’s Still Here?
|2018/19 Goals Per Game
In total, the Vancouver Canucks still have 180 of their goals from last season accounted for, in terms of the players who scored them still being on the team. Tanner Pearson also scored nine goals before being acquired, so let’s add that to the total to bring it to 189.
Note: For this and all future sections, we’re going to assume that Loui Eriksson plays elsewhere in the 2019/20 season.
Of course, you the intrepid reader will no doubt notice that several of the players listed did not play full seasons—Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Sven Baertschi all had injury-shortened years, while Pearson only joined the team at the Trade Deadline.
In terms of Goals-Per-Game, the Canucks retained 3.35 in total, which would put that at a sum of 274 over a full season—but that would be assuming that each of these players plays a full 82-game season and continues to score at the same pace, both of which are practically impossible. When it comes to predicting future goal-scoring, GPG can be misleading because of these assumptions.
Injuries are inevitable—especially on the West Coast—and certain players, like Pearson, will almost certainly see their goal-scoring rate drop. Others, like Pettersson and Boeser, will hopefully increase their rate.
For now, let’s stick with that nice, easy 189-goal total and deal with those other factors later.
Where did those other 39 goals go? They left the organization in one form or another, and they were contributed by the following players.
|2018/19 Goals Per Game
Remember, that Goals-Per-Game total is quite misleading, because there’s just no way Brendan Gaunce would have continued to score at a 30-goal pace over a full season.
The New Guys
|2018/19 Goals Per Game
With the five roster players added to the organization in the 2019 offseason, the Canucks would appear to have added 46 goals to their total. They also lost 39 goals in other transactions, which leaves them with a surplus of seven. It should be noted that in the case of these five, only Ferland missed significant time with injury—so this number might represent a pretty fair estimation how many goals the team added through transactions alone during the offseason, though that’s far from the full picture.
The Basic Math Says…
The Canucks retained 189 (counting Pearson’s other nine) of their goals from last year and added 46, leaving them with a grand total of 235—which would have been good enough for 20th place in the league in 2018/19. Only the New York Islanders scored fewer than 235 goals last season and still made the playoffs.
But don’t fret yet! There are still plenty of other, more intangible factors to consider—and a number of reasons to set your expectations at least a little higher than 226.
Individual Rate Changes And Rookies
The above totals do not take into consideration any fluctuations in scoring rate—which are inevitable from season-to-season.
As noted in this author’s last article, several Canucks are due for individual scoring increases. That list includes young players that are still developing, players who stand to receive greater opportunity, and those who were just plain unlucky in 2018/19.
Of course, there are also a few players on the roster—namely Sven Baertschi and Tanner Pearson, who both scored above a 30-goal pace—who stand to see their individual scoring rates decrease.
Still, the number of players who should score more in 2019/20 than they did last season is much higher than the list of players who will probably score less.
There’s also the impossible-to-gauge factor of rookies, like Quinn Hughes and Zack MacEwen, making an appearance on the roster. It stands to reason that Hughes should score at a higher rate than Ben Hutton, who he replaces on the roster, but no one can no that for sure until it happens.
The Ice-Time And Linemate Factor
At the end of the day, there’s only 60 minutes of ice-time to go around each game. As the Canucks add more skilled players to their lineup, they must take away opportunity from those players already on the roster. Jake Virtanen, for example, may benefit from the addition of Micheal Ferland to the team—but it might also result in fewer minutes for ol’ Shotgun Jake.
Working in the opposite direction is the impact of linemates. Development-wise, Bo Horvat is nearing the top of his offensive peak—but he’s also going to be playing with guys like Ferland, JT Miller, and Tanner Pearson all season instead of Loui Eriksson and Tim Schaller. Some players, like Horvat, should see their offensive totals in 2019/20 increase because of superior linemates.
This factor becomes especially apparent in the addition of the aforementioned Miller, who only scored 13 goals last year but added 34 assists. Having Miller set up plays will likely lead to an increase in offense from his linemates—preferably, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson—so Miller’s presence will add goals to the lineup, even if he’s not scoring them himself.
The Injury Factor
And then there are the injuries. Last year, the Vancouver Canucks lost 11 games of Pettersson, 13 of Boeser, and a whopping 56 from Sven Baertschi—injuries that alone cost them an estimated 35 goals.
The Canucks were one of the most frequently injured teams in 2018/19, but that’s true in most seasons due to a combination of travel, the physicality of the Western Conference, and that one evil curse.
Updated graph: Vancouver Canucks are most injured team since the 2010-11 season. Pittsburgh Penguins are 2nd, but have 77 more wins (and a couple of Cups) during that span #Canucks #Penguins https://t.co/Vqmne8nuQ2 pic.twitter.com/1MW1lhaZBu
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) May 9, 2019
They’ll continue to be a factor in 2019/20, and they’re impossible to predict. But it’s hard to imagine them being more of a factor this season than last, and so last season’s raw totals at the very least form a solid baseline.
The Final Estimate
Considering the inadequacy of the raw goal totals, and the sheer intangibility of the various factors listed above, we’re left to wildly speculate.
Based entirely on players in and players out, the Canucks stand to score more than last year—at around 235 goals by our estimate, or 16 more than in 2018/19—and they should be approaching the goal totals of last year’s bottom-end playoff teams.
The lowest goal total among Pacific Division playoff teams was the Vegas Golden Knight’s 246. If the Canucks are going to hit that number or higher, they’ll have to rely on a number of uncertain factors—namely, avoiding injury and seeing steady progression from their stable of young talent.
So, will the Vancouver Canucks score more in 2019/20? Yes, almost certainly.
Will they score enough to make the playoffs? Only time will tell.