Do you remember the days when the Vancouver Canucks led the NHL with a dominating top-ranked power play that helped them snatch playoff spots and the President’s Trophy? The Canucks’ power play has slowly transformed from amazing to terrible over the last year and a half, and is now ranked 25th in the NHL at 14.7%. With seven power play goals in the first nine games of the season, the Canucks have now gone nine games without any power play goals (with around 20 power play opportunities). An ineffective power play means fewer wins for the Canucks, who have three wins in the nine games in which they have gone scoreless on the power play. The solution? It could be as simple as changing the players on the top power play unit.
It is obvious that something in the Canucks’ power play combination is not working, yet the coaching staff has yet to make any major changes despite their lack of success. With no Ryan Kesler and no Kevin Bieksa available because of injuries, there are fewer top players for the coaches to choose from for the top unit, but if the Canucks’ success rides on two people then they will need to make changes that are more drastic then switching players out of the power play.
The Canucks have scored a total of 14 power play goals, and four of those are from Mason Raymond, who has yet to play on the top unit despite leading the team in power play goals. Next up are Daniel Sedin, Alex Edler and Zack Kassian with two a piece; Bieksa, Kesler, Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder each have one. Jordan Schroeder has been reassigned to the Canucks’ AHL affiliate team, but while he was playing with the Canucks he manned the point with Edler on the top power play unit. Why not put Raymond in his spot? Raymond plays with the same speed and agility as Schroeder, but with more experience and success on the power play. He leads the team in power play goals, but does not get a turn on the power play until the top unit has played – why not use your most successful player when you can? Zack Kassian has seen little time on the power play lately as well, and could provide the big body in front of the net to shield the goalie instead of Burrows.
It is most logical to put the players that have been playing well on the ice and the players that have not been playing well on the bench. Alex Edler leads the team in power play ice time with 104:59 minutes, but has been unable to fulfill his role both on the power play and during even strength and has, to put it nicely, not been playing well at all. But coaching staff insist on keeping him on the top power play unit. A better replacement would be Jason Garrison, who had nine power play goals last season with the Florida Panthers and has a big strong shot. Chris Tanev would be a welcome addition as well. When Edler struggled earlier in the season, head coach Alain Vigneault paired him with Tanev. Edler started to improve his playing style alongside the cool and calm Tanev. At this point in time, with a 25th ranked power play, it will not hurt to try something new.
The blame could be put on the defence, or the coaching staff’s reluctance to make change or the Sedins’ growing predictability. Either way, all the problems lead to one solution – change. If the Canucks want to succeed, not just on the power play, but in games in general, they have to fix the power play.