It was a beautiful sight to see.
Seven weeks after the NHL paused its season, Canucks Nation saw a return to normalcy, at least for one day.
The topic trending on Twitter? “Myers.”
It began with an innocent enough tweet by TSN 1040 following a radio interview with The Athletic’s Thomas Drance.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) April 30, 2020
Somehow that morphed into a battle on the Twittersphere.
Is Tyler Myers good? Is he better than you think?? What about his contract???
At moments like these, I believe it is Daily Hive’s obligation to provide clarity. To provide…a definitive list.
At the risk of spoiling the result of the rankings below, it’s clear who the Canucks’ best defenceman was this season.
But for the rest of the group? Well, that’s a close race, at least when it comes to spots 2-5.
With apologies to Ashton Sautner, who played fewer than three minutes this season, here’s the list of Canucks defencemen, ranked from worst to best:
7. Oscar Fantenberg
Oscar Fantenberg finishes last on this list, but not by much.
He had similar numbers to Jordie Benn across the board, but despite being favoured by head coach Travis Green in the second half of the season, we’re giving the edge to Benn due to his superior numbers on the penalty kill.
6. Jordie Benn
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Benn’s first season in Vancouver was a disappointment.
The rugged Canucks defenceman was signed as a replacement for Ben Hutton, but he turned out to be a downgrade.
5. Troy Stecher
It happens every year.
Troy Stecher starts as the team’s No. 6 defenceman and slowly works his way up the ranks, gaining the trust of the coach. There were fewer injuries on the back end this season, but certainly Stecher was leaned on more and more as the year wore on.
The Richmond native struggled defensively at times, but he also played hard minutes against good players as Alex Edler’s defence partner late in the season.
Stecher deserves credit for his point totals though, scoring all 17 of his points at even strength. And unlike the players ahead of him on this list, he didn’t have the benefit of power play time or riding shotgun with Hughes to help boost his numbers.
4. Tyler Myers
It’s ironic that the argument for Myers is based on analytics, because he wasn’t exactly an analytics darling when he signed with the Canucks.
But he was never Luca Sbisa or Erik Gudbranson either.
Myers ranks second to Hughes in Corsi-for percentage and expected goals-for percentage, two key metrics for measuring a defenceman’s worth. He began the season playing with Edler on the team’s top pairing, but finished playing with Fantenberg on the third pairing — though he didn’t exactly play third-pair minutes.
For an offensive defenceman, Myers produced fewer points than you’d like. He ranked fifth in even strength points (13) and only had seven power play points.
Offensively, his numbers actually closely mirrored Hutton’s from the year prior:
- Myers (2019-20): 68 GP, 6 G, 15 A, 21 PTS
- Hutton (2018-19): 69 GP, 5 G, 15 A, 20 PTS
The length of Myers’ contract is a debate for another day, but when it comes to his play on the ice in 2019-20, he was a solid addition.
3. Chris Tanev
The numbers will suggest that Chris Tanev should rank lower on this list.
The biggest argument against him is that he was propped up by Hughes. But it should also be pointed out that when the Canucks trailed in games, Green would often pair Myers with Tanev as the team pushed for offence.
I would suggest that’s part of why Myers and Hughes (56.39 CF%) have better underlying numbers than Tanev and Hughes (49.46 CF%).
Tanev isn’t the player he once was, but also never sees easy minutes. He’s still smart, and he’s still a warrior, so I’ll be damned if I rate him lower than No. 3 on this list.
If you need to protect a lead or kill a penalty, Tanev is still the guy Green throws on the ice, and he’s right to do so.
2. Alex Edler
For the first time in years, Edler isn’t the Canucks’ best defenceman.
That’s more of an indictment of Vancouver’s blue line in recent years than praise for the longtime Canuck, but there’s a reason why he always leads the team in ice time.
Edler (22:37) played more per game than any other Canucks defenceman, though Hughes was leaned on more heavily once he fully gained the confidence of the coach.
It may surprise you that the big Swede was just two points back of Hughes in even strength points (26). Edler also ranked second in overall points by defencemen with 33, despite receiving the third-most power play time.
Edler ranked third in Corsi-for percentage and expected goals percentage, but again, he didn’t have the benefit of playing with Hughes.
1. Quinn Hughes
No suspense with this one.
In his first full NHL season, Hughes was a star. Not only did he lead all rookies in scoring, he tied for fourth in NHL defencemen scoring as well with 53 points.
Hughes was a game-changer, particularly on the power play. He also got a taste of playing in a shutdown role alongside Tanev, and rose to the challenge.
The Canucks’ best defenceman was and is Hughes. Definitively.