Tyler Myers has only been a member of the Canucks organization for a month but has found himself as a very polarizing figure in the market.
Prior to signing, numbers as high as eight million were speculated and as a result a lot of people focused on the deficiencies of Myers. He later signed at a more respectable six million for five seasons but that backlash prior to signing remained. During the period of time that speculation ran rampant, many criticized the idea of the signing and while some of it remained, and some is warranted, I believe that there’s a bad taste left in the mouths of Canucks fans when it comes to Myers and I would be willing to bet that he surprises many and their expectations come the end of the upcoming season.
Why? Well, because I think there’s more to be uncovered about his game. It’s a unique experience writing an article explaining how a 6'8" right-handed blueliner might be somewhat underrated but there are solid reasons to believe so.
The primary reason focused on in this article are the players that he was deployed with in Winnipeg. Quality of teammates have a massive impact on player performance and is especially important for a player who is offensively oriented like Myers is. With a pairing partner that suits his playstyle well, he can focus on playing to his strengths and the severity of his shortcomings would be mitigated as well. The three players that Myers spent the most time alongside are Dmitry Kulikov, Joe Morrow, and Ben Chiarot, in that order.
Dmitry Kulikov, Myers most consistent pairing partner is, well, not good. This isn’t to say anything rude or unnecessary about Kulikov as an individual but rather that at this juncture of his career he is no longer a quality NHL regular and would be better suited as a depth option at best on a contender such as Winnipeg. In 57 games he produced at an alarmingly low rate of just six assists while boasting a corsi-for percentage of 46% at even strength. Now it would be more understandable had he at least been facing opponents top line or at the bare minimum had the majority of his zone starts in the defensive end but that never happened. According to hockey-reference.com, he started 51% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
For a comparable that most Canucks fans would be familiar with, Erik Gudbranson also played 57 games with the Canucks, had six assists, and had the same corsi-for percentage. Unlike Kulikov though, Gudbranson spent 53.5 percent of his starts in the defensive zone and had two goals to boot.
Compare Kulikov and his strengths to Myers and you can see that maybe it’s not the best fit. Myers spent close to 45% of his 5-on-5 minutes alongside Kulikov.
data by Corey Sznajder, viz by CJ Turtoro
Oh, Joe Morrow and Ben Chiarot certainly are not the most suitable either.
I think it’s clear that perhaps Myers was not in a situation where he could best succeed. Obviously you would want a defender like Myers to raise those alongside of him and his performance alongside inferior defenders in Winnipeg are indicative that he isn’t capable of doing so but Vancouver fans this past year witnessed Bo Horvat be saddled with subpar linemates for the majority of the season and like Horvat, Myers dealt with the brunt of it.
It isn't like Myers completely struggled to elevate his partners games either. His two most consistent linemates performed considerably worse without Myers. Meanwhile Myers performed better without them. Source: naturalstattrick.com
If only the Canucks had a left-side defender who is defensively minded and compliments Myers well…
Jordie Benn is coming off of a stellar year in Montreal and with Ben Hutton’s departure, Vancouver searched for a temporary replacement and they got perhaps an effective and versatile guy in Benn.
Benn’s game off first glance seems to have legitimate potential to mesh well with Myers. Benn’s shortcomings are some of Myers strengths and the same applies vice versa.
Now, signing a player for a total of $30 million only to deploy him on the third pairing would definitely be a bad look, especially considering the early criticism of the signing but it does not necessarily have to be quite like that. What I would suggest is balancing out the ice time and instead of having a traditional first, second, and third pairing, deploying each of the pairings as if they were all second pairings. Now this is an idea that would certainly be harder said than done but I think it would work out for a multitude of reasons, primarily because It reduces the ice time and brunt that Alex Edler and Chris Tanev face allowing for a greater chance of playing more games throughout the season. Alex Edler is 33 and the Canucks ideally willingly become less reliant on him before they have due to natural regression. In 2018-19, Edler was top 10 league-wide in average ice time per game. The more games the two play, the better the chance Vancouver has at reaching the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Along with that, I think that it is worth mentioning that Myers isn’t solely an offensive guy that provides no impact otherwise. At 5-on-5 it’s certainly better to have him playing in the offensive zone but he did spend time killing penalties in Winnipeg. He may not be Vancouver’s top option to kill penalties but during instances where a player like Tanev is either injured or even traded if the Canucks go that route, Myers could step in. Despite his defensive shortcomings It wouldn’t surprise me if he is better in that role than at defending 5-on-5. His biggest issue at even strength is zone entry defence and typically power plays feature more cycling than fastbreak rushes.
So what can we expect? I would say that a pretty solid second pairing defender with the ability to perform admirably on special teams is expected. Alongside Benn I would hope that his strengths shine greater and I would imagine that they would mesh well and provide Vancouver with a very nice two-way pairing.
Are there problems with Myers and the contract? Obviously yes. His defensive game will never be stellar and at age 29, his game will start deteriorating in a few years. I would also say that perhaps Myers got a year too many on his deal and that the signing bonus structure was a bit much. Regardless of that, Myers should improve the roster and provide more offence from defence, a statistic that the Canucks could use significant improvement in, and it will happen barring any unforeseen collapse a la Loui Eriksson.