Brandon Sutter was the Vancouver Canucks’ big off-season acquisition, but injuries have limited his impact this campaign and now he’ll be missing even more time following surgery to repair a sports hernia.
The Canucks announced Wednesday that Sutter, 26, will miss four-to-six weeks following surgery. Already Sutter hasn’t suited up since Nov. 12, and he last played in a game for the Canucks on Nov. 10.
"Following a period of treatment and evaluation our medical team determined that the best course of action for Brandon was to perform this procedure," Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. "The surgery was successful and we expect a full recovery.”
Sutter hasn’t struggled much with injury throughout his career — he’s missed only 11 games in the past seven seasons — so there shouldn’t be too much cause for concern that this is the start of a run of ailments for the pivot.
In the 16 games Sutter has played so far this season, he has scored four goals and eight points. He had spent time moving up and down the lineup, with his most common linemates being Alexandre Burrows and Jake Virtanen, though he played at times with the Sedin twins. The Canucks have been without Sutter for the past 10 games, but the timeline for his return means it’s likely he misses at least another dozen games, with the possibility he could be watching for more than 15 contests.
Sutter has been an all-situations player for the Canucks this season. He has averaged more than two minutes per game on the penalty kill and close to 2:30 per outing on the power play per game. His average ice time of 18:52 ranks seventh on the Canucks, and was third among forwards, behind only the Sedins. Replacing those minutes won’t be easy, but it bodes well for those looking to land a bigger, more impactful role on the roster.
With Sutter out, the biggest bump in ice time, and definitely in linemates, has come for 19-year-old rookie Jared McCann. The Canucks’ 2014 first-round pick, McCann has spent much of the past five games playing alongside Radim Vrbata and Chris Higgins, with Brandon Prust and Sven Baertschi also making their way onto McCann’s line. In seven of the eight games Sutter has been out, McCann has played above his season average in ice time, including skating a season-high 14:17 against Anaheim Monday night.
“McCann has a bit of an edge to be a 200-foot player and he has that ability,” Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden told The Province’s Ben Kuzma. “And he’s smart. He understands. He’s in the right position at the right time and it’s happening quick. He has applied himself very well.”
McCann has only produced two points in Sutter’s absence, but the rookie has gotten time on the power play, which was hard to come by while Sutter was healthy. The Canucks have seen an improvement with McCann on the second unit, too. Since Sutter’s injury, Vancouver has produced 8.9 goals per 60 minutes of power play time and are getting 55.1 shots on target over the same amount of time. With Sutter, those rates were much lower at 4.7 GF/60 and 48.8 SF/60. McCann’s time on the power play has been a smaller sample, however, but could still be indicative of an improvement with the extra man.
Stepping in to fill Sutter’s shoes on the penalty kill has been 20-year-old sophomore Bo Horvat, and that’s where Sutter has been missed most. Before his injury, the Canucks were allowing just 51.9 shots against and 6.5 goals against per 60 minutes of penalty kill time. With Horvat as the top penalty kill pivot, those numbers have shot up to 65.3 and 10.7, respectively. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if McCann got a shot on the penalty kill at some point, especially with Sutter out for an extended period of time.
One secondary impact of McCann being utilized much more by the Canucks is that it’s now almost all but certain Vancouver will choose not to release the rookie to take part in the World Junior Championships. McCann played for Team Canada during their summer development camp before an injury sidelined him. He wasn’t included on Canada’s selection camp roster, but the Canadian team likely would have jumped at the chance to bring him in. Sutter’s injury, and McCann’s increased role, changes the outlook on that.
(All advanced statistics via War-On-Ice)