The Salo Effect
August 30, 2006
From The End Of The Bench
Defenceman Sami Salo is most importantly known for his power-play work. He has an innate ability to fire the puck and it's his job to hover at the point on the power play and scare the opposing goalie. He does that.
His nine power-play goals were tops among all Canuck defenders last year despite missing 22 games with a shoulder injury, and his 20 power-play points ranked him second.
But describing Sami Salo as a great power-play weapon is akin to saying Ichiro is a great base-runner. It's kind of missing the point.
After three seasons in which the 6'3", 215-pound defender has finished a combined plus-26 - all while quietly anchoring a run-and-gun Vancouver blue line - it's time to revisit the Salo stereotype.
Last season he averaged 24:29 of ice per game - that's one minute less than Mattias Ohlund who led the team in that category.
In 59 games last year Salo racked up a career-high 33 points, which was only one less than Nolan Baumgartner, who topped all Canuck defenders with 34 points in 70 games.
More impressive, Salo's plus-nine was second only to Baumgartner's plus-11, despite playing eight more minutes a game. Add to that the fact that Henrik Sedin was the only other Canuck besides 'The Baummer' to finish with a better plus-minus than Salo, and the picture begins to take shape.
The quiet Finn posted some very impressive all-around numbers last year, but even they don't tell the entire story. The seven-year veteran has meant far more to the team's success than personal statistics show.
Consider this: the Canucks were 16-5-2 last season in games when Salo recorded a point. And in games when Salo logged more than 26 minutes, the team won or tied 20 games while losing just five.
Before a freak accident at the Olympics in which Salo damaged his shoulder when he collided with a teammate on a line change, the Canucks were 33-21-5. With Salo watching from the bench, the Canucks went 9-11-3 down the stretch.
That's not to say Salo was sole reason, but his absence was certainly felt.
Bottom line: Salo's become a staple since coming over from Ottawa in a September 2002 trade for Peter Schaefer. And given the attention he gets, it's not a stretch to say he's the most unheralded defender in the Western Conference.