September 24 2012 09:24AM
At one point or another, we have all been guilty of taking Henrik and Daniel Sedin for granted. Their exploits are often overlooked, and they are routinely - and rather unjustly, may I add - ripped for being "soft". I'm not just referring to people who aren't all that fond of the Canucks - you know, the same people who settle for making mediocre diving, and Sedin sisters jokes. But seemingly everyone has fallen into this trap at some point or another. At the very least, for example, you've yelled "Shoot the [expletive deleted] puck!" at Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin. As if you know how to produce offense at the NHL level better than he does...
Despite their unearned reputation among hockey fans, you'll be hard-pressed to find two players that take more punishment on a nightly basis. But that's life when you're so good at your job that the opposition has to throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, hoping to do anything they can to take you out of your rhythm. Even before they take the ice, the other team has spent most of their time and energy in preparation, trying to figure out a way to slow them down. Just because they usually leave the game with nothing to show for their troubles doesn't mean that they didn't try. Trust me, they did. The Sedins are nightmare to gameplan against.
With their 32nd birthday just around the corner, though, how much longer will their 'best' be better than the opposition's 'best'?
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Back in August, I wrote about the benefits that the person playing the role of third wheel for the Sedins has enjoyed over the years. It's a quality that has allowed management to avoid giving marginal players far more than they they're truly worth. Players have been plugged in, had career years, and when it came time for a payday, they were wished a "bon voyage".
Recently, Jeff Angus released his 'Top 50 Trade Value' rankings, with the Sedins coming in at 35 and 36. On the surface, it seems like a rather low ranking for two guys that in the past three seasons have combined for two Art Ross Trophies, a Hart Memorial Trophy, a Ted Lindsay Trophy, and two Presidents' Trophies (even though fans seem to think those grow on trees). I just mentioned how invaluable they have been to the entire operation for the Canucks. So what gives?
MY EYEBROWS ARE RAISED
.. And it's only partly due to the fact that I am, in fact, smelling what The Rock is cooking.
When analyzing the season the Sedins submitted this past year as a whole, there are a few worrisome trends that caught my attention. I've already mentioned the punishment that they consistently take, and it's an issue worth discussing. further The wear-and-tear from everything they go through accumulates, and adds up over time. It's one of the reasons that actual age doesn't necessarily tell the full story. We need to take into account the 'miles' that professional athletes accrue over the years, like fine sports cars.
Throughout their careers, the Sedins have been the epitome of consistency. And that's what made the 8-game pointless streak - from February 24th to March 10th - they drudged through so bizarre. We simply don't see that happen to them. In fact, it was the first such case since 2003 for them.
When great players begin to slip, they don't necessarily lose their 'fastball'. They can still turn it up like they used to in their prime. Where you see the slippage is in how consistently they can do it. They need to pick their spots, and that results in uncharacteristic droughts and stretches of poor performance. They begin to look mortal, which is a scary thought for fans.
While their point totals of 81 and 67 from last season are nothing to scoff at, those totals remain a far cry from the spectacular efforts they submitted in the previous two seasons. It's especially worrisome given the fact that they saw their offensive zone start percentage rise up to nearly unthinkable levels last season. If you told me that they would start nearly 80% of their shifts in the attacking zone (nearly a 10% increase from the previous season), and see their production decrease, I would have told you that you were being a silly person.
Their production did take a substantial dip, though, and it can be attributed to the team's play with the man advantage. Sure, you could point to the departure Christian Ehrhoff, and a general drop-off in power-play opportunities that was experienced league-wide as explanations for the struggles, but the success and failure of the power play starts and ends with the Sedins. They have made a habit of making the opposition pay for their transgressions over the years. I am aware that I'm picking on a unit that still wound up finishing the season as the 4th best in the entire league, but a drop of 4.5% cannot be overlooked.
There's also the fact that Henrik Sedin was 'Captain Hook' last season. He led the league with 14 hooking infractions, with Daniel not too far behind (9). They have both been good for their share of penalties of that nature in the past, but there's no question that they were sloppier than usual in that regard last season. It can probably be explained by the fact that they started an exponentially larger percentage of their shifts in the offensive zone than anyone else in the league, but it's still something that is worth pointing out. At least that's what I tell myself every night before bed.
Thank you to @TheStanchion, who just gets the job done.
HOLD YOUR HORSES
It's very possible that last season was the first stage of the decline phase for the Sedins, relative to their own lofty standards, at least. Realistically, chances are that we've already seen their best. The question is whether or not it really matters, and the answer is no.
Even with the "plummet" in production, Henrik Sedin still finished in the top-10 in scoring. It's difficult to get too upset about that. While their days of scoring 90+ points are likely over with, there's no reason to believe that they can't manage to hover around point-per-game territory for the next couple of seasons.
They will be big beneficiaries of a lockout that leads to a shortened season, as well. They have logged a lot of minutes, and played a ton of hockey in the past few years. If the season were to start in December, I'd fully expect them to be operating with much fresher legs, which is obviously bad news for the rest of the league.
I know that he's a different player, and the circumstances aren't exactly the same, but what we saw from Jaromir Jagr last season is exactly why the Sedins will be able to remain productive players in the NHL for as long as they choose to (or their bodies permit them to). Jagr wasn't beating people with his speed, and physical tools, as much as he was with his craftiness, creativity, and puck control. Or as I like to call it - Sedinery.
Finally, the Sedins have as clean an injury history slate as one could hope for (or at least Henrik does). Get ready for a remarkable stat - Henrik Sedin has played in 580 consecutive games, dating back to 2003-04. That's a Canucks franchise record, and it puts him just behind Jay Bouwmeester for the longest active streak in the entire NHL. It's crazy that there hasn't been a single game where he decided he needed a night off, to let his body recover from the merciless abuse it takes.
There's something to be said for being able to know that you can count on your best guy to be in the lineup night in, and night out. There's something reassuring about it. This particular milestone definitely requires as much luck as it does toughness, but still. It's a remarkable feat.
As for Daniel, he's rather durable, too. If you take the time he missed due to a broken foot in '09-'10 out of the equation, he had missed just 1 game since '03 heading into this past season. Of course, as we quickly learned, even the most durable of players aren't immune to blindside elbows to the head. Who knew?
The Sedins will be fine. Just temper your expectations.