May 21 2013 11:45AM
Is Daniel Sedin declining faster than his brother?
Photo via wikimedia commons.
Way back before this season began Dimitri, Cam and myself engaged in a spirited debate about whether or not the Sedins had "lost a step". Dimitri and Cam argued that they had while I posited that they hadn't - at least not yet. Looking over those old posts, I think I was the closest to being correct, even though the Sedins didn't produce at a point-per-game rate this past season (which I'd thought they would).
While the Sedin twins's offensive production took a step back this past lockout shortened season, they had a greater defensive burden to carry and significantly less support from the rest of Vancouver's forward group than they've enjoyed in the past. Despite more more difficult roles and circumstances, the twins probably turned in the best two-way season of their respective careers.
Read past the jump.
There's a lingering point of doubt in my head, concerning Daniel Sedin and the way his offensive production is trending. At the tail end of my article way back in the fall I touched on this a bit:
Looking over my tables, however, I have a nagging feeling that Daniel Sedin may be in for a more precipitous drop in production than his brother over the coming seasons. In other words, I think there's basically no evidence in the above table that supports the hypothesis that Henrik Sedin is getting to the downswing of his career. Daniel, on the other hand, was on pace for well under 50 even-strength points last season...
Henrik has been more durable than his brother over the past five seasons, and unlike Daniel has no history of head injuries. Also, generally speaking, a playmaking centre tends to have a longer shelf-life in the NHL than a sniper who plays on the wing.
I figured this might be a topic worth revisting, and updating in lieu of this past season. So we'll start off with a table that takes into account Daniel Sedin's offensive zone start% in each of the past six seasons, which we've included here mostly because the twins are deployed unlike any other players in the NHL, really.
I've also included Vancouver's "shots for" (SF/60) rate with Daniel on the ice as a way of measuring his offensive contributions in a "results independent" manner, and his "goals for" (GF/60) and "goals against" (GA/60) rate which we've also expressed as a differential (Diff). This is essentially just Daniel's plus/minus numbers but rated by sixty minutes of even-strength ice-time and including only goal events at five-on-five without factoring in different game states (which plus/minus does because it's hockey's stupidest statistic).
We then get to Daniel's on-ice shooting percentage (On-Ice Sh%), which is useful in that it helps us contextualize his results. On-ice shooting percentage isn't totally luck based, there are several players who have proven they can sustain an elevated on-ice shooting percentage over several seasons (and Daniel Sedin and his brother are both players of that type), but it is a remarkably stable number over a large enough sample with the vast majority of NHLers falling between 7% and 8.5% on-ice shooting.
Finally we get to Daniel Sedin's even-strength points (ES Points), power-play points (PP Points) and total points (Total). These numbers should be self-explanatory, I figure. Also Corsi%, which is basically just a player's attempted shot differential expressed as a percentage. In this case we're using Corsi% as nothing more than a proxy for offensive zone time...
So here's Daniel's table updated to include this season:
|Daniel Sedin||Ozone Start%||SF/60||GF/60||GA/60||Diff||On-Ice Sh%||ES Points||PP Points||Total||Corsi%|
The first thing we should clarify is that the numbers that appear with a " * " beside them in the above table are "pro-rated" statistics, which extrapolate Daniel's pace in a lockout shortened season over a full 82 games.
So what can we see from the above numbers? Obviously the trend in Daniel's deployment patterns, which for several seasons appeared to be getting increasingly radical, reversed itself somewhat this past year. Daniel played a more two-way type role this past season and started a higher proportion of his shifts 170 feet from the opponent's goal.
Despite that change, the Canucks controlled a higher proportion of the attepted shots with Daniel on the ice than they ever have in the past. But that puck possession success came at a price as the Sedins played a much "lower-event' type of game overall (losing 1.5 shots on goal per sixty minutes this past season). Also, and perhaps more importantly, the team's dominance of puck possession with Daniel Sedin on the ice didn't translate into points like it has in the past.
Looking at the percentages, we can see that Daniel Sedin's on-ice shooting percentage has hovered a tick below 9% over this last 119 regular season games. That's still elevated by regular NHL standards, but it's a statistically significant step down from the large-sample ~10% on-ice shooting percentage Daniel has posted over the past six years.
I do think that for Daniel Sedin the devil is in the percentages, and not necessarily in "advanced age" or anything like that. Consider this table which takes into account Daniel Sedin's even-strength goal scoring the past few years (EV G), his even-strength shots (EV SOG), his even-strength shooting percentage (EV Sh%) and his even-strength shooting rated per sixty minutes:
|Daniel Sedin||EV G||EV SOG||EV Sh%||EV SOG/60|
I haven't pro-rated these statistics, but basically Daniel Sedin was on pace for fourteen even-strength goals over a full 82 games this season. That's a somewhat sizable step down from the season previous, or from the three years before that when Daniel potted twenty goals at even-strength every year like clock work.
But when you look at his shot rate, it appears more or less unchanged (certainly the change hasn't been dramatic at even-strength). The dramatic change for Daniel this season then, is his personal shooting percentage.
We don't have a big enough sample to conclude anything definitively about the change in Daniel's percentages, but in theory it makes sense that at some point Daniel's ability to drive offense (by which I specifically mean: driving elevated percentages from the wing) will begin to atrophy due to advancing age. It's possible that we're already beginning to see that slide, but it's worth noting that any "slippage" isn't showing up - at least not yet - in Daniel's underlying data.
I still tend to think that Daniel will succumb to the forces of father time before his brother does, just because of the nature of his game and the demands of the position he plays. I'm not quite convinced that we've begun to see any sort of dramatic change on that front yet, however.
One of the biggest questions that Mike Gillis should be asking himself in the early stages of this offseason is "can we still win a championship if the Sedin twins are our top-line next season?" It's a critical question because if the answer is "no" then the team may need a larger scale overhaul than what a "reset" - of the sort that Mike Gillis promised at his season ending press conference - would entail. The more I look into the data, however, the more convinced I am that the answer to the above question is, or should be: "yes."
But the obvious follow up question, then, is "for how many more seasons will that be true?" That's where it gets a bit more dicey, and finding a player who can project as a top-line talent two or three years down the road should be at the very top of Mike Gillis' list of priorities this summer - along with making a firm decision about the team's coaching staff, finding a spot to park the Peoria Rivermen franchise next season, and signing a dependable third-line centre. All of that is easier said than done though, obviously.