Are the Sedin twins old and useless now? (Well, no, but...)

Cam Charron
January 17 2014 03:28PM

The Canucks wrapped up a road trip in which they scored just once in three games last night. I actively work to not listen to the alarmists anymore, but it's tough to ignore scoring woes of this magnitude. The Canucks did only get out-Corsi'd in close situations 59-55 in a three-game road trip that included one back-to-back and a game against one of the top possession teams in the NHL, so it's not awful. The 9-1 loss is, but the 1-0 losses that bookened the trip could have been worse. They played well and couldn't finish. That will happen.

The Canucks have 89 shots in the last three games and just one goal. The obvious inference is that a 1.1% shooting rate is unsustainable, and things will pick up, but you'd have to be braindead to think the Canucks will play out the year scoring fewer goals per game than [//checks Premiership table] Crystal Palace FC, but there is a problem brewing here, one that's been visible for years now: the Sedin twins are no longer young pups eager to destroy the league. They are hockey players, and like all hockey players, do not age like fine wine.

Daniel Sedin has just four points in eight games since the new year. Henrik Sedin has just five. That's not really my worry. My worry is that over the last two (half) seasons, Henrik is on pace for 67 points over 82 games.

That's not a knock on Henrik Sedin, nor Canucks management or coaching. The visible problem is that hockey players age, and as they age, they fade. I went to Hockey Reference to find players that had point-a-game seasons in at least 70 games, and graphed out the raw number of point-a-game seasons by age:

Most PPG seasons, as you can see, are stacked between about age 24 and age 30. That's somewhat consistent with the findings of Gabriel Desjardins, who found years ago that the peak age for hockey players, including those that weren't point-a-game is "slightly more than 25". I'd assume the reason some of the elite players stay productive into their late 20s is that as established stars, they get more chances. Henrik's points peak was at age 28, and Daniel's was at age 29.

However, Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby both peaked in points-per-game at 23. I remember being used to thinking a player in his prime was between the ages of 28 and 32, but a player's scoring peak is definitely a few years younger.

Earlier in the season, the Sedins were rolling and parlayed a pretty hot start into twin four-year contracts. That's not to say that those are bad deals. At the time, we were aware that the twins production was unsustainable and presumably Laurence Gilman did as well. To me, there's some value in holding onto the twins through their twilight years (for one, only 13 players have ever scored 1000 points and played their entire career for one team. I'd love to see Henrik Sedin become the 14th) and I don't think anybody is under the illusion that the twins are going to be the best players on the Canucks come 2017-2018.

Maybe some fans might have been under the impression that all the twins needed to get back to their peak scoring rates was to be separated from Alain Vigneault. Henrik had 18 points in 15 games in October (right before the contract was signed November 1) and Daniel had 15-in-15. Since then, Henrik has 22 in 34 and Daniel has 24. However it's important to note the on-ice conversion percentages. This is like on-ice shooting percentage, but in its player game logs, ExtraSkater only gives on-ice Corsi For (not shots for, as on-ice sh% is traditional calculated with) so this is the scoring percentage of all Canucks on-ice shot attempts with those players on the ice, progressing through the year:

The two static lines are how the same player's converstion rates looked between 2009 and 2013. There's probably some slight room to move up. Remember the contracts were signed after Game 15, when the Canucks were probably getting more than they could reasonably expect from the twins. While their conversion percentage regressed one way, it's obviously not manageable (both are around 3% since Game 15). The NHL average for Corsi conversion percentage is typically 4%-4.5% and for a few years, the twins were much higher than that. Indicative of talent? Perhaps, but the Sedins were also incredible Corsi players during their peak years and while they've maintained a fierce 54%+ grip on shot attempts, they're taking fewer attempts at the net, and allowing fewer.

It's weird to see Henrik go from being a viable scoring race candidate to a viable Selke Trophy candidate, but that's just the way things go sometimes. Again, the Sedins failure to score is not a knock on them, or management or coaching, but just an unfortunate reality. It's hard to find players like the Sedins in the NHL, and they mostly come from the high end of the draft unless a team flukes into a player like Martin St. Louis or makes a trade for Phil Kessel before he's grown up.

So the problem will remain, even once regression has taken hold. The Canucks lack gamebreakers, and gamebreakers are difficult to find unless you bottom out in the standings. The Canucks have not had a Top 5 pick in the draft on their own merit since the Sedins, and some of the other teams that haven't had one in a while (Calgary, Dallas, Detroit, NY Rangers) are struggling for offence as well. The two that are doing okay, Ottawa and San Jose, were able to acquire young players before they reached their value, which does involve a bit of risk, and also hit on some late-round selections.

Will the Canucks bottom out? Maybe? Two or three years from now I think this team looks fundamentally different than it does today, and with the team needing high shooting or save percentages to play like an elite team in the NHL, I think fans should adjust expectations accordingly. There was a long period of sustained success in Vancouver that's coming to an end, and with it, some of the most annoying fan anger/angst in the history of sports.

Hockey is a cyclical game by nature and we're beginning to realize that with the Sedins. Don't expect them to produce like they have, points-wise, between now and the end of the season, but keep in mind they are hockey players, they are in their 30s, and the Canucks have to find a way to make the last juicy productive years out of them meaningful in some way.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 van
January 17 2014, 03:38PM
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Crystal Palace have a crazy low PDO btw.

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#2 Marsh
January 17 2014, 04:15PM
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The Sedins would probably have better numbers if they had a better winger than Dalpe or Hansen to play with. After all, a good RW would lift their play as the Sedins lift the play of the "other" winger. It's hard to expect a line of two good (but yes, declining) players to be an effective first line. I'd like to see their numbers with Kesler, versus with everybody else for this season.

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#3 NM00
January 17 2014, 04:31PM
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"I think fans should adjust expectations accordingly."

Translation:

Fans need to reset expectations accordingly.

The latest in a long list of management blunders was extending the Sedins before the season played out.

It matters little if the Sedins play their entire careers in Vancouver if it holds off the next contention window for 4 more years...

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#4 Rig
January 17 2014, 04:58PM
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From wearing panties to Depends and out the door. Lol

Your girls are done .. Too much L.A. S.J. ANA for the sissy's ?

Its a Mans Game Danielle and Henrietta -

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#5 Ted
January 17 2014, 05:04PM
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Old and useless? No. Not at all. If they were our second line then it might be OK. They're no longer our go to guys and we don't have a real line 1.

Gillis will have to make some brilliant moves/deals and then entice a top gun free agent, or two, over summer in order for us to contend. It'd be nice to land a Ryan O'Reilly and then get a Vanek over the summer but that might be a pipe dream. There are a few free agents out there but can Gillis lure them in? If he does, he bette not give them NTCs too!

If this is done then you can possibly add your young blue chip guys and ease them in. They won't have to shoulder the entire load etc.

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#6 Sean
January 17 2014, 05:07PM
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You're right: hockey is cyclical. That means that the Sedins will regress to second and third line roles before their careers end, just as they progressed from the third line up to the first during the course of their careers. And that's fine with me. If we can replace them on the first line, I think our chances of winning a cup improve with the Sedins in a shutdown role.

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#7 JFR
January 17 2014, 05:37PM
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I think the Sedins are a result of not having a permanent winger. Watch when they play for Sweden, with a solid winger they will score. In fact it seems like that all the Stars are waiting for the Olympics. I can't believe how many open nets, wide and high shots!!! You can't score if you don't shoot, bit if it's not on net there is no need for a goalie. It will be interesting to see which team shows up after the Olympic break.... The crazy Dec team or the sad sack Jan team. Sticks are getting gripped pretty tight!

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#8 Mantastic
January 17 2014, 07:25PM
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the only real, realist of the canuck bloggers here. pretty much said the window is closing quickly without actually saying the words.

like you said cam, it just happens and it is cyclical, just hope you get the gamebreakers needed to build around.

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#9 Thomas Sedin Gradin
January 18 2014, 12:12AM
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Double compliance buy-out for the twins... do it Gillis.

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#10 Thomas Sedin Gradin
January 18 2014, 12:12AM
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Double compliance buy-out for the twins... do it Gillis.

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#11 Nolan
January 18 2014, 06:42AM
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@Cam

"I think fans should adjust expectations accordingly. "

I expect them to NOT lose 9-1, I also expect them to not lose 1-0 to the coyotes, I also expect them to beat LA once in a while - last game for example.

These are not unreasonable expectations.

I'm fine with the Sedins producing less - that's inevitable but go and watch Daniels post game interview after the Coyotes game or even the Anaheim game. He is always delusional about their performance saying they played good or OK but the game just got a way from them a bit. When he should be saying, "yeah, we sucked, we didn't show up to play and we don't know how to score goals anymore. We're too concerned about trying to make a pretty goal when we really should be throwing pucks to the net and driving hard and putting bodies in front - we should be working on that!"

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#12 bubba
January 18 2014, 11:21AM
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I think the sedins will age well as players...like datsuyk, alfie, st.louis, selanne, whitney...probably a few others I'm not thinking off.

They play a gritty game but it's not a power game, they have never been regarded as fast. They are fit and generally healthy.

Not to fussed about their point decline, which could also be attributable to the type of defensive game Torts likes his teams to play.

It's the team's secondary scoring that needs an upgrade.

If I am Gillis, I hope Kesler plays like a beast at the Olympics and then I'd trade him for a younger scoring center and a d-man...like Kadri and Gardiner.

Probably a long shot though especially if Gillis and Nonis still have a mean-on for each other

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#13 PB
January 18 2014, 01:14PM
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@NM00

Extending the Sedins may not be the right way to go if you want the team "blown up" or go with a more wholesale change. But I think waiting for the end of the season to reassess makes little sense. It's not as if they wouldn't have any other suitors -- there are reasons they aren't playing as well right now, a combination of injuries, age slowing them down, and being over-used in the first half of the season. All of which speak to other problems with the Canucks. But do you really think the Canucks would be in better shape (if they did decide to stick with the Sedins and I think for a host of reasons it makes little sense not to do so) by waiting it out? In a league where Clarkson makes what he does the Sedins would be courted by multiple teams and likely at far higher salaries than what we have them for.

It's a bad stretch for us no doubt. But it's as much of an overreaction to be saying this is the worst team in the world (not you, some of the others on here) as it is to say during December that we were going to be world beaters. As half a season has shown, the Canucks are clearly not in the upper tier of teams (as you have so often predicted, so you must be pleased). That doesn't make the Sedins' value decline when it comes to their UFA worth if they'd remained unsigned.

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#14 Ted
January 18 2014, 02:12PM
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I also think this last stretch was a tough part of the sched. It gets easier so there should be better results down the road. If not then there is a big problem. Most of us realize we aren't Cup contenders and will be in tough against the top teams. If we start losing to those 'beatable' teams then the Nucks might be burned out or they could be done.

This season really seems like a wash. Hopefully Gillis is looking at next year and beyond. Be a seller at the deadline, Gillis!

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#15 JFR
January 18 2014, 04:18PM
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Mantastic wrote:

the only real, realist of the canuck bloggers here. pretty much said the window is closing quickly without actually saying the words.

like you said cam, it just happens and it is cyclical, just hope you get the gamebreakers needed to build around.

To say the window is closing quickly is taking a bit of a leap. We are not Chicago with great young leaders but teams like the ducks and Detroit have older players still playing well, but they always find young forward talent. That's what we need to younger forward talent to step up. If Burr is back tonight the lines will be a little more balanced hopefully!????

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#16 Jack
January 18 2014, 06:55PM
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This is a good post. The Sedins are clearly fading, and not only does aging wear players down physically, it also tends to encourage complacency, which is where the Canucks are at today. Guys like the twins, Bieksa, Burrows, Hamhuis, etc., with lifetime contracts, who are in their 30s, married, with kids, etc., simply don't want it as bad as the 20 - 25 year-olds who are fighting tooth-and-nail for both big contracts and to have their names on the Cup. It's a problem of motivation. They just don't want it that bad.

Reality is, for guys like the above, the sooner they're done their season, the sooner they go home to their families, rest, travel, and luxuriate.

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#17 Lemming
January 18 2014, 10:16PM
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Rig wrote:

From wearing panties to Depends and out the door. Lol

Your girls are done .. Too much L.A. S.J. ANA for the sissy's ?

Its a Mans Game Danielle and Henrietta -

People like you are the reason little girls can't go to school in many parts of the world.

Give your head a shake that you think calling women weak and frail is ok.

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#18 One cold Canadian
January 19 2014, 01:21AM
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Lem, Thank you for confirming what the rest of the country has suspected for many years..the Sedin sisters are in fact little girls!

If they had taken the opening face off tonight, they would have been taken to school!!!

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#19 andyg
January 19 2014, 11:49AM
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No more 100 point seasons. True.

The team lacks depth, this means they play to many minutes. They play a very physical style of hockey.Very few goals off the rush. They grind it out along the boards.

If the depth improves, then their minutes can go down. Also they may not always see the top D all the time.

I will gladly take them as my 2nd or 3rd line for the next 4 years or lets just say part of my top 9.

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#20 dan
January 19 2014, 03:33PM
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Once again a supposedly enlightened hockey blog misses the obvious.

When you control for other contributing factors (Q of C, zone starts,etc)

The Twins were never 'true' +90 guys! It was 'created' by low Q of C & High Zone starts. Here is a surprise as their REL. Q of C has risen & zone starts fallen over the last few years so have their pts ?! WOW. How did you miss this?!

So what is happening is not age as much as regression to their true talent level which is 70-80 pt guys.

The age is just an #easynarrative ....

The reason why this has happened is even more simple. Gillis has not replaced 3 key players Maholtra (to take tough minutes) Samulesson & Ehrhoff to help on Power play & add a creative legitimate top 6 forward.

There is a very good chance that if the Canucks acquire a solid third center and another top6 playmaking forward Sedins & if coach lowers the Twins Q of C and increases zone starts they will be be back up over 90 pts.

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#21 Luke
January 20 2014, 04:11AM
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@dan

Will Horvat and Shinkaruk fit the bill? Because that's all we've got in the pipeline...

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#22 Mantastic
January 20 2014, 09:38AM
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@JFR

the team has no stop gap talent to replace the declining Sedins/Kesler. if you think prospects with low levels of pedigree can step up and start taking up the slack, you clearly don't see how prospects usually develop.

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#23 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 20 2014, 11:16AM
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Can you please speak louder! We can't hear you! SOMEONE CLOSED THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY!

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