The Canucks Didn’t Lose Because the Twins Are in Decline

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The image above is a "player usage chart," which is a way of looking at players and evaluating how they’re being deployed. We’ve used these charts on several occassions previously. Here’s how the chart works: the higher a player’s bubble is located on the y-axis the tougher the competition they faced was. The further to the left that player’s bubble is on the x-axis the more often you started in the defensive zone. If a player’s circle is red it means they were a negative possession player, and if their circle was blue, they were coming out ahead.

There are four blue bubbles on Vancouver’s forward usage chart for the 2013 seasons and one of them is Derek Roy, who only played a small portion of the season with the Canucks and disappeared in time for the postseason. The other three positive bubbles are Alex Burrows, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. Yes, those are also the three players who started most often in the offensive zone among all Canucks forwards (though they started a much lower proportion of their shifts there than they have in the previous two seasons), but they also battled the toughest competition. In fact, I think it’s abundantly clear that the twins had their best two-way campaign in the behindthenet era

Read past the jump.

If you look at the usage chart that leads off this post, two things should be abundantly clear: the first is that the Sedins carried the Canucks all season. The second is that the Canucks were so, so clearly a one-line team all season long. The hope after the trade deadline was that Ryan Kesler’s return and the addition to Derek Roy could, perhaps, give Vancouver’s lineup some bulk. It didn’t work out as Ryan Kesler was mostly unable to drive play at five-on-five upon his return from two different injuries, and Derek Roy was one of Vancouver’s worst forwards in the postseason.

The Sedin twins scoring may have been down this season, but there’s a variety of reasons why that makes sense beyond the twins showing their age. Like, say, the club’s total inability to generate shots on the power-play, the more conservative system the team deployed, the increased difficulty of the twins’ deployment, and the fact that they didn’t enjoy the percentage based bounce they got during Daniel and Henrik’s respective Art Ross trophy seasons

It’s not that the Sedins don’t deserve some of the blame for Vancouver’s postseason failure. Vancouver’s top-line was non-existent in the first game of the series and struggled enormously in game four as well – even if they managed to author a big, late power-play goal for Alex Burrows in the third period.

Some of the Sedin’s struggles in the four games against San Jose were percentage based (Daniel’s 2.5% on-ice shooting in the playoffs isn’t something I’d hold against him), but it’s still true that their possession numbers cratered in the postseason. The twins needed to dominate the Vlasic, Braun pairing and didn’t, and that’s a major reason why Vancouver didn’t win a single postseason game. But the bigger issue, from my perspective, is how thoroughly Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy were dominated at even-strength by San Jose’s depth forwards.

Ultimately the notion that Vancouver was swept in the first round of the postseason because the Sedins are in some sort of rapid decline and can’t carry a team anymore just isn’t compelling to me. From my vantage point I tend to think that you can win if the twins are your top-line, and you can even make the playoff if they’re your only line. Winning in the playoffs if they’re your only line, well that’s where it gets tricky.

  • Fred-65

    I think its a mistake to assume Kesler is declining from injury. Wrist shot is still there. Still can skate, get on the forecheck.

    In bursts.

    Likely culprit is terrible conditioning.

    given the way the last year has gone for him, not terribly surprising

  • Fred-65

    Last time Kesler had a healthy off-season, he came back in the best shape of his life, with an improved wrist shot, and played the best season of his career. He’s spent the past two off-seasons injured.

    I think we can probably expect to see Kesler looking a lot better come fall, as long as he doesn’t suffer some kind of freak injury. I don’t think he’ll ever put up another 40+ goal season, but 30 goals and dominant two-way play doesn’t seem out of the question.

    • I am of the opinion that Kesler’s play will decline soon because his style depends so much on speed and strength. Reminds me of Trevor Linden when he reached his late 20s and early 30s.

      Does anyone have a record of Kesler’s times in the Fastest Skater Competition? I’d like to see if there’s a gradual decline …

      If so, the Canucks should try to trade him soon to get some value back and quicken the retooling.

  • Fred-65

    I just checked out the same player usage chart for all forwards with 30+ games played for the whole league this year.

    Max looks pretty awful on there. His only excuse the high percentage of defensive zone starts. Not as bad as guys like Tootoo or Shawn Thorton, but still pretty bad.

    On the other hand, Sean Couturier looks pretty good. He has positive corsi against tough competition with high defensive zone deployment. Quite a few fans of both the Nucks and Flyers on the illustrious HFBoards trade discussion board are in favour of a deal between the two teams centred around Edler and Couturier. If Gillis shakes things up, maybe this is a possibility. We do have a glut of left-side d-men.

  • Origamirock

    Good stuff, I’m looking forward to your articles once you and Cam crunch more of the numbers from the past season/playoffs. I’m most interested in your ideas on why they were winning the possession battle but were losing on the scoring chances all season. Just seems bizarre to me.

    • Do you have data comparing regular season and post season possession numbers for top players around the league, including the Sedins? I hypothesize the difference is greater for the Sedins than other top players. Thanks!

        • “Enlighten me…or is it too HARD for ya?”

          I am glad you understand. I find it difficult to find good replacements for Gillis, Sedins, and Kesler. I am sure many others on this forum also find it difficult. That’s why I, and likely others, are hoping you can enlighten us by providing some thoughtful and realistic suggestions.

          For example, please suggest some specific GM candidates to replace Gillis, some coaching candidates to replace Vignault, and some high end players to replace the Sedins.

          • @ CoLa

            “I am glad you understand. I find it difficult to find good replacements for Gillis, Sedins, and Kesler. ”

            Good for you to admit I’am right and you are wrong, but you still haven’t told us why you find it HARD to find a new GM like you said before, or have you forgotten? Please, tell WHY it is so HARD to find replacements, since you act like you have experience in finding GM’s before.

            I would suggest candidates to enlighten you , but it would be too HARD for you to understand.

            Perhaps you should go and sign up for some hockey “education” that way, things wouldn’t be so ” HARD ” for you.

            So please, once again, tell WHY it’s so HARD for you to find another GM. Enlighten us with aaaallll your GM hard finding experience, son.

            Do you need me to repeat what I said again or is it too ” HARD” for you, son?

          • “I find it difficult to find good replacements for Gillis, Sedins, and Kesler. ”

            Please tell us all why it was so HARD for you to find replacements?You sound like you went out and tried to. You must work for that franchise. Enlighten us and tell us WHY it was hard for you to find replacements. We would all love to be enlightened by your experience and why it was HARD for you to find replacements.

            Go on, put your money where you mouth is and let us all know.

  • That’s all well and good. The Sedin’s may not necessarily be on the decline and may not be fully responsible for the loss (they are partially responsible tho) but IMO they are no longer effective like they once were. Lets face it, they’re still good players, but teams have learned how to play against them and stop them cold in the playoffs. And I know, this is where you tell me about possession numbers etc., sure, they can hang on to the puck and make pretty passes (except against SJ), but I didn’t see that turn into many quality scoring chances this year, especially on the PP.

    It’s getting boring and frustrating to watch other teams shutting them down. Even they were getting frustrated… Think it’s time they up their game and change their tactics… coming out next year and doing the same thing won’t bring any different results.

    • ” It’s getting boring and frustrating to watch other teams shutting them down. Even they were getting frustrated… Think it’s time they up their game and change their tactics… coming out next year and doing the same thing won’t bring any different results.”

      GEE…YOU THINK???

    • “It’s getting boring and frustrating to watch other teams shutting them down. Even they were getting frustrated… Think it’s time they up their game and change their tactics… coming out next year and doing the same thing won’t bring any different results’


  • Do you think they resign Lappy this summer? He has some bad underlyers this yr – but prob in part due to his d-zone start %. Do you have the adjusted numbers for the forwards?

    I really hope they go after Boyd Gordon this summer.

  • @habs A ok
    @ fan can


    Why don’t you go hang out on some other site… you know, somewhere where ppl give a crap about what you have to say. Oh wait, that’s why you’ve come to a Canucks site – your teams don’t want and can’t stand you.

    You can go now.

  • @ isabel

    Reality is always a bitter pill to swallow.

    You and your team can go and suck now. Oh, wait, you two already do.

    Then get ready for next year, I’m sure you’ll score 50 goals in the post season, Daniel.

    Go on, go and suck some more. You’re welcome.

  • I think the obvious reason for the Sedins lack of productivity is simply them not being on the ice for long stretches of time due to the 24 PP opportunities granted to the Sharks. How can players (or a team for that matter) get into any offensive pressure situations if they are consistently killing penalties?

    • Then maybe AV should not be putting them on the PK. Maybe Gillis should be out looking for real defensive specialists. After all, the players make millions, you would think with that there has to be 2 people in the whole of the nhl they can find to do a better job at PK. Wait, maybe, just maybe they traded them away to keep this coat tail riding core group.

      The Sedins and their management and fans expect the league to change for them, to make it easier for them. Why don;t they ask the league to have a rule that says the canucks shall not be penalized for anything?

      It’s time for the management, the core group to shape up or ship out. Hey, I’m sorry to hurt anyones feelings, but if someone is ugly and wants to be a model, well, grow looks , get plastic surgery or look for another line of work. That’s called life, that’s called competitive sports. This is the NHL, not Summer Fun school programs at the park.

  • Thanks for the interesting statistic based commentary.

    That, I’m pretty sure, is why the regulars have been coming here for a long time. Certainly that’s why I check this site several times a week.

    It is also appropriate for lazy slobs (like me) to ask questions that the stat-heads are better able to answer.

    While some passion can be interesting, I think this corner of the blogosphere should be mostly about rational thinking.

    I’m sorry to see there has been a small invasion of flamers, trolls, and opinionated morons. FWIW, since the end of the regular season, I’ve noticed that elsewhere on the Canucks sites I check. I don’t why, and I will be relieved when we can get back to interesting (and polite) discourse.

    Keep up the good work. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  • I always find it interesting when people talk about the concept of a “first line”. I think there is definitely a “first line” on every team, though it’s not the NHL XX video game, dumbed down version of a first line.

    It has more to do with the quality of the players on the line, the chemestry they have together, and especially how much the opposing team plays their best defensive group against them, among other things. In other words, a first line of a team is not something you can just “get” like so many armchair GMs clammor for, it’s something your team has regardless, even if you’re the Calgary Flames.

    By all these criteria, and probably most tellingly (ok, I haven’t crunched any numbers, but I’m sure it’s possible), every team in the league probably matches their top defensive group against the Sedins.

    We can obviously see how the Sedins are much more objectively good thanks to all the hard work done here at Canucks Army. It just amuses me when people say the Sedins aren’t top players or “first liners” when every single team seems to decide that’s exactly what they are.