On Daniel Sedin’s Declining Offensive Production

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.

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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.

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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%
2007-08 57.8% 28.5 2.52 2.25 0.27 8.1% 17+25=42 12+20=32 74 54.5%
2008-09 52.4% 29.3 3.4 1.94 1.46 10.4% 22+36=58 9+15=24 82 53.8%
2009-10 61.8% 30.6 5.15 2.61 2.54 13.7% 21+43=64 8+13=21 85 56.3%
2010-11 74.5% 30.3 3.73 2.09 1.64 10.4% 23+39=62 18+24=42 104 56.3%
2011-12 79.6% 31.1 3 2.13 0.87 8.6% 20+22=42 10+15=25 67 59.3%
2012-13* 66% 29.6 2.88 1.66 1.22 8.8% 16+33=49* 5+16=21* 70* 61.8%

Numbers in this table sourced from nhl.com, stats.hockeyanalysis.com and behindthenet.ca.

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.

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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
2008-09 22 184 8.6% 9.36
2009-10 21 155 9.3% 9.57
2010-11 23 191 8.9% 9.42
2011-12 17 163 7.5% 8.92
2012-13 8 110 5.8% 9.19

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.  

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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.

  • Drance, I think this is one of those times when you need to temper (or inform) the analytics with some game-watching.

    If, before sitting down to write this article, you had called me up and said, “Hey dude, why did Daniel Sedin underperform this season?”, I would have had an answer for you without even having to think about it- he refused to shoot the puck, even when he had clean lanes (or in some famous cases, wide open nets). The fact that digging into his fancystats shows a steep SH% decline this year becomes informative after watching Dank play, but more importantly I think you have to acknowledge that some of that SH% drop appeared to be purely mental, or at the very least not simply explainable by “he’s getting old”. Old dudes know how to shoot at empty nets, after all.

    For whatever reason, this year Daniel Sedin was unwilling (or far less likely, unable) to pull the trigger when a normal first-line sniper would have done so. I think his age is a fairly implausible explanation for the entire decline; confidence issues, concussion issues, coaching issues all make far more sense to explain why he was passing the puck past empty nets.

  • @datajunkie his shot rate at evens improved this year over the season previous. I’m very skeptical of the notion that Daniel was *more* reluctant to shoot the puck this season than in the past – that’s always been a hallmark of Sedin hockey!

  • I got cut off midpost due to work reasons, but Verv already picked up on where I was going- the shots that Daniel didn’t (or refused to) take were the ‘easy’ ones, like powerplay shots. I mean I’m sure a lot of that comes down to the fact that I think Newell Brown is a steaming pile of bat guano, but there’s still some weird element of Daniel brainfarting at open nets lately.

    The March 24th incident vs. Colorado is Exhibit A for the prosecution, but that’s just the easiest example.

  • In my opinion, the Canucks should depend on the Sedins & Kesler in the same manner that San Jose depends on Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski.

    Of course, the Canucks don’t have a Logan Coutoure or Brent Burns in their forward group. All of Gillis’ attempts to find quality top 6 forwards have failed:

    Steve Bernier, David Booth, Cody Hodgson/Zack Kassian have all provided less than stellar returns on investment.

    But, hey, Gillis has finally come to grips with reality and might actually do some of the things that have been blatantly obvious for 1-2 years: pick a goalie, add goal scoring/toughness to the top 6 and improve the overall forward depth.

    It’s comforting to know we have a GM who is BEHIND the trends, both in terms of the draft and the NHL team.

  • Great recap, there’s been lots of talk about him and his season.

    Personally, I think it’s cognitive. I think it’s directly related to the concussion he suffered last yr. He doesn’t look like himself out there. He looks hesitant, unsure, not confident. His passes are off, his reads are off. He often looks lost when cycling with Hank. Perhaps he just needs some time.

  • The people talking about Daniel’s depressed shot rate on the power play are forgetting to mention that he was deployed in a significantly different fashion this year than in years past – he spent most of the year playing the point, rather than playing down low where he’s accustomed. I think that change of deployment is a bigger factor in Daniel’s decreased shot rate (and also a big part of why he dropped below a point-per-game rate) this year.

  • Why would his SH% decrease with age? Is that a trend with skill players in the NHL?

    Also there is very little room to manoeuvre with this team. Presumably Gillis isn’t going to start trading NTCs (only way that happens is with a GM change). The only way to free up significant cap space (beyond the necessary Ballard + Luongo) is to move Booth and we would struggle break even on that trade. As is stands, we just about have the cap space to sign Tanev, a 3rd line C and a 4th line – assuming Ballard and Luongo’s salaries are entirely off the books.

    Kassian and Hansen are our only tradable assets – Hansen wouldn’t fetch much in return and Kassian’s value hasn’t risen since coming to Vancouver. Tanev might get a 1st/2nd round pick, but given how often we’ve been burnt by our defensive depth, it seems unlikely.

    The only change we can make is with the coaching staff and management. Does that count as a reset?

  • It is very sad for several reasons, but I basically agree with Data Junkie and Cognitive.

    The picture that sticks in my mind is game 4 against the Sharks, Daniel gets the puck and shoots at a empty net and raises his hands thinking he has scored a goal. The puck hits the far post behind the goalie’s position and bounces out. The puck did not go where he thought he was shooting it. This is the same guy who won the accuracy contest at the all star game a couple of years ago.

    He has not been the same player since the concussion. Given his age and the length of time since the concussion it is hard to imagine that he will get better than this last season. We can hope I guess.

  • I agree with data junkie to an extent, despite your objections.

    In terms of addressing a potential problem however, I wonder if splitting the Sedins up ma become a viable option if Daniel does begin a down-swing. Allow him to take up a playmaking role.