Image generated at somekindofninja.com
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.