Umm.. [Image via Puck Daddy]
January has truly been the month from hell for the Vancouver Canucks. They’ve gone 4-7-2, but somehow it feels like it’s almost been worse than that. There have been some losses that I’d characterize as both embarrassing and largely forgettable. After the way last season had concluded – and the way the summer went, with the lowered cap essentially handcuffing Mike Gillis from making any sort of big moves – we knew that this team was a far cry from the (Presidents’ Trophy!) champion of years past.
But things have been so, so, so much worse with all of the injuries the team has been racking up. A squad that was already dealing with depth issues has really been decimated for weeks now, most recently having to play without 2 of its top 3 centers. So its not exactly surprising that they’ve had difficulties scoring, with the Brad Richardsons of the world being thrust into roles their individual skillsets don’t allow them to succeed in.
Something that needs to be discussed, despite how unpleasant it may be: the fact that Daniel Sedin probably can’t hit the broad sign of a barn at this point. During a stretch where his team has scored 25 goals total in 13 games (dropping them all the way down to 22nd in the league on the season), the most prolific scorer in the franchise’s history has failed to score once. That’s a problem, and has been for a while now. Jim Jamieson broke the ice this morning, and we’ll take the baton from him.
The Puzzling Problem
We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on this platform with regards to the conundrum that is Daniel Sedin’s slipping offensive production. The issue is that it’s really tough to just chalk up his struggles to a typical age-related decline from an athlete; while his counting stats and scoring efficiency have continued to slip (dramatically) over the past couple of seasons, his underlying possession numbers have not.
In fact, if anything, they’ve been better over the past year and a half than they were at any point prior. While the OZ star % is still quite high (though not as high as in previous seasons), the Sedins have been crushing it from a shot attempt differential perspective despite consistently facing the opposition’s best. So they’re not exactly getting all that much "worse", per se, but moreso just different.
There’s hardly anything wrong with that in a vacuum. The issue arises when you take consider a) the contracts that they just signed, b) what we’ve come to expect from them based on the past, and c) the way the Canucks have been built with b) surely being taken into account.
Here are a few worrisome facts:
- 99 players have scored more goals this season than Daniel Sedin, including Steven Stamkos, who hasn’t played in an NHL game since November 11th.
- Another player ahead of him on that list is Chris Higgins. Higgins is a fine player in his own right, and is a guy that I’ve been trumpeting for years, but..
- Daniel has been on the ice for exactly 100 more faceoffs in the OZ than him, and has logged 117 more minutes on the power play this season. That’s not good.
As we’re ones to do on this platform, let’s look at a couple of charts, because why not..
This isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff. His shot rate/60 minutes has also gone down this season by nearly a shot/60, but he has made up for it by eating up more ice-time, meaning that the volume itself is actually still there. The low goal total is basically entirely percentage-driven. The problem is that we’re now gathering enough of a sample size to take this trend seriously, and wonder what gives.
A while back there was a study done on shooting percentage as a player ages. While it definitely drops as a player gets into his early 30s, there’s nothing in there that would suggest that Daniel’s decline in this regard is par for the course. His peak in ’09-’10 (13.19%) was probably fool’s gold, but even if he was hovering around the 11% mark that he did in the two seasons sandwiching that one we’d be painting this picture with an entirely different brush. I’m not sure we can chalk this up to the aging process, at least not entirely.
When a player of his stature experiences the sorts of struggles that he has, you immediately begin to wonder whether he’s attempting to play through a nagging injury that’s ultimately hampering his play.
I have it on pretty good authority that this is *not* the case with Daniel. He hasn’t been getting any sort of treatment from the team’s doctors, and by all accounts he’s as healthy as you can expect a hockey player to be during the grind of an NHL season.
The elephant in the room here is obviously the Duncan Keith elbow that prematurely ended his ’11-’12 regular season. It’s impossible to know – without actually pulling his brain out of his head and having doctors analyze it closely – but I suspect that it’s definitely a factor here.
It’d be crazy not to given the information that we do have in front of us. Solely from the eye-test, he looks both tentative and lost out there, which has been a jarring experience to behold.
I unfortunately don’t have a definitive explanation for all of this. I’m not willing to place everything solely on that one event, because as you can tell, the scoring rate was already dropping (regressing, from that high sh% in ’10-’11) prior to it. It does seem however that it has sped the process up exponentially.
Daniel Sedin used to be money in the bank for 30+ goals in a season. That (and in part his longevity) are what will have allowed him to become the franchise’s leader in goals scored sooner rather than later. So you have to at least raise an eyebrow when a player of his pedigree drops from that to a guy that will be lucky to reach 20 goals on the season.
Since March 21st, 2012 Daniel has lit the lamp a measly 25 times in 107 games. As a frame of reference, David Booth has scored 22 goals in 106 games as a Canuck, and consistently gets skewered for it. With Daniel, though, he has built up the track record and trust level with the fanbase that has allowed him to somewhat skate by, because I think people expect his fortunes to turn around. I wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for that to happen.
Unless something that I’m not seeing fixes itself over night, we’re in for a long (loooooonnnnnng) four seasons. Not many teams can get away with paying a checking depth winger $7 million/season. Speaking of, who’s up for unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018?