There are few Canucks who enter the 2014-2015 season with as much to prove as Daniel and Henrik Sedin do. When separating the two though, it’s Daniel who came out of last season the more maligned twin. For eight years of Sedin dominance prior to last season, fans of this club never had to ask which of the twins was more vital to the team’s success. But when faced with that same question last season, the answer was ubiquitously Henrik.
This in and of itself only highlights the divisiveness that was rank within and surrounding this club last season. The question of which player is more important was one I never fathomed entertaining. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts, and that was really all that mattered.
Misuse of the twins individual and combined skill sets played a role in this, but the toll it took was noticeably more profound in Daniel. Despite playing in three more games than Hank (who played through some horrific pain mid-season) Daniel totaled three less points – a massive discrepancy in Sedin terms.
What went wrong for Daniel last season, and will he recover in this one? That’s a question for the other side of the jump.
There has been no shortage of digital ink spilled on this every platform about the misuse of the Sedins last season. Daniel just so happens to make up half of that equation. A lot of people will point to Daniel’s inclusion on the penalty kill as a prime example of this, while others will look at dwindling offensive zone-starts under Tortorella as well.
|5v5 TOI/60||4v5 TOI/60||Zone Start Rel.||SF/60||P/60|
Truth can be found in both of these observations, but it goes well beyond that. There were systemic flaws in how this team approached offence, and Daniel Sedin’s skill set was placed primarily in the cross-hairs where that is concerned. Under the previous regime, controlled zone-entries were the norm for crossing the opposition’s blueline; especially when the Sedins were on the ice. Daniel isn’t necessarily the fleetest of foot, nor is he renowned for the kind of physicality that we often associate with puck retrieval on a chip and chase play.
By asking Daniel to chase pucks that he hasn’t a hope of ever catching, the coaching staff impeded his ability to contribute offensively at levels we’ve come to expect from him. They also drastically increased the amount of wear and tear his body was privy to, relative to previous seasons. Daniel’s injuries never reached Henrik levels of observable pain and prolonged absence from the lineup, but they took their toll nonetheless.
Luck is a fickle mistress and she played the cruelest of tunes for Vancouver last season. Daniel Sedin was no exception to this. The on-ice sh% of Daniel suffered to the note of over a one percentage point drop relative to his last two seasons. It seems small enough, but over a season-long sample, mere tenths of percentage points can have a significant impact.
The good news is that despite all the troubles Daniel had racking up points, his puck possession skills were still at a super-elite level last season, and he still outscored his opposition by a significant margin. A 57% Corsi is a dominant offensive player, and every single one of his teammates (except for Zac Dalpe for some reason) was far better with Daniel than without him on the ice. Age will one day catch up with the twins, but despite some extremely disappointing boxcar stats, it didn’t last year.
There was no shortage of obstacles last year in the way of a successful season for Daniel Sedin. At this stage in his career, he just wasn’t up to the challenge. The change in bench boss will clear several of these hurdles unto itself. Controlled zone-entries and puck possession have been emphasized by new bench boss, Willie Desjardins, and this alone gives me reason for hope where Daniel is concerned.
The health of his brother and perennial linemate will also go a long way in resurrecting Daniels production and effectiveness. So too will the addition of Radim Vrbata on the opposite flank. Vrbata’s excellent offensive zone ability could more than compensate for the loss of Burrows opposite Daniel, but Burrows is still around should Willie Desjardins feel he need to return to that safety blanket. Based on what we’ve seen in the pre-season, the Twins and Vrbata read off each other quite well too. Vrbata also takes oodles of shots and is quite good at this scoring thing, so you have to imagine Daniel’s assist totals could be boosted as such.
It is also a given at this point that Daniel’s ice-time won’t be nearly as cumbersome. Everything from Desjardins indicates that he plans to manage his ice-time and usage, in a similar fashion to the dearly departed Alain Vigneault. If last season proves anything, it’s that sometimes less is more.
Now, the pre-season has given me some reason for pause where penalty-killing is concerned. I’ve seen the Twins killing penalties for the Canucks on more than one occasion this training camp, and of course, they’re pretty good at it. This does however raise concerns over the amount of ice-time being delegated to Daniel Sedin, though. I’d rather a Shawn Matthias or a Derek Dorsett block those shots and take those extra hits. This bears monitoring as the season continues.
I have a hard time believing that one bad season overrides the previous eight of any player. What can I say, I like me some sample size. Daniel, like his brother, is still a puck possession monster that crushes literally every other player in the NHL, save for a handful. Based on all the issues surrounding last season and all the reasons for optimism going into this one, it seems plausible to expect Daniel Sedin to bounce back in a big way. Age will surely take it’s toll on Daniel, as it would just about any other player. I’m less concerned, though, because the parts of Daniel Sedin’s game that make him special aren’t predicated on things that fall off a cliff with age.