Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA TODAY Sports
The Sedin twins aren’t what they used to be, but who is at 36-years-old? Father time catches up with the best of us, and whether their games depended on youthful hallmarks like speed or physicality or not, they’re suffering it the same as anyone.
It’s not that they’re necessarily bad players. Far from it, even. Whether they have enough to carry a first line without help on a nightly basis is another question entirely. As the season continues and the pair drag onwards towards their lowest point rate over a full season since their fifth season, it becomes increasingly clear that answer is a resounding no.
In fairness to the Sedins, though, it’s not a question they likely anticipated responding to this season. The Canucks signed Loui Eriksson to a lucrative six-year contract with a spot alongside the Sedins in mind. Barring that, they had Jannik Hansen to fall back on.
Whether by circumstance or choice, the Sedins have played sparing with either since October. The best-laid plans, and so on. Let’s dig into exactly what kind of impact the alternatives are having on their ability to push play as the Canucks premier line.
It doesn’t take a terribly deep dive into the Sedins’ seasons to realize the effect their linemates are having isn’t a positive one. They’re middle of the pack among Canucks forwards by raw Corsi For, and on pace for just their second sub-50% season in the Behind the Net era. Their production, too, is at its lowest clip in that span.
That their output has fallen off shouldn’t be especially surprising. That’s a trend six-plus seasons in the works. Whether alongside good linemates or bad, we’re past the point where expecting them to produce like high-end first line players is irresponsible.
It probably doesn’t help that Henrik is playing with the single lowest quality of teammate of any Canuck, and Daniel isn’t terribly far ahead by that same regard.
Where that damage is especially profound isn’t on the Twins scoring, though. It’s on their ability to push favourable shot differentials on a night-to-night basis. Their scoring isn’t what it used to be, sure, but their ability to play a two-way solvent game has atrophied at a level that far exceeds their scoring.
Henrik’s impact on his teammates’ ability to control shot attempts is at 7% of his peak level; I’d run a similar exercise with Daniel, if his mark allowed as much. They’re scoring at about 40% of their peak levels by points per hour.
It’s clear where the Sedins most need help. And we can reasonably surmise based on their game-to-game linemates and their ability to control play alongside them that they haven’t had that help in months.
Where I can understand the decision to move Eriksson from their line is more about secondary scoring than anything itself, it’s come at a dear cost to the Canucks primary scoring and shot control. That matters, because even a team that rolls their lines to the extent Vancouver does is going to play their first unit considerably more than their second or third.
When the Canucks put players of quality alongside the Sedins, they perform like a first line. We don’t even need to look further than this season for evidence of just that. When Eriksson was on the Sedin line, the trio controlled 56.5% of on-ice shot attempts. That mark is higher than every single team in the NHL this season.
The Canucks can field a first line. Hell, they can field one of the better first lines in the NHL. They can’t do it with the Sedins dragging spare parts, though. That’s a luxury they just can’t afford at this stage in the Sedins’ respective careers.
Every sign indicates this is a predicament the Canucks will toil with for the foreseeable future. Hansen is out long-term with injury, and in his stead Jayson Megna has filled the void.
They have alternatives. Whether it’s shuffling Eriksson back to the top line or getting creative with the likes of a Reid Boucher or Anton Rodin, they have options.
Whatever direction they choose, it’s likely difficult to find worse options than Brandon Sutter and Megna. The two of them have done something opposing teams have struggled with for the better part of a decade. They’ve shut the Sedins down.