Canucks Army Year In Review: Daniel Sedin

I think at some point we all knew the Sedins would eventually decline to the point where they would no longer be first-line forwards, but that hasn’t made watching it happen any easier. Up until recently, the Sedins had aged rather gracefully, declining at a slow rate while still putting up fringe-first line point totals even into their mid-thirties.

Then, this season, the wheels finally fell off the wagon. Never the most fleet of foot to begin with, the twins’ lack of speed really began to show, especially on the backcheck. Offensively, they lost a step as well, often failing to convert even after over a minute of zone time.

You could very well argue that Daniel Sedin has felt this decline worse than his brother, as he finished the season with just 44-points and failed to eclipse Henrik’s goal total for the first time since 2010.

Daniel really hasn’t been the same since his concussion in 2012, so it’s hard to believe he’s just one season removed from a 28-goal campaign. It was obvious that he and his brother ran out of gas towards the tail end of the 2015-16 season, but up until that point Daniel was producing like a first-line goal-scorer. On the one hand, that had been his highest goal total in years, but on the other, he had eclipsed 75 points in the previous year, so his decline wasn’t expected to be quite this steep.

If you’re left wondering what the hell happened, you’re not alone.

Aging is the most obvious culprit, but there are other factors to consider as well. There’s the psychological toll of playing on a bottom-feeder for three of the last four seasons. There’s coaching, too. While the twins should take some share of the blame for the team’s abysmal power play, the Canucks’ coaching staff never seemed to make any adjustments, even when it was clear things weren’t working. There’s also the fact that, due to poor roster management under Jim Benning and poor drafting under Mike Gillis, the twins are still expected to not only lead the team’s offense, but draw the toughest matchups as well. Jason Botchford discussed this in what was the definitive take on Daniel and Henrik’s lost season:

 

The Sedins have been incredible players, still probably underrated for their consistency and longevity. Consider Henrik went seven straight seasons with at least 75 points.

But at 36 and climbing, there are difficult questions to be asked. Should the twins still be expected to play 19 minutes a game? Is it fair to them to demand they still be the focal point of this team this late in their careers?

Even Desjardins, who played them a ton this year, concedes it’s time to move them out of that role, but only if the next line in waiting can handle the immense pressure that comes with being the go-to group.

“It depends on what’s around them,” Desjardins said. “I think you’ve seen lately, Horvat’s line start a lot more games lately than he did earlier in the year.

“I think there is a movement where other guys are getting in that spot. But for those guys, they look forward to that opportunity when they are that line, but it’s a lot tougher when you’re that line.

“It changes their mindset when they come into a game. It’s just like being the starting goalie or the backup, it’s a big difference. It’s totally different.

“We’re asking them to be a line where they have to come in and know we probably don’t win if they don’t score. I think that has to start occurring. I’m not saying Hank and Danny can’t do that.

“But somewhere along the line, someone has to take on that feel where they’re a line that has to produce.”

The central theme of Botch’s piece was simple and depressing: the team’s veterans were the ones that failed Willie Desjardins, and the Sedins would have to bear some of that responsibility. While that’s not an unreasonable viewpoint, I think there’s a legitimate case to be made that Willie Desjardins failed the Sedins far more than they failed him.

Despite being in their age-36 seasons, the Sedin twins played with their lowest quality of linemates in years, and were still counted on to lead the team as much as ever. Obviously this hurt both twins, but it hit Daniel the hardest. Henrik’s role has generally always been that of a distributor, save for a brief period in his Art Ross season when Daniel was out of the lineup. Daniel, on the other hand, has taken a more chameleonic approach, molding his game to suit whomever lined up along their right side. In some instances, this meant acting as a second playmaker. In others, it meant being the triggerman. This season was different. Daniel’s (and Henrik’s) most common linemates included an ill-suited Brandon Sutter, an offensively inept Jayson Megna, and a struggling Loui Eriksson. As a result, Daniel was torn in a number of different directions and suffered for it.

The twins’, and by extension Daniel’s level of success next season will likely be determined by how Travis Green handles his deployment. It’s impossible to say for sure how Green is going to approach the Sedins, but it’s difficult to imagine a scenario that plays out worse than it did this season under Willie Desjardins.

Green will have a number of attractive options that could bear fruit over a full season. Markus Granlund and Nikolay Goldobin both looked good in their auditions with Henrik and Daniel, as did Brock Boeser during his brief stint on the man advantage. If all else fails, they could try Loui Eriksson again in the hopes that that line finally produces at a level consistent with their dominant possession game.

Even after such an abysmal season, there’s still reasons to be optimistic about Daniel Sedin in 2017-18. If Green can keep his minutes down and keep him as far away from Jayson Megna and Brandon Sutter as possible, then a bounce-back season isn’t out of the question.

  • Peachy

    Well, the with and without chart shows potential paths forward: Granlund and Erikson. They won’t be offensive dynamos, but they should be capable of winning the GF% battle against tough competition for another year.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    We know that Eriksson is a very good in his own end. He doesn’t get pinned very often. Putting him with the Sedins is the play here. They can work better with a bona-fide vet scorer and he could use players with better offensive tools. I think he could definitely hit 20 goals this year, perhaps more if he and the Sedins click right away. But I’m not giving my hopes up too much

  • Ronning4ever

    Can someone tell me what the size of the circle means with the “Player with and without teammates means”. I figured it might mean ‘how often the even occurs’ but they did play some significant minutes with Megna this year so…

    • Neil B

      Bubble size is based on 5v5 TOI as related to the specific situation (blue is Daniel’s time with player on X-axis; red is the player without Daniel; green is Daniel without the player). If you generate the graph yourself on corsica.hockey (click on ‘Combos’, then ‘WOWY’), you can see it when you mouse over the bubbles.

  • Killer Marmot

    Do the Sedins a favour — do everyone a favour — and designate them the 2nd line. Let the younger guys carry the load and take the tougher matchups.

    • Dan B

      This is where losing the lottery hurts… they could have been the third line next year after Horvat/Baer/Boeser/Nolan Patrick/Granlund/Goldobin. And that would have bumped Sutter to the fourth.

    • Neil B

      Doesn’t matter what line we designate them as–first line, second line, conga line, HealthLink line. Until we have a more productive line, they will draw the first assignments.

  • TD

    I curious about what Jackson thought was the poor roster management by Benning. Was it that Benning didn’t do a complete rebuild? That would have had the Sedins without Hansen. Was it that he traded Hansen (and Burrows) at the deadline, thereby robbing the Sedins of their line mate? Or was it going out and getting Eriksson to play with. While they looked great in the World Cup, should Benning have known Eriksson would struggle.

    I don’t think Benning could make any moves without being criticized. I’m just curious about what bad line-up decisions Jackson is referring to. I wish the constant passive aggressive and unbacked jabs weren’t always present. If Benning made poor decisions, then state what decisions specifically the author has a problem with.

    I completely agree that the Sedins had poor line mates in Megna and Sutter, but that one the coach. Did Benning do a bad job by not rebuilding years ago thereby robbing the Sedins of the young star player he should have already had in the line up? Or was Benning expected to have traded the Sedins a couple of years ago despite their no trade clauses so they weren’t even on the roster. Although that doesn’t fit with what was written.

    Are the constant jabs at Benning a prerequisite to having JD publish the articles on the site?

    I usually like Jackson’s articles, but don’t understand the constant negative comments on the site, especially when they appear very general and don’t state what issue they are referring to with the comments.

  • defenceman factory

    The Sedins will continue to draw tough assignments and still match up pretty well against many top lines….. as long as they are not fast.

    The Canucks used to get by with a below average right winger on their top line. Now they need an above average winger with the Sedins. Line match them so they don’t get killed by speed. Try and keep the top 4 defence behind them. Target them at 14 minutes a night and use them most often as the 2nd unit power play.

    and most important of all … be thankful for all they have contributed to this franchise.

  • Dirty30

    If Green can have this season as a rebuild — putting aside the win now narrative from ownership– then he can deploy the Sedins differently than WD’s misguided attempt to win his job over-deploying the Sedins alongside a boat-anchor plodder.

    If you want to win games, put Granlund out with the Twins. If you want to develop a game-winner, put Goldy out there. If you want to grind your teeth, put Megna, Sutter or Erickson out there.

    If you want to break the mold and give him a huge vote of confidence, put Jake out there.

    At some point this team really has to decide the future now.

    The Sedins defined the cycle and made it an art form for more than a decade — but teams know how to neutralize it and play speed against it. Time to start using these guys as mentors and develop the future.

  • Roy

    “chameolonic”? Do you mean adaptive, or do you mean changing the colour of your skin to hide from predators, because the twain ain’t the same thing. Also, I think the Sedins and Eriksson still have a chance. You have to accept that our terrible D were not helping to make the zone entrances the Sedins like, and after Burrows and Hansen were both either injured and traded or traded, there was no tenacious first line winger to retrieve the puck for the anymore, or help get rid of it in the defensive end. The Sedins aren’t much without a good winger, that and terrible defencemen are just as much to blame as they themselves. They also stuck with an awful power play entrance and o-zone system all season. They would thrive on a team with a stack of solid wingers and even two capable defensive lines or a single goal scoring point shot defenceman. They don’t suck, this team sucks and the coaches had no imagination or skill.

    • Neil B

      He means that Daniel changes colour to signal his mood to other Sedins, and to warm himself when cold. And it’s totally true. When he is angry, for instance, his skin tone changes from his resting alabaster all the way through the colour wheel to pearl. When he is cold (especially on the bench) he goes a slight eggshell to better absorb infrared spectra.