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Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year in Review: Henrik Sedin

As of today, we’ve got just one more guaranteed year of the Sedin twins as Vancouver Canucks. That’s it. After their fifth career contract, a Stanley Cup Final berth, the 1-2 spots on the franchise career scoring lists and a guarantee of retired numbers in the rafters one day, two of the greatest Canucks of all time have just a lone year left on their contracts. Without getting too sappy, the Sedin era is much, much closer to the finish than it is the start. While nothing is certain yet regarding the duo’s future, the 36-year old duo exited the 2016-17 season with their age more apparent than ever before.

Granted, this was also probably the worst NHL team they’ve ever played on. Out of the 30 NHL teams, the Canucks had the leading scorer with the lowest point total: Bo Horvat’s 52. They finished with the league’s second-lowest point total and scored just 182 goals over the entire 82 game season.

But at the same time, Henrik Sedin’s hit 70 points just once in his past four NHL seasons. Over that timeframe, he’s putting up 0.74 points per game mark, the 50th best production in the league.

Was the Canucks’ bad year the cause of a Sedin decline? Or was the Sedin decline the reason for a bad year?  Could we see this year’s production coming based on past performance? Is the end near? Should Henrik and Daniel sign another one, two,  five-year deal? Or should the Twins call it quits after another 82 and decide not to stick around for what could be a lengthy rebuild?

There are lots of questions surrounding this past year and the year upcoming, but for now, we’ll focus on one:

How did Henrik Sedin perform in 2016-17?

The stats

Let’s get things straight here: even if Henrik Sedin scored 30 more goals, which would’ve given him the Rocket Richard Trophy, assuming all other things stayed the same, the Canucks would still be at -31 goal differential. Just about nothing he could’ve done, short of a Gretzky-esque season could have saved the Vancouver year from being a disaster. Even the best realistic performance of Henrik Sedin might have moved the Canucks all the way to 27th place, which would have required a whole two points higher in the standings.

 

The closest comparable for Hank Sedin in the league right now, besides his twin brother, has to be another Swedish forward with the same first name: Henrik Zetterberg. Though the Red Wing usually plays on the left wing and Sedin in the middle, they’re both 36, on struggling teams and well, not 100% the players they used to be. That said, you could make the case Henrik Sedin still had a pretty good year.

I mean, he was the top 35+ centre in the league this year regarding raw point production. If you want to compare him to other players for similar money in the league, he comes up 14th from centres in the $6 million to $8 million range, which is not bad at all.

Overall, he:

  • Finished second on the Canucks in scoring behind Bo Horvat
  • Led the team in assists with 35
  • Hit 15 goals for the eighth time in his career
  • Played a little over 19 minutes a night
  • Posted basically his career average faceoff percentage, and managed a positive shot attempt differential at even strength (50.5 CF% at 5v5).
  • Amongst Canucks players who played at least 60 games, he posted the lowest shot attempt rate against at even strength.
  • It isn’t saying much on a bad team, but just about every Canuck posted better possession numbers with Henrik on the ice than without.

From a pure optimist perspective, Henrik Sedin had a very solid year. But from a more realistic perspective, Henrik:

  • Finished 101st overall in scoring
  • Had his lowest points-per-game total since age 23
  • Finished 176th in 5v5 points/60 amongst regular forwards
  • Has his worst possession stats since they’ve been measured
  • When he was on the ice, just 41.9% of the 5v5 goals were scored by the Canucks
  • If you care, he was a team and career worst -27. (His previous career low was just -2).

It’s fair to say he’s a fair ways away from the player he was when he put up 206 points over a two-year span.

Besides the obvious in Daniel, Henrik also really never stuck with a third linemate this year. Of course, that’s a common theme throughout their career, but it was perhaps more evident than ever with both twins having a bit of a down year offensively.

No other forward played more than 400 of Henrik’s 1215 5v5 minutes alongside him this past year, with Loui Eriksson leading the way at 353.

All things considered, it’s hard to have any major knocks on Henrik Sedin these days really. The biggest two criticisms of Henrik Sedin would have to be “he’s experiencing a natural decline” and “he’s on a bad team”. He likely isn’t a $7 million player anymore or fit to carry an offence as the team’s number one option. But unfortunately, it’s not like Vancouver is precisely ready with a bevvy of other options to carry the load.

Relative to the Canucks, Henrik was excellent.

Regarding what you can expect from a player of his age, he was also very good.

But in terms of comparisons to the rest of the league, Henrik Sedin was mostly closer to an average second-liner than an elite first-liner. He’s still a solid top-six option, but it’s not hard to see how the Canucks struggled this year when they’re reliant on two-past-their prime players to make up two-thirds of their top line.

What’s up next?

The best case scenario for the Canucks’ forward group next season is probably that Bo Horvat can take a big leap forward and establish himself as the team’s top centre moving onwards. The difference between the two, at least on the stat sheet, was pretty minimal this season. Whether Horvat blossoms into the true, established 1C archetype or just stays as one of the league’s stronger 2Cs is a toss-up at best, but it looks like Henrik Sedin’s days as being the key offensive threat on a competitive Canucks team are probably over.

That being said, even a down year from Henrik Sedin is still better than probably about 3/4s of the league’s forward crop. Because even if he may no longer fall into the elite category, he hasn’t completely fallen off the cliff either. 50 points are still 50 points, 35 assists are still 35 assists, and the skill and chemistry doesn’t necessarily go away even if the foot speed is slowing down a bit.

Conclusion

We know Henrik Sedin’s best days are behind him unless he discovers the fountain of youth this offseason, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely out of gas. While it may be tough to see him transition into more of a secondary role, it’s what’s best for both his career and the Canucks. I can’t tell you what the future holds for Henrik Sedin’s NHL career, but let’s just enjoy what we’ve got left in one of the best players to ever wear the blue and green (or the black and red and yellow and that weird brownish-purple.)

  • I don’t know what would be more painful, seeing the Sedins lift the cup with another team, or seeing them play out the last few years of their career on a terrible Canucks team with no shot at winning a cup.

    They’re definitely not elite first-liners anymore, but given their level of fitness, style of play, and mostly injury-free careers, the Sedins can probably be solid middle-six forwards until they hit 40. Will the Canucks be good in that time frame, though?….

  • Locust

    Glad that CA didn’t dis Henrik (bet you thought about it though….).
    My hope is they both play their guts out this year and then just retire. Family and long term health is far more important than another few million dollars.
    We have all been very fortunate to have them play for us.

  • Killer Marmot

    Designating the Sedins as the second line would relieve some of the pressure on them. They might get easier match-ups and enjoy the game more. It might even improve their productivity in what is likely their last year as Canucks.

  • wojohowitz

    Nothing hurt the twins more than the lack of a third line center. They were being put back out in wrong situations where they were being dominated. Willie in effect was rolling two lines. They were also demoralized by Willie`s deployments right from the start of the season when they were looking forward to playing with Eriksson but found themselves with Sutter. The best solution to maximize their abilities is to put them on separate lines and not depend on them to carry the team but first and foremost is to get a third line center who can play.

    Here`s an odd thought. The Aquilinis like a high profile name at the top (Linden) so how about Henrik and Daniel for President and GM next season?

    • Killer Marmot

      They were also demoralized by Willie`s deployments right from the start of the season when they were looking forward to playing with Eriksson but found themselves with Sutter.

      How do you know that? Did the Sedins say they were demoralized?

      • wojohowitz

        Well for starters when an individual is demoralized it is not their words but their actions that indicate a problem. The Canucks started the season 4-0 and then everyone saw what kind of season it was going to be with Willie behind the bench – they lost the next 8. You don`t think they knew there was a problem behind the bench. How about the last 8 games of the season which were all losses. You don`t think they were one demoralized team that was happy to see the season end. Perhaps you are putting too much faith in Henrik`s post-game comments which were consistent throughout the season; puck luck, better effort, winning corner battles – he was saying all the right things but having a terrible season.

        Here`s an anecdote about coaching. Mike Keenan in Philly. When the team was winning he was a terrible person – rude, insulting and berating his players. They hated him but when they were losing he became the nicest guy in the room – making jokes and trying to cheer everyone up. The players never knew which Mike would show up each day. Contrast that with Willie who rarely pushed the right buttons with his players.

  • Fortitude00

    The problem isn’t the Sedins being second liners or Horvat being capable of being a first line center. The problem is there is no one to play with Horvat that is a first liner.