What can we learn from the Sedins’ gold medal performance at the Worlds?

It’s easy to make too much of Daniel and Henrik Sedin’s performance at the World Hockey Championships this year, but it’s also easy to make too little of it.

When Daniel and Henrik joined Team Sweden in Stockholm, they made an immediate impact. Sweden was 4-2 prior to the Sedins joining the team and had gone 2-for-31 on the powerplay. With the Sedins in the lineup, Sweden won 4 straight enroute to the gold medal and went 5-for-15 on the powerplay. Daniel scored 6 points in those 4 games, while Henrik went off for 9 points, including 4 goals.

As a result, numerous Canucks fans began wondering why the Sedins couldn’t perform that way for the Canucks. If they could dominate at the international level, why couldn’t they do the same in the NHL?

Here’s the thing: they totally have. And I’m not talking about their Art Ross winning seasons; I’m talking about this last season.

First, let’s take a realistic look at how well the Sedins did during the tournament. Of Daniel’s 6 points, just 1 was a goal. Henrik had a much more eye-catching 4 goals and 9 points in 4 games, but 2 of those goals were into an empty net. Those empty net goals came in the semi-final and final games, but the score was 2-0 and 4-1 at the time.

Much of the fuss over Henrik’s tournament is unwarranted, then. Really, he scored 7 points in 4 games, which is still impressive, but short of 2 points per game.

Really, this is 4 excellent games for the Sedins, which isn’t all that unusual. Just this last season, the Sedins had several stretches where they performed similarly. From February 15th to 21st, the Canucks played the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, and twice played the Dallas Stars. In those 4 games, both Daniel and Henrik had 2 goals and 5 assists, for 7 points each. None of the goals were into an empty net and all 4 were one-goal games.

There were four other 4-game stretches during the season where one of the Sedins had 6 or 7 points. At times, the Sedins were just as dominant in the NHL as they were during the World Championships. You can certainly make the argument that there weren’t enough of those times or that those times didn’t come during the playoffs when they were really needed, but the Sedins are still capable of being those elite players.

There’s a reason the IIHF went with Roman Josi over Henrik Sedin for the tournament MVP and even chose Finnish forward Petri Kontiola as the best forward of the tournament: success over a longer period of time is prioritized over shorter-term success. Josi was the top-scoring defenceman with 9 points in 10 games, carrying Switzerland to the gold-medal final. Kontiola was the overall leader in points, scoring 8 goals and 16 points in 10 games. That carries more weight than 4 games, no matter how good the Sedins were during those games.

Add in all the other reasons that others have mentioned for why the Sedins success at the World Championships doesn’t translate to the NHL — the larger ice surface, lack of top NHL defencemen and goaltending, and the different standard of reffing — and it’s easy to dismiss what the Sedins accomplished. A little too easy, in fact.

With all those things in mind, I still see their performance as demonstrating that the Sedins are still elite players. They joined a Swedish side that was struggling, losing to both Switzerland and Canada in the preliminary round and barely defeating the likes of Belarus and Slovenia. They immediately breathed life into Team Sweden, particularly on the powerplay. Again, the powerplay was 2-for-31 before the Sedins joined, after which it went 5-for-15.

Those powerplay numbers are what should be truly encouraging. The Sedins had 4 points each on the powerplay, accounting for the majority of their scoring. The powerplay was the biggest problem for the Canucks this season and the biggest reason the Sedins didn’t reach a point-per-game as in previous seasons. Their even-strength scoring per 60 minutes of ice time was comparable to previous seasons, other than in 2009-10, when it spiked. Their powerplay scoring, however, took a dive, hitting the lowest rate in the last 5 seasons for each of them.

Those 4 games in Stockholm clearly demonstrated that the Sedins can still run a powerplay, whatever the personnel. It’s easy to point at Loui Eriksson and suggest that the Canucks acquire him, but Sweden had non-NHL players at the points on the first unit of the powerplay and the Sedins still had success. Besides, Eriksson has just one season where he scored 30+ goals in the NHL; Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows have been just as effective goalscorers as Eriksson.

To me, that shows that it didn’t matter as much who was on the ice with the Sedins — the Sedins could make them successful. So why didn’t they do it for the Canucks this season?

I would suggest that the Sedins were overcoached on the powerplay this season and it likely means that Newell Brown is on his way out the door. When the Sedins joined Sweden at the World Championships, they didn’t have time to go over complicated powerplay setups and systems. They likely didn’t have much practice time with the team after they flew over, then had at most one day in between games.

So the Sedins kept it simple and played to their strengths. They set up on the halfwall, cycled the puck and found their teammates in scoring positions as they opened up.

With the Canucks, however, Daniel ended up on the point for a long stretch of games and throughout the year they used a formation with one player in the high slot — the really high slot. The powerplay systems seemed to be designed to create shots from the outside, both one-timers from the point and wristshots from the high slot, instead of creating quality scoring chances from in tight.

Combine that with the Canucks’ steadfast refusal to use Jason Garrison on the first unit and you have a series of decisions that simply don’t make sense. The solution isn’t as simple as giving the Sedins the puck and letting their imaginations run wild, but simplifying the Canucks’ special teams and getting the Sedins back to their strengths on the powerplay would be a good start.

If the Canucks can get their powerplay woes sorted out next season, I see no reason why the Sedins can’t bounceback to a point-per-game or better. They proved that they can be elite players in the World Championships. Now it will be up to them to prove it again in the NHL.

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27 comments

  1. Brent
    May 21, 2013

    I thought Newell brown should have been gone after the Bruins series, and then certainly after last years quick exit. So will he really be gone this time?

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  2. EllynBleu
    May 21, 2013

    After trying to* wade* through some very negative and disheartening comments about the Sedins, and Edler, on Canucks facebook, I found your commentary very refreshing and enlightening – thank you!

    Keep up the good work!

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    • BS
      May 23, 2013

      I guess people who know nothing about the game have to stick together! The Sedin’s are great regular season guys but when playoffs roll around they turtle under the physical play and tighter checking. Maybe you and the writer can stick to commenting on chess matches. Hey maybe if they take contact out of the game…….

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  3. Chris the Curmudgeon
    May 21, 2013

    I’m glad you brought up the power play Daniel. Very few players in the league have consistent scoring success without the benefit of power play points bolstering their numbers (as an extreme example, see Alex Ovechkin’s big “bounceback” which mostly consisted of a huge number of power play goals). I think in addition to poor strategy, I think the team is really missing having a player in the mold of a Christian Ehrhoff to distribute the puck opposite of a shooting defenceman like Garrison.

    Also, a point you’ve made earlier bears repeating: Daniel Sedin had his lowest season shooting percentage since his sophomore season, a stat that usually is a “regression to the mean” type of thing. If Daniel had scored on his career average percentage of shots, he’d have had 17 goals, plus added in a couple more power play goals resulting from competent management of said power play, there’d be far less of this tripe about “the decline of the Sedin twins”.

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    • Tom 1040
      May 22, 2013

      Chris,

      “The decline of the Sedin twins” is anything but tripe.

      It is not a personal shot against them; rather, is simply the laws of nature taking their well-beaten course.

      The league gets better every year in terms of ‘system’ play. What’s more, each year the twins get older and hence a step slower; and they get more ‘predictable’ as teams advance their education on how to defend against them.

      Coupled with the new and entirely more competitive division to compete in – the twins are on their way out.

      If, in fact, Gillis will actually do a ‘reset’, he will have to do it with many of the same players he has on the roster.

      Hence, based on last year, do the Sedin twins really have an exclusive entitlement to 1st unit power play? And, how effective do you really think they will be against a much improved and physically more challenging division?

      Over coached…high-larious.

      Like Naslund, the Sedins decline will be short and not so sweet.

      When they retire will be as much a personal decision as anything else – depending whether they want to live – in Vancouver or Sweden.

      If the latter, then look for them to retire after contract expiry, next year and finish off their careers back with Modo.

      I honestly can’t see the twins, great as they are, having any kind of significant bounce-back.

      IMO.

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      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        May 22, 2013

        So based on a trendline of one season, with obvious mitigating factors, you’re prepared to declare with your always humble opinion that the two best players in franchise history are finished? Not so sure I’m as ready to give up on them or the team as you are. It’s pretty clear that the twins have a lot of good hockey left. Believe what you want to believe.

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        • Tom 1040
          May 22, 2013

          Chris,

          First, how was my ‘alway humble opinion’ arrogant? It is just my opinion.

          Next, it is not 1 year; it is 2 years.

          Third, you have not responded to a key point I made, which was the new and tougher division next year. A division that is like anti-matter to the Sedins.

          Fourth, what does the fact that they are the two best players in franchise history have to do with moving forward, especially when they are past their prime?

          Finally, how is it clear that the Sedins have a lot of good hockey left? That is unless you are talking about international hockey and/or the Swedish Elite League.

          So, Chris, you too can believe what you want to believe. Good luck to you.

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          • Chris the Curmudgeon
            May 23, 2013

            Did I call your opinion arrogant? I don’t recall having done so, that’s a bit of a strawman don’t you think? I will call it gloomy and fatalistic, so there’s that.

            The Sedins were point a game players last year, down from a high almost completely explainable by a dip in power play production. Henrik was basically PPG again this year, while Daniel dipped but also saw an abnormally low shooting percentage as mentioned. The Sedins’ production is treated like an upwards and then downwards hill, when really it’s been steady basically since the lockout apart from a clear spike which coincided exactly with Christian Ehrhoff’s tenure with the team, during which the power play numbers went way up (Ehrhoff got 28 points on the power play in 10-11 by the way). So if there’s anything to read into all of this, it’s not that the Sedins are in decline, but rather there’s a huge void on the PP where Ehrhoff used to be. A lot of my ire against Gillis is because he has failed to provide the team with a proper power play quarterback, and none of our current defencemen are suited to that role.

            They have a lot of good hockey left because they’re still good. I’m not the eternal pessimist you are but I’m still the Curmudgeon, but watching the Sedin twins, they don’t look done by any stretch of the imagination, what they look like is that they’re missing the 5 player chemistry (including dmen) that they had two years ago. That’s on Gillis to fill that spot on the blueline with someone capable of complimenting the cycle game.

            Frankly, the new division might be just what the doctor ordered. The Canucks didn’t just eat the lunch of their division to win the President’s Trophy both years, they didn’t have a losing record against a single western conference team in either of those two years. This season the team looked like they were coasting for long stretches (though the huge number of injuries contributed to that). A little adversity can really help a team succeed down the stretch. Much is being made of moving to the new division, but personally I think the team will thrive on a little higher level of competition. Not to mention, they finally have divisional opponents in their own time zone, meaning the travel schedule should be a little less arduous.

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            • Tom 1040
              May 23, 2013

              Chris,

              Yes, you did call me arrogant with your ‘always humble opinion’ line. Why write it at all then? Sarcasm anyone?

              As for being an eternal fatalist, that is out and out ridiculous. For example, can you tell me where I have been ‘off’ with my expectations vs. actual results with the Canucks?

              I think realistic is a much more appropriate label. Unfortunately for Canuck Nation, the reality that this team and organization exist in is not very bright – for them.

              And, you can hang that on Gillis, completely, and not on the trainers.

              As for the PP, even though Ehrhoff has departed (thankfully, he was so over-rated), it is not like they are playing a 4 on 4 PP. There is another D-man there.

              PP production steady since the lockout? What does that mean in terms of significance?

              And, Chris, you are not much of a curmudgeon. In fact, you are an eternal optimist for this team.

              Good for you. I sometimes wish I could be like that.

              You want the team to win the Cup, you hope the team will win the Cup and so you hold on to the infinitesimal likelihood of everything going perfectly and as planned.

              The new division might be just what the doctor ordered is an exemplar of this attitude.

              You want and hope that it will be what the doctor ordered, but it flies directly in the face of what is much more likely.

              We will see next year who had been more realistic about the team even though my always humble opinion might not be welcome.

              But, what do I know? :)

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              • Chris the Curmudgeon
                May 23, 2013

                Who says I was being sarcastic? It seems to me I could have been getting on you for always treating your opinion as something no one wants. Which I have in the past told you, that it’s a bit of a tired act. I guess that’s just MY opinion, take that or leave it.

                I complain incessantly about this team, I am certainly not an eternal optimist. I just see the problems with the Canucks as being tractable, rather than you seeing them as deep-seeded. So I think I am just as much of a realist as you are, in the sense that I can envision a course of action that this team can realistically take that will lead to improvement. Whether Gillis will actually take the necessary action is another story, but you could hardly accuse me of pulling punches from him.

                I meant the previous lockout, not this one, sorry I should’ve been more clear on that. The twins’ production has been around a PPG (point per game) for the last 8 years, apart from 2 years with Christian Ehrhoff. They have been very consistent, with a two season blip during which the power play was especially effective and bolstered their numbers. Every player enters a post-prime phase, I’m just arguing that isn’t now for the Sedin twins. Different players age differently, and the twins’ games (highly skilled, highly intelligent style) lend well to longevity as compared to players who rely more on physical gifts that peak in their mid 20′s. People were saying Pavel Datsyuk was in decline too, I feel like those people have shut their yappers a little bit (he’s 2 years older than the Sedins btw). Same with Zetterberg who’s leading the Wings in playoff scoring, and he’s their age. 37 year old Martin St Louis led the league in scoring this year. So just because a player is in their 30′s doesn’t mean they’re automatically in decline.

                Congratulations, you predicted the Canucks wouldn’t win the Cup. With 30 teams in the league, it’s not that hard to predict that one won’t win, that is until they do. If you’ll recall, I similarly made doom and gloom predictions for last year’s and this year’s team around these parts, lamenting the obvious holes of a proper top 6 playmaker for the second line, a replacement center for the Malhotra role, and a power play QB as I’ve been saying. So by your rationale, I have just as much cause to say I told you so. However, you seem to put your own ability to prognosticate above mine. Fine, your subjective opinion is your prerogative. My point is simply that there’s much more cause for optimism now, with the team still very close but with the microscope on the GM to fix them (again, whether he will effectively do so remains to be seen). I also think the fear-mongering about the division is unjustified: on paper, with a couple of aforementioned issues dealt with, the team will stack up very well against the rest of the division, and having to play with postseason intensity before April is often beneficial to a team in the playoffs, hence why teams struggling to get in often surprise the ones that coast in. This isn’t some kind of an intangible concept, Tom. Tougher competition leads to improved effort and performance in most contexts, not just pro hockey.

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              • Tom 1040
                May 23, 2013

                With this post, I apologize if I have misread your intent.

                In the past couple of days, I have been accused of being arrogant (frequently) by our hosts (one in particular).

                And, I predicted much more than the Canucks not going to win the Cup.

                Anyway, enough from me for now.

                Take care,
                T.

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              • Tom 1040
                May 24, 2013

                Chris,

                I have taken the time to read and ponder your most recent post.

                Indeed, I have been humbled by it. I feel that you are bang-on with respect to your comments on having an opinion.

                If I have a problem with your opinion, then it is my problem.

                Clearly, you have done your best to support your opinion with information other than utter garbage.

                Having said this, I would, if possible, like to retract some of my comments to you as well as extend a sincere apology for any untoward statements.

                Sincerely,
                T.

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              • Chris the Curmudgeon
                May 24, 2013

                Don’t worry about it Tom. Let’s just hope I’m right and you’re wrong. Disagreement is healthy and normal in my opinion, and I appreciate that you try to support your argument with facts, as much as I may disagree with it sometimes.

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      • BS
        May 23, 2013

        You are 100% correct Tom but unfortunately most of the “fans” that read this blog know as little about the game as the writers. A bunch of mindless homers who have never even laced up the skates. The intelligence of the average fan is about 15 points below the provincial average. You could put the leafs here and they’d jump on board. Based on this blog the canucks seem to have some of the least knowledgeable fans in the league

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        • Chris the Curmudgeon
          May 23, 2013

          Well, the team certainly does have some of the most persistent and childish trolls. But you wouldn’t know anything about that would you?

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  4. JimmyAAA
    May 21, 2013

    I would kill for Larry Robinson to come here and be our coach.

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    • Brent
      May 22, 2013

      Not sure Larry Robinson would be a good fit. He likes a big bodied team that plays tight defensively. There would need to be a lot of retooling to do that.

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  5. Kenji
    May 21, 2013

    Newell Brown wrote a book (not THE book, just A book) about offensive systems, which I read and totally did not understand, apart from getting the gist that Newell Brown is a fellow who has considered and diagrammed a great many power play formations. But as a not head coach, it would not be his call to implement the particular strategy.

    Yes, this is another rip on Coach V.

    As for Larry Robinson, please do not kill. Larry has been a head coach and didn’t stay with it, apparently it is a most stressful job.

    http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/05/05/legend-of-larry-robinson-not-going-unnoticed-in-san-jose

    Larry is 62 and while that is not particularly old these days, nobody needs tons of stress.

    He’d be pretty good though.

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  6. akidd
    May 21, 2013

    what did we learn? not much. canuck fans have seen those guys a ton. no secrets there. sometimes they are a dominant force and sometimes they’re not.

    that the pp was so abysmal this year was a mystery. was the coaching that bad? must’ve been because the sedins should’ve done better with one arm tied behind the back. did brown tie both arms?

    i do wonder sometimes though why such athletic geniuses wouldn’t…make a few more adjustments. sometimes the checking is so tight in the playoffs that you’d be lucky to keep the puck for a just few seconds. the cycle game seems doomed under those conditions. with all that skill and hockey brain you think you might try to, i dunno…score off the rush or something. one quick pass and shot kinda thing.

    but no there goes the puck behind the net and the deft puck control on the boards doesn’t stand a chance against playoff-style defesnive energy. not a good chance anyways. i’m so in awe of what the sedins have done over their careers but i am a little puzzled as to why after so many shifts of not getting a sniff they might not, you know…reconfigure a bit…just for a lark if nothing else.

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  7. Tom 1040
    May 22, 2013

    Daniel (or is it Denial), this was the most ridiculous blog post that I have ever read on PITB – bar none.

    Would you like to know why?

    I’d be happy to let you know.

    Just ask.

    As for the ‘politeness’, what goes around comes around – and now it’s coming around.

    Or, stick to your guns. You and Harry have discussed, agreed and then relented and commented on my comments too many times.

    Just ignore me…if you can.

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    • clutch fan
      May 22, 2013

      Tom, you need to chillax… (always be careful of someone with an axe to grind)…

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      • Tom 1040
        May 22, 2013

        There’s something in a name – chillax.

        I don’t need to do anything.

        And, I agree about being wary of people with axes to grind, especially hosts.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      May 22, 2013

      We can.

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      • Tom 1040
        May 22, 2013

        Funny, you said that before.

        And you replied, anyway.

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  8. John Geary
    May 22, 2013

    Some good points, but you forgot one key factor in your analysis: in Europe, the rinks are bigger, giving the Sedins more room to operate, that is a huge advantage for their style of game, especially on the power play. That probably had something to do with their prowess at the championships. Not sure if that would hold up in NHL rinks, even with the tweaks you have suggested.

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  9. BS
    May 23, 2013

    I guess we now know who was in the video with Rob Ford, the writer of this drivel. The Sedins dont have the extra gear that Canadian players have come playoff time, they dont have the nasty competitive gene. When the going gets tough they get going. Its like May rolls around and the Sedins startup a Vegas magic show that features a 2 month disappearing trick.

    The writer seems to be all to happy to point to their regular season play and say that is good enough. Last time I checked the objective was to win the cup. Their play when it counts has been horrible by any measurement. They may well be the 2 greatest regular season players the game has ever seen but that doesnt mean anything when the goal is the cup and they dont show up.

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  10. matt
    May 23, 2013

    For discussion

    Are the Sedin’s (Canucks) affected by the two different games that the NHL allows? What I mean by that, is during the regular season, speed and a dynamic game is allowed and called by the referee’s. When the playoffs start, the clutching/grabbing is allowed. Basically, what is a penalty in the regular season is not called in the playoffs.

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