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.Tags: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, World Championship