Considering the topic and title of this post, I had originally hoped to make the header a photo of one of the Sedins blocking a shot. I may as well have been after a photo of Bigfoot blocking a shot. It would appear it’s a pretty tough picture to get.
In fact, a search for “Sedin” and “blocks a shot” at both the Getty and AP Images databases turns up just one pertinent result.
(Unsurprisingly, the photo was snapped by the great Jeff Vinnick. Of course it would take one of the best photographers in sports to capture the white whale of images. It doesn’t work as a header, unfortunately. If you try to cut it down to this blog’s size requirements, you either lose Daniel Sedin’s head or the puck, and for the sake of visual context, I’d say both are important. Anyway, I digress.)
The point is, under Alain Vigneault, the Sedins didn’t block very many shots. During the shortened 2013 campaign, Henrik blocked 9, and Daniel blocked just 7. The year prior, a full season, Henrik blocked 17 to Daniel’s 15, the fewest of any Canuck to play 60 games. In total during Alain Vigneault era, the Sedins have blocked just 189 shots over seven regular seasons (Henrik 106, Daniel 83); for comparison, Ryan Kesler blocked 188 shots, just one fewer, in his last two seasons alone. In other words, it’s not really the Sedins’ thing.
But you may have heard that John Tortorella intends to make it their thing.
Granted, we’ve known this was coming for awhile, and there’s been sort of a mixed response to the news that Tortorella expects the Sedins to get down, and not just to the funky, funky, funky groove.
On the one hand, there was a sense that Vigneault was a little too nice to the Sedins (what with all those offensive zone starts designed to maximize their best gifts and the lack of penalty kill shifts, so as to keep them fresh for those zone starts). The Tortorella era signals the end to what Tony Gallagher, and unfortunately, now others, have been calling the “country club atmosphere”. But on the other hand, there’s an alarming correlation between shot blocking and bone breaking, and if the Sedins provide further evidence to this correlation, their offensive output, which is pretty damn valuable, will likely suffer. It could also give more evidence to the similarly strong correlation between shot-blocking and losing.)
It would appear that the latter concern is one that John Tortorella doesn’t share, however, and not just because if one Sedin gets hurt he has a spare. On Wednesday, he explained his obsession with shot blocking. From NHL.com:
“What I am talking about is creating a culture and an identity,” Tortorella said. “I believe it can be done within here, and again, it’s not about going out there and brawling. It’s about little things, protecting a puck, eating a puck on the wall when you can’t get it out instead of turning it over. Those are all little details we’ll go over and I think that’s how you develop it. Blocking shots, I know that just lights a fire — you just play defense because you block shots — but blocking shots develops a culture, and when you have a Sedin blocking a shot, watch what the bench does. It’s 10-feet tall. All those little things help develop who you are as a team.”
Apart from instances where one of the Sedin breaks a bone in his foot and hobbles to the bench in abject pain, which one assumes probably won’t make said bench feel 10 feet tall, I guess I can get behind this.
While I would differ on the aforementioned country club thing, admittedly, a two-tier structure has developed in Vancouver over time. Basically, you’ve got the Sedins, who do their thing, and then you’ve got the other forward lines behind them, who do a completely different thing. And I could see how Tortorella might feel that the best way to create a new culture is to break up that mindset and ensure a full buy-in with everyone on equal footing (or hunched over in equal pain).
All that said, however, don’t expect the Sedins to suddenly find themselves blocking two shots a game because John Tortorella’s in town. The Sedins may not have blocked a lot of shots under Vigneault, but the explanation isn’t as simple as “they didn’t have to” or “they avoided it”. It’s just a lot harder to block shots when you have possession of the puck in the offensive zone all game. Block a lot of shots and you’re probably losing.
Thus, so long as the Sedins’ offensive dominance continues, Tortorella will likely be feeding them a steady diet of offensive zone starts, much like he did for his top line in New York, and that means the twins will probably continue to spend the bulk of their time away from shot-blocking situations.
Heck, they may be even more motivated to do so now that they know the pain they’re expected to endure if they don’t.