The Pros and Cons of splitting the Sedins

During Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canucks were in a bind partway through the third period. Down by one, they just weren’t able to generate enough chances as the Flyers collapsed into a defensive shell to protect their lead. And so, in an attempt to spark the offence, John Tortorella split the Sedins, moving Ryan Kesler to the wing with Henrik and Chris Higgins and putting Daniel with Mike Santorelli and Jannik Hansen.

The split worked, as Kesler and Higgins helped create room for Henrik with a physical forecheck, resulting in goals for both Higgins and Kesler and a win for the Canucks. It was the second time already in this short season that splitting the Sedins has resulted in a third period comeback — it also worked against the Calgary Flames.

This has sparked the seemingly annual debate over whether the Canucks should split up the Sedins on a more semi-permanent basis. After all, splitting them so far this season has resulted in two goals per period, so, logically, starting the game with them split should result in 6 goals per game. Not even the 1984 Edmonton Oilers managed that, averaging a measly 5.6 goals per game. That’s right: splitting the Sedins would make the Canucks better than the Oilers dynasty from the 80′s. Tortorella would be a fool not to do it!

Of course, it’s not that simple. We’re pretty big fans of the Sedins being together around these parts, but there are some legitimate arguments for splitting them — well, more legitimate than they’ll score all the goals, at least. Let’s break down the pros and cons in a feature we like to call “Pros and Cons.”

PRO – It provides a world-class playmaker for both of the top two lines.

The Sedins are undoubtedly the two best playmakers on the Canucks right now and are arguably the two best playmakers in Canucks history. Henrik and Daniel are first and second for the franchise lead in assists and, by the end of their careers, will likely have set nigh-unassailable franchise records.

If they weren’t twins who have always played on the same line, it would seem absolutely ludicrous to put the two best playmakers on the team on the same line.

CON – It deprives Henrik of a world-class sniper.

Daniel is third in franchise history in goals and will quite possibly pass Trevor Linden for second. He’s just 25 goals back. As long as the Sedins re-sign in Vancouver, he’ll likely pass Markus Naslund for the franchise record as early as next season. As good a playmaker as Daniel is, he’s primarily a goal-scorer, and one of the best in Canucks history.

As ludicrous as it seems to put the two best playmakers on one line, it seems even more ludicrous to divest the best best playmaker on the team of the best goalscorer on the team.

PRO – You get a Sedin on two lines.

…but…

CON – You get two Sedins on no lines.

…which severely limits the opportunities for Wizardous Sedinery.

PRO – It would create all kinds of matchup issues for opposing teams.

The main task for any team facing the Canucks is how to shutdown the Sedin line. Imagine the consternation if they have to shutdown the Sedin lines. The addition of a Sedin to the second line instantly makes it more dangerous and forces the opposing coach to make a decision about which line to use his best defencemen and defensive forwards against. This means that at least one Sedin will get to play against weaker competition and should be able to take advantage.

CON – It’s a lot easier to shut down one Sedin than it is to shut down two.

Part of the difficulty in shutting down the Sedins is how they seem to innately know where the other twin is at all times. As we’ve seen again and again, the Sedins can befuddle even the best defenders in the league with their cycle game and ability to find each other with counter-intuitive passes that are hard to predict.

The Sedins can certainly set up players other than each other, but opposing defenders will definitely have an easier job with the Sedins apart.

PRO – We may discover they have chemistry with other players.

It can be tough to decide which winger to play with the Sedins, with Alex Burrows, Mike Santorelli, Jannik Hansen, and even Zack Kassian all showing chemistry with the twins in the past. With the Sedins in separate lines, the Canucks no longer have to choose just one player, but can match a whopping four different players with a Sedin.

CON – It could take a really long time to figure out who has chemistry with whom.

When the Sedins are together, the problem is simple: find one player who will work with them. Splitting them up creates a much larger problem, as you have to find two players that work well with each Sedin, a process that could take a lot of time and experimentation. While the Sedins together instantly elevate whichever winger is matched with them, it remains to be seen how that will work with one Sedin.

PRO – Splitting a pair with a lot of chemistry has worked in the past.

You just need to look at how well splitting Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows worked out back in 2009. The former third-line checkers matured into legitimate top-six forwards, with both setting new career-highs in points.

CON – Splitting a pair with a lot of chemistry can lead to unintended terrible consequences.

Just look at Troy and Abed’s competing pillow and blanket forts.

PRO – Henrik has proven he can produce without Daniel.

Early in the 2009-10 season, Daniel Sedin broke his foot against the Montreal Canadiens, missing 18 games. Without his brother for the first time in his career, Henrik stepped up for the Canucks, scoring 10 goals and 18 points in those 18 games. Henrik went on to win the first Art Ross trophy in franchise history and, partly due to proving he can play without his brother, also won the first Hart trophy in franchise history.

CON – Henrik produces way more with Daniel.

In that 2009-10 season, Henrik finished with 112 points, a franchise record. If you take away those 18 games without Daniel, he scored 94 points in just 64 games. As good as Henrik was without Daniel for that brief amount of time, he is far better with his brother and the advanced stats bear that out.

What’s more, since Henrik has played 636 straight regular season games without missing any due to injury or otherwise, we have no evidence for how well Daniel can play without Henrik. Certainly, we can assume he can still produce without his brother, but we have no proof of it. In the meantime, it’s likely better to assume that they are greater than the sum of their parts when on the same line.

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17 comments

  1. RicardoB
    October 16, 2013

    But how much of that drop in production when they were separated would be recovered as familiarity grows with other players?

    And, each Sedin may be better with the other, but when they’re together only 1 forward is on the ice with them while 4 would be on the ice with a Sedin if they’re separated.

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  2. Joel
    October 16, 2013

    I think the argument that splitting them up deprives Henrik of a world-class sniper to put all those nifty passes into the back of the net is pretty much moot if he gets to play with Kesler or Burrows.

    Burrows, at least once he is back from injury, has proven to be able to capitalize on Henrik’s passing. Ditto Kesler.

    I think the bigger issue is putting Kesler AND Henrik on the same line. Stacking the top two centers into a single line on a team already weak at centre doesn’t seem to be a sustainable option aside from basically running an extremely short bench in the third period.

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    • RicardoB
      October 16, 2013

      Daniel on Kesler’s wing makes much more sense.

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      • Joel
        October 16, 2013

        Yep, if this was to be a long-term thing*, then going with Daniel-Kesler-??? and ???-Henrik-Burrows, slotting in your pick of Hansen, Kassian, Booth, Santorelli, etc to round out the lines.

        *I can see this being a long-term option from Torts, at least as an “even strength, game tied or defending a lead” type of situation. If its a power-play, or a third period where we are running a short bench and NEED a goal, then switch it up and throw them back together.

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      • ikillchicken
        October 16, 2013

        Well to me that’s the key question. It’s less about splitting the Sedins and more about what it does to the rest of the team. The prospect of taking Daniel’s shooting ability away from Henrik is a lot more palatable if you replace it with Kesler’s. But I’m doubtful about doing that. Kesler is so much more valuable defensively as a center. And as much as I like Santorelli I don’t think I want him to be our 2nd line center. There are still a lot of questions about 3C for us. The last thing we want to do is create a hole at 2C.

        On the bright side, I really like the idea of Daniel with Kesler. Sure, Daniel can shoot too. But really, that’s almost more relative to Henrik. Daniel is as much a playmaker as he is a shooter and that would be a huge boon for Kesler. The ideal makeup to me is one playmaker, one sniper and one guy to battle along the boards, dig out pucks and clean up rebounds. Throw Higgins or Santorelli onto that line and you’ve got exactly that.

        I also love the idea of Burrows (back on his natural left side) with Henrik. He’s got such chemistry and the biggest knock against him has always been his left handed shooting. Still, while Burrows is really good at getting on rebounds, getting the tap in goals, and do great work in front of the net looking for tips he has never been what I’d call a sniper though. And tips and rebounds really work best when you do have a true shooter.

        But who would that be? Definitely not Booth or Hansen. And Santorelli is extremely similar to Burrows (which would be great in that we could use him on the 2nd line with Kesler and Daniel). Higgins perhaps. He has got a pretty nice shot. Or of course there is Kassian maybe? I don’t know. Kassian is such an enigma. Anyway in the short term I’m all for it. If it stops working there’s nothing to stop us just sticking them back together. Might as well experiment for now and see if this could be workable long term.

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    • Aaron
      October 16, 2013

      Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t Kesler’s most productive year when he was a winger?? It might be worth it to play him with Henrik on the first line. But I just have to say WOW to the possabilities if they split up, and Uh Oh to the possible issues if they do! I

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  3. Lenny
    October 16, 2013

    I’m all for separating them, especially in the playoffs, if status quo ceases to work.

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  4. Evan
    October 16, 2013

    The obvious solution is to find a third Sedin…

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    • Pavo
      October 16, 2013

      Don’t they have a couple of brothers?

      Gillis – leverage your assets!

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  5. Wagman
    October 16, 2013

    How about we keep the Sedins together on the 1st line, then split the Sedins for the 2nd and 3rd lines? Best of both worlds! What’s 35 to 40 minutes of ice time per game? Maybe I shouldn’t jest less Torts is reading…

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    • tom selleck's moustache
      October 16, 2013

      lol, I can just picture him reading Wagman’s post now: “Hey, that just might work…”

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  6. Chris the Curmudgeon
    October 16, 2013

    I already posted this in the other thread, but it bears repeating: there’s no reason you can’t enjoy all of these pros and cons in the same game. People get so uptight about line juggling, but why would any coach want to telegraph his lines to the other team and not change them on the fly if he thought he could get a short-term advantage? Chemistry is important, but a lot of these guys have played together a long time and also play together on the power play, so it isn’t as though putting Daniel with Kesler and Henrik with Burrows (etc) is like pairing up strangers. Last game, Torts made a quick decision to alter his strategy (line juggle) to counter a different Philly game plan. Makes sense to me that he could make that call again in the future as situations allow.

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  7. akidd
    October 16, 2013

    if tortorella wants to try new stuff i say go for it. it think we’ve all gotten used to a certain way of doing things and it’s a good thing when a stranger trots into town and challenges some stuff. break em up sometimes. yup. play them together. yup. play them more minutes. sure. it’s not really rocket science, it’s just not the usual thing around here.

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    • Pavo
      October 17, 2013

      Tort, torte, retort, trots …

      Endless fun playing with that name.

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  8. NarkusMaslund
    October 17, 2013

    On a somewhat related note, it sure would be nice to have a 3LC that was capable of stepping up into 2LC minutes when needed so that the Canucks could play Kesler with Henrik (and heck, maybe sometimes put Kesler with both Twins) without torpedoing their 2nd line. The search for a quality 3rd C continues…

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  9. phileo99
    October 17, 2013

    So what is the conclusion? Break them up, don’t break them up, or the proverbial “It depends….” ?

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    • Pavo
      October 17, 2013

      To do, or not to do … that’s the question.

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