The Vancouver Canucks still rely on the Sedins for offence

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 19: Jeff Petry
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 19: Jeff Petry /
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Despite being the oldest players on the team, Daniel and Henrik Sedin are still significant offensive contributors. I will explain why parting ways with them at the end of this year is a hasty move.

We are arriving near the end of an incredible era. Daniel and Henrik Sedin have spent the entirety of their 17-year NHL careers wearing one jersey. It’s a rare feat in the modern NHL and no one appreciates that more than the fans of the Vancouver Canucks.

The twins are older, now at the age of 37. Most NHL careers end before players get to that age, so the truly special players exhibit this type of longevity. A certain portion of the fanbase was and still is eager to see them traded. To extract some of their trade value to build towards the future. A move that could have been made before their contracts kicked in during the 2014-15 season.

In the pure business and team building sense, I can see the argument. And for almost anyone on that roster during that time, I would be in favor of doing that. However, there is one exception. Well, in this case two.

Besides being the face of the franchise, both were still very good players. Daniel was on a bit of a decline when looking at his goal scoring ability, but both were and are still effective playmakers.

This version of the team is still very reliant on their offensive skills. Travis Green’s Vancouver Canucks struggle with generating offence in its current form. The Sedins have stepped up during times of injury, but you will see that they have quietly contributed for much longer.

Some fans may be eager to see them retire before they decline any further. Without them, this team would be in a much dire position. If you think this season is bad now, things will only get worse without the Sedins.

The Sedins aren’t done yet

At the time of writing this, the Canucks are tied for 24th in the NHL in goals for, using the league’s stats page. With 119 total goals, Natural Stat Trick shows that 32 goals were scored on the power play, while 83 are at even strength.

Looking at the Sedins scoring logs with Hockey Reference, we can see that the Sedins have contributed to 24 even strength and 16 power play goals this season. Contributing boils down to earning a point on the scoresheet when a goal is scored.

Isn’t that crazy? Despite being the oldest players on the team and adding a 40-goal scorer to the lineup, the Twins are responsible for half of the team’s power play goals. Additionally, Daniel and Henrik have set up (for the most part), 29% of the team’s even strength output.

The Sedins have set up Brock Boeser for eight of his goals this year and the trio are a dominant force on the power play. Boeser has 15 points with the man advantage, while Daniel and Henrik have 12 and 11, respectively.

You can certainly argue that the Twins had a slow start to the season, but since November 21st, the Sedins are among our best players. Daniel has 21 points in 23 games, while Henrik has 25 points in his last 24 games.

Since Bo Horvat was injured on December 5th, Daniel has 13 points in 16 games and the captain has 15 points in 17 games. This consistency could not have come at a better time as Boeser’s goal scoring has slowed down with his regressing shooting percentage.

Daniel is on pace for 53 points, on the assumption he plays every remaining game of the season. Henrik is on pace for a staggering 58 points. Both totals are significant improvements over last season. If they can keep this pace and stay healthy, they will have a tremendous finish to another disappointing year.

Almost passing the torch

During the “unforgettable” 15 games to start the season, the Sedins looked like this would be a farewell season. Reduced even strength minutes and power play utility were their primary roles and the duo only contributed to three goals during the month of October.

As this was happening, rookie sensation Brock Boeser was stealing hearts (and breaking legs) with his incredible shot. Horvat was quickly living up to the massive contract he signed before the preseason. Sven Baertschi was showing incredible chemstry on that line.

The club’s reliance on high shooting percentages and unsustainable goaltending brought them back down in November. After Derek Dorsett‘s injury-induced retirement, things went from bad to worse. Horvat and Baertschi were both lost to long-term injuries and the Canucks’ goaltending put on some of the worst performances of the season. There was a stretch where the team lost 5-1, 7-1, 6-1, and 7-5.

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You could say the team fell apart after losing 2/3 of its top line. You would be wrong. The analytics warned about a regression in goaltending, the most important factor in keeping the team on top. However, no one predicted it would get this bad.

I think the process of passing the torch has begun. Boeser is on pace for 41 goals (he would be on pace for 43 on an 82-game season). Horvat produced at a goal rate of 29 goals on a full season and if Baertschi could ever play a full season, he could pull off 22 goals. 92 goals is an incredible amount.

However, it is not likely that Baertschi can manage to play 82 games due his frequency of injuries. Being 25, this is about as good as Baertschi gets. And honestly, he is getting an offensive boost from Horvat and Boeser. Without staying healthy, it’s hard for me to peg him as a 20-goal scorer.

Horvat and Boeser will need some insulation from the Sedins since we don’t have enough established players to support them. Their consistency, as shown above, is more valuable than nearly every free agent signing added to this team in the last four years. Thomas Vanek can’t do this alone.

What this team looks like without Daniel and Henrik

The Twins penned an emotional article before the start of this season in The Players’ Tribune. In it, they talk about their careers and acknowledge what is going on around them. They are not blind. Henrik and Daniel know fully well that they are on the back nine of their careers. However, the Twins made one thing very clear. When they choose to retire, it will be in a Canucks jersey.

In his latest entry of The Provies, Jason Botchford commented on the possiblity of losing Daniel Sedin to an injury:

"People making assessments on where the Canucks are on their rebuild should probably wait to see how they look without the Sedins.Because if you pulled the Sedins from the roster this year, the Canucks are the Coyotes."

I think Botchford is correct in his assessment. The Arizona Coyotes are on pace for a 49-point finish. This is nearly identical to the humiliating finish of the Colorado Avalanche last season. Losing half of our output on the power play and 29% of our even strength offence will do that.

The team’s offence will be gutted. Boeser and Horvat won’t have the support that they need and teams can just bury their line with the toughest matchup. We saw what happened in November when the rest of the league figured out the system run by the Canucks. There wasn’t much they could do to adapt, so they just retreated into a defence-first gameplan.

Whether the Sedins choose to retire or are convinced to hang up the skates, this team will continue to struggle on offence. Are the optics bad that a pair of 37-year-old players are still among the best on the team? Absolutely. That’s not the fault of the Sedins. Blame lies squarely with the people constructing the roster. If the Twins give a better chance of winning games, then keep them around. They will play at half their current cap hit.

Elias Pettersson may join the roster, but I think it’s unfair to expect him to produce more than 40 points in his rookie season. It would only be his draft plus-two season and the Sedins took some time to establish themselves in the league. Not every rookie develops as quickly as Boeser.  I would also prefer Pettersson to play his sheltered minutes with the Sedins over being handcuffed to Brandon Sutter or Sam Gagner.

Next: Free agent signings aren't paying off

We will have to see what happens during the off-season. I know 31st does not seem very different from 26th, but I don’t want the same embarrassing start Arizona had this season. It would be ridiculous to go through the first 20 games of the season and wonder when the team is going to get it’s first regulation win.