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Don't disregard Daniel

Andrew Bucholtz


Many in Vancouver have supported <b>Henrik</b> and <b>Daniel Sedin</b> for the past few years, but there was a time when they were widely derided as busts. Even after they started to excel, they still didn't get a lot of hype outside of Vancouver; one of the few exceptions is <a href="http://www.fromtherink.com/2009/4/18/843358/why-the-sedins-have-arrived-as">this piece</a> <b>James Mirtle</b> wrote last spring about how the twins had quietly turned into elite forwards. Despite growing recognition of the Sedins, there was still considerable debate about just how much they were worth this offseason; I <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/06/22/moneypuck-why-gillis-should-resign-the-sedins/">argued</a> that their consistent point production made them two of the league's most valuable players, and I was quite happy when the Canucks <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/07/03/sedins-stay-canucks-add-four-players/">locked them up</a> for five years and $30.5 million each, which gave them only the 35th and 36th highest cap hits in the league.

Have they lived up to those deals so far? Well, no one would give you an argument about Henrik; he's leading the league with 67 points (21 goals, 46 assists) in 48 games, and <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/playerstats.htm?fetchKey=20102ALLSASAll&amp;sort=avgPointsPerGame&amp;viewName=points">is second</a> to <b>Alexander Ovechkin</b> in points per game. He's <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/1/19/1260724/in-the-sports-lexicon-this-is">started to get a bit of Hart Trophy buzz</a>, and deservedly so; however, he's still overlooked by many (check out <b>Richard Loat</b>'s <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2613">piece</a> on the subject for more details). However, partly thanks to injury, Daniel remains below the radar.

Over the years, many have struggled to differentiate Henrik and Daniel. In my mind, that's one of the reasons their recognition as elite players has been slow in coming across the league. They're identical twins, they play on the same line and they have a similar skill set; great vision, brilliant passing skills and solid shots. Daniel takes more shots while Henrik sets up others, but there still isn't a lot to separate them, and that's why many have written their success off as just a function of their bond. The logic goes that they aren't really great players, but as twins, they're able to work together so well that it overcomes their perceived lack of superlative skill. That logic flew out the window when Daniel was injured this year and Henrik continued to carry the Canucks.

The problem, though, is that some see that as conclusive proof that Henrik is the better player and use that idea to make it seem that he's carrying Daniel. In fact, <b>Michael Farber</b>'s otherwise excellent <i>Sports Illustrated</i> <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1164826/index.htm?eref=mySI">piece</a> somewhat suffers from this disease. I can appreciate where this line of thought comes from; one of the traditional questions around MVPs is what kind of support system they have, so it might buttress a player's argument for that honour if you downplay the contributions of his teammates. However, by doing this, we run the risk of ignoring just how good Daniel is.

Remember that <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/playerstats.htm?fetchKey=20102ALLSASAll&amp;sort=avgPointsPerGame&amp;viewName=points">points-per-game list</a> I cited earlier? Ovechkin is first with 1.59 points per game, followed by Henrik with 1.40. However, Daniel's tied with <b>Ilya Kovalchuk</b> for third; both have 1.30 points per game. Additionally, many have previously bashed Daniel for being a shoot-first player, but he has 12 goals and 27 assists this year in just 30 games. Part of that's thanks to Henrik's increased willingness to shoot and the <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2660">continued emergence</a> of <b>Alex Burrows</b> as a top-tier forward (21 goals and 18 assists in 48 games), but it also shows that both Henrik and Daniel have become more complete players this year.

What's also impressive is that the Sedins have become much more efficient offensively; their jump in point totals hasn't come from much of a jump in ice time. Last season, <a href="http://www.behindthenet.ca/2008/new_5_on_5.php?sort=22&amp;section=goals&amp;mingp=&amp;mintoi=&amp;team=VAN&amp;pos=">according to</a> <i>Behind The Net</i>, Henrik averaged 13.91 minutes of ice time per game and Daniel averaged 13.56. Henrik's GFON/60 (goals scored by the Canucks per 60 minutes of even-strength time he played) was 3.42, while Daniel's was 3.40. Those were the two top numbers on the team. They were both good defensively too; Henrik's GAON/60 (goals the Canucks allowed per 60 minutes of even-strength time he played) was 2.14, while Daniel's was 1.96.

Those numbers were good, but <a href="http://www.behindthenet.ca/2009/new_5_on_5.php?sort=24&amp;section=goals&amp;mingp=&amp;mintoi=&amp;team=VAN&amp;pos=">this year</a>'s have been even better. The Canucks score a ridiculous 4.58 goals per 60 minutes of even-strength time Daniel gets and 4.11 per 60 minutes Henrik plays, again the top two numbers on the team. Their defensive numbers have eroded slightly (Daniel now has a GAON/60 of 2.44 and Henrik has a GAON/60 of 2.56), but their overall numbers are better (if you subtract GAON/60 from GFON/60 for the +/- ON/60 , Henrik had a +1.28 last year and a +1.55 this year, while Daniel had a +1.44 last year and a +2.14 this year). Yet, they're still playing basically the same amount of ice time as they were last year (14:27 now for Henrik as compared to 13:91 last year, 14:05 for Daniel as compared to 13.56 last year). That's incredible efficiency.

The point isn't to minimize what Henrik's done. He's had a tremendous year, and it was impressive that he proved he can play without Daniel. He deserves every bit of MVP consideration he gets, in my mind. However, don't overlook what Daniel's done as well. Both Sedins have been among the league's top players this year. If they keep that kind of production up, it could be a very good year for the Canucks.

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I've always loved the Sedins as a unit together, and still maintain that neither is better than the other. Just you watch - Daniel will be so jealous of his brother's hype this season that he'll put up unbelievable numbers next year.

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