One of the interesting aspects about Henrik Sedin suddenly being thrust into Crosby and Ovechkin's spotlight is that you have a number of puckheads trying to figure out why the sudden rise after nine seasons.
It's not as easy as you may think.
Take for instance the SI mention the other day about Hank being the magazine's mid-season player of the year. Farber suggested that, without Daniel around to finish the passes, Henrik essentially had to shoot more. Said Farber:
"While Henrik's goal production has been ascribed to a belated willingness to shoot, this is only fractionally correct. (He averaged 2.25 shots per game in the first four matches with Daniel, then 2.28 in the ensuing 18 and 1.90 after Daniel returned on Nov. 22.) He's simply been firing from better goal-scoring locations. "He took a big responsibility to show everyone he could play without me," says Daniel, who entered the season with 70 more goals than Henrik, and who hadn't been separated from his twin for more than a few games in their careers. "He also had to show himself, I think."
So picking his spots better is one idea.
Over at Hockey Or Die, Jonathan Willis has another take which I highly suggest you check out. In essence he argues that Hank's season isn't a breakout at all and nor is that a bad thing. Much of this revolves around his current shooting percentage (21.4%) in comparison with his career shooting percentage (13.2%).
Unlike Farber, Willis doesn't believe not having Daniel around is the reason why Hank's shooting percentage has jumped since - to start with - the shooting percentage can be unreliable: "it fluctuates seemingly at random, and it's more likely a run of shots just going in then any fundamental shift in Henrik's mentality." Hank's shooting percentage has fluctuated throughout his career (20.5% in 2001-02 then 9.9% the following year and, post lockout, he jumped up to 15.9% before dropping back to 7.5%). And those totals were while playing with Daniel (who himself has had shooting percentage ups and downs) so the lack of playing time together may not be the reason.
Also Willis poses a hypothetical that if you extrapolate out Hank's numbers this season without Daniel over an 82 game stretch, it looks like:
Without Daniel: 46 goals, 36 assists, 82 points, 0 +/-
With Daniel: 30 goals, 104 assists, 134 points, +57
So Hank's numbers are actually worse without Daniel (you can cite a number of things, from increased defensive responsibilities, more defensive zone starts, different line combinations that AV had to use, etc). As Willis suggests "Every single coach in the game will take a 30-goal scorer who is on the ice for 57 more goals for than against over a 46 goal-scorer who gives everything back the other way." Can't say I'd argue with that at all.
And as long as we're talking about Hank's shooting percentage, stats God Gabe Desjardins also looked at it and has some not surprising, but still sour news: odds are Hank falls back to earth. After compiling data on other 20% shooters during 100-shot intervals over the last four seasons, Gabe concludes:
Now we know that anyone who could put away 20 shots out of 100 is a better-than-average shooter. The distribution of all shooters, shown in red, is much less likely to generate a 20% shooting spree than the blue bar chart. Indeed, the average shooter who went 20-for-100 had a 13.2% shooting percentage overall, exactly the same as Henrik Sedin's career shooting percentage. They all had these great runs where they looked like they'd finally figured out how to be truly elite NHL scorers, and they all eventually went back to how they'd done in the past. All evidence points to Henrik regressing to the talent level he established over his career.
Regardless of why, Willis says that it's not a breakthrough season for Hank simply because the twins were already elite players:
Both Sedins have been simply incredible players since the lockout - Henrik's tied for 10th in scoring over that time span, within 10 points of players like Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier, and ahead of higher-regarded players like Martin St. Louis, Eric Staal, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa and Rick Nash. Also if interest: of the top-100 scorers since the lockout, exactly six have a better plus/minus than Henrik's plus-79 rating (since going minus-2 as a rookie, Henrik's never had a negative plus/minus). This was already a player who should be recognized as one of the league's best players.
This is very much in line with what Mirtle wrote prior to last year's playoffs. The Sedins "arrived" awhile ago.
Of course, most of us knew that in one way or the other. There will still be those who knock their lack of playoff experience and perhaps there is some lingering truth to that. Others still may knock their perceived lack of toughness, though I'd suggest those people aren't actually watching them play. But to argue they are anything short of spectacular players at this point is absurd. And to think Hank's production is coming during the first year of his new contract when he could just have easily mailed it in.
I love seeing what Hank is doing and will continue to look for some indicators to explain it. But it's equally possible many Canucks fans don't care. This team is, after-all, one that has never had a Hart Trophy winner in its history so just to have his name bantered about in consideration is a thrill (as too is waking up some of the Eastern media folks who don't see him on a regular basis).
And perhaps even better is that Daniel is back, Burrows is seemingly scoring at will and the three are now the most productive line in team history.
Now about that third line...