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[article] why the Sedins and Eriksson are a perfect fit


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http://thecanuckway.com/2016/08/04/vancouver-canucks-why-the-sedins-and-eriksson-are-a-perfect-fit/

 

Vancouver Canucks: Why the Sedins and Eriksson Are a Perfect Fit

 
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Not everyone likes hockey analytics. But when they suggest the Vancouver Canucks’ new top line should work perfectly, that’s a different story.

What has Vancouver Canucks fans most excited for the 2016-17 season is probably the new top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson. An all Swedish line that was outstanding at the 2013 IIHF World Championship and one that should always work well if we trust analytics.

When talking about player types or roles, we mostly think of terms like “sniper”, “playmaker” or “power forward”.  Those terms give us a general idea for what a given player will do in the offensive zone and what kind of impact he has on his team. A “sniper” is expected to shoot a lot and get a high number of goals rather than assists. A playmaker, on the other hand, gets more assists than goals; and a power forward usually shoots much and scores often, but is also physical.

So what about the Canucks’ new top line?

Henrik Sedin has 222 goals and 748 assists in his career — clearly a playmaker. Daniel Sedin, on the other hand, has 355 goals and 587 assists. In 2010-11, he had a career-high 41 goals — clearly a sniper. Loui Eriksson has 212 goals and 292 assists in his career, and is widely considered a two-way forward with great scoring ability.

A playmaker at center and two snipers on the wings is what hockey traditionalists will call the perfect line. So that’s a good start.

Neutral Zone Playing Styles

To get to the point totals above, the players first had to get through the neutral zone and start an attack. Hockey analyst Alex Novet of Hockey-Graphs.com analyzed exactly that: neutral zone playing styles.

From his article:

One avenue to understanding neutral zone playing style is carry-in %, which measures how many of a player’s entries are carry-ins with possession. Carry-in % is a reflection of the player’s tendencies and also a measure of results since carry-ins tend to lead to more shots on net than dump-ins.

Another avenue to measure style is individual entry share. Individual entry share (iES, also called burden) takes advantage of the fact that most neutral zone tracking includes both the player who completed the zone entry and his or her on-ice teammates. Using this, we can calculate the proportion of on-ice team entries where the skater made the play with the puck. A high iES player is a player who gets the puck into the offensive zone himself, no matter how he does it. This is not to say that players with low iES are bad in the neutral zone: they may provide strong defensive play, earlier passes, or savvy positional play to make the entry possible, they just don’t get the puck into the zone themselves.

Novet looked at two different statistics that were tracked by Corey Sznajder in the 2013-14 season — carry-in percentage (CI%) and individual entry share (iES).

The first gives us an idea for how a player tends to enter the offensive zone and how successful he is doing it. A player who often dumps the puck will have a CI% simply because he doesn’t try to carry it in a lot. A player who likes to carry the puck in has a higher chance of getting his CI% up, but it only really goes up if he is successful doing it.

The second metric measures the percentage of zone entries each individual player leads. A player who likes to just skate into the offensive zone and not get the puck until he is there will have a lower percentage here. A player who likes having the puck on his stick and driving the attack will have a higher percentage.

With that, Novet sorted players in five groups or roles: drivers, opportunists, dump trucks, passengers and balanced players.

From his article:

  • Drivers: These players “drive” play in the neutral zone. They frequently possess the puck during entries and carry it in.
  • Passengers: The opposite of drivers, these players rely on their teammates to conduct zone entries. When they do enter the zone, they tend to dump it in.
  • Opportunists: These players don’t enter the zone often, but when they do, they do it well. They have high carry-in rates but do not enter the zone as often as their teammates.
  • Dump Trucks: As the name implies, these players dump the puck in and dump it often. They are tasked with getting the puck into the zone, and they do so by giving up posession.

So, now that we have established how each tracked player is categorized, we can start thinking about what roles would likely work well together.

Novet used the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example. One of the best lines in the 2016 playoffs was that of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. In role terms, that is driver-passenger-driver. In other words, two fast-skating wingers who drive the play and carry the puck into the offensive zone, with a center who just let’s them do their work.

That, by the way, doesn’t make Bonino a bad player. It just makes him one who has good chemistry with “drivers”. That said, players like John Scott, Tanner Glassand Tom Sestito are also in the “passenger” category, and that doesn’t mean they would work well on a line with Kessel and Hagelin.

The Vancouver Canucks

What’s safe to say is that every line needs at least one driver. One player you know you can get the puck to on the breakout and he will make sure it gets into the offensive zone — and his team keeps possession.

Of the Vancouver Canucks that were tracked in 2013-14, only Sven Baertschiand Emerson Etem qualify as “drivers”. However, Daniel Sedin, who qualifies as “balanced” is on the verge of being a “driver”. So, he gets that spot on the top line.

Now, his twin brother Henrik will of course be on the top line with him — it’s always worked, so there is no need to change it up. Henrik is categorized as an opportunist. His iES of 24 percent is quite low (Bonino’s was 20 percent), but his CI% is the highest of all tracked Canucks. Put into words, that means Henrik isn’t the go-to guy for zone entries, but he carries the puck in successfully when he does enter the offensive zone with the puck.

That gives us one player who is capable and willing to drive the play, and one who rather sits back on the rush, but gets the work done when he has to. Sounds like a good match.

Completing the top line is Loui Eriksson. His CI% of 47 percent actually pushes him into the “dump truck” corner a little, but he is “officially” considered “balanced”. This may sound like I’m simplifying things too much, but a “driver”, an “opportunist” and a “balanced” player with a great two-way game sounds like a great combination.

Problems

If we just assume that what I said is correct and driver-opportunist-balanced is a great combination, there are still a few problems with this whole model that were, of course, also acknowledged by Alex Novet himself.

That also brings us to the next issue. There are many factors that can influence neutral zone playing styles. Different coaches want their players to enter the zone in different ways and different coaches want different players to do the job. There is no way of telling what a coach told his players regarding this matter.First of all, the data is from a single season. Statistics are always more accurate with a larger sample size. In this case, there are many factors that can influence neutral zone playing styles and therefore change the statistics. If we had access to, say, five tracked seasons, the player sorting could be much more accurate.

Furthermore, players change line mates all the time, and they even switch teams every now and then. Hagelin, Bonino and Kessel all played on different in the 2013-14 campaign, and Eriksson wasn’t on the Canucks that year either. The twins usually playing together helps, but there is no way of predicting what neutral zone play will really look like when they play with Eriksson. Again, a larger sample size would help here.

Conclusion

Alex Novet’s model is still in its infancy, but it is a great start to determine player types/roles in a new way. We saw what the Sedin twins and Eriksson did in 2013 and I can’t tell you if their roles as outlined above are a reason for that. Fact is, however, traditional hockey wisdom combined with this statistical model suggest Eriksson and the twins should make for a great line.

The Vancouver Canucks are in desperate need of scoring. An elite top line isn’t all it takes to win, a good top line and a lack of secondary scoring is better than an average top line and below-average scoring.

A very new model on neutral zone play won’t change the line combinations Willie Desjardins will go with, and there is still reason to believe Eriksson would be great on other lines. However, Novet’s model might be enough to explain why a Sedin-Sedin-Eriksson line works particularly well while others do not.

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I think a lot of their success is going to come from what the second line does. If they put up good offensive numbers, opponents can't just focus on the Sedin line and have to spread their top defensemen out to cover two lines. If they don't produce enough to be considered a serious threat, teams will always be out to shut down the Sedins. They can be analyzed all day long but if the rest of the team isn't doing their jobs, the analytics can be thrown in the garbage.

He used Pittsburgh as his Guinea Pig and specifically the Bonino line. Yes, they had great success, but it was because the whole team was doing their jobs. To accurately assess a lines success in the way this study was done, he has to also account for the whole team and how they performed as well, otherwise it falls under the, "looks good on paper", category which really doesn't say anything about their realistic chances of success.

It would, however, be interesting to put this method to the test with the Canucks line up as it is and see the result. I'd love to see the line combinations. I'd be willing to bet there would be a lot of head scratching.

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They were dynamic together at the world championships, that's all I need to know. 

 

Don't need a blogger,  basing assumptions on someone's stats, which are based on yet another person's stats, to tell me they'll be good together in Vancouver as well.

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Honestly I hope at 6 million over 6 years this guy can anchor his own line... We'll need the depth. 

 

Obviously you stack them up when you need to manufacture big time goals.... 

 

We'll see. 

 

I'm still baffled he is getting paid 6 million a year on a 6 year deal to play with by far the greatest 1-2 punch in the history of sports and gets to move to the world's single greatest city... That being said those 6aav 6 year deals were being handed out like peanuts and I can't blame JB for doing so too. 

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The thing I'm interested in, that nobody seems to mention, is if Eriksson will play the point on the PP. If memory serves me correct, he does internationally. We may have just got our puck-moving D-man who can juice our PP without anyone noticing.

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Meh - neutral zone styles / tendencies and zone entries - interesting and all (sort of) but there's a lot more to being ideal line-mates than that.  How does that article establish that they're a 'perfect fit'?  Article is more about a (reductive) model than that line.  Overall I give it a snore and a miss.

 

 

 

 

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15 minutes ago, apollo said:

Honestly I hope at 6 million over 6 years this guy can anchor his own line... We'll need the depth. 

 

Obviously you stack them up when you need to manufacture big time goals.... 

 

We'll see. 

 

I'm still baffled he is getting paid 6 million a year on a 6 year deal to play with by far the greatest 1-2 punch in the history of sports and gets to move to the world's single greatest city... That being said those 6aav 6 year deals were being handed out like peanuts and I can't blame JB for doing so too. 

I agree. Even 2M would have been an overpayment. Heck he should be paying the Canucks money to get to play for the greatest sports franchise of all time.

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4 minutes ago, Toews said:

I agree. Even 2M would have been an overpayment. Heck he should be paying the Canucks money to get to play for the greatest sports franchise of all time.

Exactly.  60 pts isn't all that much more than Higgins was scoring as a tweener.   

Shoulda signed for 4 years at 2.5, maybe a hair more.

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56 minutes ago, Neversummer said:

They said that about Vrbata when he was first signed ... lasted a year.  

the problem is that vrbata, does not cycle the puck, doesn't stand in front of the net. he just stood in one spot and waited for the sedins to pass the puck to him...sedins had to be both playmakers...i believe they asked for a different winger...through all that time, danny became the net presence....burrows and hansen both understood what the sedins wanted out of their winger...

vrbata needs his line mates to give him the puck in a spot that he could get his shot away..his linemates on the second line could feed him to enhance his talent...

i think that linemates just have to gel together...plus have someone who can put the puck in the net...

a great line was gretzky, kurri and semenko. both gretz and kurri could play all ways except tough...semenko looked after that...

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18 minutes ago, oldnews said:

Exactly.  60 pts isn't all that much more than Higgins was scoring as a tweener.   

Shoulda signed for 4 years at 2.5, maybe a hair more.

2.5 too much too 

 

Honestly I'm with @Toews... Loui should be paying us for the honour of playing in the world's most illustrious franchise along side, without a doubt, what is the greatest 1-2 punch in the history of the planet. Better than Kurri Gretzky, Jordan pippin, Pb & j... Sex & alcohol... 

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44 minutes ago, apollo said:

Honestly I hope at 6 million over 6 years this guy can anchor his own line... We'll need the depth. 

 

Obviously you stack them up when you need to manufacture big time goals.... 

 

We'll see. 

 

I'm still baffled he is getting paid 6 million a year on a 6 year deal to play with by far the greatest 1-2 punch in the history of sports and gets to move to the world's single greatest city... That being said those 6aav 6 year deals were being handed out like peanuts and I can't blame JB for doing so too. 

disagree, loui has 2 years with a nmc, 2 more with a ntc and 2 years with a modified ntc..

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8 minutes ago, apollo said:

2.5 too much too 

 

Honestly I'm with @Toews... Loui should be paying us for the honour of playing in the world's most illustrious franchise along side, without a doubt, what is the greatest 1-2 punch in the history of the planet. Better than Kurri Gretzky, Jordan pippin, Pb & j... Sex & alcohol... 

not sure Toews is with you though.

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