Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA TODAY Sports
The Canucks haven’t just come back down to Earth. Losers of seven straight, they’ve crashed right through to the very core and everyone’s feeling the heat.
Neither management nor coaching has been immune. To the surprise of many, neither have the team’s best players. In what’s become an annual ritual, the Sedins have come under scrutiny for the club’s inability to generate offence.
The thing to remember, though, is that we’re talking about players entering their late-thirties. They’ve a role to play in this club’s malaise. Nothing that we couldn’t have – or rather, shouldn’t have – seen coming though.
This wouldn’t be the first season the Sedins diminished as even strength point producers. The Sedins ability to produce offence at evens has been in decline for six straight seasons. They’re currently in the midst of what would be their seventh straight season in offensive free-fall. Though it’s difficult to tell at times, the Sedins are ageing and it reflects in their production.
It’s most noticeable now, while the club is producing less than two goals a game in all states, but they’ve been losing their offensive potency for quite some time. In fact, this was a relevant issue facing the Canucks going into last season. Here’s former Canucks Army Managing Editor Rhys Jessop on the Sedins going into the 2015-16 season.
Though both can still generate offense at a very slightly below average first line rate at even strength, their declining ability to put pucks in the net themselves is inarguable. Daniel especially has suffered in recent years, falling off a cliff in terms of his personal shooting percentage. Formerly one of the NHL’s deadliest goal scorers, Daniel’s 5v5 Goals/60 has been dropping for six consecutive seasons – a worrying but predictable trend for a player who will be 35 when the next season starts.
Since the two account for $14-million in salary and two-thirds of the first line, it’s reasonable that one might expect them to figure prominently into their offensive gameplan. Up to this season, the two produced at a healthy clip. Hell, I’d even expect them to finish the season in that range, too. The pair isn’t likely to suffer a 5% on-ice Sh% at even strength all season. For context, they ran at 9.45% efficiency in the seven seasons prior.
Eventually the Sedins, like the Canucks themselves, will rebound from percentage hell. Regression is real, and the Sedins are like to ride that wave back to at least average first line scoring.
To what exact end, though, is the real question. Management often cites the Sedins as contributing factors in their playoff persistence. They’re still producing like first line players and deserve every chance to compete, and so on.
There’s a logical fallacy therein, though, that doesn’t align with reality. The Sedins have produced as first-line players – hell, above average first line players – in each of the Canucks last two playoff-free seasons. The problem now, as it was when Jessop pointed it out before last season, is that they can’t carry a team offensively at this stage in their careers. That’s not something I’d expect them to improve upon as they age closer to their forties.
Which brings into question the Canucks’ insistence on “competing” season after lost season. I understand the sentiment that it’s exceedingly difficult to conduct an all-out rebuild with two above average first line players. But the Canucks wouldn’t be the first team to operate a rebuild under those parameters, and they won’t be the last. For context, here are two players from the 30th place Toronto Maple Leafs of last season, opposed to the Sedins.
I love the notion that the Canucks can’t carry out a rebuild with the Sedins. Here’s two players from last place Leafs last season. pic.twitter.com/jOyXpUlNuV
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) November 4, 2016
If the plan was to give the Sedins a chance to compete again, this is a club that should’ve embarked on a tear-it-down rebuild three seasons ago; this is a team that should’ve stockpiled draft picks at every opportunity, or at least one of the several presented to them at last year’s deadline. A team that shouldn’t be investing long-term capital in meagre talent that will inhibit their ability to compete in free agency when they’re ready to challenge for a Stanley Cup.
The Sedins can’t score, sure. At least not at the rate that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. In that sense, the peanut gallery is rightfully distraught.
This shouldn’t have caught anyone out of left field, though. It’s a developing trend that’s inception date reaches well beyond the dawn of the Jim Benning era in Vancouver.
And while we can quibble with the Canucks’ direction until the cows come home, it’s inarguable to this point that they’ve done what little they could to efficiently carry out their plan. They’ve either parted with or watched their best offensive contributors leave town season after lost season. Concurrently, they’ve kept replacement level players like Derek Dorsett and Luca Sbisa in the fold, and at no small cost.
With shrewd management, there’s no reason the Canucks couldn’t have built a semi-competitive team around the Sedins. One that could score goals at even a menial clip. When you’re continually bleeding draft picks, prospects, salary and scoring talent in the name of size, grit, heart and culture, though, that becomes an increasingly difficult task.
Sure, the foundation the Canucks playoff house is built upon is failing. But with the offensive weight placed upon it, nobody should really be surprised.