In a perfect world, the Vancouver Canucks would have a top line.
If Mike Gillis kept an eye on the future when the Canucks were still good, they would be promoting some young 20-somethings to the top line right now.
Hell, if they drafted better, maybe the Canucks would have the talent there already.
The jury is out about Horvat being a top-line player. He clearly posts good second-line numbers, and he has top-line potential. However, it’s hard to argue that he’s currently a top-line player.
Brock Boeser clearly has more skill than this roster has seen since, well, the Sedins. It’s hard to anoint him as a first line player when he’s only 12 games into his career, but his future looks brighter than my backside in winter time.
The Canucks lack of a top line means that there will be more pain this season. The Sedins aren’t first line players anymore, and most people are writing them off. People calling into radio shows around this city are saying that the Sedins aren’t a “fit” anymore.
Most people are eager to get on with the rebuild, and bring up the future. That’s fair, but to say the Sedins don’t have hockey left in them is a bit of an overstatement.
Sedins are creating chances
Last season, the Canucks got pounded in the possession department. No Canuck regular finished with a scoring chance differential above 50%.
This season, the Canucks have the 20th overall adjusted scoring chance differential. It was evident last night against the Ottawa Senators that the Canucks still struggle with preventing chances. If it wasn’t for a brilliant performance from Anders Nilsson, the Canucks could have been down in an early hole.
They turned it around in the final two periods with Boeser and Alex Burmistrov providing the offence. However, it was the Sedin twins who once again led the team in possession.
The twins had the best scoring chance differential on the night, playing with both Markus Granlund and Sam Gagner on their line. Having Gagner on that line made the twins surprisingly dangerous, and they had a Corsi for percentage of 80%, according to Natural Stat Trick.
On the season, it’s the twins that lead the Canucks in terms of Corsi for. Daniel leads the way with a Corsi for of 60.8% through the first five games of the season.
Green’s twin deployment
Green is going back to the Alain Vigneault way of doing things in Vancouver. So far, the Sedins have taken more than 70% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone.
Since the belief around the league is that the Sedins aren’t what they used to be, the opposing teams aren’t playing their top checking line against them. Against the Senators it was a bit of a mixed bag, but against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, the bulk of their shifts were played against Kris Versteeg, Sam Bennett and Jaromir Jagr.
One thing we haven’t seen in Vancouver almost ever, is the Sedins playing fringe top-six minutes. In terms of even-strength ice-time, Henrik is eighth amongst Canucks forwards and Daniel is tenth.
Daniel Sedin played least out of any #Canucks player in the first - 3:17— Omar A (@omarcanuck) October 18, 2017
Last night against the Sens, Daniel and Henrik had their lowest ice time totals in years. Daniel played 12:29 while Henrik played 12:38.
Green was criticized for giving them too much power play time, which was fair considering the ineptitude of the power play. However, their even-strength play so far has shown that they have something left in the tank.
Outlook for the Sedins
The Sedins have been snakebitten a bit offensively to start the season. Only Jake Virtanen and Erik Gudbranson have worse on-ice shooting percentages. Daniel has a team-worst 936 PDO, while Henrik’s 946 PDO is only ahead of Virtanen.
One of the criticisms of the twins is that they don’t have the speed and strength to get the puck to the net like they used to. This results in more of their shots coming from the outside.
That’s part of the reason why Daniel has a career-low 6.9 shooting percentage last season. This year, he leads the Canucks in shots with 14, but with one goal, his shooting percentage is sitting at a familiar 7.1%.
In the game against the Senators last night, the Sedins were able to register some chances from in-close. Especially with Gagner on their line, Daniel was able to get a good chance in close.
Green in currently sheltering the Sedins, and it’s allowing the twins to create chances. They will still be hard-pressed to match last season’s point totals since their ice-time has decreased dramatically, but the underlying numbers show that they should still be able to produce.