Let me first say that I think my status as a fan of the Sedin twins is well established. I praised the Canucks decision to sign them, calling it “pivotal” and describing them as “fantastic” players. I wrote an article describing the twins as “perpetually underrated” in the spring of 2009. I called for Henrik Sedin to win the Hart trophy last season, and objected to descriptions of his 2009-10 season as a “breakout year” – since he has been superb for years.
Why do I bring this up? Because I’m about to object to Hart Trophy buzz surrounding the duo.
The primary reason for my objection is the way that Alain Vigneualt has used the Sedin twins this season.
Zone starts are a simple measure of how often a player starts in the offensive zone versus the defensive zone. If we look at every single player in the National Hockey League (with certain sensible minimums: 20 games played, an average of at least 5:00 even-strength minutes per game), we find that the Sedins have been gifted with an incredibly advantage: their line starts in the offensive zone more than any other in the entire league. Here are the league leaders:
1. Daniel Sedin: 74.2% of shifts started in the offensive zone
2. Henrik Sedin: 71.1% of shifts started in the offensive zone
3. Alex Burrows: 70.0% of shifts started in the offensive zone
4. Marc-Andre Bergeron: 69.7% of shifts started in the offensive zone
5. Patrick Kane: 68.7% of shifts started in the offensive zone
6. Vincent Prospal: 67.9% of shifts started in the offensive zone
7. Mats Zucccarello: 67.7% of shifts started in the offensive zone
8. Patrick Sharp: 67.2% of shifts started in the offensive zone
9. George Parros: 65.5% of shifts started in the offensive zone
10. Sheldon Brookbank: 64.9% of shifts started in the offensive zone
Alain Vigneualt has been very, very judicious in his use of the Sedin twins. It makes sense: they’re the team’s best offensive players, and the Canucks have been blessed with strong defensive options up front, so why not start them in the offensive zone time and again?
The problem is that neither is running away with the scoring race, and their competitors don’t have the same advantage. Corey Perry and the Tampa Bay tandem of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos have all started more of their shifts in the defensive zone than in the offensive zone, and all three are in the same ballpark as the Sedin twins offensively.
Perry in particular is compelling, and I say this as someone who has always disliked Perry. Like the Sedins, he has played against the best opposition, but unlike them he’s started in his own end more often than not and played on the penalty kill (where he has five points). His plus-7 with the Anaheim Ducks (minus-3 as a team) is as least as impressive as the Sedins’ plus-20 somethings with the Canucks (plus-73 as a team).
The Sedins are having good, strong seasons, but they’re getting a lot more help from their coach than the other candidates are.