Canucks’ Sedins: The twin powers
Suppressing or messing? Coach Alain Vigneault feels he’s keeping the offensively gifted Daniel and Henrik fresh by limiting ice time
Vancouver Canucks stars Henrik (left) and Daniel Sedin listen to the national anthem prior to their NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Dec. 26, 2011.
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images
VANCOUVER — Daniel and Henrik Sedin have never complained publicly about their ice time. Or anything else.
But the twins admitted this week that, from time to time, they do go to coach Alain Vigneault to politely inquire about their playing time. We can only imagine this smackdown.
Daniel: “Hey, AV, I understand you’re trying to keep us fresh. But when I won the scoring title in 2011, I was 72nd in the NHL in ice time among forwards. Blake frickin’ Comeau got more ice time than I did. Bloody writers gave the Hart Trophy to Corey Perry. He got 225 minutes more ice time that season. That’s nearly four hours. I could have had another 15 points — more than Max Lapierre had all that year. There was a game last season in Calgary where you played me for 14:15. I kept looking behind the bench to see if it was Marc Crawford. You finally told me to take a shift and I couldn’t remember where the ice was.”
Henrik: “For sure I remember that game, Danny. I thought you’d retired. Five of our forwards got more ice time than us. I felt like Victor Oreskovich. I hadn’t been that humiliated since we did that commercial and danced for a bunch of dudes at a bachelor party. They told us no one will ever see it. When I won the Art Ross before you did — got the Hart, too, and you’re buying at Hooters until you catch up, bro — my ice time was 37th in the league among forwards. Not only was Scott Gomez still in the NHL then, he got more TOI than I did. That makes as much sense as Louie to the Flyers. You know what you gave me, Al, for winning the scoring title and MVP? Less ice time the next season. Why don’t you let the big dogs eat?”
Daniel: “Yeah, help us help you. Let the wondertwin powers activate. Know who else has put 100 points on the board for this team? The bottom half of the lineup. Your suppressing us is messing us.”
Henrik: “We heard they called you Bam-Bam when you played. And that’s what the owner’s going to do to you if we miss the playoffs. No matter how many times Matt Cooke throws himself offside on a 2-on-1, you won’t be laughing then. Even that old tape of Bob McCammon yelling at Elliott Pap won’t seem so funny. Look, there’s room on the Stanley Cup for everyone’s name. We’re all Canucks, but we’re not equal. You know how to spell coach of the year? S-E-D-I-N.”
Yeah, the Sedins’ submission probably goes something like that.
And yet they still receive less ice time, year after year, than nearly every other full-grown, elite forward in the National Hockey League.
“I’m very stubborn,” Vigneault said this week. “They’re just the type of guys who want to do everything they can for the team. I’ve got to look at the big picture.
“My responsibility is obviously to win the game that we’re in, but also to look at the big picture and I’m going to continue to do that.”
Well then, let’s look at the big picture before us.
Vital second-line centre Ryan Kesler remains out indefinitely after off-season surgeries, and now his linemate and Michigan home boy David Booth is hurt, too. Kesler’s job was being contested this week by Andrew Ebbett and Jordan Schroeder. Ebbett’s NHL point totals the last three seasons are 15, five and six. Schroeder, 22, might yet become a player. But he hasn’t played an NHL game and his best season in the minors is 44 points.
The second line could be outscored by the third. The best replacement for Kesler is more ice time for the Sedins and Alex Burrows.
This season is a 48-game sprint, not an 82-game marathon.
Playing 21 minutes a night instead of 19 – Henrik averaged 19:05 last season, Daniel 18:48 – isn’t going to exhaust the Sedins.
Los Angeles Kings’ star Anze Kopitar averaged 21:20 of ice time through 82 games last regular season, and still had the strength to lift the Stanley Cup after being his team’s best skater in the playoffs.
If ever there is a season to start the Sedins in the 20s, this is it.
“I think you can play 22, 23, 24 effective minutes,” Henrik said (and, yes, he really is talking now). “We’ve always felt we could do that. But the way our team is set up and us not killing penalties, it makes it hard. We’ve looked at it; we’ve talked to AV. We understand why we play like we are. Some nights we’ll play 22 minutes and those nights are great, but sometimes it’s not that way.
“I understand they want to spread ice time around. But there are games when you feel great — and maybe you don’t look at the big picture of four games in six nights — and you feel you want to play more. There are nights you’d like to play more.”
And that’s as close as the Sedins are going to come to a gripe.
“We’ve looked at the schedule and it’s not any worse than an Olympic year; it’s the same thing,” Daniel said. “I don’t look at it like it’s going to be a grind (physically).
“I think we can handle more. But we’ve got a great team. If it’s possible, I think every line should play 15 minutes. That would be the best.”
Uh, no. Fifteen minutes per line is not the best, unless you’re Aaron Volpatti.
“No, but we’ve been winning and having success and that’s the most fun about this team,” Danny countered. “Everyone accepts the role they’re given. If they want us to play 25 minutes, we can play 25 minutes. But we’re fine playing 18 or 19 minutes.”
Vigneault has history — and extensive experience as a head coach in the best league in the world — on his side. Since moving the Sedins to the first line and core of the team when Vigneault replaced Crawford in 2006, the Canucks have won 287 games, five division titles and six playoff rounds. Vigneault was also coach-of-the-year in 2007 and a runner-up in 2011.
But this season is formatted like no other. It is set up for the best players to play more.
“I really believe if you’re going to have success in this kind of format, you’ve got to play four lines, you’ve got to play six Ds, you’ve got to spread the minutes out,” Vigneault said. “That’s what I’m expecting at this time.”
“I know the twins; they’re in great shape and can play a few more minutes,” their linemate, Alex Burrows, said. “It would be nice to see them more on the ice; I agree with that. That being said, we have a lot of depth on this team. It’s going to be a sprint for 48 games, and we want to make sure our players are still healthy and ready to go into the playoffs.”
The Canucks have to get there first.
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