January 04, 2012
(Ed. Note: The following was written by a Canucks fan.)
I'm consistently amazed by the lengths people will go to dismiss Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
In the last two years, both have won an Art Ross Trophy and an MVP award, led the Vancouver Canucks to the Presidents' Trophy and taken them to a Stanley Cup Final. Now, for the third straight year, both are at the top of the NHL scoring race, and the possibility that they could finish 1 and 2 in points this season is very real.
And yet, to hear many hockey fans tell it, they're simply not in the same class as the players they outscore on an annual basis.
The reasons people give for discounting their superstardom are downright silly. The most common one, of course, is that they're sissy divers, a falsehood based on the fact that (a) they're European and a lot of North American hockey fans are really, really ethnocentric; and, (b) they don't act like power plays are something to accept begrudgingly.
Heck, they're so dedicated to their pursuit of the man advantage that they'll happily get speedbagged if it means they see power-play time. People used this as evidence of their weakness, but a willingness to take a punch for what you believe in doesn't seem all that sissy to me. But maybe that's just because I have a fear of gettin' punched.
Sure, they've embellished an infraction in their day, but to hear others tell it, they're the only players in the league that have ever done so. Truth is, every team has plenty of guys who make sure the refs notice when they've been interfered with, and the Sedins are no worse than most.
By the way, the Sedins' scoring rate increases with hits. They don't shy away from physical play in the slightest. That's a myth.
The other common exception, which I've heard from many, is that, far from being among the best players in the NHL, neither is even the best player on their team because Ryan Kesler plays a more complete game.
This is silly. While it's true that Kesler is a better defensive player, and probably a better emotional catalyst since the guy would literally cut off a finger to win, he doesn't have the raw offensive skill of the Sedins. Not even close. Few in the NHL do.
And maybe top-flight two-way players should indeed be more lauded than pure scorers, but you're only hearing that argument in regards to the Sedins. If you have to be flawless defensively as well as brilliant offensively to be considered an elite talent, then, well, a lot of elite players aren't elite.
And furthermore, as of this writing, only three players in the top 30 in NHL scoring had higher plus/minus ratings than they do. They backcheck just fine.
Truth is, the Sedins get a bad rep because people don't want to like them, and so they turn minor criticisms into major flaws. There are a number of reasons for that.
First, they're a completely unique package, primarily because they're a package. The great irony of the hockey world is that, while pundits will tell you hockey is the teamest of team games, when it comes time to bestow praise and accolades, everything suddenly becomes very individualistic. Considering the Sedins play a dualistic game, they're never going to get the respect they deserve. Both have won MVPs in consecutive years - Henrik the Hart in 2010 and Daniel the Pearson last June - but the argument against them each time they were nominated was that they play with one another, as though this disqualifies them from greatness.
Second, they're exceedingly weird. If the fact that they're creepy, identical twins didn't do it for you, then the bright orange, 1970s beards don't help. When you see a bearded ginger, you don't think: NHL superstar. You ask yourself why a man with red hair would grow more of it than he absolutely had to.
Third, the Sedins are the Goodnight, Moon of the NHL: brilliant, but sleep-inducing. They're a completely unique player type: unsexy, forgettable superstars.
In a league where streaking is sexy (unless you're this guy), they're consistent. While the rest of the league's top scorers will drift in and out of the top five all year based on their highs and lows, the Sedins will habitually inhabit the un-Icarian middle, simply generating their one to two goals a game like no big thing. They're the only guys for whom the point per game stat is essential, because 1.3 points is almost literally what you can expect from them on any given night.
The expected is boring. So are the other basic tenets of the Sedin game: teamwork, focus, passing, consistency, fundamentals. They're the John Stocktons of the NHL. (And if they could wear shorty-shorts, they probably would.)
Recently, we counted down the top 10 goals of 2011 here on PD, and the fact that there were no Sedin goals on the list was a travesty. That said, like the most recent Adam Sandler movie, it was an expected travesty: The Sedins make amazing things look kind of dull.
They're like positionally sound goaltenders. There's no need for acrobatics when you've got the angles and the positioning down to a science. (And how boring is science unless Mr. Wizard is teaching it?)
But that's what makes them so good. These guys are clutch players, but every time they score, it seems less like a clutch effort and more like the inevitable collection of their average 1.3 points per game. It's not just amazing: it's amazingly humdrum.
Take a look at these two goals from last year.
First, this one versus the Nashville Predators.
In about one second, the Sedins and Alex Burrows combine for a tic-tac-toe goal that features, in this order, a no-look bank pass into a blind backhand saucer chip pass into a mid-air one-timer. No one else in the NHL is scoring this goal. And it was hardly talked about.
Second, this one versus the San Jose Sharks.
It's a 1-on-1, until Daniel Sedin decides that, instead of going at his man, he'll cut straight across the blue line away from him. Meanwhile, Henrik Sedin dashes through the middle of the zone, and suddenly Daniel hits him with a perfect saucer pass to send him in alone. Then Henrik beats Antti Niemi with the classic Forsberg shootout move. How often have you seen this move done in-game?
And these might not even be the prettiest goals the Sedins scored last year.
OK, so I'm a fan of the Canucks, but more than that, I'm a fan of the Sedins, and you don't have to be the former to be the latter. These guys are once-in-a-lifetime talents.
Let me clarify that statement: They're not at the level of a Gretzky, Lemieux, or even a Crosby, but do you honestly expect that the NHL will yield another pair of identical twins that have more chemistry than a biography of Robert Boyle because they've never played apart in their lives? Seriously, once in a lifetime.
If you're smart, you'll appreciate them while they're here, because the Sedins won't be around forever, and guys like them may never come around again.