The Sedins aren't the Canucks' first line anymore

Oct 30 2017, 7:35 pm

We are witnessing a changing of the guard.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin have represented two-thirds of the Vancouver Canucks’ first line for 11 years. No other player in team history can lay claim to being on the Canucks’ first line for that long. Not Trevor Linden, not Pavel Bure, not Markus Naslund.

It all began at the start of the 2006-07 season when new head coach Alain Vigneault lined them up with Naslund to begin the season. Since then, they’ve had many linemates – Taylor Pyatt, Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Radim Vrbata, Jannik Hansen, Markus Granlund – but they’ve always been the unquestioned No. 1 line.

Until now.

After 10 games, the Sedins are unquestionably not the Canucks’ top line anymore. In fact, they’re not even the second line.

That’s not only evidenced by the fact they aren’t leading the team in scoring – Daniel is tied for ninth in team scoring, Henrik tied for 11th – but it’s even more pronounced in their ice time.

In terms of average ice time, the Sedins are third-line players for new head coach Travis Green. They rank eighth and ninth in average ice time among Canucks forwards, with Henrik playing 14:19 per night, and Daniel at 14:05.

That’s unheard of for the now 37-year-old twins.

Since becoming first liners more than a decade ago, the Sedins have each averaged at least 18 minutes per game. Their ice time has not fluctuated much since then, with career-high averages above 20 minutes per game coming during the whacky Tortorella year in 2013-14.

Last year, Henrik averaged the most ice time among Canucks forwards, seeing 19:02 per game. Daniel was fourth, playing 18:23 per game.

While the twins have played more on the power play than anyone else on the team this season, they’re actually getting fourth-line minutes at even strength. Henrik is currently ranked ninth in average even strength ice time, while Daniel is 10th. That ranks lower than every other player with 5+ games played except for Jake Virtanen.

Ironically, the division of ice time for the Sedins should be just the opposite.

The Sedins have been pretty good at five-on-five, leading the team in shot attempt differential (Corsi), while contributing three even strength points each. Meanwhile, they’ve been fairly inept on the power play, generating just a single point with the man advantage between the two of them.

So how do you feel about this, Vancouver? Is this a good news story or a bad news story?

It all depends on how you look at it.

On one hand, we’re witnessing the demise of the greatest players in franchise history.

On the other hand, this was bound to happen, and we’re finally seeing the next generation starting to materialize.

Bo Horvat (22 years old), Sven Baertschi (25), and Brock Boeser (20) now represent the team’s top line. If they can legitimately lay claim to being a No. 1 line this season, that’s tremendous news for the future of the franchise. So far, so good, as Boeser holds the team lead with nine points in eight games, with Baertschi (eight points in 10 games) and Horvat (seven points in 10 games) not far behind.

What remains to be seen is if the Sedins can find a role that suits them going forward. So far, power play specialists doesn’t appear to be it.

This season could go a long way in deciding what the twins do going forward.

Will they be discouraged to re-sign with the team after a season on the fourth line? Or, will they be encouraged by the play of the team’s young players to agree to come back for another year?

Ideally, given current personnel, it would be great to see the Sedins settle into a second or third-line role. If they can still be secondary scorers without being a liability defensively, it’ll give the team a balanced attack.

Through 10 games, they’re third or fourth liners. We’ll see if that’s where they finish up this year though.

Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned with the Sedins since they arrived in Vancouver 17 years ago, it’s to not count them out.

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