Saturday, September 21, 2013

Henrik and Daniel: Plus-minus royalty among active players

Neither Sedin has ever won a plus-minus crown.  (Of all their Canucks teammates, who would have thought that Marek Malik would have beat them to it...) But ever since a combined -5 rating in their rookie seasons all 13 years ago, the Canucks duo have been plus players every year of their careers.  And from 2009-10 on, Henrik has been an annual staple on the league's plus-minus leaderboard -- ranking 8th, 14th, 15th and 11th in that span. Meanwhile, in that same four-year run, Daniel has come closer to the NHL's Plus-Minus Award, but has been a bit less consistent at 5th, 5th, 64th and 45th.

Henrik and Daniel at 3rd and 6th overall. See the note at the end
of the article for differences between our list and's.
As a result the Sedins steady 5-on-5 play, Henrik enters the 2013-14 season ranked third among all active players in career plus-minus.  In some part to his current ironman streak, Henrik, as always, has an edge on Daniel at a career +200 to +172.  The only two above him?  Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Datsyuk -- one is likely the greatest offensive threat of his generation, while the other represents the best two-way forward of his.  In other words, Henrik stands among pretty heady company.  Daniel, meanwhile, ranks sixth* with Marian Hossa and Patrik Elias sandwiched between the twins.

(Borderline related: See BTD's January article on the Sedins' ranking among active players without a Stanley Cup.)

At +200, Henrik is currently 29 plus-minus points behind Datsyuk and 78 behind Jagr.  With several years in hand on Datsyuk (aged 35) and Jagr in the twilight of his career, more consistency from Henrik could mean the humble Sweden standing alone in this regard somewhere down the road.  On an all-time basis, he is currently just one plus-minus point behind Glenn Anderson for 60th overall.

The notion that the Sedins have "lost a step" as they venture into their thirties seems to be supported by their dip in offensive production for the past two years.  Their recent sub-point-per-game pace, however, has less to do with an overall decline in ability as it does with an impotent power play.  Henrik's plus-minus is a clear indicator of this -- his +19 rating over 48 games in 2012-13 translates to a +30 if not for the lockout.  In other words, at a plus-per-game rate, his even strength play last season was the second-best of his career.

I will easily grant that plus-minus is likely the most dubious statistic that the NHL chooses to highlight.  In fact, the mere presence of Wade Redden at eighth overall among active players -- just three behind Zdeno Chara -- represents sufficient ammo for detractors of the stat.  However, Redden is really the only anomaly among the top ten with Joe Thornton and Daniel Alfredsson rounding out the list.  The plus-minus stat isn't perfect by any means.  But on a career basis, it does demonstrate an ability to bring elite players to the forefront.  Playing on a strong team certainly helps, but Henrik and Daniel represent the engine that drives the Canucks' offence.  By no means have they been riding coattails to the top of the plus-minus ladder.  Ditto for 90% of the top ten active leaders.

So there's something to be said about Henrik's, as well as Daniel's place among their contemporaries in this regard.  At even strength, the Sedins are about as dependable as they come. Art Ross contention is well in the rearview mirror, but the expectation for the Sedins to continue their automatic point-per-game pace while keeping the puck increasingly out of their own net is exactly what you want and need from your leaders.


*Note:'s all-time active list ranks Chris Pronger at sixth overall, but given that he hasn't played in two years on account of his 2011 concussion, we'll exclude him as an 'active' player. Meanwhile, seems to have made Wade Redden's retirement announcement for him, as he isn't included on their list. Given that he's still training for the upcoming season and is at least more active than Pronger, we'll include him at 8th overall.


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