John Tortorella did the unthinkable once again last night in Philadelphia: he split up the Sedins. Just like when he split up the Sedins in Calgary earlier this season, the result was positive. This begs the question: should the Canucks go an extended period of time with the Sedins split up? I say yes.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin have played 99.999% (approximately) of their careers on the same line together. Their only two prior head coaches in the NHL, Marc Crawford and Alain Vigneault, split up the Sedins about as often as AV played Keith Ballard on the power play (ie. very rarely or by accident).
There have only been two occasions where the Sedins have been apart for a significant length of time, when Daniel missed 19 games in 2009-10 and 13 games in 2011-12 due to injury. Henrik was far from lost without his brother during those two occasions. In their time apart during those two seasons, Henrik had 29 points in 28 games in the regular season and 2 points in 3 games in the playoffs.
Henrik has proven to be just fine without Daniel, but Daniel playing without Henrik is still uncharted territory due to Henrik’s ironman streak.
John Tortorella has tried splitting up the Sedins briefly twice this year, with spectacular results. The first time came in the third period against Calgary with the Canucks trailing 3-1. The results were immediate, as Jannik Hansen (playing on a line with Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler) and Mike Santorelli (playing on a line with Henrik Sedin and Chris Higgins) each scored. Torts put the Sedins back together for the next three games but split them up again during the third period in Philadelphia. This time Torts put Henrik on a line with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins and Daniel on a line with Mike Santorelli and Jannik Hansen. Kesler and Higgins each scored on the newly formed lines and the Canucks went on to win the game.
If Daniel and Henrik weren’t twin brothers, they would undoubtedly start Thursday’s game against Buffalo on different lines. Most people believe that because they’ve played their entire career together, they are better together and I don’t dispute this. But that doesn’t mean that the other four top 6 forwards are better off with the Sedins together.
First and foremost, splitting up the Sedins helps Ryan Kesler. Whether Kesler plays at centre with Daniel or on the wing with Henrik, it gives him an elite playmaker on his line. Kesler is a shooter and he is most well suited to having a winger than can set him up.
Splitting up the Sedins also frees up one of the twins to play against the other team’s second defence pairing. Imagine matching up against Boston and one of the twins not having to play against Zdeno Chara or against Nashville and not having to play against Shea Weber.
Lastly, splitting up the Sedins makes the Canucks far less predictable. Opposing teams have game plans focused on how to stop the Sedin line and their cycle play. Splitting the Sedins changes everything.
Daniel and Henrik won’t forget how to play with each other at 5-on-5 and they should still play together on the power play, the penalty kill and 4-on-4 situations, so I don’t get the paranoia of playing them apart at even strength for an extended period of time.
Ultimately, I believe the Sedins are better together and that’s likely the most common recipe for success for the Canucks. But when things aren’t going well they shouldn’t be afraid to mix things up, just like anyone else. If they split the Sedins up and the new lines are successful, why not keep them together for as long as they work? That’s why if I were John Tortorella I would keep Henrik and Daniel apart to start the next game in Buffalo, at least to start, and ride it as long as they can.