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KK Members Blog

The Face[s] of the NHL

12/20/2011 at 10:31pm EST

Recent conversation among pundits has been sobering with Crosby shut down and Ovechkin not playing like Ovechkin for the second season in a row. They claim that the NHL currently does not have a face because the two biggest names (they chose and marketed the eggs in one rivalry basket) are not currently the best players.

As Colonel Potter would say, horse hockey!

The NHL has a face, and it\‘s shared by two players! They happen to be twins who play on the top line for the Vancouver Canucks. Over the past two seasons they became the first brothers to alternately lead the league in points in consecutive seasons. They are the Sedin twins. It started in \‘09-\‘10 with Henrik winning the Art Ross and the Hart Memorial Trophies as well as making the first All-Star team. It continued last season, \‘10-\‘11, with Daniel winning the Art Ross Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award. Both brothers made the first All-Star team last season. The rise of the Sedin twins began after the lockout, in the \‘05-\‘06 season. After helping Sweden win Olympic Gold the Sedin twins completed their first breakout seasons together. (1)

But why hasn\‘t the NHL awakened to its current face[s]? Is it the same reason Nicklas Lidstrom was a bridesmaid three consecutive years before they had to hand him the Norris Trophy the following three years and not denied him any season since then that he has earned it, because he\‘s Swedish? (2) Or has the NHL finally gotten past the most ridiculous of all its prejudices only to fall into its worst one: The Sedin twins play for a Western Canadian team and that is simply not marketable to the rest of the league?

Before \‘07-\‘08 the league and the media did not believe a European captain could lead a team to the Cup. (3) Not only did that happen, the captain to do it was also the first European to be named playoff MVP in his previous Cup run in \‘02, and another European (teammate Henrik Zetterberg, also a Swede) was named the ‘08 MVP. So seemingly almost everyone has gotten over at least Swedish bias as well as European bias in general (Evgeni Malkin won the following playoff Conn Smyth Trophy).

That leaves the issue with Western Canadian teams. However, how does that make sense after last season\‘s run by the very team the twins lead (not just in talent, Henrik is captain, Daniel an alternate), the Vancouver Canucks, who lost a seven game series to the Boston Bruins for the Stanely Cup? Yes, the Sedin twins had a poor showing in the series, but the fact is Boston found a way to shut them down. It happens to the best players in any given series. Detroit did it to Lindros and his Legion of Doom in \‘97 by playing the finesse defense pair of Lidstrom and Murphy against them instead of the more physical unit of Fetisov and Konstantov. Did that stop the crowned \“Next One\” from still being a face of the NHL at the time? No, what stopped him was a series of concussions, the issue that brought about this nonsensical topic of the league not having a face in the first place. Ironic? I think so.

The fact is we live in an age when any team in North America can be marketed. If the NHL wanted to acknowledge the Sedin twins as the face[s] of the NHL that they are they could feature them almost weekly at 9 PM Eastern Time on VS (soon to be NBC Sports) as well as schedule some Eastern Time Zone road games when NBC has Sunday coverage. It\‘s not like HNIC doesn\‘t have three other Western Canadian teams to highlight at 10 PM Eastern Time on Saturday night.

These are the facts, and they are the face[s]. Don\‘t be surprised if Henrik flips his brother for the Art Ross this season as he is tied for the league lead in points (at the time of this writing), not that Daniel can\‘t go ballistic and recover from his games lost to injuries to make the race even more interesting by season\‘s end. They are the face[s] the NHL needs… and deserves. (4) It\‘s time someone recognized that.

Note: I originally wrote this as a posting to my fantasy hockey league after I read a Yahoo! Sports note about Henrik Sedin, a member of my own fantasy team, regarding his 3 point performance December 19th vs. Minnesota. I cannot recall the most recent article or conversation on my mind regarding the lack of a “face of the game” that spawned my comments. Also, I don\‘t know how superscript the end notes (my apologies).

(1) Referenced from biographic articles of Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin on Wikipedia; in particular a Marc Crawford comment regarding their breakout season.

(2) I am bothered significantly by the shunning of Lidstrom those three seasons; in particular that he played a “soft game.” I greatly respect the skills of Rob Blake, Al MacInnis, and Chris Pronger, but I do not believe they played better than Lidstrom. I remember his “soft play” being given as a reason by some pundits in particular when he lost to Blake and Pronger, as well as his being a “soft European” (I list Swedish as the bias above because of \“soft Swede\” and the acceptance of Ovechkin and Malkin as unquestionable superstars; Forsberg was considered an exception to the \“typical Swede,\” as memory serves). I also believe MacInnis was given the award because he had not won it yet, and as Lidstrom was the only other option that season, MacInnis received the sympathy vote. Maybe I believe this as a Wings fan and a Lidstrom fan. Maybe I am biased about those seasons, but maybe I’m not.

(3) I am generalizing from memory and cannot provide exact reference. I am also making a general comment about majority league and media opinion as I know there were many in both categories who did not believe that to be true. However this was a ridiculous bias for too many years.

(4) Taking a line from The Dark Knight and reworking it because I believe this to be true.

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