Top Ten Vancouver Canucks Stories for 2010

Hungover? Feeling low? Funny taste in your mouth? Wondering where that laceration on your leg came from? How about that stain on your shirt? Did you actually talk to that girl last night...it didn't go well did it? And why is there a midget dressed like Spiderman taped to a pony stuck in a tree out in the front lawn?

If you're like me, these are usually immediate questions you have on January 1st of any year. So to rid of you any lingering guilt, let's review the top ten stories for your whale armada during 2010. If we missed any, bust that champagne bottle over our noggin in the comments.

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10. Longest Road Trip In NHL History
Just prior to the Vancouver Olympics, the Canucks opened their gift from the head office: a 14-game, 13-city, 42-day, 12,885 miles road trip that set the mark for the longest road trip in history. Some thought the trip alone would be the death knell for their post season hopes, but helped by some strong play before the trip began, the Canucks returned home 8-5-1, on top of the NW division and plenty of frequent flier miles.

 

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9. Canucks Re-sign Cory Schneider
As innocuous as it seems, what to do with Cory Schneider has dogged the Canucks since the Luongo trade. They knew they had a bluechip prospect, but opted to keep him in Manitoba and roll with Sanford, LaBarbera or Raycroft instead. After two seasons in the 'Peg with strong numbers, the Canucks couldn't keep the kid on the farm any longer. So they finally played their Schneider card; not by trading him, but by playing him behind Luongo. This all may turn out to an audition for Ginger Jesus, but in the meantime he has yet to be beaten in regulation and gives the Canucks one of the better goaltending tandems in the league.

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8. GM Place Dies, Rogers Arena is Born
The arena names are trying to catch up to the jersey changes. A few days after the start of free agency, the Canucks tabled a big announcement: no, not Kovalchuk (phew!) but that auto giant GM had given up the naming rights to the arena and a certain telecommunications giant had stepped to the plate. A couple hours later fans were given Rogers Arena as the Canucks new home. The Garage had been shut and the Cell was open for business.

 

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7. Luongo Relinquishes Captaincy
After months of debate, the great experiment with Lui's captaincy met an expected end in September when he quietly gave up the captaincy and - though I still maintain Kesler was the better pick - Henrik Sedin was eventually named the 13th captain in franchise history. The idea was that Luongo had enough on his plate to deal with and the weight of team leadership was becoming a burden. Of course the only way to know if removing the C worked is to at least see Vancouver punch through to the Conference Finals if not the Stanley Cup Finals. Though it's still very much Luongo's team, the captaincy gamble failed.

 

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6. Daniel Sedin's Injury
The Canucks stumbled out of the gate last season, suffering three losses before going nuts in a 7-1 victory over the the Habs. However, in the second period Alex Edler fired a point shot that smashed Daniel Sedin's foot. X-rays after the game confirmed the worst: his dog was broken and he'd be out 4-6 weeks. It was the first major injury of his career and forced fans to stare at one twin instead of two for 18 games. However, it forced others to pick up the offensive slack (Kesler's line notably) and when Daniel returned he posted remarkably strong numbers despite the games missed and Henrik didn't exactly suffer in his absence either.

 

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5. #19 Hits The Rafters
Some loved it, others hated it, but the fact remains the top goal scorer and point getter in team history was given the top honors by the franchise, making sure no one else ever wears #19 for the Canucks again (unless of course Mark Messier wants to wear it). If nothing else, it's worth remembering his mark on the community and the mentoring he provided to such chumps like the Sedins, Kesler, Ohlund, Edler and countless others.

 

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4. Signing Dan Hamhuis
By itself Hamhuis isn't terribly newsworthy outside of big ticket signings, but Hamhuis represents the culmination of a new defensive identity for the Canucks. Last January Malkin knocked Willie Mitchell out for the season which set up a series of events (acquiring Alberts, increased responsibility for Rome and SOB, Baumgartner coming up from the Moose) meant to solve the blueline injuries which also had to deal with another freakish Bieksa injury and another Salo mishap. After an early playoff exit, many wondered how Gillis would fix the back end and he decided to go the committee route: first by acquiring Ballard at the draft and then Hamhuis on July 1st. Mitchell was courted throughout the summer, but the days of a stalwart #1 blueliner were gone. By signing Hammer to the most expensive contract for any blueliner in franchise history, it signaled the strength of the group trumps having a defined leader. Again we won't know if that gamble paid off until the summer at the earliest.

 

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3. Chicago Eliminate Vancouver (Again)
If they say your enemy defines you, then the Canucks are a beat to hell doormat since that's what Chicago has made of them the past two seasons. Despite the year lag between the second round match-ups, it only took six games again for the dominant Blackhawks to emphatically end Vancouver's playoff aspirations. It's a testament to the strength of the eventual Cup winners as much as it serves as a reminder that regular season results mean nothing if you can't beat the best when given the chance.

 

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2. Ryan Kesler Signs A Six Year Extension
I'll endure Sean's wrath to say that the only good part of Mats Sundin being a Canuck was his impact on Ryan Kesler. Riding shotgun to Sundin allowed Kesler to turn in a Selke-worthy season and he followed that one up with another Selke-nomination nod and a career year driving the second line with Raymond and Samuelsson (both wingers had career seasons as well). Since Sundin's brief stay Kesler has added 104 points and made himself one of the most valuable players on the team, a player whose offensive and defensive skills have been recognized by Team USA and 2K Sports. Few other players can be counted on to produce in any on-ice situation and even fewer players leave it all out on the ice, shift after shift. In short every GM would like a Kesler or two in their lineup, so with Kesler's contract up this past summer, Gillis had no choice but to lock him up for the next six seasons.

 

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1. Henrik Sedin Wins Art Ross / Hart Trophies
It doesn't happen often that a single player wins both the Art Ross and the Hart, and Vancouver has had no player it its history win either. So when Henrik - supposedly the lesser offensive threat of the brothers - played a chunk of his season without his brother and still managed to school the rest of the league in ES production en route to winning both highly-coveted awards, it stands alone as the best Canucks story of 2010. He earned his paycheck (the first year of his new deal), he carried the team, he earned his current captain-ship and he made the rest of the league stand up and pay attention to his play and the team. What more can you possibly ask for out of a single player?

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