A Long Road

A Long Road

In the year 1970 the Canucks franchise was born, and now 40 seasons later they are having one of the most successful seasons in history. Finishing the 2010-2011 season with 117 points and a 54–19–9 record, enough to win them the Presidents’ Trophy (the team with the best record) by 10 points over the Washington Capitals. They also won their 3rd straight Northwest Division Title. Now looking to win their first ever Stanley Cup against the Boston Bruins, the Canucks will have to play their game with passion, pride, and everyone has to wear their heart on their sleeve. But how did this remarkable season begin? It started with a bold prediction and high praise from THN (The Hockey News) when they predicted the Canucks were going to win the Stanley Cup in their September 27, 2010 edition of the magazine.

But before all of this, was the beginning of the off-season in Los Angeles, California at the 2010 entry draft. This wasn’t an exciting event for Canucks fans, because their team didn’t have a single draft pick in the first three rounds of the draft. This happened as result of a trade made on June 25, 2010, by Vancouver Canucks when they acquired Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and Quinton Howden (who was later drafted by the Panthers with the 25th overall pick). The Canucks also acquired Andrew Alberts on draft day, giving up a third round pick for the defenseman. Both of these trades added depth to Vancouver’s defence and their fourth line.

Although Vancouver lost a couple key players, the most notable being Shane O'Brien, Willie Mitchell, Pavol Demitra, and Kyle Wellwood, they did pick up some key players that contributed to their amazing run. One of the biggest being the off-season signing of a 6-year contract worth $27 million, Dan Hamhuis, who filled in the holes on the Canucks D. The other noteworthy signings were Manny Malholtra and Raffi Torres, who added the depth you need to be a serious Stanley Cup contender. The Canucks were shaping into a real threat for the Cup, but were still faced with one question that had been looming around for a while. Who would their captain be? The two seasons previous the Canucks had Roberto Luongo as acting captain (he couldn't wear a "C" because of NHL rules). But it seemed to be too much for him to handle, being both the goalie and captain. So part way through training camp Luongo relinquished his captaincy, leaving the position vacant. A few names had been floating around the rest of the pre-season about who would precede Luongo as captain. But when the time came Henrik Sedin was named the 13th captain in Canucks history. The Canucks finished their exhibition games and their preseason record stood at a modest 3-5.

Trying to forget about their not so flattering preseason the Canucks were looking forward to the games that actually counted. They started the season by going 4-3-2 in the month of October. Also in this month the Canucks announced the first player to be commemorated with their "Ring of Honour". This player was the Canucks first ever captain, Orland Kurtenbach. His Ring of Honour ceremony was on October, 26th. The second player was Kirk McLean, who lead the Canucks to their second ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance. His ceremony was held on November, 24th. The third player to be inducted into the Ring of Honour was Thomas Gradin, on January 24. Gradin was part of the 1982 team (The Canucks first visit to the finals). The final player who had made it to the Ring of Honour was Harold Snepsts on March 14. I wasn't around for both of those finals, but I sure well be watching this one!

The Canucks followed up their first month by going 8-4-1 in the month of November. In December the Canucks named Markus Naslund as only the third player in franchise history to get their number retired. The previous two were beloved Canucks Stan Smyl (#12) and Trevor Linden (#16). The Canucks started a streak of 17 games (14-0-3) without losing a game. The streak started in the month of December and it carried on into January. The combined record for those two months was 19-3-6.

February wasn't a great month with the record being 8-5-0, but the last day of the month was trade deadline day. The Canucks didn't land any star players; they added some more depth to the team. They added both Christopher Higgins and Maxim Lapierre. Both proofed to be vital assets to the team on their road to the playoffs.

The month of March was good record wise, going 13-2-0, but a gruesome injury to face-off master (61.7% face-off percentage, ranked second in the league) Manny Malholtra put a damper on the month. On March 16, Malhotra was struck in the eye by a puck during game, he immediately left the ice and had to undergo 2 eye surgeries in the days following. It would later be announced that Malholtra wouldn't return this season and the playoffs. But 73 days after the injury he was cleared by doctors to play in the Stanley Cup finals, a playoff miracle.

The Canucks finished April with a record of 2-2-0. The Canucks finished on top of the league in many statistical categories, and they will be very well represented on June 22 (NHL Awards Night). The Canucks season stat leaders were Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler with 41 goals. Daniel led both the club and the league with 104 points. For assists, Henrik Sedin led with 75. Kevin Bieksa, the overtime hero, led the team in plus/minus with a +32. On the awards side of things the Canucks have already won: The Presidents' Trophy, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider won the William M. Jennings Trophy, and Daniel Sedin had already won the Art Ross Trophy. This accomplishment marks the first time in history that brothers (Henrik won the Art Ross the previous year) have won the scoring titles in consecutive seasons. But the trophies don't stop there, because the Canucks had the most nominations out of any other team, and each of the following were nominated for their respective awards: Daniel Sedin nominated for the Hart Memorial Trophy, Roberto Luongo nominated for the Vezina Trophy, Ryan Kesler nominated for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, Coach Alain Vigneault nominated for the Jack Adams Award, Daniel Sedin nominated for the Ted Lindsay Award, Both Henrik and Daniel were nominated for the NHL Foundation Award. And the Canucks will also add two more trophies to their case, with the Conn Smythe Trophy likely going to a Canuck, and of course the Stanley Cup well soon be ours as well.

But after receiving all of this good news, the city of Vancouver was bound for some bad news. This bad news eventually did come, on the last day of the regular season, when we all found out who we would be facing in the first round of the playoffs. The #8 seed Chicago Blackhawks and their stupid "Chelsea Dagger" (long story). The team that knocked them out of the playoffs the previous two years. The Canucks came out guns a blazing getting a 3-0 lead in the series, and they looked unstoppable. Until the Hawks won Game 4, then Games 5 and 6. This series would have to be decided in Game 7. But it wasn't, it was decided in the first overtime of Game 7. When Alex Burrows grabbed a puck out of the air and he ripped a shot past the helpless netminder, Corey Crawford. Then the Canucks would face the defence first mentality of the #5 seed Nashville Predators. This was a very strategic series to say the least. The Canucks won this series in 6. Then the Canucks would face the #2 seed in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks won this series in dramatic fashion, winning Game 5 in double overtime. Kevin Bieska scored the winner that sent the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals, for only the third time in franchise history.

This roller coaster ride of a season will either be a success or a failure. It will all come down to the next couple of weeks. Where they will be looking to win their first ever Stanley Cup against the Boston Bruins, the Canucks will need to play their style of game, with passion, pride, and everyone has to wear their heart on their sleeve. Good Luck to you boys, and MAKE US PROUD.

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