It's been almost 8 days since our team was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Understandably, we all needed a bit of time to step back and process what just happened. Most Presidents' Trophy-winning teams don't lose to the 8th seed in 5 games in the first round. How did we get here? We start searching for answers with our player-by-player autopsies, starting with our fearless (except when he's on a plane) leader and Captain, Henrik Sedin.
Who's this guy?
Weight: 188 lbs.
Born: September 26, 1980 in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st round (3rd overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
What'd he do?
Hank again anchored the team's #1 line for all 82 games in 2011-12. Under Alain Vigneault, Henrik along with brother Daniel and (most of the time) Alex Burrows were fed a balanced diet full of prime offensive zone starts. Hank also anchored the #1 PowerPlay unit, usually camping out on the half-wall and making all sorts of dazzling saucer passes through impossible seams.
So was he any good?
Hank's production dropped 13 points from 2010-11, and a startling 31 points from 2009-10. Still, he finished 7th in the NHL in scoring with 81 points, 67 of them helpers (1st in the NHL, again). He was also named the Canucks' Most Valuable Player for the season.
Despite the drop in point totals, Henrik remains an elite point producer and the most consistent contributor on the Canucks. His saucer pass is second to none in this league, and few players can run a PowerPlay as efficiently or artfully. Henrik and Daniel had their first prolonged scoring slump in about a thousand years this season, but overall it was still a productive campaign for the captain.
What'd we like?
There's a lot to like (and love) about Henrik's game; he's one of the league's elite players. Like he did in 2009 when Daniel was out with an injury, Hank again proved that he can reinvent his game without his brother, and make whoever he plays with better. Down the stretch without Daniel, whether it was Max Lapierre or Mason Raymond or Alex Burrows, whoever played with Henrik put up points. Upon Daniel's return in the playoffs, they were dynamite together again, and helped resurrect the team's PowerPlay, albeit too late.
By far, the most under appreciated aspect of Hank's game is his toughness. Star players take a lot of abuse, none more than the Sedins, who love to play their cycle game. 2011-12 marked Henrik's 7th straight season where he played all 82 games. That just boggles the mind. Hank even played through a suspected bone bruise in his ankle in February to keep the streak alive.
Then there was the massive hit that Dustin Brown laid on Hank in Game 3 of the playoffs. It looked like Henrik would be out of the game and possibly the rest of the series, but he was only winded, and hardly missed a beat. The resiliency that Henrik showed in the playoffs this year was impressive, especially since he's been unfairly marked in the media as a guy who isn't tough enough and doesn't show up in the big moments. As fans, we know now that nothing is further from the truth.
But he wasn't perfect either right?
No, not exactly, though he was as "perfect" a forward as the Canucks had. The Canucks' PowerPlay fell off a cliff in the second half of the season, and Henrik carries a lot of the blame for that. Daniel Sedin admitted that they became too predictable, too easy to defend. Part of Henrik's decline in production this season probably came from the fact that every team now has a set of instructional videos on how to check him effectively, titled "The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals".
The other knock on Hank this year is a familiar one: that he just doesn't shoot enough. He went over 20 games without a goal down the stretch, and went nearly four months between goals at Rogers Arena. We saw the immediate change in the playoffs when Daniel returned, as the PowerPlay was clicking again and Henrik potted 2 goals. Next season, Henrik is going to need to avoid the trap he fell into this year when he became too reliant on Daniel and thus, too predictable.
So what now?
Status quo. Henrik will be the Canucks' #1 center next year and for the foreseeable future. He'll turn 32 just before training camp, so he should have a few seasons left of elite-level point production. The great thing about Hank is he is always improving his game, and seems to come to camp every year a more complete player. After his slump and decrease in production this season, I have no doubt he's going to make every effort to ensure the same thing doesn't happen in 2012-13.
Despite my minor qualms above, I have nothing but respect for Henrik Sedin. He's one of the most consistent, classy, and humble guys around, and the Canucks organization is lucky to have him. There are only a handful of players in the league who are better.