First off, I’m sorry Henrik. You deserved better than this.
It’s not supposed to happen this way… I never intended for it to happen this way. But, I just can’t keep pretending that things haven’t changed. The truth is that there’s a new Vancouver Canucks forward in my life and he’s changed my reasons for loving this team.
For nearly two decades you, Henrik Sedin, you’ve been the reason I’ve tuned into Canucks games. I’ve watched nearly every Canucks broadcast in the past 20 years and no one has delivered more “can you believe it” moments than you. I regularly cite you as my favourite Canuck of all-time and your impact on the team, the city and even the sport of hockey will never be questioned in my household. You’re a living legend.
Sure, there were times when others threatened your status as my favourite, but truthfully I never really wavered. When Roberto Luongo played with my heart and broke it, you were still there. Not only that, you graciously accepted the captaincy from him and promptly guided the team to new heights. When Alex Burrows tried to pry me away during the 2011 Stanley Cup run, well… I’m still getting over that disappointment. This is to say nothing for the fond feelings I carried for Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler, but let’s be real… those players played in your shadow. Hell, even one hit wonders like Zack Kassian, Mike Santorelli and Ronalds Kenins intrigued me for a short while, but never like this before. It’s NEVER been like this before.
Things are different now and it’s only fair that I be upfront and honest with you: Brock Boeser is my new favourite player.
With that sordid admission out of the way, let’s take a moment to truly appreciate the rookie campaign that Boeser is putting together this season and explain just how important it is to a fanbase that’s desperate for its next star player. But first… one last look at that flow:
After a dominating performance at this past weekend’s NHL All-Star Game festivities, the rest of the hockey world is now finally looking past the box scores and getting a real look at just how special a player Boeser is for the Canucks. Of course, Canucks fans have known since the preseason just what a talent they have in Boeser, maybe that’s why they railed against rookie head coach Travis Green when he elected to sit the youngster for the first two games of the team’s season. Since then however, the 20-year-old Boeser has played hockey like no other Canucks rookie since Pavel Bure in 1991-92. Bure produced 34 goals and 60 points in just 65 games during that rookie season and would go on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie the following offseason.
OTD in 1991, Pavel Bure signed his first NHL contract with the Canucks. He’d score 34 goals that season and win the Calder Trophy pic.twitter.com/ijtwH3GkoD— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) October 31, 2016
How does Boeser stack up with the Canucks legend? His 24 goals and 43 points in 46 games, puts him on pace for 41 goals and 74 points at season’s end. Surely that’ll earn him Calder consideration, but whether or not he can fend off Coquitlam native Matthew Barzal is another argument altogether. One thing’s for sure, his showing this past weekend will go a long way in some voter’s eyes.
All-Star hoopla aside, Boeser has been far and away the Canucks’ best player this season and, frankly, it’s not even close. If center Bo Horvat hadn’t missed 15 games with a fractured ankle, maybe there’d be some debate between himself and Boeser, but as it stands it’s no contest. In fact, because Horvat missed so much time, Boeser’s accomplishments are even more impressive. Horvat is the pivot and the set up man between Boeser and winger Sven Baertschi, after all. The Killer B’s line is now the de facto top line in Vancouver, supplanting over a decade run from Henrik and Daniel Sedin. At times Boeser has even played with the twins, to the extreme delight of this particular Canucks fan.
What’s been most impressive about Boeser’s rookie season however has been his consistency. Regardless of who he plays with or how the team around him is playing, Boeser almost always manages to get pucks on the opposition’s net. And because he’s such a deadly shooter, those pucks often end up behind the goaltender… 24 times so far, in fact. The kid never seems to get too high or too low. He takes the game as it comes and pushes play in the offensive zone. Whether he’s playing with Horvat, Henrik, Sam Gagner or even Thomas Vanek and Loui Eriksson, Boeser generates scoring chances. For a team that ranks 25th overall in goal scoring, Boeser’s impact cannot be overstated.
For the first time in a long time, Henrik and Daniel can count on someone else to put points on the board. Sure, Horvat experienced a breakout of sorts last season, but was anybody really pegging him as a #1 center before Boeser slotted in on his wing? No, not with any conviction. The truth is Boeser has the ability to elevate the game of those around him in the same way that Henrik has for the past 18 years. Now, when the Canucks need to spark some offence, it’s Boeser and Horvat who are jumping over the boards. For a team in transition, this is an extremely important and encouraging development. Team president Trevor Linden and GM Jim Benning have stressed all along the importance of transitioning the team to a younger, faster core of players. With Horvat’s emergence last season and Boeser’s historic campaign this season we’re seeing the transition play out right in front of our eyes in real time. The patience in beginning to pay off and not a moment too soon for Canucks fans.
When Linden and Benning were entrusted to guide and manage the future of the team back in 2014, most Canucks fans didn’t know exactly what to expect. The team had just been suffered through their most embarrassing season in more than a decade. The Canucks had hired John Tortorella, traded Luongo, missed the playoffs and then fired John Tortorella all within a calendar year. Former GM Mike Gillis was also sent packing. The Canucks were a laughing stock.
Linden and Benning wasted no time in getting to work, trading big contract players like Kesler and Jason Garrison at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, before signing Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata to equally as big contracts. Canucks fans admittedly didn’t know what to expect from the team, but were optimistic for the future when they managed to earn a playoff berth in 2014-15. Since then though… there hasn’t been much to cheer for in Vancouver. The plan has gone sideways for two and a half consecutive seasons now.
Again, the importance of Boeser, for fans of the team, cannot be overstated. After two seasons of failed playoff pushes and ill-advised contract signings and trades for underperforming players like Eriksson and Erik Gudbranson, Canucks fans are growing tired of the team’s apparent lack of direction. If you want definitive proof that at least a portion of the team’s fanbase has checked out, do yourself a favour and check out the secondary ticket market. Once the hottest event in town, getting a ticket to a Canucks game the past three seasons is no difficult task. A player with Boeser’s star power however, gives fans reason to cheer again. It gives them a reason to get invested in this team again. To really give a damn.
As Boeser and the other young players on this team develop and mature into NHL stars in their own right, the passion from the team’s fanbase will return. It’s still there, boiling just under the surface. Just waiting for the opportunity to boil over once again.
There’s no denying the fact that Boeser is a valuable part of the Canucks’ future. He, along with the team’s other young prospects like Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher, Thatcher Demko, Elias Petterson, Olli Juolevi and Jonthan Dahlen will be tasked with comprising the core of the team moving forward. But how Boeser differs from the rest of that group is by providing a window into the future today. You can sell fans on the idea of hope for the future but until they get a clear look at it themselves, they’ll never be fully sold.
Boeser gives Canucks fans hope for the future. He may not lead his team to a Stanley Cup this season, but he’s filling the net almost nightly and that sure is fun to watch. As a Canucks fan, I couldn’t ask for anything more right now.