Now that the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, it’s time the Vancouver Canucks moved onward and upward. This off-season promises to be hectic with players coming and going as Mike Gillis shuffles the deck in hopes of building a royal flush, but this year’s team deserves to be remembered. The diverse, character group was no different than a high school class in that everyone had a role and played it to perfection.
Here now is volume I of the Canucks class of 2009-10.
MOST LIKELY TO LAY SOMEONE OUT
Remembered as: The new guy. After coming to Vancouver at the trade deadline, Alberts did his best to work his way into the line-up appearing in 24 games, including playoffs. A man’s man always there for a teammate in need, like when Brent Seabrook took a run at Mason Raymond on March 5, Alberts used his massive size and weight to intimidate. That rhymed.
Best moment: There isn’t one Alberts moment that shines above the rest, the culmination of all the body checking pain he inflicted on the NHL was his best work. AA had 63 hits with the Canucks and finished the year 13th in the league with 222, seven more than Dustin Byfuglien. Jeeeealous?
MOST LIKELY TO COMEBACK WITH A VENGEANCE
Remembered as: The hardworker. Bernier shed a few pounds before this season; he was lighter, faster and ready to bully his way to the front of the net and make life hell for opposing goalies. His plan came a little unraveled because of injury, but Bernier still collected 22 points.
Best moment: His two-goal outburst in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Kings. Bernier was brilliant in beating Jonathan Quick twice from in close; it was the Bernier fans were hoping to see all season long. With his commitment to the game, Bernier could be that player next season.
MOST LIKELY TO SHINE WHEN IT COUNTS
Remembered as: The playoff performer. KB3 had the latter part of his season derailed by injury, yet he reclaimed the spotlight on the backend with a furious playoff performance that included a career-best eight points in 12 games to lead Vancouver's defence in scoring. SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMOKIN'!
Best moment: A commanding performance in Game 5 versus Chicago when he lit the lamp for a pair of goals and an assist. His first goal was splendorific as he jumped up in the rush out of nowhere and stumped Niemi. It spawned a “What If?” NHL commercial. It was that pretty.
MOST LIKELY TO SCORE (GOALS)
Remembered as: The goals. He shoots, he scores, was a common call for Burrows this season as he tickled the twine 35 times, the most since Daniel Sedin scored 36 goals in 2006-07, back before Facebook was the cat’s meow and stalking was still creepy. Now it’s all the rage and so is Burrows, Vancouver’s Most Exciting Player for 2009-10.
Best moment: Scoring back-to-back hat tricks against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes to become the third player in franchise history to do the deed. Burrows defied the odds and got’er done with pizzazz, much to the delight of his swarms of fans at GM Place.
Remembered as: The Olympian. Because of injury Demitra missed a whack of games to start the year and he struggled to find his game upon his return. That all changed during the 2010 Winter Olympics as Demo went off for 10 points in seven games to lead the tournament in scoring and continued with the Canucks with 12 points in 17 games to end the year.
Best moment: Almost spoiling Canada’s 3-2 semifinal win over Slovakia. In the finale of a mad minute to end the game, Demitra's tricky shot was all but a goal before Roberto Luongo just barely managed to get a glove on it. Had the frenzied sequence ended with a goal, Demitra would have simultaneously kick started millions of heart attacks across our home and native land.
BEST SHOT BLOCKER
Remembered as: The guts. Although Ryan Johnson routinely gets credited as the bravest Canucks player, Edler staked his claim at the title this year by leading the team in blocked shots with 115, 30 more than Johnson. Edler has steadily climbed the courage ladder with 22 more blocks this season than last and 39 more than two-years ago.
Best moment: Despite setting career-highs in assists, points and overall awesomeness, Edler’s crown achievement was a monster hit on Drew Doughty in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Kings. As Doughty cut in on goal, Edler lowered left shoulder and lowered the boom. More please!
MOST LIKELY TO OVERACHIEVE EVERY SEASON
Remembered as: The Hoff. The German gladiator came to the Canucks as a steady defenceman, ready to answer the call when needed. He exited his first season as Vancouver’s best blueliner, oozing with highlights at both ends of the ice. With a personal best 44 points, Ehrhoff tied Uwe Krupp’s record for most by a German-born defenceman and he left the bar low enough that he could surpass it again and again. Das ist good.
Best moment: Ehrhoff’s coming out party was in late November in a two-goal, three-point outing against Colorado. Teammates raved about him afterward with Roberto Luongo dubbing him Bobby Hoff after hockey legend Bobby Orr. Now that's a nickname.
Remembered as: The hair. The man with the mega mullet came out of left field to make Vancouver’s opening day roster out of training camp and he fit in well with effort and grit in spades. Glass became a fan favourite playing like steel with an unwavering commitment to physical play that helped him tally 165 hits.
Best moment: Either taking a pie in the face at Canucks Superskills and laughing it off like a champ or dropping the gloves in true Rick Rypien style – anytime, anywhere with anyone. He fought Cam Janssen, Brandon Prust, Dane Byers, Vernon Fiddler, Chris Thorburn, Shane Hnidy, Cody McLeoud, Sheldon Brookbank, your dad, my dad and Chuck Norris. At once.
MOST LIKELY TO BREAKOUT NEXT SEASON
Remembered as: The kid. Everyone longing to see Grabner hit his stride in the NHL got a taste of what Canucks fans are in for in the coming years. After nearly being remembered for a fluke soccer accident, Grabner played 20 games to close out the season, including nine in the playoffs. He showed speed, he showed poise, he showed skill.
Best moment: Grabner had two goals in six games before a soccer ball got the best of him and it took him seven games to get back on the horse after recovering, but he sure made it buck when he was ready. The Austrian forward torched Anaheim for three goals in early April for his first career hat trick and had one score in the playoffs.
MOST LIKELY TO SCORE THE GAME-WINNER
Remembered as: The assassin. Like a ninja, Hansen is a silent killer, often past opponents with the puck in their net before they even had a chance to back peddle. In his first year solely in Vancouver, Hansen had a career-high nine goals alongside three points in 12 post-season games. That and 38 people Like him on Facebook are proof he rules.
Best moment: Back-to-back game-winners made Hansen the stuff of legends in early March. He does have a way with winning games though as four of his 15 career scores, or 26 per cent of his goals, have won Vancouver games. That’s impressive. Like peeling an orange in one peel impressive.
Remembered as: The mouth. Not only is Hordichuk the toughest guy in the Canucks dressing room, he’s also the biggest prankster. Some of Hordi’s antics from this season include giving numerous leaners (bucket of water leaned against the door), but rumour has it he went as far as putting a wee alligator outside Roberto Luongo’s door in Florida.
Best moment: With all the pranks Hordichuk pulled on his teammates, it was only a matter of time before they ganged up on him and returned the favour. Tomfoolery came in bunches with the Canucks drawing a tie on one of Hordi’s uglier shirts and nailing his shoes down to the floor in the dressing room in Colorado. Give the big guy credit, he can dish it out but he can also take it.
MOST LIKELY TO WIN A PULITZER PRIZE
Remembered as: The heart. Injuries limited Johnson’s games played to 58, his lowest number in eight seasons, but when he was in the lineup, it was blood, sweat and tears, as expected. Despite being overtaken by Edler as the shot blocking king, Johnson will get in front of a puck at any moment and after taking a crushing blow, will get down and do it again. Warrior.
Best moment: Johnson traded his stick for a pen earlier this year when he wrote a column for The Province, which was also run on Canucks.com. Hockey and family ties that bind was Johnson sharing life lessons from his late father and hockey; it was deep, it was moving, it was brilliant, it was the off-ice equivalent to what he does every game.