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 II of the Canucks class of 2009-10.
Canucks Yearbook - Volume I
MOST LIKELY TO GET UNDER AN OPPONENT'S SKIN
Remembered as: The pest. Kesler is popular throughout the NHL for being unpopular as one of most difficult players to face. He’s got a sharp shot and a sharper tongue, pair him with Alex Burrows and you’ve got a one-two wham-bam of insult to injury. The only downside to Kesler was having to face him during the 2010 Winter Olympics. That’s the first time many of us truly appreciated what a menace he can be.
Best moment: When he accepts his first Selke Trophy on June 23 in Las Vegas. A little premature? Okay, until then his best moment can be setting a new personal best in points for the third consecutive season. Hold onto that until the best defensive forward in hockey is properly rewarded.
MOST LIKELY TO COMMIT ROBBERY
Remembered as: The thief. No one is more revered for stealing than Luongo, he routinely takes away goals from enemy forwards with ease. Some people collect stamps, Lui collects breathtaking saves. Want to know who the next goaltender to score a goal will be? Try Luongo. Write that down. You heard it here first. Luongo can do it all.
Best moment: Congratulations to Chicago, but you winning doesn’t change anything between us. We’re still enemies. Like vinegar and baking soda in an elementary school science fair volcano. That being said, Luongo’s jaw-dropping glove save on Cam Barker in January warms my heart. You won the battle, but we won the war. Or something.
Remembered as: The man-child. Give O’Brien credit, he keeps us on our toes. Just when you think you’ve got him figured out he goes and does something great or terrible, but hey, that’s Shane being Shane. He’s a fan favourite and is great in the dressing room; you can’t help but love the guy.
Best moment: There are way too many to count. He may have made some bonehead moves, but we all do and O’Brien is the type of guy you just can’t stay mad at. Like Hugh Grant. He truly proved his worth on defence when Vancouver’s blueline was at its most vulnerable and he was a beast in the playoffs. That’s my kind of SOB!
Remembered as: The backup. Canucks fans have always had a soft spot for Vancouver backups and that was especially true for Raycroft. He’s as personable as players come and despite riding pine all season, his spirits never dipped. A teammate in every sense of the word and a solid netminder when called upon, Rayzor is a gem. (Man crush, what man crush?)
Best moment: The Toronto Maple Leafs told Raycroft he wasn’t good enough to play in the Centre of the Universe and in a triumphant return he proved them wrong. In true underdog fashion, Raycroft sent the fans a couple fist pumps before doing a few laps and individually saluting them all. Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
MOST LIKELY TO BEAT USAIN BOLT IN A RACE
Remembered as: The flash. Just how fast is this guy? No, I’m asking. Just how fast is this guy? Stop watches don’t stand a chance when Raymond hits full stride, he skates like he’s mad at the ice and out for revenge. After three seasons in Vancouver, it’s clear he’s ready to take the next step into superstardom. Or maybe he already has. He’s that fast.
Best moment: Natural hat tricks were the norm back when I was the king of mini-sticks, but Raymond out did me big time. His natural hat trick in late December was larger-than-life for three reasons: it was against the Flames, it was against the Flames and it was against the Flames. Oh and it in Calgary and Raymond’s an Alberta boy. Cue Blur's Song 2: Woo Hoo!
Remembered as: The substitute. Rome was brought in to roam the blueline during practice, but ended up staffing it full-time because of injury. He filled in admirably and swiftly shed the title of understudy and NHL journeyman. Rome had perfect equilibrium with his play, never too high, never too low. Just what the Canucks needed.
Best moment: Rome made James Sheppard’s Valentine’s Day one to remember by bashing him with a barrage of fists despite having his jersey over his head. Like a chicken with his head cut off, Rome flew around with punches flailing, many of which he landed, prompting Peter Griffin to say: Pow, right in the kisser!
MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU BLEED YOUR OWN BLOOD
Remembered as: The pitbull. Rypien is the most underrated fighter in the NHL. There I said it. It’s out there. That’s the only way to explain big guns constantly taking a run at mighty mouse and limping away with their tail between their legs – if it’s still attached. He’s like a Milla Jovovich/Bruce Lee/Rainier Wolfcastle love child.
Best moment: Forget UFC 115, watch a replay of Rypien vs. Boris Valabik. It starts with the giant grinning at Rypien from his perch in the clouds and ends with Valabik being brought back to earth thanks to a masterful combination of rights, lefts and blocks. It’s an absolute thing of beauty, akin to a cold pint on a hot day or a hot coffee on a cold day. Dang that hits the spot.
MOST LIKELY THE REASON WALDO IS IN HIDING
Remembered as: The nutcracker. Salo has had his share of injuries over his career. The sun is hot and water is wet. All shocking things you never knew until now. But did you know that Salo played in 68 games this year, the most since 2003-04? It’s true and it’s impressive. He was able to shake off what normally sidelined him – and then some. (See below for a gathering of words that describes a heroic act of bravery and insanity)
Best moment: When Salo returned to the lineup after taking a Duncan Keith shot to the giblets, the nation applauded and rightfully so. Every man has had the misfortune of being hit in the family jewels and it’s nothing even the deepest of enemies would wish upon their counterpart. Let’s all leave our parts alone and move on. Salo is the man. That is all.
BEST OFF-SEASON ACQUISITION
Remembered as: The forgotten. Not good enough for Team Sweden, eh? How does a career-high in goals and points sound? What about leading the Canucks in playoff scoring? No? Tre Kronor? Hello? Samuelsson was alive after being disrespected by his country playing his best hockey of the season following the announcement of the rosters. Thank you Sweden!
Best moment: Points in seven straight games and nine of 10 contests directly following Sweden’s controversial announcement that Samuelsson was left off the Olympic roster was great. Even better was his first career hat trick in March against Colorado. Sounds like some offensive ability a certain blue and yellow team could have used at the Games. (The past two paragraphs were written and edited by Mikael Samuelsson). (Just kidding). (Sort of).
MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU DO A DOUBLE-TAKE
Remembered as: The goal. There’s only one thing you can say about a guy who played the least amount of games in his career, yet set a new highs in assists and points: he rules. Daniel was on a tare all season, were it not for injury, he likely would have been battling Henrik for the Art Ross and would also be up for the Hart Trophy. Can. You. Imagine.
Best moment: Canucks fans are spoiled by getting to watch the Sedins do their thing every game and Daniel saved his best for the last outing of the season. His between the legs goal on Miikka Kiprusoff was sick. Every time I watch the replay, I get an ice cream headache. That’s normal, right?
MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU DO A DOUBLE-TAKE - AGAIN
Remembered as: The art. His season was a work of art and he was rewarded with an Art Trophy win, but it’s the Hart Trophy that will truly put the NHL on notice that the Sedins are the real deal. Henrik was an absolute heartbreaker all year with career highs in goals, assists and points. He was and will continue to be, the stuff of legends.
Best moment: Sure he’s a great player, but dethroning Pavel Bure for most Canucks points in a season and edging out Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby as the NHL’s top scorer? That’s what came to fruition in the final game of the season when Hank dished out four assists to claim both honours. The sky isn’t even the limit for Henrik.
Remembered as: The everyman. Fans love Wellwood because they feel they can relate to him, but I just don’t see it. Unless you play in the NHL or have to stand on a chair to get cookies from the cookie jar, you’re no Wellwood. He’s chock full of gusto and unparalleled effort making him a prized foot soldier.
Best moment: Anytime Wellwood makes a great play, it’s like he’s the greatest Canucks player ever. I’ve been guilty of this thinking a few times and it’s because sometimes he just makes it look so easy. I’d say that every one of his 25 points this year was a great moment; it’s not that the production isn’t expected, it just surprises you. Like someone making you a sandwich and cutting it into triangles. Trippy.