With all due respect to local fortune tellers and alleged mystics, nobody saw this coming.
Maybe it wouldn’t be the usual suspect; maybe Steve Bernier or Ryan Kesler would get hot early in the season. But Henrik Sedin? Leading the Canucks in goals?
No one questions the talent of the eldest half of the Canucks’ dynamic duo, but Henrik has always been a “pass first, pass again, ok I’ll shoot because I’m on a breakaway” kinda guy. Though last season’s 22 goals were a sign that Hank could tickle the twine more than he had in past campaigns, no one expected him to be on pace for more than 45 goals after Vancouver’s first 23 games.
So if Henrik can go from an assist man to a goal scorer, what other Canucks could transform their on-ice personas? Here are a few preposterous suggestions:
KYLE WELLWOOD, GOON
Dallas, TX - Another night, another fight for Canucks’ enforcer Kyle Wellwood. The penalty minutes leader in the Western Conference didn’t wait long before engaging Stars’ agitator Steve Ott in a contest of knuckle chucking.
“He knows the deal,” smiled Wellwood while icing down his swollen hands. “You take a run at one of our skill guys and you’re going to have to answer to ‘K-O Kyle’.”
The media-appointed nickname was accurate on this night, as Ott was a clear runner-up the scrap. Formerly seen as a point-producer, Wellwood has fought in 14 of the Canucks last 16 games and has quickly become one of the most intimidating players in the NHL.
“He may only weigh 180 pounds, but he throws his body around with such reckless abandon that no one wants to be on the receiving end of one of his hits.”
Prior to this season, Wellwood rarely ran afoul of the rules, accumulating a meagre four minutes in penalties over three seasons. But when the calendar began reading 2010, the former choirboy became a regular in the sin bin.
“It’s been hard for people to believe,” admitted Wellwood. “But just ask the guys I’ve fought if they’re believers. I’m pretty sure it’ll be unanimous.”
ANDREW RAYCROFT, SHOOTOUT SPECIALIST
Vancouver, BC - Don’t expect to see him working with a powerplay unit or taking a regular shift anytime soon, but Andrew Raycroft will be one of the selected shooters should the Canucks and Flames fail to settle the score in regulation tonight.
What looked like a novelty three weeks ago has quickly become a reality, as Raycroft’s efforts have earned the Canucks three valuable points by scoring the winning or tying goal his three shootout attempts.
“Having the mindset of a goalie really allows me to understand what an opposing netminder is trying to do on each attempt,” explains the latest sensation in Canuck Nation. “Plus it might throw a guy off to see a goalie bearing down on him instead of a regular skater.”
Though the original idea seemed bizarre to the hockey fraternity, Raycroft’s success has made Alain Vigneault look genius for utilizing his backup goaltender in this capacity.
“It took some convincing,” chuckles Vigneault. “But he kept beating Louie in practice and we felt obligated to give him a shot.”
It’s also made for some comical television as Raycroft scrambles to doff his goalie gear in favour of a pair of gloves and a helmet. The opportunity has certainly increased Raycroft’s potential worth heading into free agency next year, but Raycroft still considers himself a puck stopper primarily, albeit one with a valuable skill set.
“My main goal is to stop goals, but if this helps us pick up points and move up the standings, I’m happy to contribute however I can.”
MATS SUNDIN, DEFENSEMAN
Edmonton, AB - Brett Favre might be the only current athlete that understands where Mats Sundin is coming from.
The Packers pivot has waffled on retirement for half a decade only to return to the gridiron the same way that Sundin has once again returned to the NHL. The major difference, however, is that Favre continues to play quarterback, while the sizable Swede has made the move to defense.
“By the time the playoffs rolled around, the point production was there,” explained Sundin as the Canucks prepared to face the Oilers tonight. “But as many people noticed, my skating wasn’t quite as strong as it was a few years ago.”
That realization combined with a lingering desire to play led to this move to the blue line, where Sundin isn’t expected to be as fleet of foot. His massive frame and willingness to play the body makes him a brute to play against along the wall, while his vision has led to many a stretch pass and odd-man rushes for Vancouver.
“I don’t think I’ll challenge Nick for the Norris anytime soon,” laughed Sundin in referencing his fellow countryman and perennial Norris winner, Nicklas Lidstrom. “But I feel a lot more comfortable than I expected to at this point.”
Sundin has seen his icetime increase from 12 minutes a game in his debut to around 20 minutes per contest in recent games. His offensive upside also allows Alain Vigneault the ability to move Sundin up front on the powerplay, where he has accumulated more than half of his 17 points thus far.
“I never thought I’d finish my career on the back end, but I’m having fun, and I feel like I’m contributing.”