Everyone is looking ahead to the future of the Canucks right now and understandably so – the end result this season was, shall we say, less than ideal. Still, we can often learn more from our past than we can from speculating about the future. With that mind I’ve put together a list of the top 5 most valuable players for the Vancouver Canucks this season. These are in no particular order and yes I’ve made the questionable move of lumping the Sedins together.
Henrik & Daniel Sedin
Once again the twins led the season offensively for the Canucks.
Henrik outscored his brother, finishing the season 14-67-81 while Daniel managed to reach the 30 goal mark again, finishing 30-37-67. Daniel played 10 less games than Henrik thanks to that cheap shot from Duncan Keith. The twins carved up sloppy defense and made the power play virtually unstoppable once again for the 1st half of the season.
Even though things did go pear shaped for both Henrik and Daniel after the Bruins game in January, that phenomena was team wide, so I hardly blame them. For the record, Henrik now has 29 more career NHL points than Daniel.
Higgins had his best season since 2007-2008 (when he played for Montreal), finishing with 18-25-43. The numbers aren’t jaw dropping but when you factor in that he missed 10 games and played at far less than 100% in many others thanks to a nasty zombie bite staph infection, it is a little more impressive. What is most impressive about Higgins’ season was the fact that he played up and down the line up, usually on the 2nd or 3rd line, and made whoever he played with better. He was without a doubt the hardest working Canuck on the ice shift in shift out this season. The rest of the team could have taken a leaf out of his book at times. And of course, for the ladies and gents out there who like that kind of thing, Higgins loved showing off his perfect abs mid game for no reason whatsoever. Season highlight? It could be for some.
The big question at the start of the season was where would the Canucks get offense from the blue line with Christian Ehrhoff gone? Most looked to Alex Edler to fill the void and for the most part he did, posting a career high year in points. He wasn’t the only Canucks blue liner to step up though – Kevin Bieksa rediscovered his old point scoring form and posted a career high in points with 44. He piled the assists up throughout the season and finished with 36, 1 behind Daniel Sedin and 9 in front of Ryan Kesler. He also played well defensively with Hamhuis again and produced one of the individual highlights of the season on February 4th against the Avalanche – the score was 2-1 to the Avs, there was less than a minute left in the 3rd, he skated across the ice and made a diving play to stop an empty net goal, carried it back up the ice and scored the game tying goal with 34 seconds left.
Yes, Lu played poorly at the start of the season and yes, Schneider did outplay him this season but man did he have to play out of his mind to supplant Lu. It’s still hard to believe that the Canucks could be letting go of the best goaltender in franchise history. Luongo finished the season with 31 wins from 55 games played – his 7th straight 30 win season. His goals against average was 2.41 – lower than his career average of 2.52. His save percentage finished at .919 – right on his career average. He finished with 5 shutouts – 1 more than in the previous 2 seasons (that makes 60 career shutouts, by the way). When the Canucks were struggling Luongo was not. They won numerous games on the back of Luongo’s goaltending this season and also let’s not forget that Lu got over his shootout issues and actually starting winning them with a funny little glove shake thrown in to boot. A well respected NHL goalie coach who had been critical of Luongo in the past told Kevin Woodley of nhl.com that Luongo was the best he has ever been this season. When you get over the goalie controversies and the soap opera that is now surrounding Lu, it’s hard to argue with that.
So I’ve lavished praise on Luongo but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it for Schneider too. I’m about to illustrate how lucky the Canucks have been for the past 2 seasons to have this duo playing for them. Schneider finished the season with 20 wins from 33 games played. His goals against average was 1.96 – good for 3rd in the NHL. His save percentage was .937 – good for 2nd in the NHL. He finished with 3 shutouts. When Luongo was playing poorly at the start of the season (and when he got hurt) Schneider stepped up and played beautifully in goal. When the Canucks were struggling, Schneider was not. They won many games on the back of Schneider’s great goaltending. See a pattern here? No matter who Alain Vigneault went with in goal, the Canucks were always going to get strong goaltending. They won’t have that luxury next season. Let’s sit back and ponder how lucky we have been as fans to have witnessed 2 seasons of brilliant Canucks goaltending. We may not ever see it again.
Alex Burrows – yet another 20 goal season, he finished with 28, which was good for 2nd on the team. Plus he dominated on the PK again.
Alex Edler – defensively he is still a question mark at times (which is worrisome for a defensemen!) but he stepped up his offensive play, finishing the season a career high 11-38-49. He was 0 in +/-.
Maxim Lapierre – perennial pain in the ass turned very strong bottom 6 forward. He played at center and on the wing, in all situations, but mostly in tough defensive zone starts. He led the team in hits. He didn’t set the world on fire with scoring but that wasn’t his job.
Dan Hamhuis – he’s so solid and unexciting that it is easy to overlook how good he is. He just gets the job done, game in game out. I’m choosing to overlook his game 5 OT gaff against the Kings.
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