April 9, 2018 | 9:46pm ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period
CANUCKS READY TO TURN THE PAGE
Daniel and Henrik Sedin
MONTREAL, QC -- It never happens anymore. Watching NHL players finish out their entire on-ice careers with the same team. Whether it is the salary cap, emergence of youth, or what have you, it seems as though loyalty between player and organization has all but evaporated in the NHL.
For it to be said for players having played almost two decades is next to impossible in the modern era of the NHL.
Well, like with everything in life, there are exceptions, and the city of Vancouver was subjected to one of them. In fact, it happened in duel fashion.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin are hanging up their skates, and the news rattled the hockey world. Not because anybody was expecting it, as the Sedins are 37 years of age, but because it truly marked the end of an era. Not just for the Vancouver Canucks, of which the Sedins have been the face of since the retirement of Markus Naslund, but for the NHL as a whole.
The Sedins were those who had earned league-wide respect. Not due to their over the top, loud personality, but due to how modest and humble they carried themselves to be. To go along with their remarkable individual careers, as they each have an Art Ross Trophy to their name (while Henrik also won a Hart Trophy), they were the cornerstone of the Canucks’ best years. During their years in Vancouver, the Canucks obtained two Presidents’ Trophies in back-to-back years (2011. 2012), along with a Western Conference Championship in 2011.
Right down to the last season, the Sedins expressed their desire not to play with any organization but the Canucks, a rare loyalty that is scarce amongst current professional athletes. It has been emotional for the hockey world as a whole to wave goodbye to the Sedins this past week, as they prepare to ride off into the sunset.
But as the saying goes, “when one door closes, another door opens.”
With the Sedins moving on to the next stage of their lives, it serves as a new opportunity for the Canucks to fully embrace the new era the fans have been calling for the last number of years. At long last, the Canucks can finally move away from riding the coat tails of that 2011 Cup run and focus on preparing for the future.
For years, the Canucks have been a team caught in trying to go in two directions at once. Since their Stanley Cup run, management (and ownership, in particular) has been adamant about staying competitive and keeping the team away from going down the path of a rebuild, despite having an aging core group of players. The organization’s lack of success since 2011 has been evident, as the team has failed to surpass the first-round of the playoffs since. As a whole, Vancouver has only qualified for the postseason three of the last six years.
The mentality to stay competitive has also been evident with the club’s moves in free agency and via trade over the last few years. In the summer of 2016, the club signed then-31-year-old Loui Eriksson to a six-year, $36 million contract. In the same summer, the Canucks traded then-20 year-old Jared McCann (who was the 24th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft), a 2nd round pick and a 4th round pick for stay-at-home defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a 5th round pick.
This trend continued last summer, as GM Jim Benning dipped into free agency once more. Benning locked up Sam Gagner to a three-year contract, while landing Michael Del Zotto to a two-year deal. Gagner and Del Zotto are 28 and 27 years old, respectively.
Typically, when teams have suffered such a lack of success, they refrain from giving out term to older free agents. Instead, struggling franchises will usually look to hold onto assets, save cap space and utilize in house talent to round out its roster.
Although refusing to fully embrace a new era of players, something eventually had to give in Vancouver.
With the Sedins now moving on, it seems like the Canucks are finally prepared to do the same. More so than any other year in Vancouver, the team was anchored by rookies and young talent as appose to veterans.
Brock Boeser, who was the sole competition for Matthew Barzal in terms of the Calder Trophy race, was turning heads league-wide before his season-ending injury, scoring 29 goals and 55 points in 62 games.
Bo Horvat, the heir-apparent to Henrik as the team’s top line centre, continues to develop, as he has had his best season in terms of point per game production, to date.
The organization finally has some high level prospects to look forward to, as Olli Juolevi, Thatcher Demko and Elias Pettersson are all coming up the pipeline.
The future is beginning to look bright in Vancouver, and another top-five draft pick, presuming the balls fall in order on April 28 during the NHL Draft Lottery, should continue to strengthen the future of the franchise.