The latest alternative reality rewinds the clock back to 2009, and the NHL Draft, in particular. A rumor surfaced that the Canucks were prepared to make a significant offer to Tampa Bay for the 2nd overall pick, and then use the pick on Swedish sensation Victor Hedman. What would have happened if things unfolded differently?
Thanks to Brian Burke, we know that the Canucks were rumored to have offered Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, and their 2009 1st round pick pick to Tampa Bay at the 2009 NHL Draft in exchange for the 2nd overall selection.
With regards to the rumored trade offer, Burke had this to say:
“We heard they offered, again this is all second hand so we don’t know if it’s true. We heard they offered (Alex) Burrows, (Kevin) Bieksa and their own pick. Those are two pretty good players.”
The Canucks, of course, denied making the offer to Tampa Bay. Regardless of whether it was real or not, Hedman made a ton of sense at the time. The club was lacking a true franchise skater, and Bieksa and Burrows both had great trade value.
Taking their comedic stylings to Tampa Bay?
Bieksa was coming off an 11-goal, 43-point season in 2008-09, and Burrows scored 28 goals and added 23 assists. It is very doubtful that a contending team would trade a legitimate top-six winger and top-four defenseman for a prospect, but if the club valued Hedman as highly as many scouts did, it isn’t a completely unfathomable scenario.
And thanks to my trusty crystal ball (attached to a time machine, of course), we are able to travel back in time, complete the trade, and then look into the future to see how it would have changed the annals of history.
With Hedman in the fold after selecting him with Tampa Bay’s pick at the 2009 Draft, the Canucks entered the free agency period with some cap space to play with. The Canucks had originally planned to let Mattias Ohlund walk, but with the Bieksa trade, they decided to keep him around to mentor Hedman. The club also re-signed the Sedin twins on July 1st, and they brought in countryman Mikael Samuelsson, as well.
The Canucks had a solid season in 2009-10, and Hedman played in all 82 games, skating on the club’s second pairing with Ohlund. In Tampa Bay, Burrows played on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, and he set a career high that season with 37 goals while Kevin Bieksa emerged as the club’s top defenseman. Vancouver lost in the second round to Chicago that year, while the Lightning narrowly missed the playoffs.
In 2010-11, Tampa Bay took another step forward. They won the Southeast Division, thanks to a stellar campaign from their top line of Burrows-Stamkos-St. Louis. Hedman continued to improve his game for the Canucks, playing on the top pairing with Christian Ehrhoff. Vancouver boasted the deepest defensive core in the league, and they added to it with a deadline pick up of Chris Campoli from Ottawa. Vancouver captured their first ever Presidents’ Trophy that year, setting up a rematch with Chicago in the first round.
The series was hotly contested through the first six games, and wasn’t decided until overtime of Game 7. Roberto Luongo and Corey Crawford went toe to toe through the first overtime period. Five minutes into the second overtime frame, Samuelsson picked up the puck at center and carried it into the Chicago zone in a one-on-one situation against Duncan Keith. Keith tried to play Samuelsson to the outside, but ended up accidentally elbowing him in the head, earning a trip to the penalty box for two minutes. On the subsequent power play, Sami Salo ripped a point shot home for the series win. Vancouver went on to defeat Nashville and San Jose to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
And boom goes the dynamite.
Out east, the Lightning surprised Washington in the second round, and they found themselves matched up against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. Burrows quickly set the tone for that series with a Game 1 incident where he reportedly bit the hand of Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron was unable to play for the remainder of the round because of the hand injury, and Burrows was never suspended for his alleged actions. Boston unravelled without their top defensive center, and Tampa Bay pushed the series to a Game 7. Stamkos recorded a hat trick in the deciding game, sending Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks.
For Burrows and Bieksa, the series was a homecoming of sorts. Burrows was tasked with trying to shut down the Sedin twins, while Bieksa and defensive partner Marc-Andre Bergeron (he is a defensive stalwart in this alternate reality) stifled Daniel and Henrik through the first six games of the series. Game 7 was played in Vancouver, and the Canucks held a 1-0 lead heading into the third period. With only 30 seconds remaining, the Lightning had the puck in the Vancouver zone. Bieksa attempted to ring the puck around the boards to Stamkos, who was situated behind the net. The puck took an odd bounce off the stanchion back to Bieksa, who quickly one-timed the puck past a confused Roberto Luongo. Tampa Bay’s tying goal was as fluky as they come, and Bieksa was familiar with the bounces at Rogers Arena thanks to his time with the Canucks.
In the overtime frame, the teams traded chances for the first 10 minutes. Luongo and Dwayne Roloson were both up to task. After killing off a penalty, the Lightning looked to generate some sustained pressure, and they were able to get their top line on the ice against Vancouver’s bottom defensive pairing of Campoli and Aaron Rome.
Campoli held the puck in the Vancouver zone, and ignoring the advice of his defensive partner, he tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice instead of off the glass. Burrows was there to anticipate it, and he snatched the puck out of the air, quickly dropped it to the ice, and wired the Stanley Cup-winning goal past Roberto Luongo.
Bieksa and Burrows were both vilified in Vancouver for their stellar performances against the Canucks. Campoli was as well, but his spirits were buoyed by a quick “thanks” text from former Canuck Nathan Lafayette after the game.
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