The 2009-10 was another step up the ladder for the Vancouver Canucks as they inched closer to league dominance. Although this wasn’t destined to be their year, it was a coming out party for the Sedins not just as front line players, but as truly elite talent.
Coming off a second round playoff loss, there was a hunger in Vancity, knowing that many of their core pieces were only getting better. Canucks GM Mike Gillis added some significant pieces in the off season on both forward and defense.
Let’s delve into the 2009-10 season and dig up some memories.
|Team Record||Total Points||Standings||
|49-28-5||103||1st in Northwest Division
4th in Western Conference
The Canucks had another successful season in 2009-10, matching the 49 win mark they set in Vigneault’s inaugural 2006-07 season and winning the Northwest Division for the 4th time in 6 seasons (oh those were the days). The Canucks were a dangerous offensive team, scoring an impressive 272, a number that has only been surpassed once since (by the 2011-12 Penguins), although it still paled in comparison to the outrageous 318 goals scored by the Capitals that year.
Since Vigneault’s arrival, the Canucks special teams had gone through an odd trend. They began with the league’s stingiest penalty kill and a middling powerplay, followed by a couple years in which both were middling. This year, the Canucks’ powerplay took off, converting at a 21.05% rate, 4th best in the league – but their penalty kill was still middle of the pack. To see what this team could accomplish if both special teams units were at or near the top of the league, you’ll have to wait for the 2010-11 retrospective.
(Courtesy Hockey Reference)
The Twins, who had already been producing at a first line rate and averaging a point per game over entire seasons, absolutely exploded in 2009-10. Henrik scored at nearly a point and a half per game pace, and Daniel set a career high in points despite missing 19 games due to injury. Both twins approached a whopping 4 Points/60 minutes at evens, around double their rate of production in 2014-15.
Beyond the twins, the Canucks received strong scoring throughout the lineup. The Canucks had six 25-goal scorers in 2009-10, a feat that has not been repeated by any NHL team since. They also had two defencemen break the 40-point mark.
(Courtesy Hockey Reference)
Luongo was his usual studly self in net, earning 40 wins in 67 starts, though his save percentage and goals against average were a little lower/higher than the elite level we’d become accustomed to. His backup this season was – *picks name out of hat* – Andrew Raycroft, although Cory Scheider made a small cameo. Things were about to get a little trickier. Depending on how stringent your definitions are, this could be considered the last true goaltender-controversy free season to date (although really it wasn’t until the playoffs in the following year that the public began hankering for Schneids.
(Courtesy NHL Trade Tracker)
Net Gains and Losses:
|Players Acquired||Players Lossed|
|Christian Ehrhoff, Mikael Samuelsson, Tanner Glass, Brad Lukowich, Aaron Rome, Andrew Alberts, Aaron Volpatti, Andrew Raycroft, Chris Tanev, Lee Sweatt, Eddie Lack, Yan Stastny, Guillaume Desbiens, Mathieu Schneider||Mattias Ohlund, Taylor Pyatt, Mats Sundin, Jason LaBarbera, Curtis Sanford, Jason Jaffray, Jeff Cowan, Mark Cullen, Michel Ouellet, Patrick Coulombe, Daniel, Rahimi, Patrick White, Mathieu Schneider|
Oh man, that Ehrhoff deal. Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi for Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich was easily the best trade that Mike Gillis made during his tenure, and one of the best in Canucks history. It was a salary dump on San Jose’s part, and they didn’t really even want Patrick White anyways, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet. A number of players were acquired this year that were depth staples in the Cup run the following season, and Gillis had an excellent spring tinkering around for free agents, finding Chris Tanev and Eddie Lack (sigh) at the expense of zero assets. Mathieu Schneider came. Mathieu Schneider was waived. Mathieu Schneider was traded.
Another winner on the draft floor. This draft is particular notable due the fact that the Canucks first pick wasn’t until the end of round four. Evidently Mike Gillis didn’t like what he saw at the 25th spot and shipped it off along with Michael Grabner for defensive saviour and future doghouse resident Keith Ballard and Victor “I can’t believe this guy is on our roster, it’s game 7 of the Finals” Oreskovich. It seemed reasonable at the time, but hind sight stings so bad as then-available picks like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brock Nelson or Emerson Etem look an awful lot better than the compliance buyout that we have to show for that deal.
Anyways, the rest was dudsville. Alex Friesen is still playing for the Comets, and could be a potential injury replacement one day, and Patrick McNally was flipped for a pick used on Tate Olson, buying more time for this chapter to play out.
The Regular Season
The Canucks stumbled out of the gate before finding their footing in December, going 20-6-2 through December and January. In order to accommodate the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, the Canucks went on an NHL-record 14-game, 6-week road trip. During the Olympics, Luongo and Ryan Kesler faced off in the Gold Medal game, with Luongo emerging victorious and Kesler leaving in tears.
The Canucks play strong hockey down the stretch, locking up a playoff berth and the Northwest Division title in consecutive games to start the month of April.
The real story of this season though was Henrik Sedin. The Sedins had just earned themselves big fat contracts, though not everyone was convinced that they were worth the money (although Jonathan Willis in the early days of Canucks Army demonstrated how underrated they were). Then, four games into the season, Daniel suffered a broken foot. Surely this would slow down the remaining twin, as their majestic twin powers would be absent? Instead Henrik caught fire and produced at an exorbitant rate. The loss of his brother on his wing also forced Henrik to shoot more, and he scored 10 goals in the 18 games that Daniel missed.
Upon Daniel’s return, the two scored at a rate higher than any other player in the league, and did so with remarkable consistency. Henrik had 6 separate point streaks of at least 5 games, include a 9 and 10-game point streaks that were separated by only a single game. His longest drought was 4 games. On January 7th, he took the NHL scoring lead, and kept on rolling.
Heading into the final game of the season, Henrik was sitting on 108 points, 1 behind Alex Ovechkin for the scoring title. With the division locked up, the Canucks has nothing to play for besides Henrik. Ovechkin still had a game remaining as well, so Hank needed to pad his stats. Luckily, they were playing the Flames, and this is what ensued.
Canucks faced the Los Angeles Kings in round 1, before they were very scary. The Canucks eventually took the series in 6 games, but it was physically punishing for both sides. Among the series highlights was Alex Edler, who came in like a wrecking ball and knocked around Kings players on the regular. For video evidence, see this massive hit on Drew Doughty:
Advancing to the second round for the second straight here, the Canucks once again ran into the Chicago Blackhawks, a group even more formidable here than they were in the previous season. The Canucks won the opener handily, but hemorrhaged goals any time they were in their opponent’s arena. They put off their inevitable demise by winning game 5 at home, but fell in game 6 to lose the series. I don’t care for Dustin Byfuglien. Chelsea Dagger is a terrible song.
Points: Henrik Sedin, 29G 83A 112P
This season was the epitome of Sedin production. On the final day of the regular season, Henrik broke Pavel Bure’s Vancouver record of 110 points en route to capturing the franchise’s first Art Ross title. He would go on to win the franchise’s first Hart Memorial Trophy, appeasing the fans who rained MVP chants upon him down the stretch.
If you’re a Sedin super-fan like myself, you can watch all 112 points Henrik earned in 2009-10 right here.
Goals: Alex Burrows, 35G
In his second season as the Sedins’ triggerman, Burrows again improved his goal total. 35 would be a career high for him, and it included hat-tricks in back-to-back games on January 5th and 7th.
Assists: Henrik Sedin, 83A
Henrik’s assist total was just 2 shy of Daniel’s point total, who placed 2nd on the team in points. Yes, 37 of his 83 assists were secondary assists, but anybody who stayed awake long enough to watch Vancouver games would know how hard Henrik worked for those. Without doing the research, I would have to guess that few players’ secondary assists contribute as much to the creation of goals as Henrik’s do.
Rethinking the 2009-10 Vancouver Canucks
There isn’t much rethinking to do here. The Canucks were good, but they were ousted by a stronger Chicago team. Many holes were plugged in the off season and upgrades were made, resulting in the best Canucks team there ever was arriving the following season. Hey, it would be real nice now if we hadn’t spent all that time dumping draft picks and prospects, but at the time it looked like it was going to lead us to the promised land, so you gotta do what you gotta do.
The Canucks were a positive possession team in 2009-10, controlling shot attempts 51.7% of the time (10th best in the NHL). However, a look over the individual statistics shows a team divided by their ability to control play. The team’s entire top 6 forward group had CorsiFor percentages greater than 54% at even strength, which should afford them a much stronger team rating if their bottom six was merely adequate.
Unfortunately, the fourth line staples (Ryan Johnson, Rick Rypien, and Tanner Glass) barely cracked 40%. Johnson was the worst of the bunch (hey, he just got hired by Canucks Hockey Ops!), posting a hideous 36.75 CF% over 58 games, albeit with a ridiculous -23.19 ZSO%rel (Offensive Zone Starts relative to his teammates). Among forwards that year with at least 400 minutes played at 5-on-5, Johnson’s CorsiFor percentage ranked 376th out of 376. Glass and Rypien ranked 355th and 364th respectively.
Those are pretty poor possession numbers even for a fourth line and their Goals For percentage reflected that. If the Canucks had acquired more depth players that were a little more reliable in terms of possession, they may have had a little more success. Of course, that Blackhawks team was about as stacked as any we’ve seen in decades, so it would likely have been a lost cause.
As good as 2009-10 felt, things were only going to get better for the Canucks. 2010-11 was around the corner.