The Vancouver Canucks have returned to the Stanley Cup finals. Over the next few weeks, CanCulture‘s Gianluca Nesci will be blogging about everything from the games to Vancouverites themselves.
The Vancouver Canucks are only two wins away from securing the first Stanley Cup victory in franchise history. But this playoff run has its roots in events that have occurred over the past decade. Let’s take a look at some of the more influential moments that have helped the team get to this point.
Step 1: Draft Day Wheeling and Dealing
In 1999, former Canucks general manager Brian Burke pulled off one of the great heists in the history of the NHL Draft by selecting the relatively unknown Sedin twins with the second and third overall picks. But it took a series of trades that seemed unthinkable to land the Swedish duo. Here is how Burke made the impossible happen.
1. Vancouver sent defenseman Bryan McCabe and a 2000 first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the fourth overall pick.
2. Burke then dealt that pick along with a pair of third-round selections to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first overall draft pick.
3. To complete proceedings, Vancouver sent the No. 1 pick to the expansion Atlanta Thrashers for the No. 2 selection and a conditional 2000 third-rounder. An agreement was made to ensure the Thrashers would take Patrick Stefan, leaving the Canucks to select Daniel and Henrik in sequential order.
Had Burke fallen at any of these hurdles, the Sedin twins may be wearing different jerseys today.
Step 2: Locking up Ryan Kesler
Following the 2005–06 NHL season, Kesler became a restricted free agent. While the Canucks did offer him a contract, the Michigan native signed a controversial one-year, $1.9-million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. Vancouver had only one week to either match the offer, or let Kesler leave and receive a second-round draft pick as compensation. Two days later the Canucks matched the contract, and Kesler is now an assistant captain with the club.
Step 3: Swapping “Big Bert” for “Bobby Lu”
On June 23, 2006, the Canucks acquired Roberto Luongo from the Florida Panthers as part of a five-player trade that saw Todd Bertuzzi head the other way.
Luongo now holds several franchise records, including most wins in a season with 47 and most shut-outs with 28.
Step 4: Saying Goodbye to a Canucks Legend
After twelve seasons with the organization, the Canucks parted ways with eight-year captain Markus Naslund in the summer of 2008. Naslund left the team via free-agency for the New York Rangers as the franchise leader in both goals and points. It was his departure that opened the door for the Sedin twins to become the undisputed leaders of the team.
Step 5: Not Trading Kevin Bieksa
During the 2009-2010 off-season it was believed that Bieksa would be traded by general manager Mike Gillis to make room for new signings Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis. With the team pressed up against the salary cap, Bieksa’s $3.5 million contract was deemed expendable. But that changed after fellow defenceman Sami Salo suffered a torn achilles tendon. That injury ensured the Canucks would remain beneath the salary cap, allowing them to retain Bieksa’s services. Alongside Hamhuis, he is now one-half of the top shutdown pairing for Alain Vigneault.
Step 6: Suffering Heartbreak
The most influential factor in the success of the Canucks this season is the experience gained from past failures. In each of the last two playoffs, Vancouver has been thwarted by the Chicago Blackhawks (who went on to win the Stanley Cup last year). But those disappointments have set the table for this season, as the team now understands what it takes to win hockey’s greatest prize.
What else has contributed to the Canucks magical playoff run? Add your comments below and let us know.