It’s safe to say expectations are a bit lower than usual for the Vancouver Canucks these day. But not all is bleak in British Columbia.
Sandwiched between the team’s personality conflict of whether they want to be a veteran team that wins now or a team that is rebuilding with youth for the future, the Canucks feature a pretty solid top scoring line.
The first two parts of the line were inherited by Canucks General Manager Jim Benning.
Henrik Sedin — the center of the top line — is entering his 16th season in Vancouver. Henrik, who just turned 36 on Monday, has entered the later stages of his career but he’s still shown that he can be productive. In 74 regular season games last year, he posted 55 points (11-44—55) and averaged 18:23 of ice time.
That number is nowhere near the career-high 112 points (29-83—112) he scored 2009-10, but it’s still a solid number for an older player on a team that did not qualify for the playoffs last season.
His twin Daniel, meanwhile, is also entering his 16th season with the Canucks and also turned 36 on Monday. He played in all 82 of Vancouver’s games last season and notched 61 points (28-33—61) while averaging 18:20 of ice time. Daniel’s point total from last season is a big drop from his career-high (104) in 2010-11, but since that season his offensive output has been somewhat consistent, averaging nearly 63 points over the last four full seasons since that year.
Like his brother, that’s not a bad offensive output for a forward in his mid-30’s playing for a team that has scuffled at times of late.
While the coaching staff has just needed to “plug and play” the Sedins, it’s Benning who went out this summer and tried to find a top-end player to compliment the twins. And he was successful in doing so when he brought winger Loui Eriksson into the fold.
Eriksson was selected by Dallas in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play seven seasons with the Stars. The native of Gothenburg, Sweden tallied 357 points (150-207—357) in 501 regular season games in a Stars sweater, setting a career-high in average ice time of 20:34 in 2010-11.
On July 4, 2013, Eriksson was sent to Boston in a trade, but his production took a nosedive with the change of scenery. After averaging just under 72 points in his last three full seasons with Dallas, he averaged just 49 points in his three seasons with the Bruins, although Eriksson did have a modest bounce back last year as he was able to post his highest point total (63) since 2011-12.
With that bounce back season in his back pocket and a new six-year deal in Vancouver that has an annual cap hit to the Canucks of $6 million annually, both the Canucks and Eriksson are hoping that another change of scenery and the chance to play alongside two of his fellow countrymen will pay large dividends for everyone involved.
And Canucks fans didn’t have to wait until the first preseason game, or even the first scrimmages of training camp to see their new top line at work. The trio spent some time playing together for Team Sweden over the past couple weeks at the World Cup of Hockey, where they were eliminated in the semifinals by Team Europe on Sunday.
Eriksson finished seventh among all forwards on the team in scoring with a goal in four games, while Daniel Sedin finished fifth among all forwards with a pair of assists in four games, and Henrik Sedin finished second with three assists in four games.
While it was a tiny preview of what’s to come, Canucks fans are hoping what they saw from the trio will translate into some nice results once the puck drops for the regular season in a couple weeks.
Few are expecting the Canucks to do a lot of damage in the Pacific Division, but if Eriksson can return to the numbers he posted in Dallas and help the Sedins maintain their scoring touch, fans in Vancouver could be in for a nice surprise this year.