The Franchise Best Series comes to you to dive into the all-time best single season for every organization. This, of course, includes post-season results. Join us for a look back at some of the most memorable moments in each franchise’s history. Here is the Vancouver Canucks best season.
The Previous Season: Finding Regular Season Success and the Aftermath
The 2009-10 season for the Vancouver Canucks left a hollow feeling with both the fans and the team. With Henrik Sedin coming off an Art Ross winning year, they were poised to make a deep run in the playoffs, however, that all came to a close in the second round. The Canucks lost 4-2 in a series against the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks.
The Canucks did not panic however, they knew they had put together a team that did fantastically in the regular season. They re-signed goalie Cory Schneider, who was voted the best goalie in the AHL and was anticipated to back up starting goalie Roberto Luongo.
The Canucks went on to trade rookie Michael Grabner who put up 11 points in 20 games the previous year to the Florida Panthers along with Steve Bernier and the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry draft for 27-year-old Keith Ballard and 24-year-old Victor Oreskovich. Neither of these players pushed the needle in any significant way for the Canucks in the 2010-11 season with Oreskovich playing in only 16 regular season games, and 19 playoff games, whereas Ballard played more than half the regular season but was a regular healthy scratch come playoff time.
Bringing In New Free Agents
While the trades proved inconsequential for the Canucks, they had better luck in free agency. They signed free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis stepped right into their lineup as a top-four defenseman and would become a huge contributor to the team. The team would also go on to sign former fifth overall pick Raffi Torres who would produce in a depth position for an already offensively gifted team.
The last change of the off-season for the Canucks wasn’t an addition or loss of a player. Former captain and starting goaltender Roberto Luongo had announced that he had given up the captaincy that he had held for two seasons. The new captain was named a little less than a month later. Henrik Sedin was given the honour. He was the first player in Canucks history to win the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy the year before.
The Juggernaut of the NHL
Scoring goals was not a problem for the Canucks as they led the league with 258 goals for. Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross with 41 goals and 104 points. Sedin wasn’t the only 40 goal scorer on the team though. Ryan Kesler scored 41 goals as well, and that was en route to winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy, making him one of the most complete players in the league. Henrik Sedin did not have another 100+ point season like the previous season, but still posted an incredible 94 points in 82 games.
The Defensive Kings
While scoring at such a high pace, one might assume there must have been some sort of defensive trade-off for the Canucks of 2011. Actually no. The 2010-11 Canucks scored the most goals in the NHL and allow the fewest with 180. It was the first time a team has scored the most and allowed the fewest goals since the 1978 Montreal Canadiens. With the strong top-four defence of Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Hamhuis, as well as the aforementioned eventual Selke winner Kesler and Vezina nominee Luongo, the team’s defensive ability was just as strong as their scoring prowess.
Record After Record
The beast that was the Vancouver Canucks just kept on setting franchise records. It was the fastest the team ever reached the 100 point threshold, and the first time the team ever hit 50+ wins. And just two days after reaching the 50 win plateau, they clinched the Western Conference. An additional two days after clinching the West they did the same with the NHL, winning their second straight President’s Trophy. To top it all off, on the final game of the season, Daniel Sedin recorded two assists clinching the Art Ross trophy. Daniel dethroned his bother Henrik, who won the Art Ross the season prior.
The Canucks waited until the trade deadline on February 28th to make their moves. The Canucks traded Evan Oberg and a 3rd rounder in 2013 to Florida for Chris Higgins. They then traded Joel Perrault and a 3rd round pick for Maxim Lapierre and MacGregor Sharp. Both were depth acquisitions, however, Higgins would go on to be one of the better players in a disastrous Game 7, winning every faceoff he took that night and clocked nearly three minutes on the powerplay.
All the Canucks that performed exceptionally in the regular stepped up in the playoffs as well. Both Sedins had over 20 points through 25 games. Kesler fell just one point shy of that mark as well. Alexandre Burrows saw a new level of play during his playoff run, tying team lead in goals with Daniel Sedin at nine, and added eight assists for 17 points in 25 games.
The Canucks also had Ehrhoff, Edler and Bieksa all surpass the 10-point threshold for defensemen during the playoff run. The goalies didn’t nearly match the numbers they had in the season, with Luongo having a 0.914 save percentage through 25 games, down from his 0.928 during the season, and Schneider had a 0.915 through five games (all in relief), also down from his 0.929. All in all, the Canucks did not see a major drop off in play from their stars.
After being the best team in the regular season and getting revenge in round one on the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks who knocked them out the season before, the Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup Final to face off against the Boston Bruins. After beating the West’s second seed, the San Jose Sharks the Canucks looked like the favourites going into the series.
Hoping for the first cup in team history, the Canucks went up 2-0 in the series in the first two games at home, shutting the Bruins out 1-0 in Game 1 and winning 3-2 in Game 2. The Bruins returned home and tie the series up with an astonishing 8-1 rout in Game 3 and returned the shutout in Game 4, winning 4-0.
With the series tied at two games each, both teams won their home games in Game 5 and Game 6 and force a Game 7 back in Vancouver. With neither team falling at home this series, it looked like Vancouver could finally take home the cup. This was when the Canucks couldn’t do something they had been doing all year, score goals. Tim Thomas and the Bruins stopped every single one of the Canucks 37 shots on route to a 4-0 victory to take home the Cup.
The Vancouver Canucks best season ever saw them dominating the regular season as both a team setting franchise bests and as individuals bringing in multiple awards. Fighting all the way through to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1994, only to lose in dramatic fashion of a winner take all game. All of it to end in heartbreak.