When the Vancouver Canucks took to the ice against the LA Kings in 1970 they like many teams had dreams of a Stanley Cup victory, but no doubt realized that an expansion team had a pretty big rock to push up that particular hill.
Forty years later, with the Canucks once again facing the LA Kings in a season opener, that dream is clearly a lot closer to realization, Vancouver a team on the rise with a strong core of players, one of the best goaltenders in the league and a first line combination that could very well take charge of the record books this season.
Such is the buzz around the Canucks these days, that a good number of prognosticators give the west coast team the most likely nod as a Canadian participant in the Stanley Cup final. A climb back to the top of the expectations pile, after a couple of close calls in decades past, where the Canucks made it to a Stanley Cup final but just missed out on hoisting up Lord Stanley's collector cup.
This season there seems to be a new focus on the job at hand, Roberto Luongo has relinquished the duties of captain to better concentrate on his duties as one of the leagues most reliable goaltenders.
Henrik Sedin has been rewarded for his Art Ross season of last year with the teams C, a popular pick among his team mates and the fans in Vancouver, a city where wearing the C carries a heavy responsibility with all of that adulation. And as he was preparing to take on the job he came with no better reference than that offered up by Mats Naslund, the former Canucks that exemplified and understood the character needed for the position.
As though to reinforce the fact that he's ready, Sedin himself credited another former captain Trevor Linden for providing key advice to he and his brother in their early days in a Canuck uniform, as scoring sheets will testify to, both Henrik and Daniel took good heed of that leadership and now the time has come for Henrik in particular to take charge himself.
Beyond the newly appointed leadership role, the Canucks will once again rely on he and his brother along with fellow Swede Mikael Samuelsson. The trio form what could be one of the league's most exciting forward units and seem ready to fight through the extra attention that such a unit can attract.
With one blue chip first line and a more than potentially dangerous second unit following up, scoring goals in the long NHL season shouldn't be a particularly troublesome task for Vancouver's speedy offensive threats.
If there is a worrisome aspect to the Canucks line up it could be on the blue line, where there still appear to be growing pains and perhaps the need for a stand out defensive oriented player to hold down their own end.
To that goal and perhaps keeping an eye towards the trade deadline next spring, GM Mike Gillis may be keeping watch for yet one more move that could secure that one missing piece of a Stanley Cup puzzle.
While the Canucks are more than confident that Roberto Luongo can make those stops that can turn a game around, adding a little insurance in their own is certainly something that will be on the GM's radar as the season progresses.
A look at the Canucks lineup does offer much promise for 2010--11, certainly more than worthy holders of the title of the most likely Canadian team to go to the Stanley Cup final. If they do, they'll bring the hopes of a long line of Canucks fans who have been waiting for the day since October of 1970.
Forty years later, a guy named Henrik waits to do what a fellow named Orland and a succession of captains through the years also tried to visualize, holding up the Stanley Cup high in the air as a parade wanders down Robson Street.
If all the pieces come together as Canuck fans hope, it could very well be the highlight reel from Vancouver to Ornskoldsvik and everywhere in between!
Globe and Mail-- On the Canucks captaincy
Globe and Mail-- Passing the torch to Henrik
Globe and Mail-- Canucks finally a part of Vancouver’s sporting fabric