The Sedins are old.
Not old-old, like me. But hockey old. You know, 35. Thirty-freakin-five.
As I was scanning the Vancouver Canucks roster for the 2015-16 season and checking the ages of the players, it suddenly hit me – barring a miracle, Daniel and Henrik are not going to win the Stanley Cup.
There was a time, not so long ago, that it seemed inevitable the Sedins would eventually have their names etched on the Cup. Now it doesn’t seem so likely.
The window of opportunity for the Canucks continues to shrink. It is not entirely unthinkable that all the pieces of the puzzle could fall into place and the Canucks could shock the hockey world with a dream season, but it is highly unlikely that will happen this year. They are trending in the wrong direction.
Since making it to the Cup final in 2010-11, where they lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins, the Canucks have progressively inched further and further away from being legitimate contenders. They have missed the playoffs once and were bounced from the post-season in the first round the other three seasons.
Consequently, two of the game’s best and most entertaining players inch closer and closer toward joining the dreaded list of the best players to play in the NHL that have never won the Cup. The list includes the likes of Marcel Dionne, Jean Ratelle, Brad Park, Peter Stastny, Gil Perreault, Darryl Sittler, Dale Hawerchuk and Pat LaFontaine. All those players were inducted into the Hall of Fame, just as I am certain the Sedins will be when all is said and done.
Henrik was the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player in 2009-10 when he led the league in scoring to also earn the Art Ross Trophy. He was a first team all-star in 2010 and 2011 and, ever the playmaker, three times he has led the NHL in assists. Daniel won the Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award in 2011 and was a first team all-star that year. Henrik has been a top 10 scorer four times and Daniel twice. Henrik has played in three NHL all-star games while Daniel has appeared in two.
On the international stage the twins helped Sweden win an Olympic gold medal in 2006 and a silver medal in 2014. They also won World Championship gold in 2013 to go with bronze medals at that event in 1999 and 2001.
What doesn’t show up in the record books is how beautifully the Sedins play the game, particularly when they are on the ice together – which is almost always. As graceful as they play, the Sedins are equal parts of skill and determination. While they are sometimes painted as being soft, that is a bad rap. They never shy away from heavy traffic.
There have been times when they have taken abuse and not fought back when others would have instinctively dropped the gloves, but that is just not their style. On those occasions, they never let it affect their ability to control the flow of the game or their desire to work the puck in the offensive zone. They could not be intimidated and to me, that if the true measure of courage.
When they are at their best, the Sedins have an almost telepathic connection with one another on the ice. If there was a statistic for connected no-look passes, they would certainly lead the league year after year.
While this may be starting to sound a bit like a postmortem on their careers, it most certainly isn’t. Given the Sedins finished eighth (Daniel) and 10th (Henrik) in NHL scoring last season, they remain relevant players who are still capable of being difference makers. There is plenty of gas left in the tank.
The reality, however, is the Canucks have gone from being legitimate Stanley Cup threats to being among a handful of teams in the tough Western Conference that will have to scratch and claw to make the playoffs this season.
Goaltender Ryan Miller seems to be at a crossroads in his career. Not so long ago he was regarded as one of the best stoppers in the NHL, but now he is not so reliable. He has gone from being a sure thing to a question mark.
It remains to be seen what impact the loss of Kevin Bieksa will have on the blueline, but one thing is certain: his leadership and toughness will be missed. Up front, the loss of Shawn Matthias, who scored 18 goals last season with precious little power play time, could be an issue, as will the departure of dependable Nick Bonino.
As usual, the Sedins will be expected to lead the Canucks charge this season. Barring injury, they will get the job done, but they need a strong supporting cast if they are to go deep in the playoffs.
At this stage of their careers, the closer the two gifted Swedes get to retirement, the further, it seems, they get from winning the Stanley Cup.
What a pity.