There was expectation that Samuelsson upon inking a 3 year deal in the off season, was going to be the next Marc Chouinard, or Jan Bulis, the general feeling about him was that he was going to under perform. In fact he’s done the complete opposite. After finding his way onto the Canucks, his 6th NHL team, the Swede has stepped up and led this team offensively through it’s plague of injuries. Samuelsson in Detroit was hampered by the fact that he wasn’t going to get top minutes because of the quality of depth Detroit has always had. Put him on a team that needs some offense, add skates and watch him go.
I had high expectations for the Swede, and so far he’s certainly living up to them. He leads the team in goals, and is third in team scoring. He typifies what the Canucks needed coming out of the offseason, and that’s a player with a shoot first mentality. He’s tied for 7th overall in the league in shots, and in the company of players like Ovechkin, Parise, Crosby, and Nash. The Canucks needed a player that was more aggressive on the puck, and he’s finding ways to get himself open, and get the puck on net. It’s one of the reasons he’s getting the puck in the net.
In this time of injury, Samuelsson’s bringing a sense of calm to the team. With your leading goal getter for the last few years out, your captain injured, a injured list that looks better than the Leafs starting roster, and so many injuries that your team signs players that started the year on your second tier affiliate the Salmon Kings, (Matt Pettinger started the year in Victoria before heading to the Moose, and then back on to the Canucks) players need to lead by example. Kesler has stepped up and taken the reigns of this team, but he hasn’t been alone, and offensively he’s recruited Samuelsson to be his sidekick.
The Swede’s quietly been scoring goals, and scoring clutch goals. He’s established himself as one of the best players on the ice for this team night in and night out, and even when the injured personnel return, he will continue to be a key part of this offense simply because the Canucks have always lacked a shoot first guy. The Swedish contingent on the team is a passive one that is not aggressive on getting pucks to the net, and Samuelsson’s the key to fixing that trend. He’s already showing us that he’s ready to play. Once you’re past 15 games in, you can’t keep saying “oh it’s just the beginning of the season”, or imply that it’s streaky play. He’s come up big in several games now, most notably against Chicago, and recently against the Rangers. He’s on pace for a record year, and his play not only gives the Canucks a chance, but by shooting the puck from all over he’s creating chances all over the ice be it in the form of rebounds, or lucky bounces. Samuelsson is all over the ice most nights, and it’s something the Canucks have missed badly in the past.
Samuelsson’s signing is paying dividends now, but this isn’t the best of him we’ve seen yet. He comes from Detroit which means he comes from a tradition of winning. The bandwagon in Vancouver is bad, but the pressure in MoTown to produce a cup every year is nothing comparable to the pressure the players in this city feel. He’s been deep in the playoffs in back to back years, and he’s one of two players on this team that’s gone past the second round. The way he’s leading offensively right now is one thing, but once the Canucks get rolling, get their injured players back, and reach the second season, Samuelsson’s going to be relied upon to lead this team in a way no one else can.