Mar 192010
 

Samuelsson has just been lights out since Sweden looked him over for the Olympic Roster and since he had some choice words for the Swedish Hockey Federation. Unfortunately he’s now on the injured reserve and despite the implications of that injury to the Canucks offense, it’s unfortunate to see the guy go down whilst setting so many career bests in his 10th year in the NHL. When you look at his numbers and the way he’s re-sparked the Sedins he’s done more for this team than just bring us offense when it was needed. Re-sparking the Sedins goes a long way while on this stretch drive.

Samuelsson’s numbers show nothing but consistent improvement across the board. He’s improved in nearly every facet of his game and the numbers speak for themselves:

GAPTS+/-ShotsShots%TOI
39 GP (pre-snub)10142421178.5%17:11
31 GP (post-snub)20929129321.6%17:28

He’s doubled his goal output, and put out more points in less games. He’s shooting on goal as much as he was at the beginning of the season, but now the goals are going in more and his shooting percentage has more than doubled. His play’s been reflected in his ice-time too. We all know Vigneault rewards the hot hand and Samuelsson’s averaged a bit more ice time per game recently.

It’s unfortunate to see him go down to injury at this point in the season. This career year was something I was looking towards seeing and now out 2-3 weeks means Samuelsson’s regular season is all but done. This means two things. The first thing is, this is similar to the curious case of Wellwood last year. When Wellwood had a fire lit under his ass, he responded. Samuelsson’s fire was the snubbing and it’s worked to the Canucks advantage in every way. The second thing is, Samuelsson’s due to return around the time that the playoffs start. Having a guy like him return at playoff time, with a pair of legs rested 3 weeks, will be great.

There’s a silver lining to every situation and Samuelsson’s veteran presence and playoff experience is not only going to key to the Canucks playoff run, but a fresh Samuelsson with all those attributes could be deadly in the playoffs. The Swedish member of the Triple Gold Club has had a great season so far, but once he returns it only serves to get better. Samuelsson who was key in the Olympic run for the Swedes back in Turin has some chemistry with the Sedins and as the Sedins second trigger man he brings chemistry to a team that defines what a team should be. His leadership on this team has been key and the most important thing is he’s leading by example. With play like this, the three week break will be his refresher and it’s exciting to think of the prospect of what he could do in the NHL’s second season.

Mar 112010
 

With most teams in the NHL you can point to one player on the team who is the face of the franchise. The Capitals belong to Ovechkin, the Penguins belong to Malkin, the Islanders are Tavares’ and the Kings are Kopitar’s. The list goes on but the point is most teams have one face, one super star that either makes or breaks the team based on how they play. With that concept in mind, these Canucks once were Luongos. The face of the 2006-07 franchise-record-49-Win Canucks, was Luongo. He won his first career playoff series single-handedly, and lost his second career playoff series single-handedly.

Since then this team has evolved around a core group of players that are a combination of to tier forwards, rock solid blue liners, a passionate goalie and a desire to win. That being said, this season has exemplified one thing in particular: The Canucks don’t have one leader, they play as a team. This year’s Canucks define exactly what a team should be and that’s been the story all year. I can remember just how many times over the years I’ve said, “We need secondary scoring, the top lines are in a slump”, and the Canucks haven’t had the depth or talent to pull it off.

When you look at this year’s team, secondary scoring was at one point the only reason we didn’t tank. Through the Canucks injury problems all year, through the slumps, and the highs and lows, there has always been someone to step in and take over. In one particular game it was Ryan Johnson and Tanner Glass against the Avalanche resulting in Johnson’s first multi-point game of his career, in another it was Mason Raymond who decided to go on a streak. When the Sedins came back and the Canucks needed to turn things around Burrows took over, but post Olympics it’s been Kesler who’s carried the team. With the Sedins in a pre-Olympic slump as a result of a snubbing Samuelsson has stepped his game up. What’s even more impressive is that Samuelsson has stepped his game up during the Canucks most critical point in the season.

Between Henrik’s offensive outburst, Burrows’ nose for the net, Samuelsson’s response to the snub, Raymond’s breakout year and Kesler’s ascent to the next tier of forwards, it’s no surprise that this team doesn’t have one singular face. This team has learned to find a way to win. What’s more important, and most important is they’ve found a way to win without having to rely on Luongo to perform near miracles on an almost nightly basis. The Canucks chemistry is at an all time high and with the number of players having career years what makes this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks unique is their ability to step up individually and carry this team when it needs someone to take the reigns. The most perfect example was Samuelsson and his second period hat trick against the Avalanche, but in the streaks various different Canucks players have thrown together it’s clear that when there is a hole in the offense or defense someone steps up.

On a blue line that has struggled from the get go and had to give more responsibility to the likes of everyone’s favourite Canuck Shane O’Brien, Christian Ehrhoff has come in and stepped up. The German Olympian who is having an outstanding year on the blue line has scored key goals for the Canucks on several occasions this season. Heck, even O’Brien has buttoned down and become a responsible defenceman. While he might have the odd defensive breakdown, he’s strayed from racking up the penalty minutes and he’s stepped up to the increased responsibility as the Canucks infirmary tries to spit players out as fast as they come in.

This year’s Canucks are not defined by one player but by many. They’re not defined by one success story, and the story around this year’s team has not been about individuals. It’s been about a team that’s had to come together over the adversity of injury, the obstacle of the NHL’s longest road trip, and the sportsmanship of a game which saw players go from teammates to rivals and back to teammates in the span of two weeks. This year’s Canucks are defined by their city, their fans, and their desire to win. This year’s Canucks are defined by a coach that’s on the verge of being a miracle worker, and players that buy into the team picture. This year’s Canucks are defined by players that step up when they have to, not when they’re called out to. This year’s Canucks define what it means to be a team.

Mar 022010
 

Apparently, the Canucks got together in Columbus to watch Team Canada win Olympic Gold against Team USA.

Like countless other Canadians, Alain Vigneault was a nervous wreck.

“Come on, Louie,” the Vancouver Canucks coach said for about the 100th time as overtime started in Sunday’s Olympic final between Canada and the United States.

From about 5,000 kilometres away, Vigneault was doing everything he could to will his goaltender, Roberto Luongo, and the rest of Team Canada to a gold medal.

And like every other Canadian, they celebrated when Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Check out the video (original from canucks.com):

Well, at least it looks like everyone celebrated except for Mikael Samuelsson. Suck it Sammy? Play nice, OB, play nice.

Dec 272009
 

The Canucks had 4 players considered potential Olympian members of Team Sweden’s national hockey team when the world comes to Vancouver for in 2010. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were locks for the team, Edler has emerged as a top defenceman in the NHL and was considered to be one of the blue liners for the yellow and blue, and Samuelsson who already has an Olympic Gold medal to his name was the fourth Canuck who was likely to represent Sweden in the Olympics.

After Sweden announced their roster this morning Canuck nation was a little riled up that blonde haired, blue eyed, Alexander Edler wasn’t named to the Swedish roster when names like San Jose’s Douglas Murray (this has to be the least Swedish name ever) and New Jersey’s Johnny Oduya beat Edler out for a roster spot. Samuelsson was also missing from the Swedish roster which looks to have stocked up on veteran players including surprise pick Forsberg who’s returned to the Swedish Elite League playing alongside former Canucks star Markus Naslund as both attempt comebacks to the sport.

As far as Samuelsson’s missing the team, I’m not surprised. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Mr. October has been quiet as of late. He’s certainly cooled since his hot start and his play has been average at best this year. Edler who’s struggled this season was also missing from Sweden’s roster but with curious picks like Murray and Oduya you have to wonder why Edler wasn’t on the team.

But without looking at who should make the team and who shouldn’t, there is a silver lining to all of this. The Canucks had 9 potential Olympians, and those are 9 of the Canucks top players that aren’t going to get a 2 week break before the stretch drive. The fact that two of those nine players are going to get the extra two weeks rest is something I’m okay with. Edler with the shaky season he’s had could use the time off. The Canucks are going to need a lot of help from their supporting cast when the fatigue factor catches up to those Canucks that make the Olympics, down the stretch. The fact that Edler didn’t make the team is a curious one, but in the long run I think it’s going to benefit this team that’s ultimate goal is a long playoff run.

Nov 022009
 

Samuelssons providing the Canucks an offensive solution while the injuries pile up


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.

Oct 142009
 

The Media is always quick to jump on a player for not doing well, as was the case after Samuelsson was on the ice for four goals in the Columbus game and in the box for their 5th, but since the start of the season, and all through the pre-season, one of the best players on the ice has been hardly noticed by anyone and has gone almost unnoticed in any praise handed out after the game. In Tuesday’s papers, the Province, Sun and even smaller papers like 24 Hours, Salo got full coverage, Daniel got coverage, and you’d think third would be the Canucks best players as of late right? No, Mitchell got a full page in The Province. He also got a brief couple of paragraphs of passing mention in The Province. Sometimes the media are blind, or maybe they’re just so sucked into their own

With all the drama surrounding Luongo’s slow start, Shirokov getting sent down, Sedin’s broken foot and Salo’s latest injury, Samuelsson has been slowly plugging away and is one of the main reasons this team’s offense is still clicking. Most recently after Salo went down in the Dallas game Samuelsson stepped up replacing Salo on the point and walked away from the game with two powerplay assists. He would have had three if Henrik had treated his shot on the odd man break like more of a shot than a tap-in into an empty net.

In five games the native of Mariefred, Sweden has 5 points – 2 goals and 3 assists. You can hardly blame his -2 rating on poor play as he was -4 in the Columbus game and the majority of that was largely due to Luongo’s terrible play. He would have been a +2 were it not for that game and with the exception of the one bad penalty he took in that same Columbus game he’s been penalty free in the other four games. While he was pretty quiet in the pre-season he was skating well and it looked like he’d gelled well with the Sedins. It’s just surprising he’s gone unnoticed while quietly assisting and scoring.

Samuelsson’s play on the powerplay is a big reason the Canucks boast the 3rd best powerplay(after last night’s games. 2nd going into last night’s games) and has found his place nicely. A lot of people were predicting that for the money he’s been paid he’s going to be a bust. He was seen as the scapegoat in Detroit and after leaving a lot of Red Wings fans suggested he was going to be just as disappointing. I like what I see from him so far. He’s been playing solidly at both ends of the ice, and if you watched in particular the two goals he set up against Dallas his presence in drawing two defenders was key in allowing Kesler the time to skate off the boards and snap a shot, and the reason Burrows had enough room infront of the net to get the shot off. He was the best player on the ice in a game that saw the Canucks start to adapt to a Daniel and Salo-less team and yet he didn’t make the stars list.

With Daniel out of the lineup I think the Canucks should drop Bernier back to the third line, or rather Line 2B and bump Samuelsson up with Burrows and Henrik. That would allow for Shirokov to get called up since Desbiens was sent back down and I think Shirokov’s play making alongside Kesler and Raymond would really benefit form their speed. Or, if you keep Samuelsson on the second line, Shirokov’s play-making would really complement Henrik’s new shoot-more-pass-later attitude that he had to adopt on Sunday against Dallas with his brother being out. Samuelsson’s got high expectations in my books. He’s off to a good start, and with that blip on the radar against Columbus he’s been quietly one of the best Canucks on the ice so far in this young season.

Sep 132009
 
Kevin Bieksa

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

I’ll be going to training camp today so keep an eye out on my Twitter feed. In the meantime, here are some Canucks-related links on the Interweb:

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