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As Canucks fans continue to live in the here and now, digesting every morsel of Vancouver playoff hockey, it's easy to forget the stepping stones that brought them this far. Mike Gillis, Alain Vigneault, and Rick Bowness have proven the cream rises to the top So often in professional sports, media and critics either directly or indirectly raise the question: What have you done for me lately? For the moment, let's fail to adopt that mentality, and recall a former General Manager for the Vancouver Canucks, Brian Burke. For that matter, let's involve another, Dave Nonis. While it's impossible to say what would have evolved were they to stay longer, the results they produced are irrefutable. The Western conference finals we are witnessing involve a solid number of players that these former GM's brought in during their tenure. You may recall one of them from the third period of Game One - With the game on the line, this Hart Trophy candidate laid his body down to block a slap-shot. Sure, he didn't score a goal or register a point in the game, but his importance to the outcome can't be understated. By now you must realize I'm referring to Daniel Sedin, one half of the oh-so-important tandem Burke brought in. He fervently worked the phones and 1999 Draft floor to obtain the 2nd and 3rd picks to ensure Henrik and Daniel would play together, in Vancouver. Keith Ballard works on his slap-shot under the tutelage of Assistant Coach Rick Bowness (photo courtesy of Harry How/ Getty Images) It would be an understatement to say that, prior to the Sedin-era, the Vancouver Canucks organization had challenges developing talent from within. Suffice it to say that Shawn Antoski, significant though he was in a trade, didn't pan out. Even 'can't misses' such as Petr Nedved, wound up improving their game, but only once they were dealt to another organization. Even more specifically, only now are they seeing dividends from investments developed in Manitoba in the farm system with the Moose. Cory Schneider is the first real bonafide Canuck goaltender produced in quite a span, thanks largely in part to Dave Nonis, who also saw promise in Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows. For reference, we need only look back on Troy Gamble, Mike Fountain and Kevin Weekes (the latter brought in via trade). Now, players such as Cody Hodgson and Sergei Shirokov that have been called up to the parent club show similar promise as the next generation of in-house talent. Sergei Shirokov (#25) and Jeff Tambellini (#10) stretch during Western Conference Finals practice at Rogers Arena Ultimately, although GM's have a lot to do with the process, there are others involved that drastically alter the final product that a team ices. One cannot acknowledge the contributions of Burke and Nonis without giving kudos to the Ownership group. Francesco Aquilini, the Managing Director of the Aquilini Investment Group has, like the Vancouver Canucks team he owns, grown and progressed. He hand-picked Mike Gillis, a retired player and player agent, which raised eyebrows across the league. But like so many of his other business decisions, Aquilini paved the way for a seeming stroke of genius. Gillis was instrumental in keeping Henrik and Daniel Sedin away from the free agency market. He flew to Sweden and negotiated identical $30.5 m deals hours before the July 1st deadline. He immediately set his sights on Roberto Luongo, whose four-year contract, signed by Dave Nonis, was coming to an end. Luongo imposed a Sept. 13 deadline before ceasing negotiations for the upcoming season. Several days after, Gillis signed Luongo to an historic 12 year, $64 million contract. Gillis also signed unrestricted free agent Mikael Samuelsson, and emerging Kontinental Hockey League prospect, Sergei Shirokov (pictured earlier). The Canuck Way will soon examine other integral components responsible for the exciting product we see before us in the 2011 Western Conference Finals.
The turn of the calendar provides an opportunity for some reflection so this week's column (our seventh edition for those keeping count...ever wonder why I never numbered them before? Seems a bit silly) looks back on the best of December, reveals the true meaning of a New Year's Bash, and counts down a list of those we have forgotten over the past decade. Also, read on to find out who takes home this week's coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. (Published Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 - despite what the Entry Date may suggest). 10-4 ON ONE GREAT DECEMBER <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2009_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Thursday's improbable come-from-behind win over the St. Louis Blues not only ended 2009 in style for the Vancouver Canucks, it also helped the Canucks to close out the calendar year with a record-setting month. With the victory, the Canucks finished the month of December with an impressive 10-4-1 record marking the first time in team history the Canucks have ever reached double digits in the wins column in December. Their previous best December came during the 1992.93 season when they went 9-1-1 during the final month of the calendar year. It also marked the first time the Canucks have hit a double digit win total in a single month since March 2009. Last season, Vancouver's record during the month of December was 6-7-1. A VERY "GOD JUL" FOR THE TWINS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1509_hank_2_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">December was not only a record-setting month for the Canucks as a team, it was one to remember for both Daniel and Henrik Sedin who each set new personal career-highs for points in a single month. Daniel netted 22 points (9-13-22) in 15 contests during December surpassing his previous career-high of 20 points in a single month (also 15 games) which he set back in March 2007. The only Canuck to record even greater numbers in December was Henrik who amassed a staggering 25 points (5-20-25) in 15 games tying him for fifth spot for most productive month in Canucks history with Alex Mogilny who also had 25 points (12-13-25) back in February 1996 (albeit Mogilny played in two less games). Henrik's previous high for most points in a single month was 19 (7-12-19) recorded back in the 15 games he played in March 2009. The record for most points in a single month by a Canuck is still held by Stan Smyl, who netted 31 points (10-21-31) in 16 games played during March 1983. NEW YEAR'S BASH INDEED <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0210_richardsbur_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Nashville may be Music City, but apparently the best hits these days emanate from Dallas. According to the stats trackers at the American Airlines Center, the Canucks nailed their opponents with a season-high 40 hits (their previous high was 27 achieved twice earlier this season) in their first game of 2010 on Saturday afternoon only to be out-done by the hometown Stars who responded by hitting the Canucks back 49 times - marking the most hits a Canucks opponent has netted this season (eight more than Carolina's 41 back on December 5th). The 89 combined hits between the Canucks and Stars also marked a season-high in a single game for the Canucks this season. The previous high for most combined hits in a single game for Vancouver this season was 63. Guess where that game took place? Dallas (November 6th). THE BEST OF HORDI <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0210_hordibarch_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Number Crunching would like to congratulate forward Darcy Hordichuk who appeared in his 400th career NHL game earlier this week on Tuesday in Phoenix. In honour of the 29-year old's milestone mark, Number Crunching presents the top four Hordi stats of the season: 1. Canucks record when Hordichuk records a point: 2-0-0 (that one was easy!) 2. Canucks record with Hordichuk in the lineup: 17-9-1 3. Canucks record when Hordichuk gets into a fight: 3-3-0 4. Canucks record when Hordichuk records a shot on goal: 3-1-1 WE HARDLY KNEW YE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct25_schneider_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Inspired (or perhaps uninspired) by Mathieu Schneider's short-lived career as a Vancouver Canuck - which unofficially came to an end this past week after just 17 games and five points - Number Crunching goes through the history books to pick out this past decade's top five We Hardly Knew Ye Canucks: <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec0809_Osweden2_rr.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">5. Magnus Arvedson: 8-7-15 in 41 GP, 2003.04 After six seasons playing with the Ottawa Senators which included a Selke Trophy nomination in 1998.99, GM Brian Burke managed to lure the then-32 year old free agent away from our nation's capital and to the West Coast proclaiming him to be not only a great defensive forward but also a solid secondary scorer as well. Things didn't quite work out that way for Arvedson. He struggled early to put up points and just when he started to look more comfortable with his new team, he suffered a knee injury in a game against the Washington Capitals that proved to be career-ending. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate06/oct1706/chouinardgame_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">4. Marc Chouinard: 2-2-4 in 42 GP / Tommi Santala: 1-5-6 in 30 GP, 2006.07 A pair of Dave Nonis acquisitions from the 2006.07 season share the fourth spot on our list. First, there was Marc Chouinard who had just come off a career-high 30 point season with the Wild and was supposed to be the answer to all of Vancouver's third line worries. He managed just two goals and four points before being placed on waivers and banished to the AHL. He hasn't been back in the NHL since. At last report, he was plying his trade with the Cologne Sharks in Germany. At the same time, there was Tommi Santala - heralded as the best fourth line centre money could buy. A combination of healthy scratches, injuries and time spent in the minors limited Santala to just 30 regular season games with the Canucks. He somehow did manage to crack the lineup for one playoff game that season. After 2006.07, Santala went home to Finland. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/02/feb1809_ottawa24_tt.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">3. Mats Sundin: 9-19-28 in 41 GP, 2008.09 Well we all knew this was coming didn't we? It's not that Sundin's stint as a Canuck was terrible but for the former Maple Leaf, the buzz was bigger than his bite. It took until mid-December before Sundin officially put his name on the dotted line but it took even longer for the player the Canucks thought they would be getting to finally show up. Sundin looked slow and sluggish to begin his Canuck career and when he finally did find his game in the playoffs (eight points in eight games), he wasn't able to help extend Vancouver's season beyond the second round. After a brief flirtation this past summer, Sundin officially announced his retirement prior to the start of the 2009.10 season. His time in Vancouver may have been short-lived but he did set one unofficial record for selling the most number of jerseys with a shelf-life of less than four months. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate05/oct0305/mccarthy_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">2. Steve McCarthy: 2-4-6 in 51 GP, 2005.06 It had all the makings of a great story: local boy returns to play for his hometown team. What could go wrong? Everything as it turns out for Steve McCarthy. The Trail, BC native was a point producing defenceman during his days in junior playing with the Edmonton (later Kootenay) Ice but never did seem to find that part of his game in his first five NHL seasons in Chicago. The Canucks hoped bringing him back to his home province would spark a resurgence of that offensive flair but that would not be the case. McCarthy lasted just 51 games in a Canucks uniform before being dealt to the Thrashers. Upon his departure, he made some less than kind remarks about the Canucks organization mostly concerning the relationship between team captain Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. McCarthy spent the 2008.09 season in the KHL before returning to North America this season where he is currently playing with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate05/nov1505/clouts_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">1. Martin Brochu: 0-3-0 record with a 4.17 GAA in 6 GPI, 2001.02 After opting not to re-sign veteran netminder Bob Essensa during the off-season, GM Brian Burke decided in the early part of the season that the best backup to pair with the still relatively fresh-faced Dan Cloutier was the immortal Martin Brochu, who had all of two NHL games worth of experience prior to joining the Canucks. Needless to say, the Brochu era in Vancouver didn't last very long. The Anjou, Quebec native made just six appearances in a Canucks uniform (clearly he didn't last long on most nights as he racked up just 216 overall minutes) and had a .856 save percentage. He was soon after replaced by Peter Skudra, who lasted parts of two seasons with the Canucks. After his short Canuck stint, Brochu played just 32 more total minutes in the NHL. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct15_samuelsson_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Two goals and three points in three games The week did not start off very well for the veteran Swede who learned last Sunday that he won't be participating in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in February after being left off Team Sweden. The snub was clearly taken personally by Samuelsson who made some rather off-colour, although very straight-from-the-heart remarks regarding not being selected. Team Sweden's loss was the Canucks' gain, however, as Samuelsson seemed to use the disappointment from being left behind as motivation. He snapped a 14-game goal drought with his tally against the Coyotes on Tuesday (his first goal since November 28th versus Edmonton) and added another marker on Thursday helping his team recover from a 3-0 deficit for a win in St. Louis. Samuelsson ended the week riding a four-game point streak - his longest since a five-game streak back in late October. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/SHARKS_CANUCKS_PRE_11_tt.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Rick Rypien: Zero points and 15 penalty minutes in three games Ignore the zeroes in the respective points columns because we all know Rick Rypien's primary focus isn't to provide offence, but the feisty forward from Coleman, Alberta nets the dubious distinction this week for his match penalty on New Year's Eve in St. Louis. We figure Rick's to blame for the whole hand-taping incident since referees never make mistakes, right? For the record, the 15 minutes worth of penalties in that contest for Rypien marked a regular season career-high in a single game for Rypien. Last season in the playoffs, he did manage to rack up 24 penalty minutes in a single game on May 2nd - Game 2 of Vancouver's Western Conference Semi-Final series against the Chicago Blackhawks in which his team lost 6-3. On that night, Rypien earned a 10-minute misconduct just over six minutes into the game and then earned another 10-minute misconduct in the final frame to go with a pair of minor penalties.