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It's been a while since I've blogged in this space. Hope I still remember how. Thought I'd share my thoughts on what I think the All-Star Game format should be. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0310_hawks19_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">So the NHL is changing their All-Star Game format to let captains pick out their teams. I like it. It's novel, it's unique, and as far as I know no other league has tried it before. But what I'd really like to see is for the NHL to go back to the day when it used to be the Stanley Cup Champions taking on a group of All-Stars. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/van_chi_050710_salo_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Now at this point you may ask what the appeal of watching the Blackhawks, to use this year as an example, play in a meaningless contest when you have 82 other games with something on the line to choose from. Well, for one thing, the Blackhawks wouldn't be the same watered down version of the team that is on the ice this season. I'm talking about using the actual Cup winning team, which would mean seeing the likes of Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Sopel, to name a few, reunite with their old club for one night only. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/051110_CHI_VAN_205j.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">In an era now where teams inevitably will break up because of the salary cap, seeing the old gang back together for one night would make for an interesting spectacle even if there's nothing on the line in the game itself. The champions could even tie-in their ring presentation ceremony on that same weekend so the whole team can be together for the occasion instead of having certain players randomly receive their rings at different points int he season. Having a ring presentation ceremony might even draw some extra media attention from the folks already covering the All-Star festivities. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/051110_CHI_VAN_205a.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">I'm even in favor of a bit of revisionist history if there's a case where they just can't get a guy back because he's injured, playing in another league, or retired (although I think the fans would get a kick out of seeing a retired player - if he's high profile enough - return for one game). Replacement players could be voted in by the fans out of the pool of players (outside of the champions) that are taking part in the game. How would Alex Ovechkin look streaking down the left side on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane? Or how much would Canucks fans cringe to see Henrik Sedin centering a unit with Marian Hossa on his left and Patrick Sharp on his right? This idea isn't perfect by any stretch. It may be a tough sell if, god forbid, it were the Florida Panthers or the Phoenix Coyotes versus the NHL All-Stars. But hey, it's a thought and it can't be that much worse than what's been done before.
Kent, he of the We Are All Canuckleheads Podcast, is looking like a genius right now. I say this because he was one of the first people I saw making a case for Henrik Sedin for the Hart Trophy. Talk of Henrik being a favorite for the Hart trophy picked up steam earlier this week with an article from Michael Farber over on Sports Illustrated's website (scroll down about midways) who named Henrik Sedin as his pick for the Hart Trophy. (Incidentally, no mention or love for Kesler in the Selke category. Boo.) Michael Traikos of the National Post also had some love for Henrik Sedin as he also picked him to win the Hart trophy. More recently, TSN's James Cybulski gave Henrik some love, saying that the Swedish twin is HIS pick for the Hart. Taking a look at it, I have to say that Henrik has made a great case for himself in the first half of this season to be a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy. The biggest point in favor of Henrik would be the fact that his brother Daniel went down with injury for a prolonged period of time. There are many people out there who will acknowledge that the Sedins are a great duo, but individually they suffer. That line of thinking took a beating reminiscent of the other night as Henrik went on a tear for the Canucks, shouldering the offensive burden without his brother. In the 18 games Daniel was out, Henrik racked up an impressive 10 goals and 18 points, including one hat trick and 2 game winning goals. This is notable given that Henrik has habitually been portrayed as being more of a passer and less of a shooter. Were that the only argument in favor of Henrik Sedin: that he puts up a lot of points and has been able to play well without his brother, it wouldn't make for a very convincing argument in favor of the Hart. Heck, Marian Gaborik scored a lot of goals for the Minnesota Wild and is now doing much of the same in New York (and getting talk of Hart nominations due to the spotlight being shone there. More on that in a second.) But no, there is more to Henrik's Hart and there's a strong argument that can be made in favor of him. There's the fact that Henrik, along with his brother, actually makes players around them better. It's been a long-running joke in Vancouver that you could take anyone and have them play with the Sedins and they'd be made to look like perennial All-Stars. As I mentioned in my 'Third Sedin' article last month, aging veteran Trent Klatt got driven to the airport due to being a Sedin linemate, Jason King got a 'Rookie of the Month' nod for playing with the Sedins, Anson Carter got a substantial pay raise due to being the Sedins linemate and Mattias Weinhandl has been able to take his play with the Sedins back in their SEL days and turn it into, ugh, an Olympic roster nomination. There's also Alex Burrows (pictured above), the Sedins current linemate. Prior to playing with the Sedins, Burrows was a fixture on the team's checking line and wasn't exactly known for his offensive contributions, having scored 22 goals in the past three seasons. In an attempt to fix things for the Canucks, who were in the middle of a horrible losing streak last season, head coach Alain Vigneault decided to stick Burrows with the Sedins and see what happened. The result? Burrows ended up with 28 goals and 51 points by the end of last season and is on pace for the same amount of goals and 62 points this season. Not too bad for a guy who was playing ball hockey and toiling in the ECHL. Burrows' improved play can be compared to the rub Jonathan Cheechoo got from Joe Thornton when they played together in San Jose. Back in 05/06, Cheechoo won the Rocket Richard trophy, the same year that Thornton picked up the Art Ross and Hart trophies. You could also point to Colby Armstrong benefitting from Sidney Crosby when he played with the Penguins, although Armstrong did have his greatest offensive totals while playing in Atlanta. Henrik's linemates should also be noted when discussing other Hart trophy candidates. Unlike Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, Henrik doesn't have the luxury of playing with ridiculously talented forwards like Malkin, Jordan Staal, Hossa, Backstrom, Semin or Norris candidates like Mike Green and Sergei Gonchar. Not to mention guys like Joe Thornton, who get to play with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. While the Canucks are a good team and Henrik doesn't suffer for lack of quality linemates, Burrows, no matter how driven he is, is a far cry from the likes of Heatley. Basically, not only is Henrik being a great player, he is helping to make other players look great as well. Honest question, would Alex Burrows' back to back hat tricks have happened without Henrik Sedin? Probably not, as Henrik (and Daniel) assisted on 5 of Burrows 6 goals. It's a remarkable example of what Henrik can do for the players that play with him and his brother. Some other stats to chew on and consider: Henrik is second in icetime amongst Canucks forwards, behind only Ryan Kesler. I'd imagine that Henrik might be leading the Canucks in icetime if they weren't one of the most penalized teams in the NHL (3rd worst as of last night's game) as Kesler spends a lot of his time on the PK, something which Henrik isn't as prolific with. Henrik's 4 game winning goals puts him in a tie for fourth, tied with guys like Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg and Teemu Selanne. His brother Daniel is tied for third with his 5 game winners. His +/- of +19 ties him with linemate Alex Burrows for fifth overall amongst forwards, behind only Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise. Daniel, for that matter, isn't that far off, as his +17 puts him in a tie for seventh overall amongst forwards. Did I mention that he's resting comfortably atop the NHL scoring race with 62 points right now? Should he continue this amazing tear he's been on for the rest of the season, there's a very good chance that he'll be in contention for the Art Ross Trophy. It should also be noted that 5 of the last 6 Hart Trophy winners (Ovechkin, Crosby, Thornton and St. Louis) also won the Art Ross, so being in contention (or even winning!) would be huge for Henrik. There's also the accolades he's been receiving, as he was just named the NHL player of the month for December. He has also led the Canucks in the Molson Cup standings for 2 months now. Although the Molson Cup isn't an official award, it's useful because the Molson Cup standings are based on three star selections, meaning that Henrik Sedin has been getting named one of the three stars pretty frequently, which means his contributions on the ice have been significant. Simply put, Henrik Sedin has been playing amazing. But what about his competitors? Well, let's take a quick look at some other potential Hart trophy candidates. Marian Gaborik is essentially a one man show on the Rangers and is third in the NHL scoring race at the moment and was leading the league in goals scored. There's a good chance that he'll be able to keep up his rate of scoring, but he's one groin injury away from being tossed from Hart contention. There's also the fact that the Rangers are fighting for a playoff spot: they're only 3 points removed from 9th place Philly and 4 points away from the 10th place New York Islanders. Should they not make the playoffs, that will significantly hurt his chances. Ryan Miller has been carrying the Buffalo Sabres on his back for most of this season and has been posting impressive goaltending numbers to boot, even when the team in front of him has been less than impressive. It's been said that members of the media (who vote on the Hart trophy) are reluctant to select goaltenders after Jose Theodore's Hart win and subsequent fall from grace. That said, Miller is no Theodore and will remain a strong candidate if he keeps it up…especially if he is able to take his play for Buffalo and transform it into Team USA medalling at the Olympics. It'll have everyone talking. Sidney Crosby is another favorite and was Pierre LeBrun's pick for ESPN's mid-season awards. With Malkin cooling off this season, Crosby has had to pick up the slack and carry the Pens offense and has done so admirably. It doesn't hurt that Crosby is a one time Hart winner so he has the name recognition that some voters may opt for instead of taking a risk on someone like Henrik Sedin. Alexander Ovechkin has won the Hart twice now and is another guy who is in the thick of the NHL's scoring race, this, despite missing some games earlier in the season. Everybody loves Ovi and it's going to be hard for some sportswriters to resist voting for Ovechkin to make it three consecutive seasons of winning the Hart trophy. The fact that he was just named captain also speaks of how valuable he is to the Capitals organization and will stand out for many. Joe Thornton is also putting up big numbers and up until last night was tied with Henrik in the NHL scoring race. That said, he's playing on an absolutely stacked team with a potential Rocket Richard winner in Heatley, has guys like Rob Blake and Dan Boyle on the backend. Not to mention Thornton's other linemate, Patrick Marleau, who currently leads the league in goals scored. It's going to be hard to argue that Thornton is having the same impact on the Sharks that he did in 05/06 (when he won the Hart.) Compare Cheechoo, a guy who greatly benefitted from Thornton that season, with Heatley a guy who has absolutely killed pretty much since he's been in the league. Assuming that Henrik Sedin manages to continue at the pace he's set for himself and continues to play at the high level we Canucks fans have been enjoying year round, it's going to be hard to say that Hank doesn't stack up against the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin or Joe Thornton. As big of a fan as I've been of the Sedins, even I am finding it hard to believe…but it doesn't mean I'm not enjoying this dominance. Hard to believe that there were folks who thought this team would be better off without the Twins. Trevor Presiloski is a Westerner stuck out East in Toronto. You can check out his website, which features more coverage on the Canucks, at http://www.trevorpresiloski.com. He can also be found over on Twitter at twitter.com/nettrashcan. He is an avid reader and loves the sport of falconry.
It's celebration week for Number Crunching as we, along with the rest of Canucks Nation, congratulate Henrik Sedin for becoming the first ever Vancouver Canuck to capture the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading point scorer. In honour of Henrik's achievement, we crunch the numbers on some Art Ross history and make a case for why Hank is better than Sid and Ovie. And as a wrap-up to the regular season, we present the Number Crunching Super Stats Pack. TODAY THE ART ROSS, TOMORROW THE WORLD? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1010_twins_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Henrik Sedin became the first Canucks player to capture an Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer with his 112-point season (29-83-112) but his greatest challenge is yet to come as he looks to be just the 11th Art Ross Trophy winner in the last 39 NHL seasons to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory. Since the Canucks' inaugural season in 1970.71, the Art Ross Trophy winner has advanced to 12 different Stanley Cup Finals while winning it 10 times. Working against Henrik, as far as history goes, will be the fact that an Art Ross Trophy winner has not won back-to-back Stanley Cups since 1984 and 1985 when Wayne Gretzky captured the award in both seasons while also winning the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers both years. Last season, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin captured the Art Ross Trophy and went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Penguins. Below is a complete list of Art Ross Trophy winners that have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the 1970.71 season: 1972 - Phil Esposito - Boston Bruins 1976 - Guy Lafleur - Montreal Canadiens 1977 - Guy Lafleur - Montreal Canadiens 1978 - Guy Lafleur - Montreal Canadiens 1984 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers 1985 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers 1987 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers 1992 - Mario Lemieux - Pittsburgh Penguins 2004 - Martin St. Louis - Tampa Bay Lightning 2009 - Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins The other two Art Ross Trophy winners that appeared in the Stanley Cup Final the same season but did not win the ultimate prize were: 1974 - Phil Esposito - Boston Bruins (lost to Philadelphia Flyers) 1983 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers (lost to New York Islanders) NO TIME TO SPARE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1010_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">While some critics during the race for the Art Ross Trophy have pointed out that both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin played fewer games than Henrik Sedin, one thing that no one can dispute is that Henrik has gotten more accomplished while getting much less average ice-time per game. Henrik finished the season averaging 19:41 of ice-time - over two full minutes fewer on average per game compared to Sidney Crosby (21:57) and Alex Ovechkin (21:47). In fact, out of the top-10 leading scorers in the NHL, only Chicago's Patrick Kane had a less ice-time on average (Kane finished the season with 88 points in 82 games). Henrik is the first player since Peter Forsberg in 2002.03 to capture the Art Ross Trophy despite having fewer than 20-minutes of average ice-time per game. That season, Forsberg finished with an average per-game ice-time of 19:19 - the lowest average ice-time out of the top-13 scorers that season. On an interesting side note, former Canucks' captain Markus Naslund - who finished second to Forsberg in that year's race for the Art Ross Trophy - had an average ice-time of 19:54. As far as how Henrik measures up in points versus total ice-time over the season compared to Sid and Ovie, Henrik finished the season averaging one point for every 14.414 minutes of ice-time. He finished well-ahead of Crosby in that category (one point for every 16.315 minutes) and was only slightly edged out by Ovechkin (one point for every 14.398 minutes of ice-time) ON A HIGH NOTE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1010_puckup_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For just the third time in team history, the Canucks ended their regular season tallying seven-plus goals in their final contest. Vancouver's 7-3 win over the Flames on Saturday night was the most goals they have scored in a regular season finale since they lit up the Los Angeles Kings for eight goals back on April 15, 1993 - an 8-6 win at The Forum. That season, the Canucks finished in first place in the Smythe Division and knocked off the Winnipeg Jets (4-2) in their first round playoff series before falling in their second round series to those same Kings (2-4). The first and only other time the Canucks tallied seven-or-more goals in their regular finale was back on April 4, 1982 which also came against the Kings - a 7-4 at the Pacific Coliseum. That 1982 Canucks team, which finished second place in the Smythe Division, went on to become the first Canucks team to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals knocking off the Flames (3-0), Kings (4-1) and Blackhawks (4-1) before eventually falling to the New York Islanders (0-4). NUMBER CRUNCHING SUPER STATS PACK Number Crunching took the liberty of compiling some interesting statistics throughout the 2009.10 season. Here's a look at some of the best numbers from the regular season: <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0810_sharks04_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks' record when... A defenceman scores: 24-5-2 Daniel Sedin scores: 17-3-3 Henrik Sedin scores: 19-4-1 Mikael Samuelsson scores: 18-5-3 Alex Burrows scores: 22-7-0 Ryan Kesler scores: 18-6-0 Mason Raymond scores: 14-5-1 Jannik Hansen scores: 7-2-0 Kyle Wellwood scores: 7-4-2 Sami Salo scores: 9-0-0 Alex Edler scores: 5-0-0 Sami Salo is not in the lineup: 9-4-1 Kevin Bieksa is not in the lineup: 18-7-2 Willie Mitchell is not in the lineup: 21-9-2 Mikael Samuelsson is not in the lineup: 4-3-1 <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0610_grabs_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">They score two-or-more power play goals: 13-4-0 They surrender two-or-more power play goals: 4-9-0 They don't allow a 1st period goal: 22-4-2 They don't allow a 3rd period goal: 32-5-4 Score a short-handed goal: 9-0-0 Surrender a short-handed goal: 1-4-1 Don't allow a power play goal: 30-5-4 When getting more power play chances than opponent: 27-12-1 When getting fewer power play chances than opponent: 19-13-1 When getting equal power play chances as opponent: 3-3-3 They play on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada: 11-2-2 They play on Rogers Sportsnet: 22-21-1 They play on TSN: 8-1-1 They play on Canucks TV Pay-Per-View: 8-3-1 Highs and Lows... <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0410_happy_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Canucks Most - One Period Goals: 5 (NOV.28.09 vs Edmonton, first period) Goals Allowed: 5 (MAR.05.10 at Chicago, first period) Shots: 22 (OCT.30.09 at Anaheim, third period) Shots allowed: 22 (NOV.06.09 at Dallas, first period) Canucks Fewest - One Period Shots: 0 (MAR.14.10 vs Calgary, third period) Shots Allowed: 2 (MAR.13.10 vs Ottawa, first period) Canucks Most - One Game Goals: 8 (NOV.14.09 at Colorado) Goals Allowed: 8 (APR.01.10 at Los Angeles) Shots: 47 (FEB.02.10 at Montreal) Shots Allowed: 54 (MAR.20.10 vs Detroit) Penalty Minutes: 68 (NOV.10.09 at St. Louis) Penalty Minutes Opposition: 58 (APR.08.10 at San Jose) Canucks Fewest - One Game Goals: 0 (twice - most recent NOV.22.09 vs Chicago) Goals Allowed: 0 (five times - most recent FEB.11.10 at Florida) Shots: 15 (OCT.29.09 at Los Angeles) Shots Allowed: 14 (MAR.13.10 vs Ottawa) Penalty Minutes: 2 (JAN.25.10 vs Buffalo) Penalty Minutes Opposition: 4 (three times - most recent MAR.20.10 vs Detroit) Canucks Largest - One Game Margin of victory: 6 (twice - most recent NOV.14.09 at Colorado, 8-2) Margin of defeat: 5 (three times - most recent APR.01.10 at Los Angeles, 3-8) <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0410_spray_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Individual Most - One Game Goals: 3 (eight times - Daniel Sedin x2, Alex Burrows x2, Henrik Sedin, Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, Michael Grabner) Goals Allowed: 3 (four times - David Perron, Erik Cole, Martin Erat, Dustin Brown) Assists: 4 (Henrik Sedin - APR.10.10 vs Calgary) Assists Allowed: 3 (six times - Rick Nash, James Wisniewski, Brad Boyes, Daniel Alfredsson, John Tavares, Patrick Marleau) Points: 4 (five times - Henrik Sedin x2, Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Daniel Sedin) Points Allowed: 5 (John Tavares - MAR.16.10 vs New York Islanders) Saves: 50 (Roberto Luongo - MAR.20.10 vs Detroit) Saves, Opponent: 45 (Jaroslav Halak - FEB.02.10 at Montreal) Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. 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