Auburn versus Alabama isn't the only huge sports story this year - the Vancouver Canucks have had some nice success in recent years in the National Hockey League, with great individual and team accomplishments all around including a 2009-10 season that saw the Canucks finish in first place in the Northwest Division of the NHL's Western Conference. Their expectations are high as the new season wears on. The question among fans and observers is whether the team can see some of this success translate into the playoffs where they were defeated last season by eventual Stanley Cup champs the Chicago Blackhawks.
Vancouver NHL Hockey Interesting Again
In the very early years as a team called the Millionaires, the town's NHL team scored some great success, winning several Stanley Cup trophies. But over recent years it had not been so great for this team until after the lockout and the resultant shift in the revenue sharing and salary cap agreements allowed the franchise to put a more competitive team on the ice. The Vancouver Canucks prior to the lockout were often unable to keep up with other teams for talent because they were unable to spend whatever it took, unlike teams like the Detroit Red Wings, a franchise that some likened to the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL or the New York Yankees of major league baseball in their spending habits.
The new salary structure in the National Hockey League has given smaller market teams that really have a desire to win a chance to do so by providing a level rink to skate on, so to speak. The Vancouver Canucks, for one team, have really taken advantage, making sure to field a competitive product. They even feature last year's scoring champion and the player that bested Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby for that award as well as for the points championship.
Henrik Sedin a Transcendent Canuck
Henrik Sedin is a generational player, more than a superstar. He is every bit as talented and important to the Vancouver Canucks as Crosby is to the Penguins or Alex Ovechkin is to the Capitals. Having a player like this as their captain and face of the franchise stamps the Canucks as a legitimate force and a team that free agents and upcoming draftees should want to play for. They may not have the marquee value of Detroit or even Chicago and Pittsburgh, the last three Stanley Cup champs, but the Vancouver hockey club has become not only a more acceptable destination for talent on the move, but a preferred stopping point because this team is positioned to be good for years to come.
Nothing is guaranteed in a league programmed for parity, but the Vancouver Canucks are on the cusp of doing something special in British Columbia. Vancouver was even the location of the 2010 Winter Olympics, an event which sent the Canucks into the longest road trip in the history of the league. They survived that trip as was evidenced by the fact that they still went ahead and won the Northwest Division and earned the third seed for the NHL playoffs, gaining precious home ice advantage for the first round. Student car insurance customers might laugh, but no team in the league appreciated home ice more than Vancouver last season after that trip.
The Canucks have fast become an important and relevant team again. As time goes by the landscape in the National Hockey League is changing. Adjustments to rules by Commissioner Gary Bettman and other events have made the league more competitive, with teams like the Vancouver Canucks clearly reaping the benefits in these past several seasons of play.