Can Canucks challenge for a Stanley Cup before Sedins retire?

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Image: Vancouver Canucks / Facebook

Daniel and Henrik Sedin have never won a Stanley Cup. Neither has the Vancouver Canucks franchise.

This is not breaking news.

But what has to be asked and answered soon, is whether or not the Canucks will be able to make a legitimate push for a Stanley Cup before the twins retire.

The Sedins will turn 36-years-old before the puck drops for the Canucks’ next game in October.

The Plan

If you’re confused about the plan that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning have for the Canucks going forward, I don’t blame you.

When you talk about wanting to get younger, but also speak to the importance of making the playoffs every year, that’s bound to happen. When you talk about the importance of the draft, but trade away as many picks as you acquire, the message gets confused.

Are they rebuilding? Are they retooling? Does anyone really know the difference between these two terms anyway?

The plan, I believe, is to win before the Sedins retire.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

“The day we get to where the Sedins are our second line – that would be a great thing” said Trevor Linden to reporters in his season-ending media scrum. He’s right.

The challenge for Jim Benning will be to develop another top line while the Sedins are still productive players – probably on a second line. The clock is ticking.

Just how long the Sedins will be able to keep doing it is up in the air.

The Sedins were both in the top-10 in league scoring in 2014-15 as 34-year-olds and were producing at a first line level this year until nagging injuries derailed Henrik’s second half. So there’s reason for optimism.

If the twins can stay relatively healthy next year, you can reasonably expect close to 70 points each, but that kind of production won’t last forever.

Father time catches up with everyone, but it doesn’t catch up with everyone at the same speed. Jaromir Jagr led his team in scoring this year at age 44. Chris Chelios was a runner-up for the Norris Trophy at age 40 and played until he was 47. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

Pavel Datsyuk will turn 38 this year and he had his worst year offensively since his rookie year. Same goes for Henrik Zetterberg, who is the same age as the Sedins. Still, those two players led the way for a playoff team. Perhaps they won’t lead a team to a championship again, but a team could certainly win with them as supporting players.

Joe Thornton is a year older than the Sedins, but had a resurgent point-a-game season.

Jarome Iginla was a legitimate second liner this year at age 38. Same goes for Shane Doan at age 39.

Daniel Alfredsson was productive at age 41. Mats Sundin was excellent into his late 30s, but retired at 38. Ray Whitney scored 77 points at age 39.

What does the future hold for Daniel and Henrik?

Contract

The Sedins have two years left on their current contracts that pay them $7 million per season. They’ll be 38 when those contracts expire.

If the Canucks look poised to make a run when they become free agents, they could re-sign at a much lower dollar value. If the future of the organization looks bleak and/or the twins are no longer effective players, expect them to hang ’em up.

The Next Generation

The key for the Sedins to get another shot at the Cup is the next generation. A lot will depend on not only how good Vancouver’s young players become, but how quickly they become ready for prime time.

Is Bo Horvat the second coming of Patrice Bergeron? If so, when? Bergeron had 73 points as a 20-year-old. Horvat had 40.

Is Thatcher Demko the next Cory Schneider? Will he be that guy at age 22, or age 24 like Schneider established himself? These questions matter.

Other players with a chance to be real difference makers include Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Brock Boeser, Nikita Tryamkin, and whoever the Canucks select in this year’s draft.

The Dream

To win a Stanley Cup (dare to dream), a lot has to go right.

You need to draft smartly, make the right trades, convince free agents to come to your city, and sign good value contracts. In addition to that, you need a lot of luck.

The way it maps out right now, if everything falls as it could, the next chance for a serious run at the Cup could come in the 2018-19 season. That’s the first year after the Sedins’ contracts expire, just after they turn 38-years-old.

If they are still effective players – let’s say on a second line with cheap contracts – Vancouver’s young players may be ready to step in.

Here’s how old some of the Canucks’ best young players will be at the start of the 2018-19 season:

  • Bo Horvat: 23
  • Jake Virtanen: 22
  • Jared McCann: 22
  • Sven Baertschi: 26
  • Thatcher Demko: 22
  • Ben Hutton: 25
  • Nikita Tryamkin: 24
  • Brock Boeser: 21
  • Auston Matthews: 21/Patrik Laine: 20/Jesse Puljujarvi: 20 (who are we kidding, the Canucks are getting the 6th overall pick, aren’t they?)

The Canucks currently have just four players signed through the 2018-19 season, plus they’ll still be getting dinged a portion of Roberto Luongo’s contract:

  • Alex Edler: $5 million
  • Chris Tanev: $4.45 million
  • Brandon Sutter: $3.3 million
  • Derek Dorsett: $2.65 million
  • Roberto Luongo: $800,000

This brings us to the dream.

The dream is that in 2018-19, the Sedins are excellent second liners. The dream is that the Canucks’ youngsters are very productive in their early 20s. The dream is that they sign some difference-makers in free agency. The dream is that Thatcher Demko is a legit #1 goalie. The dream is that they get to pick Auston Matthews.

The dream is that – if sprinkled in with a couple of excellent free agent signings – this could be a Stanley Cup calibre lineup in two years (age listed in parenthesis):

Baertschi (26) – Matthews* (21) – Virtanen (22)

D. Sedin (38) – H. Sedin (38) – Boeser (21)

McCann (22) – Horvat (23) – UFA winger (30)

Dorsett (31) – Sutter (29) -Gaunce (24)

Edler (32) – Tanev (28)

Hutton (25) – Tryamkin (24)

UFA d-man (30) – UFA d-man (30)

Demko (22)

Markstrom (28)

There’s a lot of hoping going on here, and I realize that. So much has to go right between now and 2018, as it would for any franchise.

But if the Sedins want to win a Stanley Cup in Vancouver, it’s probably their only hope.

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
@robthehockeyguy

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