Coming off a year in which he racked up numbers never before seen in Vancouver, Henrik Sedin is about to find himself facing tougher checking than he has ever seen in his effort to get back to those lofty heights he attained in the 2009-10 National Hockey League regular season.
Returning to town after spending the summer at home in Ornskí¶ldsvik, Sweden, admiring the Art Ross (league-leading scorer) and Hart (league most valuable player) trophies he was awarded in June, Sedin admits he’s not sure how he’ll follow up his franchise-best 112-point season. And recent history shows it’s not easy for players eclipsing the century mark to reach the 100-point plateau a season later.
Of the 27 players who have recorded 100-point seasons in the NHL during the past decade, only seven followed that up with another triple-digit campaign. And of those seven, only four (Sidney Crosby twice, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Dany Heatley) have managed to exceed their point totals from the previous year. So it’s safe to say that Sedin has his work cut out for him to better the mark he set with his record-breaking performance a year ago. But as he prepares for his 10th season as a Canuck, he says he’s excited to see what the coming season holds for him and his teammates—but just don’t try to get him to speculate on how high he’ll push that point total once the Canucks start playing for keeps on October 9.
“We never talk about points that way,” Sedin told the Straight during a telephone interview as he and brother Daniel promoted their appearance as the cover boys for the European version of Burnaby-based EA Sports’ popular NHL 11 video game. “The only thing you can do to be prepared is to have a good summer, and we feel like we had a better summer this year than we’ve ever had. We worked out extremely hard, and that’s all we can do. Last year we had a lot of guys having career years, and our team played great. There are a lot of different things that have to come together for individual players to have a good year, so we’ll see.”
Charting Henrik’s point production in 2010-11 should be a fascinating study. On one hand, he’s hoping to have his brother on his wing for the entire season after Daniel missed 19 games with injuries last season. Together, the Sedins, who’ll celebrate their 30th birthdays on September 26, have become one of the league’s most dynamic duos. But both twins are going to have to get by without linemate Alex Burrows—possibly until Christmas—as the 35-goal scorer recovers from off-season shoulder surgery.
It’s likely that fellow Swede Mikael Samuelsson will slide into Burrows’s spot on the Canucks' top line. That trio has played together before, and the hope is that Samuelsson can step in and, with the help of the twins, get back to and perhaps exceed the 30 goals that he scored last season.
“Alex is a great player, so we’re going to miss him a lot, but we played some games last year with Mikael and we really enjoyed that,” Henrik said, adding that he’s excited by management’s off-season moves to shore up the team’s defence with the additions of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard. “It’s going to help big time. I think if you look two years ago when we were really struggling, it was because we had a lot of injuries on our back end, and that’s where everything starts. The sooner you can get the puck out of your own end, it’s going to help you offensively, so it’s going to help us big time going forward.”
With a better defence allowing the Canucks to transition quickly and go on the attack, it’s possible that this team could be more dangerous than a year ago, when the Canucks led the Western Conference and finished second only to Washington, with 272 goals on the season. But Henrik cautions that he doesn’t have to get back to the 112 points he registered last year for the season to be a success.
“If you look at it after the regular season this year and I have 90 points but our team is doing great, I don’t think it’ll matter,” he said. “If we have a good team and we win the division and get far in the playoffs, it won’t matter if I have 82 points or 112. I think we [he and Daniel] have proven for a while now that we can be first-line players. I think the only thing that is missing right now is to go all the way. That’s been missing here in Vancouver for a long time. But that’s something that we really look forward to.”
Even though he’s been through the grind a number of times, Henrik also claims that he’s looking forward to the start of training camp in Penticton on September 18. As a veteran and a leader, he says it’s important to set the tone for everyone in camp by being ready for that first on-ice session. He says the preparation put in prior to the season will pay off once the team begins playing games that matter a month from now.
And it’s once the season begins that Henrik can begin his ascent up the NHL’s scoring ladder, trying to join a remarkably select bunch of recent back-to-back scoring champions: Jaromir Jagr was the last to do it in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, while Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky did it before him. Although all three were great scorers, they were also Stanley Cup champions. And that’s the title Henrik wants more than anything else.
Jeff Paterson is a talk-show host on Vancouver’s all-sports radio, Team 1040. Follow him on Twitter .