When Vancouver Canucks legends Daniel and Henrik Sedin announced their retirement in April, the team the and city supporting them were left without two of their greatest stars.
The Sedin twins were a mainstay in both the locker room and the community for nearly two decades, and it was fair to wonder how a young Canucks squad would respond to their departure. But eight games into the 2018-19 season, Vancouver has transitioned into post-Sedin life with relative ease by filling a pair of major holes left by the two Swedes.
Horvat’s Leadership Shining
With the Sedins’ retirement came reasonable concerns about who would emerge as Vancouver’s primary leader on the ice. Furthermore, Canucks management made the bold move to go captainless this season by building a four-player group of alternate captains. Forwards Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat, as well as defensemen Alex Edler and Christopher Tanev, are the skaters in this committee.
But Horvat is making it clear he should be the outright captain of the team. His abilities as a solid two-way forward are not being ignored in the first month of the campaign, and his overall leadership qualities are filling that void left by the Sedins’ exodus, for the time being.
The early stages of the 2018-19 season have seen Horvat display his willingness to set the tone physically by pestering opposing players on the forecheck. Were the Sedins tough players? Absolutely, but The Ontario-born forward has been dishing out hits much more than his former teammates ever did. Furthermore, sights of Horvat plowing his way up the middle of the ice in pursuit of the net have become a common occurrence so far this year. His determination from end-to-end has greatly impacted Vancouver’s early-season success.
A Young Scoring Trio Leads the Offense
The Sedin twins were consistently the Canucks leading scorers on an annual basis for a majority of their time in Vancouver. But putting points on the board has not been difficult through nearly 10 games without the franchise’s two greatest point-producers. The trio of Horvat, forward Brock Boeser, and rookie sensation Elias Pettersson are spearheading the new age of Canucks offense.
Pettersson has been sidelined with a concussion since Oct. 13, but that has not hindered his team-high numbers in scoring. In five games played, the rookie forward has five goals and three assists for eight points. His goal and point totals lead all NHL rookies so far this season. The 19-year old sniper has not shied away from peppering the opposing goalie with shots either, something the Sedin’s hesitated to do at times during their illustrious careers.
The aforementioned Horvat has complemented his grittiness with consistent goal-scoring. In eight games played, the veteran forward has five goals and an assist for six points, which is second on the team behind Pettersson. Horvat has been a clutch performer on offense this year with two game-winning goals, which includes this backhand score in overtime against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 20.
And do not forget about Boeser, who fed the puck to Horvat on that game-winner. The University of North Dakota alumnus is fresh off last year’s stellar rookie campaign when he netted a team-high 29 goals and tied Daniel Sedin with a Canucks-best 55 points.
Can Canucks’ Success Last?
That will be the overarching question surrounding the Canucks as the season progresses. There is a long way to go in this campaign for a young squad that is tied with the Calgary Flames for second in the Pacific Division standings with 1o points. A team predicted to be one of the worst in franchise history has exceeded expectations early on.
But maintaining this production must be their biggest priority, and that is where the Sedin’s absence may be most impactful. For a relatively youthful team to get through the rigors of an 82-game season, they need strong veteran leadership, and the Sedin twins were two of the NHL’s greatest leaders. Horvat does bring the leadership element to the Canucks, but he does not have the wealth of experience equal to the Sedins.
If Vancouver can continue getting great leadership and scoring from Horvat, as well as stout offensive production from Pettersson, Boeser, and other top-nine forwards, then a Canucks playoff push could emerge. And if that happens, then the Sedins will not be missed as much as previously thought.
A 2018 graduate of the Langara College Journalism program in Vancouver, B.C. I used to contribute to both the British Columbia Hockey League and Florida Hockey Life Magazine (with the latter being a burden on the phone bill). My experience with those publications is being carried over to THW, as I will be covering the Vegas Golden Knights. Currently living in Richmond, B.C.