2012 began with an air of optimism for the Vancouver Canucks and their fans.
The team had won the Presidents' Trophy in 2011 and was coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance—looking to avenge their Game Seven loss to Boston.
Here's a look at five pivotal moments from 2012. Since we have yet to see the impact of the team's offseason moves, I've kept the focus on events from the hockey season.
Both the Bruins and the Canucks were pumped for this afternoon tilt in Beantown.
It was a war, marked by a massive brawl just 3:54 into the game and a suspension for Brad Marchand after a low hit on Sami Salo. All told, Boston racked up 55 minutes in penalties in the game, to Vancouver's 52.
The Canucks also scored four power-play goals on their way to a gritty win. Cody Hodgson tallied the winner on a beautiful rush early in the third period and Cory Schneider was unflappable in making 36 saves on 39 Bruins shots.
It looked like the Canucks had dialed in their passion and were ready to fight for a championship.
The 2012 trade deadline passed relatively quietly for the Canucks until a surprise announcement late in the day: Cody Hodgson had been traded to Buffalo. The full trade was Hodgson and extra defenseman Alexander Suzler to the Sabres for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Fans were shocked. Hodgson had finally blossomed into a full-time Canuck, with 16 goals and 33 points in 63 games. He was getting power play time and scoring clutch goals. Fans were embracing him and happy to see a home-grown first-rounder develop into a player.
At season's end, General Manager Mike Gillis elaborated on his decision, insisting that Hodgson's increased presence was part of the team's plan to create an asset who could then be traded for something of value. "We made a determination that he didn't want to be here, we built him into something we could move," said Gillis.
Hodgson had eight points in 20 games with the Sabres after the deadline. This year, he has 16 points in 18 games with Buffalo's farm club, the Rochester Americans. He has been playing well since returning from a broken hand in early December.
On March 21, the Canucks' playoff hopes took a serious blow when Duncan Keith elbowed the team's leading goal-scorer, Daniel Sedin, in the head. Daniel suffered his first career concussion, missing the last nine games of the regular season and the first three games of the postseason.
Keith was suspended five games for the infraction and the injury served as a wake-up call for the slumbering Canucks, who went on an 8-1 run to close out the season—playing a passionate team game that looked like it would serve them well in the playoffs.
The Canucks were not as dominant wire-to-wire in the 2011-12 season as they had been the previous year. There was an air of relief when they blanked the Edmonton Oilers in their final game of the season while the New York Rangers fell to Washington—allowing the Canucks to finish atop the NHL league standings for the second year in a row.
Some will argue that a regular-season trophy doesn't mean much: it's the playoffs that matter.
In a year filled with a good deal of disappointment for Canucks fans, it's still an impressive achievement. Given the franchise's sorry early years, where the team often struggled to even make the playoffs, any Presidents' Trophy is a good Presidents' Trophy.
The optimism surrounding the Presidents' Trophy win was short-lived.
It took less than two weeks for the Canucks to be eliminated from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoff run, falling in five games to eight place Los Angeles in a stunning upset.
Along the way, Cory Schneider supplanted Roberto Luongo in the Canucks' net—a move that will likely impact the team significantly when play resumes.
We've yet to have a chance to see if the changes made in the wake of the loss will have the desired effect for the Canucks when they get back on the ice.
Here's hoping that the lockout is settled soon and 2013 will once again be filled with NHL hockey.
Thanks for reading throughout 2012. Follow me on Twitter for more hockey news in the new year.