The Vancouver Canucks have already cruised to their third straight division title and guaranteed home ice advantage in Round 1 of the playoffs. There are many reasons why the Canucks are at the top of the Western Conference. Team depth has certainly been Vancouver's greatest asset this season, especially considering the injury woes through their roster.
It would be difficult to pin much of the Canucks' success on a single player. For the team that leads the league in goals for, goals against and special teams, all aspects of the Vancouver roster are performing at a high standard.
However, I would argue that there is a group of five players in particular who have stood out this year for the Canucks. In no particular order, the following list contains those I feel all have merits for earning the title of Canucks' MVP.
Daniel Sedin is the obvious choice most people would make for Canucks' MVP. Daniel certainly has the numbers to back it. Perhaps the front runner for the Hart trophy as well, Sedin leads all NHL scorers with 93 points. He is first on the Canucks in many categories including goals (38), power-play goals (17), game-winning goals (nine) and shots (232). He also ranks second on the team with a plus-26 rating.
As far as consistency, Daniel has been the man all year. He has recorded at least a point in all but 15 games so far this year. His longest point drought is a mere three games. While always regarded as the sniper in the family, Daniel has surged to new heights this season and should become the first Canuck to score 40 goals in a season since 2002-03 when Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi recorded 48 and 46 goals respectively.
About the only knock on Daniel is that he doesn't take faceoffs. Purely from a numbers perspective, Sedin is the hands down favorite to be team MVP. The fact that he has also been the best clutch player for Vancouver hasn't hurt either.
Last year's Hart and Art Ross trophy winner has certainly put together a follow-up campaign worthy of consideration. Henrik can boast impressive numbers of his own to back his case. Currently the league leader in assists (68), Sedin ranks second on the team and tied for second in the NHL in points (86). He also posts a respectable 52.3 winning percentage in faceoffs and is tied for fourth on the team with a plus-22 rating.
While Henrik is well off the point pace of last year, he did add an intangible to his resume when he was named team captain at the start of the season. I know how much attention is put on this franchise by its fans and media in Vancouver. Ask Roberto Luongo if being captain for the Canucks is easy. It is a burden that I do not envy, but Henrik has taken it all in stride. From what I've seen of the Canucks' off-ice attitude, it all starts with Hank's cool demeanor and leadership by example.
No doubt the offseason additions to the Canucks' roster played a big role, but is it simply coincidence that this team plays and functions much better as a unit under Henrik's leadership? There is no real way to measure the value of leadership to a team. I would argue though that the loss of Henrik in many ways could hurt the team more than anyone else.
Ryan Kesler is another Canuck looking to bring home some NHL hardware this year. Currently one of the front runners for the Selke trophy for best defensive forward, Kes has been everything to the Canucks this season. He plays on the top power-play unit, kills penalties, blocks shots, throws hits and cameos in his teammates' interviews. What doesn't Kesler do?
Kesler's numbers aren't too shabby either. He's second on the team in goals (36), third in points (64), tied for fourth with a plus-22 rating, fifth in the league in faceoff wins and has an excellent 56.7 winning percentage on the draw. He also leads all Canuck forwards in time on ice, averaging over 20 minutes per game.
At the beginning of the season, Kesler was the other candidate aside from Henrik Sedin considered for team captain. Although he finished runner-up, Kesler certainly has all the qualities to be a fine captain in the league. His work ethic and gritty play have made him popular in Vancouver and a household name around the NHL. I think it would be fair to say Ryan is the workhorse of the team and although not as offensively gifted as say the Sedin twins, his all-around effort make him worthy of team MVP.
Christian Ehrhoff has to have some serious consideration as the Canucks' MVP. Vancouver has been plagued by injuries to their defense and Ehrhoff has had to shoulder more of the burden with the Canucks' rotating M.A.S.H ward. Ehrhoff may not get much attention in the media but he has been the anchor on the defensive end for the Canucks.
Ehrhoff's offensive numbers are solid this year. He ranks first on the team and is tied for sixth in the league with 47 points among defensemen. Ehrhoff also leads the Vancouver defence in goals (11), assists (36), shots (176), blocked shots (98) and sits second on the team averaging just over 24 minutes per game.
Ehrhoff's offensive skills are well noted around the league but since coming to Vancouver he has also improved his play in his own end of the ice. Ehrhoff holds a solid plus-15 rating this season, which is all the more impressive when you consider the pressure of extra responsibilities placed on him this season to cover for all the ailing Canuck defenders. Where might the Canucks be in the standings right now if Ehrhoff didn't step up into the role of Vancouver's No. 1 defenseman?
Naturally any conversation about possible team MVPs would have to include Mr. Luongo. The Canucks know that their playoff hopes will ride more on Roberto's performance than any other player. So far this season, he has given plenty of reasons to feel positive.
If not for one Tim Thomas, Luongo arguably could be the favorite to win the Vezina trophy as the league's top goaltender. Lou's stats are among the NHL's elite this season. Luongo is tied for second in the league in wins (33), tied for third in save percentage (.925) and sits fourth in goals against average (2.23).
Much of the pressure has been taken off Luongo this year with his team leading the league in offensive and defensive categories. Even so, Lou has more than once stolen a game for the Canucks.
Even with outstanding young goaltender Cory Schneider playing extra games to help keep Roberto fresh for the postseason, Lou has been a key factor in the Canucks success. While I don't doubt that Schneider would do a fine job replacing Luongo if the latter went down with injury, I would definitely argue that the Canucks would not be where they are today without Roberto's stellar play.