Samuelsson The Enigma
Along comes Mikael Samuelsson…There have been a multitude of Swedes over the years that have played for the Vancouver Canucks. So many players have come to the West Coast from the land of Vikings, that the Canucks dressing room should really be re-christened as ‘Little Stockholm’.
The post-game spread has more meatballs than the cafeteria at the local IKEA. Vancouver has benefited greatly from this Nordic connection largely and the Canuck faithful have been treated to some terrific skill and play over the years.
The Swedes as a whole have tended to be hard workers, strongly based in fundamentals and of sound character. What you see is what you get has been the mantra for Swedish skaters. Then along comes Mikael Samuelsson, and suddenly expectations become more convoluted. He is a proven winner who is an outspoken player for a Swede, and plays with an edge to match.
Can he continue to impart that mindset among the rest of the Canucks players?
When Samuelsson came over to the Canucks from Detroit a couple of years back, the feeling among many observers was that the team had pulled off a major coup. Samuelsson was the product of a highly successful system, who knew how to win, who was bringing some tantalizing skills to the table, who would serve as a mentor to the Sedins especially, and who would be a leader for the team as a whole.
As he is about to enter his third season in Vancouver, the question bears asking whether Samuelsson has lived up to the investment.
Samuelsson was essentially a third line player in Detroit who benefitted from occasional specialty teams playing time. The thought was he would break out more offensively in the Vancouver system.
In his first season, Samuelsson did manage a career high 30 goal tally, and he also tied Pavel Bure’s team record with seven goals in a playoff series against the LA Kings in 2010.
However, even before his major abdominal injury last year the play of the Swede had been streaky in his second campaign.
His goal tally dropped substantially from the previous season, though his assists did rise.
However, his placement on the second power play unit had spotty results at best, as his production there was reduced and his puckhandling on the point let him down at times. He is also 34 now and his injury prone nature is a concern.
However, Samuelsson is a winner. He has already earned Stanley Cup, World Championship and Olympic medals and has always been a strong complementary player.
He possesses a good shot and is defensively sound.
However, with line uncertainty complicating the start of the 2011/12 season for the Canucks, the team needs him to raise his level of play and help lead the team back to the finals, and the opportunity he was denied last season.
Maybe there he can be the sage difference maker the team lacked at the last hurdle against the Bruins, and we will find out who is the real Mikael Samuelsson for the Vancouver Canucks.