Vancouver Canucks: 1999 Draft- A Tale of Two Sedins


June 26th, 1999 will be a day partly remembered for inflicting Patrik Stefan on the NHL. To Canucks fans though, it marks something else entirely. Coming into the 1999 draft at the FleetCenter in Boston, there was a Swedish duo who shared a connection like few others. Together these men would become the beating heart of the Vancouver franchise in the years to come.

After making the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, times had become bleak in British Columbia. Since 1995-1996, the team had missed the play-0ffs four years running and the rot was beginning to set in. Trevor Linden had been traded to the New York Islanders for Todd Bertuzzi, which deprived the team of a core leader. Canadian star Mark Messier had failed dismally to step up and return the Canucks to the dizzying heights of old. To make matters worse, former Cup-winning coach Mike Keenan had been dismissed after two disastrous seasons in charge.

Faced with fading attendance, the Canucks were desperate to land a player who could ignite the team. Many experts commented that the depth and quality of the upcoming draft was especially thin. Czech centre Patrik Stefan, who played for IHL side Long Beach Ice Dogs was considered by many to be the top choice pick. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin were two star prospects from Sweden playing for Modo in the Swedish Elite League. Although they were high on the radar for most NHL teams, the twins also posed a potential stumbling block.

Their agent, Mike Barrett made it abundantly clear that the twins desired to play on the same team. This information proved a deterrent to many NHL sides, and the Sedins went into the draft expecting to be selected by different teams. After consulting with Barrett, they both considered entering the draft but not signing, which would allow them to become free agents and have their choice of destination. Vancouver GM Brian Burke was desperate to land both twins, no matter what the cost. Holding the third overall pick, he was assured to grab one but the other was still hanging in the balance.

Sensing a great opportunity, Burke proceeded to pull of what was one of several well-timed piece of trading. His first mission was securing another top round pick.  To achieve this feat, defenseman Bryan McCabe was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. This gave Burke the fourth overall pick, but it would still not be enough to grab both Sedins. Tampa Bay Lightning held the first overall pick in the draft, and were allegedly keen on drafting Daniel. To acquire the pick, Burke would send them the fourth pick along with two third-round picks. There was still a danger however that the Atlanta Thrashers could still steal one brother with pick number two. To fulfill his wish, Brian Burke traded the first overall pick to Atlanta, leaving them free to draft Stefan. With picks two and three now secured, Burke would now have his men. Guaranteed to be playing on the same side, the Sedins became Canucks. The Swedish duo from Ornskoldsvik had already begun to brighten the future for the BC team.

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There were some early struggles in their first four seasons North America, where both brothers failed to punch above the 40 point mark. During the 2004-05 lock-out, both Sedins would return to Modo which gave them the chance to regain some confidence. After once more tearing up the SEL, the twins finally caught fire in the NHL from 2005 onwards. In 2010, Henrik coming off a career high 112 point season earned both the Art Ross and the Hart Trophies. The same year Henrik would become captain of the side, which he still firmly holds to this day. Daniel also earned an Art Ross after a 104 point season in 2011, but lost out to Corey Perry for the Hart Trophy.

Stefan, after eight unsuccessful seasons, is currently remembered as being one of the worst ever number one picks. Both Sedins though have become the top two current all time leaders in franchise points with Henrik scoring 915 and Daniel on 881. Along with two Presidents Trophies, it is impossible to imagine the Canucks run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final without this pair.  One day it is assured that both numbers 22 and 33 will be raised to rafters of Rogers Arena.

As General Manager, Brian Burke’s reign would come to end in 2004 when his contract was not renewed by Vancouver. In recent years his reputation has come under fire from both fans and experts. In 2009, when serving as Maple Leafs GM, he executed a trade with Boston for sniper Phil Kessel which included given up two first-round picks. The first pick ended up being a second overall pick that would eventually bring All-Star winger Tyler Seguin to TD Garden in 2010.

But Vancouver hockey does owe this guy a debt of gratitude because Burke succeed in kick-starting what was becoming a dying franchise. Thanks to his risky but excellently planned move in 1999, he managed to spike attendance and install a new belief and passion in Vancouver. This may not be remembered at the greatest draft all time, but to Canucks fans it has been one of the most significant.

Next: 1999 Canucks Draft Retrospective

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