Is the window to win closing?

By Nick Greenizan

With news that Canucks F Mikael Samuelsson needs a “maintenance day” to rest his sore, old muscles just seven games into the season, it brings up something I’ve been wondering since about 15 minutes since they lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals:

Is the Canucks’ window to win closing quicker than everyone seems to think?

Yes, the team’s core players aren’t too old just yet – the Sedins are 31, Kesler is 27, Burrows is 30, Luongo is 32 (and signed until he’s about 49), and Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa are 28 and 30, respectively – but the team is getting perilously close to becoming an “old team.”

Because while all those  above-mentioned players are currently in their primes, and have at the very least three-four seasons left of peak performance, there isn’t a lot of youth coming down the pipe, with the exception of Cody Hodgson (20) who may turn into an impact player, or might not, and defenceman Chris Tanev, who’s looked good coming out of nowhere, and is currently playing with the Chicago Wolves.

Everyone likes to think of the twins as being the cherub-faced 19-year-old redheads who (probably) showered in their swim trunks after games in their rookie season but they’re on the downside of 30 now.

Consider this: We all know how tough it is for any team to repeat and make it to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals (let alone win one or two), so if this year isn’t the year, and you have to aim for 2012/13, suddenly the Sedins are 33, Kesler’s 29, and Luongo is 34.

I know that’s simply a random, hypothetical situation – and there’s nothing to say they won’t smarten up after a slow October and make a run this year – but I’m simply playing Devil’s Advocate here.

The future does worry me a bit, I’ll admit – even if that “future” doesn’t come for four or five years once the current core is replaced.

Maybe the Sedins really do have some kind of magical elixir to keep them young, but here’s a fun fact: In the last 10 years, only one Art Ross Trophy winner has been older than 29 years old (Peter Forsberg was 30 in the 2002/03 season). Two more (Martin St. Louis, 2003/04 and Jaromir Jagr, 2000/01) were 29.

And only one player in the last 15 seasons to be 30+? Some guy named Lemieux, who won the scoring title in 1997.

Fact is, last year’s playoff run was probably the team’s best chance at a Stanley Cup, and this year will be Best Chance 1A. After that? Who knows?

As a fan, that’s hard to swallow, but it’s the truth. Now, that doesn’t mean you should burn your Canucks jersey and trade your Johnny Canuck car flag in for a Oilers one (I mean c’mon…), and it certainly doesn’t mean the Canucks have zero chance of hoisting the Stanley Cup in the next couple years. It could very well happen, and I hope it does. It’ll just be tough, is all.

Even this year, there’s reason to be concerned. Marco Sturm has been awful to start the year, Samuelsson needs time off already, and let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before Sami Salo falls down some stairs or is bitten by a fox or something.

The Canucks’ hope, then, is that Hodgson progresses to the point where he’s a legit offensive weapon (and he’s looked good so far); Mason Raymond, who is only 26, recovers from his fractured vertebrae and is able to score a few goals before the season is over; and the current core group has enough to carry the older guys like Samuelsson and Sturm, who are on the downside of their respective careers.

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