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10 lesser-known, unusual, and just plain weird Sedin linemates

From Magnus Arvedson to Troy Stecher, the stories of the players that spent a little less time than Alex Burrows on the wing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
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Daniel Sedin and Jeff Tambellini - Darryl Dyck - CP
Daniel Sedin gives Jeff Tambellini a fist bump after a Vancouver Canucks goal. photo: Darryl Dyck / CP

Daniel and Henrik Sedin had oodles of different wingers over the years. From the early days with Trent Klatt, to clicking with Anson Carter, to finally finding the right fit with Alex Burrows, the Sedins spent years elevating various wingers.

For a long while, it was the quest of every Canucks GM and head coach to find a winger that would work with the Sedins, leading to the acquisition of young power forwards like Taylor Pyatt and Steve Bernier, or experienced veterans like Pavol Demitra, Mikael Samuelsson, and Loui Eriksson.

Along the way, however, they also played with a whole bunch of random wingers that you might have forgotten. So, since it’s Sedin Week, let’s take a look back at some of the lesser-known, unusual, and just plain weird Sedin linemates from over the years.

Honourable Mention: Tom Sestito

Sestito was the quintessential enforcer, who finished his NHL career with 10 goals, 21 points, and 499 penalty minutes in 154 games. Sestito had an even 40 fights in the NHL, including preseason tilts.

Six of Sestito’s 10 career goals came with the Canucks in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. While Sestito never actually lined up with both Sedins at even-strength, he briefly played on the top power play unit as the net-front presence during the 2013-14 season. He even scored a power play goal, tipping in a Henrik Sedin shot, after which Tortorella could barely contain his grin.

Along the way, he earned the nickname Top Sixtito, thanks to then-CanucksArmy writer Dimitri Filipovic, since he played a decent amount with Ryan Kesler as well. 

1 | Magnus Arvedson

Arvedson was the very definition of a late bloomer: he didn’t play in the Swedish Elite League until he was 22 and got drafted by the Ottawa Senators at the ripe old age of 25. Once he hit the NHL, though, he established himself as a great two-way forward with the Ottawa Senators, playing elite defence while chipping in 15-20 goals. He even finished second in Selke voting in his sophomore season.

So, when he came to Vancouver for the 2003-04 season, the Canucks were surely just hoping for more of the same: solid defensive play and the occasional goal. When head coach Marc Crawford tried Arvedson on a line with the Sedins in January, however, the Canucks got a little bit more.

“In the last four games of my career, I was playing on the same line as them,” said Arvedson in an interview earlier this year. “In three of those games, I was named first star and scored 2 goals in each game. In the last game with them I blew out my knee, tearing both the ACL and MCL.”

That was it for Arvedson’s career; he never played again.

The Sedins elevated Arvedson, but Arvedson elevated the Sedins too, with the hockey IQ to know where to go on the ice, the size to battle in front, and the hands to put the puck in the net. In a way, you could describe him as a prototypical Alex Burrows: the two-way, defensive winger that surprisingly had great chemistry with the Sedins.

Henrik lit up when I mentioned Arvedson to him on Monday.

“Yeah! That’s a good name,” he said with a wide smile. “He was really a great fit for us and we had a lot of success over a very short period of time.

“He was one of those guys that really, if he comes up at a different time, and maybe he's a little bit younger, he's a guy that we could have played with a long time.”

Instead, it was just four games.

2 | Tommi Santala

Henrik brought up Tommi Santala completely unprompted.

“Tommi Santala is actually one guy that we played with for only a few games, but I really enjoyed playing with him,” said Henrik. “It was only for a couple of games and he was at a spot on the team where he didn't play much, but he got a chance and he was a lot of fun those games.”

Santala didn’t get a lot of love from Canucks fans, perhaps because then-GM Dave Nonis over-hyped him as the best fourth-line centre money could buy. Instead, he was slow and mostly non-descript, with no clearly-defined role on the team. 

As a result, Santala shows up on lists of terrible Canucks ​​​​​​(including one from the early years of PITB), which is a little unfair. It’s not Santala’s fault Nonis briefly turned into Flava Flav when he talked about him, and clearly Santala had some underrated skill, as evidenced by Henrik immediately thinking of him when it came to lesser-known linemates.

Santala went back to Finland after his season with the Canucks and was sixth in Liiga scoring with 28 goals and 58 points in 56 games the next year.

3 | Jan Bulis

You better believe that Jan Bulis, the patron saint of PITB, played with the Sedins. It didn’t last long, but Bulis scored a couple goals assisted by both Sedins in mid-December of his only season with the Canucks, 2006-07. 

It’s actually not all that surprising that Bulis got a shot with the twins — Nonis brought him in as a potential top-six forward — so I won’t dwell on it here, but I had to mention him, as well as dig up a wonderfully pixelated clip of him playing with the Sedins and scoring one of his two goals with them.

View post on imgur.com

4 | Jeff Tambellini

Jeff Tambellini played with the Sedins early in the 2010-11 season while Alex Burrows recovered from shoulder surgery. He seemed to be finding his rhythm with them in late October, scoring goals in back-to-back games. 

Not long after those two goals, however, Burrows made his return and Tambellini was promptly sent down to the AHL. 

He eventually got called back up and played 62 regular season games in 2010-11, but he didn’t get another chance with the Sedins — Burrows was just too dang good with them. Tambellini was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs, playing just six games as the Canucks made their way to the Stanley Cup Final.

“The question I usually get from friends is something along the lines of ‘Who surprises you the most?’ on the Canucks,” said Tambelliini in a 2011 interview. “I mean, sounds easy to answer, but the twins are actually so much better than I even thought they were, especially when you're either a), playing with them or just b), getting to watch them every day.

“The things they do with the puck, the way they protect it, the patience and the poise in both their games, it's just at a different level. And the craziest part is, they do those things at top speed. And of course, the chemistry they have together is uncanny. For anybody who likes to shoot the puck, playing with them is a pleasure, whether it be one shift, one period, a game or more.”

Tambellini had the third highest ice time with both Sedins at even-strength in 2010-11 after Burrows and Samuelsson, but ahead of Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond.

5 | Wade Brookbank

Did it matter that Wade Brookbank was ostensibly a defenceman or that his primary role was as an enforcer? Did it matter that Brookbank had yet to score a goal in the NHL and had just one career goal in the AHL when he joined the Canucks?

Every now and then, though, coaches would decide that what the Sedins really needed was a big, tough winger to protect them. And the Sedins would just go about their business as they always did, turning that big, tough winger, if only briefly, into a goalscoring first-line forward.

“We played with Brookbank a few games, and that worked too,” said Daniel before their final home game back in 2018. “I think he scored with us.”

In fact, Brookbank had two goals while playing with the Sedins, a solid 33% of his career goals in the NHL. If that’s not a testament to the Sedins’ ability to elevate any winger, I’m not sure what is.

6 | Byron Bitz

The 6’5” Byron “Ballroom Blitz” Bitz played just ten games with the Canucks, but he still got a spin with the Sedins, with Alain Vigneault playing a hunch. 

Bitz certainly wasn’t known for goalscoring — he finished his career with 10 NHL goals — making him an odd choice to play with the Sedins, though he wasn’t exactly an enforcer like Brookbank. He had the hands and the finish when he was younger in the BCHL and NCAA, but a litany of serious injuries derailed his NHL career. 

“The coach is a genius, John!” declared John Shorthouse to his broadcasting partner John Garrett when Bitz scored his one and only goal with the Canucks in his first game on the Sedin line. To Bitz’s credit, his finish was superb on Henrik’s pass, ripping a one-timer just inside the post.

It wasn’t just the goal: in the same game, Bitz showed some Sedin-esque playmaking too, making a slick backhand pass off the boards to Daniel for a pretty primary assist.

The very next game, Bitz did it again, playing a give-and-go with Daniel before setting up Henrik with a wide open net with a backhand pass. Usually it was the Sedins giving their winger a tap-in: what a rarity to see Bitz gift a tap-in goal to Henrik.

The pass was so good that Garrett couldn’t even believe it was Bitz, mistaking him for Burrows while describing the replay. “Oh, that’s Byron Bitz,” said Garrett with an embarrassed laugh when he realized his mistake. “Byron Bitz with the nice backhand pass to Henrik!”

“I’m under no illusions. Longterm, I know this is probably not going to be my role,” said Bitz in the midst of his Sedinaissance. “I put up a lot of points in junior and put up decent numbers at Cornell. People pencilled me in more as a grinder, and that’s fine. But I do think I have a little bit of skill to mix in with it.”

Eventually, the injuries and surgeries just became too much. The 2011-12 season was his last.

7 | Zac Dalpe

Zac Dalpe played primarily on the fourth line with the Canucks, scoring just 4 goals and 7 points in 55 games in the 2013-14 season. One of those four goals was assisted by both Daniel and Henrik Sedin in a brief stint with the twins. 

Dalpe could barely believe it when he was called upon by head coach John Tortorella to play with the twins. 

“I was like, No, there’s no way he’s serious,” said Dalpe. “I asked one of the guys, ‘Did he say my name?’ I was a little bit nervous. I don’t want to make them mad. I grew up watching these guys, so I don’t want them to be all, ‘Oh, we gotta play with Zac?’”

Dalpe spoke about the experience of playing with the Sedins in an interview with Naoko Asano for Sportsnet.

“It was weird. Once I got on their line, this confidence came out of me that I hadn’t seen really in my NHL career,” he said. “I was like, Oh, this is what it feels like to be confident with the puck. [Laughs.] I don’t know where I found it, but I kinda had a bit of swagger. I was surprising myself. I’m not saying I’m a bad hockey player now, but definitely during those games, I felt like I was a little more skilled.”

8 | Michael Chaput

There were certain players that Willie Desjardins seemed to like more than others and it wasn’t surprising to see fourth-line forwards get inexplicably bumped up the lineup in his time as coach of the Canucks.

One of those was Jayson Megna, but that at least had some precedent: Megna had spent a bit of time on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first line with Sidney Crosby a couple of seasons prior and was a decent scoring winger at the AHL level.

Michael Chaput, on the other hand, was inexplicable. Chaput spent most of the season as the Canucks’ fourth-line centre and formed a decent enough unit with Brendan Gaunce and Jack Skille. There was zero indication, however, that he would be a good fit as a winger with the Sedins

He wasn’t. Chaput played over 105 minutes with the Sedins in the 2016-17 season and didn’t score a single goal while on their line. He did score one goal assisted by Daniel, but Henrik wasn’t on the ice. Heck, it was in one of the games where he wasn’t even on their line — he just happened to be on the ice with Daniel during a line change.

Desjardins’ insistence on trying to fit the square peg of Megna into the round hole of the Sedins’ wing will forever remain one of the most bizarre elements of the 2016-17 Canucks season.

9 | Scott Hartnell

Scott Hartnell never played for the Canucks, but he still got to play with the Sedins. Perhaps because Hartnell has a reddish tinge to his hair, he got matched with the Sedin twins at the 2012 All-Star Game, the only one where the Sedins played together on the same team.

Hartnell was mic’d up and had a good time on the Sedins’ line, even setting up a tap-in goal for Henrik à la Byron Bitz.

“The Sedin Triplets!” declared Hartnell excitedly, then Erik Karlsson skated in eagerly, saying, “That’s a true Sedin goal for you there, huh! That was sick!”

10 | Troy Stecher

The pride of Richmond, BC, Stecher grew up a diehard fan of the Canucks and particularly the Sedins. So it was a bit of a dream come true when he lined up alongside them during a practice late in his rookie season in 2016-17, though also a nightmare, as it meant he would have been playing completely out of position.

If only he had looked at a calendar and noted the date.

“I look back at it and it's probably pretty embarrassing, because it was April 1st, April Fool's Day,” recalled Stecher on Monday. “But in fairness, we had Philip Larson play on their line for a game, I think we had [Alex] Biega play on their line for a game that season, because we had so many injuries, so I really thought that, all right, it's my opportunity, just kind of the next guy in line. 

“It would have been cool, I like to think I would have probably scored just going to the net.”

Like any young Canucks fan growing up watching the Sedins, Stecher had of course dreamed of playing on their wing.

“I decided to play defense, so that reality kind of blew away pretty quickly, but I was pretty pumped that practice,” he said. “I remember I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can't wait to play with them.’”

Stecher still got to assist on some Sedin goals as a defenceman and scored two goals assisted by Henrik Sedin. It may not have been exactly the dream of a young Stecher, but it was still pretty amazing, particularly because he got to know them personally. Sometimes when you meet your heroes, you get let down, but that wasn’t the case for Stecher and the Sedins.

“They really weren't any different than what you figured they would be,” said Stecher. They were just true to themselves and the ultimate competitors and the ultimate leaders. They were great role models for a lot of people in this town, and I was one of them, and just feel really lucky that I had the chance to meet them and get to know them on a first-hand basis.”


 




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