Each year various hockey publications identify the NHL’s 50-best players, and while those lists aren’t gospel, they do go a long way in revealing the Vancouver Canucks’ evolution over the last three years.

In 2010-11, the year the Canucks finally bested the Chicago Blackhawks in the finale of their three-act playoff drama, the Canucks’ four best players all would have made the list easily.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin would have both been considered top-10 players. Ryan Kesler, with his 41 goals and Selke Trophy, would have been just outside that magic circle. And Roberto Luongo was still rated among the league’s top-five goalies.

Not coincidentally, the Canucks came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup that season.

Now, hit the fast-forward button and stop it on Saturday night at The Rog. The Sedins, who won consecutive Art Ross Trophies, have seen their production drop off considerably since the team’s Cup run. They’d still make the top-50 list but they’d probably be in the 40s.

Kesler, meanwhile, has battled an assortment of injuries and has fallen off the grid. Luongo? He’s still a solid NHL goalie, but he’s not in the conversation of the best in the game.

Now, there’s a point here, and despite the efforts to turn hockey into rocket surgery, the essence of the game remains fairly simple. When the Sedins, Kesler and Luongo were elite players, the Canucks were an elite team. When they became above average, the Canucks became an above average team.

It therefore stands to reason that any chance the Orcans have of re-establishing themselves as an NHL power rests with their four stars’ ability to reestablish themselves as legitimate NHL stars.

We’re now 25 games into the new season. Some nights you think they’re close. Then there are nights like Saturday at The Rog.

Luongo stopped the first 24 shots he faced, then surrendered two within nine seconds in the third period, the second of which — counted by noted sniper Marcus Kruger — carried a distinct odour.