Like all members of Canuck Nation, we here at Critically Canuck have suffered a long time. We will not die happily unless the Stanley Cup makes its way to Stanley Park.
Here you'll get the straight goods on our heroes. With both feet on the bandwagon, we will, however, pull no punches. As long time season ticket holders, that's our prerogative.
Expect analytical insight with a strong sense of history. We'll ask the tough questions. And answer them. Enjoy.
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While the biggest move of the Canuck off-season has yet to transpire, there has been some recent activity that demands our commentary.
The most impactful move so far was yesterday’s signing of defenseman Jason Garrison. Garrison, a local product with less than three NHL seasons of experience, has struck it rich, signing a six-year deal for nearly $28 million – a lofty pay-day for a player with one notable NHL season to his credit and who was passed over at the entry draft years ago. But the 27-year-old, a late bloomer, has been a quick study at the NHL level, logging over 22 minutes per game in his first two full NHL seasons. And with 16 goals last season, he looks to be more than capable of filling the offensive void left by Sami Salo, who has begun his retirement early alongside former teammate Mattias Ohlund in Tampa Bay. And while we’ll miss Salo, at times the Canucks most complete d-man, he was clearly (and rightfully) looking for a financial home-run instead of another year in Vancouver at a market discount.
But the committment to Garrison smells like the Keith Ballard debacle all over again (a significant financial commitment to a player with some success albeit only in a low pressure hockey backwater). We can only hope that he won’t wilt under the spotlight of playing in his hometown and, most importantly, manages to avoid the doghouse of Alain Vigneault. While Garrison is a big body, he is not known for his physicality, which will put him at odds with Vigneault from the get go. The real oddity here is that Garrison now becomes the Canucks’ highest paid defender. And he won’t have the smooth skating Brian Campbell to partner with, but instead the inconsistent Alex Edler. At this price, it seems impossible that Garrison will be able to meet expectations. But Ballard can keep him company.
Outside of Garrison, there has been no other additions, but plenty of players on the way out. Joining Sami Salo on the way out-of-town are Aaron Rome, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Sami Pahlsson, Victor Oreskovich, Mike Duco and Ryan Parent.
The only real surprises here are possibly Rome, who seemed to be a favourite of Coach Vigneault and Gragnani, who was obtained at the trade deadline and forecasted in the long-term as a possible power play quarterback.
Rome, as a depth defender, was essentially redundant with Andrew Alberts still on the team. But the decision to not retain Gragnani seems bizarre, particularly since the team bent over backwards to give him ice time down the stretch so that he could remain a restricted free agent thus giving themselves first crack at retaining his services. Perhaps the signing of Garrison was anticipated, allowing the team to give up on Gragnani?
We will not at all mourn the loss of the overrated Pahlsson, but only the price paid to get him (two fourth round picks and a minor leaguer) - this deal looks like something a panicky Dave Nonis would have cooked up. And for the time being leaves the Canucks (with Ryan Kesler on the sidelines) with Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre as their second and third line centres. Where have you gone, Cody Hodsgon?
Players that seem to be destined surprisingly to start the season in Vancouver include Mason Raymond, Manny Malhotra and, of course, maybe even Roberto Luongo.
Since Raymond was untradeable at the deadline, the Canucks seem prepared to give him another look, at a reduced price. The return of mister flash and dash and his perimeter puck handling are not what this team needs.
Manny Malhotra suffered through a horrible season and the Canucks are on the hook for another year at a very pricey $2.5 million, but with the loss of Ryan Kesler for at least the early portions of the season, Malhotra will get plenty of opportunity to return to his one-dimensional form.
While the signing of new number one goalie Cory Schneider to a three-year deal should have officially put the end to the Luongo era, it would not surprise us if Bobby Lou starts the season here. After all, Mike Gillis, in case you haven’t noticed, is quite determined to do things as unconventionally as possible. From our perspective, it is in everyone’s best interests to move Luongo sooner rather than later. While it’s conceivable that early season struggles by goaltending starved teams like the Leafs and Lightning could up the ante in the Luongo sweepstakes, the reverse is also true and could leave the Canucks with $9 million tied up in a position where only one guy can play. Ultimately, Roberto is a proven commodity whose value, independent of other team’s needs, will not get any higher. Further, he has been the consummate professional in his time here and should be spared any further indignity in this market.
There is still plenty of time in this off-season for Mike Gillis to upgrade his back-to-back President’s Trophy winning team and despite the log jam in net, there is still plenty of money to spend. And we expect it will be spent. Just ask Jason Garrison.
Today, “The Hockey News” (“THN”) released their ranking of the all-time top 10 Canuck players (thanks to valued reader Steve M. for the heads-up). These listings are never without controversy and while it’s easy to quibble about placing, what’s most important is did they get the right 10? Of course, “The Hockey News” are hockey experts, but they’re not really Vancouver Canuck experts. Thankfully, we are. Below we’ve listed their rankings with our predictably candid commentary.
10. Harold Snepsts- If you’ve been around here any length of time, you’ll know of our undying man crush love for Harold. As such, you’ll get no arguments here. For all you youngsters out there, Snepsts logged more games on defense than any other Canuck defender and was legendarily tough. If he had played this past season, there would have been no pissing and moaning about what Dustin Byfuglien was up to. And remarkably (though a truer measure of the Canucks’ ineptitude than anything else), he played in two NHL All-Star games.
9. Tony Tanti- We got to see this guy play every home game as an impressionable youth back in the day and while he was durable and a most dependable scorer, he played in the highest scoring era ever and got to play along side silky smooth Patrik Sundstrom. On that basis, he wouldn’t make our top 10. His ‘82 Camaro does though.
8. Kirk McLean- At this point, he’s the all-time franchise leader for many goaltending categories and until Roberto Luongo can come up with a lengthy (Stanley Cup Final) run of his own has every reason to be on this list. Poor Kirk was never the same after Jeff Brown slept with his wife. Or was it after McLean stole Bruce Allen’s wife? Yes, before Tiger Woods, there was Kirk McLean. And Jeff Brown.
7. Mattias Ohlund- As the all-time highest scoring defender, it’s hard to argue against his inclusion on this list. Even more so when you combine that with his feared hitting ability. We will quibble about him being more highly ranked than Snepsts though.
6. Stan Smyl- It’s no surprise that “Steamer” is on this list as the first Canuck to have his jersey hung from the rafters. Some would argue that he should be ranked higher based on his heart and soul contributions, but his offensive numbers are likely inflated due to the high scoring era in which he played.
5. Markus Naslund- As the third nominee for roster retirement and all-time leading scorer, this one is a no-brainer. Given his lack of playoff success, we are okay with him being ranked in the middle of the top 10.
4. Daniel Sedin - It’s hard to believe that Henrik and Daniel now rank 6th and 7th respectively in all-time games played and 4th and 6th respectively in points. On this basis, it’s hard to argue their inclusion in the top 10, but without any significant playoff success, this ranking seems a little high.
3. Trevor Linden - Johnny Canuck. A class act. And often overlooked as one of the best clutch players of his generation.
2. Henrik Sedin - See Daniel.
1. Pavel Bure- Duh. You know our thoughts on the Rocket, probably ad nauseam. This selection again reinforces the idiocy of his exclusion from the retired jersey club. Seriously, if an objective hockey expert from “The Hockey News” sees fit to name him as the greatest Canuck ever, why can’t the damn franchise do the same?
So it seems we are generally happy with THN’s top 10 (seeding aside) save the Tony Tanti selection. It’s hard to imagine a top 10 list that doesn’t include Thomas Gradin, who after Pavel Bure and perhaps the Sedins was the most skilled player ever to play for this sorry squad. If not Gradin, then original Canuck Andre Boudrias deserves more consideration than Tanti. During the Canucks’ first run at respectability in the mid 70’s he was their leading scorer. Another possible replacement for Tanti could be defensemen Doug Lidster, who was shipped out of town just before the ‘94 Cup run (luckily for him to the Cup winning Rangers), but was the best defensemen on the team for the decade leading up to that point.
Some are whining about no Todd Bertuzzi. Really? This is top 10 Canucks, not top 10 Malcontents. Bertuzzi could have been top of this list if he’d embraced the opportunity to be the best power forward of his generation instead of sulking and complaining all the while getting paid a kings’ ransom to play a kids’ game. And some old schoolers will complain that the exclusion of Richard Brodeur is unforgivable. But objectively speaking, aside from the famed ‘82 Cup run and his lovable persona, his numbers weren’t that good. He does host a fine golf tournament though.
We look forward to your takes on this. Who do you think should be in and out?
As you would expect, things got a little heated in Round 2 of our little game determining the “toughest” Canuck ever. We will commence with Round 3 on Monday. And promise to pick-up the pace. This will end long before training camp.
Here’s a quick recap of Round 2 results:
1. In our most controversial match-up, Trevor Linden barely out pointed Ron Delorme. You, valued reader, turned out in droves to vote on this one, which featured many lead changes and was basically a split vote from start to finish, with Trevor edging out Chief by the narrowest of margins. So clearly the broad definition of toughness wins out. For now.
2. In another ridiculously close encounter, Stan Smyl bested linemate Curt Fraser by a single vote. Clearly, Smyl’s enduring legendary status in this town provided him with the momentum to get past the more dangerous Fraser.
3. In a battle of top defensemen, Harold Snepsts, easily out voted Ed Jovanovski. We applaude your discerning taste.
4. And in a match that should have never happened, Gino Odjick pretended Mattias Ohlund was the St. Louis Blues, with a most logical conclusion.
Thanks for playing. Round 2 featured a record number of votes; we can only hope you’ll hang around for Round 3 (starting Monday).
Mattias Ohlund- Arguably the greatest Canuck defensemen ever, Mattias was (and still is) one of the league’s best bodycheckers. Along with Harold Snepsts, Ohlund was one of the few Canuck defense draft picks that ended up being key contributors to the team. While certainly not a heavyweight, Ohlund would drop the gloves when required and not just when someone took exception to one of his punishing open ice hits. This little clip feature Mattias instigating a tilt with power forward Erik Cole and fairing quite well. In a surprising round one battle, Ohlund took out Cam Neely.
Gino Odjick- Easily one of the most popular players in Canuck history, the Algonquin Enforcer appeared on the Canuck landscape with a tremendous bang. And he never really let up. As Dave Semenko was to Wayne Gretzky, Odjick was the same to his little buddy, Pavel Bure. Off the ice, “Geeee Noooo” was a fun loving guy, but on the ice, he was often menacingly out-of-control and one of the legendary scrappers of his generation. There is no shortage of classic Gino clips out there, but this little nugget really clarifies his essence. In a result that was feared by Canuck traditionalists, Gino managed to barely out-vote the original Captain Canuck, Orland Kurtenbach, in Round One.
View and vote here:
Today’s Honourable Mention:
Robert Dirk - A key member of the early 90’s teams that morphed from cellar dwellers to division winners, Dirk was yet another Canuck who cried when he was traded away (and never played as well anywhere else). He was a tough dependable defensemen and was dealt simply because the Canucks had an abundance of d-men (can you imagine that?). Dirk wouldn’t have had much trouble moving Dustin Byfuglien…
Okay, we’ve milked this for long enough - we’re on to round two. Thanks for your participation. A quick recap of round one:
Trevor Linden defeated Rick Rypien in a mismatch. Clearly, the voters are putting more emphasis on a balanced definition of toughness as opposed to pure pugilism. We applaud your discriminating taste.
Stan Smyl took out the much larger Jack McIlhargey in a fairly lopsided pairing. After this battle, we envision Jack Mac wearing that neck brace he fashioned on one of the late 70’s hockey cards of our youth.
Harold Snepsts destroyed Tim Hunter in our most lopsided match. And no, we were not stuffing the ballot box in favour of our hero Harold. Really, an ex-Flame had no business being in this contest in the first place.
Mattias Ohlund narrowly edged out Cam Neely. This will have some eyes rolling but Mattias presumably gets credibility for his long career here. In fact, we will go as far to say that if Ohlund were not Swedish, he’d have been a bigger fan favourite here and just might have wound up with his number hanging from the rafters. Flame away.
Ron “Chief” Delorme took out “The Strangler”, Garth Butcher, in a close match (did we say how much we loved the old school nicknames?). We suspect ”Chief” (now the Canucks’ Chief Amateur Scout) won’t get much further. Especially, if we get too much further in our draft analysis before his next match.
Gino Odjick barely eclipsed the original “Captain Canuck”, Orland Kurtenbach, in another close one. We’re sure this will leave some of the 70’s natives (we mean you, kenikoop) more than a little restless. If anything, this proves that pure pugilism can win out, particularly against a faceless victim (sorry Kurt, but you’re too old for our sketchy memories).
Ed “Jovo Cop” Jovanovski dispensed with Dave “Tiger” Williams proving that you don’t need brain to overcome brawn. Perhaps just more brawn. Or less criminal convictions.
Curt Fraser in the tightest match-up brought down Donald Brashear. We’re surprised by this outcome, not because Fraser wasn’t fantastically tough, but because his prime was quite sometime ago and Brash was the heavyweight champ for so many years.
We’ve altered the layout here to hopefully make our toughest Canuck marathon more pleasing to your eye. Yes, you’ll get nothing but continuous improvement around here. We are now up to Match Four, which means we’ve unveiled half of our 16 contestants. Keep those votes rolling in!
Here are today’s intros with video clips embedded in the poll question - how’s that for progress.
Mattias Ohlund- Arguably the greatest Canuck defensemen ever, Mattias was (and still is) one of the league’s best bodycheckers. Along with Harold Snepsts, Ohlund was one of the few Canuck defense draft picks that ended up being key contributors to the team. While certainly not a heavyweight, Ohlund would drop the gloves when required and not just when someone took exception to one of his punishing open ice hits. This little clip feature Mattias instigating a tilt with power forward Erik Cole and fairing quite well.
Cam Neely - In and out of coach Tom Watt’s doghouse during his days in Vancouver, we saw glimpses of what would turn Neely into the best power forward of his generation. Neely likely did more scrapping here than in Boston where he turned to lighting the lamp instead. As a southpaw, Neely would often catch guys by surprise with his fast pumping left hand. And to think we traded him (along with a first round pick) for a washed up play maker with one arm.
Today’s Honourable Mention:
Kevin Bieksa - Four seasons ago he looked like a cinch to become one of the toughest Canucks ever. That was when he had everyone (including Canuck management) believing he was the 2nd coming of Chris Chelios. Some freak injuries and a seemingly low hockey IQ have derailed his career somewhat. In the end, we love his nasty temperament, but he needs to pick his spots better. Also, it would seem that he’s likely a little undersized to be a dominant physical force in today’s NHL.