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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As a little interlude between rounds of our toughest Canuck marathon (thanks, by the way, for all your votes today), we continue with our draft day retrospective…
Boondoggle - The Canucks have often been accused in recent years of avoiding the WHL come draft time. And there may be some truth to that. We’re still investigating. But if it is true, after the 2000 pick of centre Nathan Smith from Swift Current, you can’t blame them for being a little gun shy. In their draft history, the Canucks have been alternately obsessed with trying to find the elusive blue chip defenseman or the even more elusive number one centre. Smith was yet another attempt at the latter. To date, he has played 26 NHL games and has yet to register a point. Wow. Who could they have had instead? Well, one pick later centre Brad Boyes was taken - exactly what they were searching for when they picked Smith. Other notables that year who were picked after Smith include Justin Williams, Niklas Kronwall, Nick Schultz, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jarret Stoll, Andreas Lilja, Antoine Vermette, Paul Martin, Lubomir Visnovsky, John Michael Liles, Matthew Lombardi and Henrik Lundqvist. As tough as Ron Delorme may have been, he clearly took a few too many shots to the head.
Boon - When the Canucks made their infamous run to the ‘82 Final, expectations for the following seasons were high. Some would argue unjustifiably so given the fluky nature of that run. But when you look back at their drafting record of 1980 and 1981 and the number of quality players in the pipeline who hadn’t contributed in 1982, you can further appreciate why there was some optimism. Those 2 draft years generated Garth Butcher, Petri Skriko, Rick Lanz, Doug Lidster and Patrick Sundstrom. Sundstrom, the silky Swede, was selected in the 9th round of the 1980 draft and went on to score at a point per game clip for 5 full seasons in Vancouver. Plus he was great trade bait, netting us Kirk McLean and Greg Adams, both key figures in the Canucks’ early 90’s success. You won’t see another 9th round pick like this (mostly because the draft is only 7 rounds now).
As we approach draft day (we know you can’t wait), we continue with more of our series highlighting the highs and lows of Canuck draft history.
Boon - In the shadow of the Hawks’ Cup win and the impressive post season performance of one of their depth defenseman, we present Brent Sopel. “Soaps” (have we mentioned our disgust for 21st century nick-names yet?) was a 6th round draft pick of the Nucks in 1995. He has carved out a very nice career for himself since then. With his greasy hair and crazed look, he’s an easy guy to mock. And if you’ve ever heard him being interviewed post-game, you’d know that the sudafed hasn’t worn off yet. But Sopel has always played the game with determination and intensity. While in Vancouver, he was relied upon offensively, but in Chicago he has transformed himself into a quality stay-at-home d-man. And clearly, he’s a playoff performer - not just this year, but pretty much every post season he’s played he’s logged more ice time per game than the regular season. It’s interesting to note that after Sopel’s second stint in Vancouver, it was presumed that he was too expensive to keep in the salary cap era. It bears noting that his salary cap hit this season of $2.33 million would have placed him 6th in pay amongst Canuck defenders with the top 5 all having a cap hit of over $3.1 million each.
Boondoggle - It’s pretty much typical for a team to unearth one or two quality NHL’ers in each draft - guys that will wind up playing 500 games or more. Even the Canucks have been able to achieve this modest level of draft success. However, the Canucks’ entire 2002 draft was a failure of epic proportions. Now granted, they had no first round pick that year (traded away to reacquire Trevor Linden), they did have two 2nd round picks and 2 3rd round picks. In total, 11 players were drafted by the Canucks that season and they have played a combined total of 11 NHL games (10 by Brett Skinner?!?). To put things in perspective, there were 45 players selected that season who have played at least two complete NHL seasons by now. Players the Canucks could have had include Duncan Keith (yes, that guy - the best defenseman in the game right now), Jiri Hudler, Tomas Fleischmann, Matthew Lombardi, Valtteri Filppula, Dennis Wideman, Maxime Talbot, Petr Prucha, James Wisniewski and one more Cup winning Hawk, the annoying Adam Burish. Ugh.
With the next landmark in the NHL offseason being the entry draft, we will present for you Canuck draft stories, both the successful and the disastrous. Of course, in this town, it would seem that we’ve had much more of the latter, but until we’ve investigated that matter fully, which you know we will, we’ll aim to be balanced offering up both the booms and the busts. So let’s get started, in no particular order:
Boondoggle - Jason Herter - An 8th overall pick in the 1989 draft, the highly touted skill defenseman played ONE NHL game. While no means the only flop of the 1989 first round, he was the biggest. When the Canucks have drafted defenseman with their first pick, the results have not been great. While some wound up as servicable NHL’ers, there wasn’t a star player (save one possible exception) among any of them. Players that went after Herter in that year’s draft included Bobby Holik, Mike Sillinger, Olaf Kolzig, Adam Foote, Nicklas Lidstrom (in the 3rd round!), Kris Draper, Sergei Fedorov (4th round!), Dallas Drake and Vladimir Konstantinov. The Red Wings, as usual, had done their homework.
Boon - Pavel Bure - The Canucks redeemed themselves in the same draft by using their sixth round pick to nab the Russian Rocket. His career needs no further description other than to say he should be the Canucks’ first Hall of Famer, but that’s another rant for another day. The Canucks managed this feat since most teams thought he was ineligible. It was a worthy gamble with a 6th round pick; an aggressive strategy that we need to see more of.