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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This weekend’s Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) induction ceremonies will feature the first ever celebration of a Vancouver Canuck, Pavel Bure (we’re sorry Mark Messier and Mats Sundin don’t count). But for a franchise that has made a point in recent years of celebrating its now long but mostly tortured history, the Canucks’ home rink bears almost zero indication that the dynamic Russian Rocket ever played for the local team, despite him being the team’s first superstar and, ultimately, ”the Ruth that built” Rogers Arena. Perhaps, that is finally and rightfully about to change. It seems the HHOF induction has provided the necessary momentum for Canuck ownership to do the right thing.
The overriding criterion for admission to the Canucks’ hallowed and mostly empty retired jersey section has seemingly been about “character” - as if the Canucks have been running some bleeding heart not-for-profit all these years instead of one of the most successful franchises in the 30 team NHL. Ultimately this notion of “character” used in determining its all-time greats is down to the simple fact that for most years of its existence, the franchise had little else to celebrate.
In the team’s now long history, three players have been recognized with jersey retirement. The first two, Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden, were, more often than not, lovable losers. Plenty of pride, hustle and determination that resulted in single tragic brushes with the Stanley Cup. But neither were high-end players, never challenging for any major individual awards. Simply, players of this calibre getting their jerseys retired in any other market would be laughable. But in Vancouver, these two men, with their supposedly unquestionable character, are revered royalty.
The third member of the group, another long time Canuck captain, is Markus Naslund, who, unlike his predecessors Linden and Smyl, was one of the most skilled players of his generation. But his efforts at leadership failed quite miserably when considering the higher expectations of the early 21st century Canucks, by now a consistent Stanley Cup contender. So while he didn’t lead succesful post-season efforts, his elite level perimeter play combined with his noble community accomplishments earned him his lofty status in the organization.
Pavel Bure arrived in Vancouver in 1991 as the Canucks were rising from over 20 years of collective ashes. From his first shift as a Macaulay Caulkin fresh-faced 20-year-old in the body of a greek god, it was clear that this was something we’d never seen before – unless you wanted to time travel to the days of Fred “Cyclone” Taylor. Forget the Cyclone, it was the Russian Rocket who would finally put the Vancouver Canucks on the sporting map.
It was Bure’s explosive talent that marked the turning point for the franchise from cottage industry to global entity. In short order, the Canucks were a drawing card on the road (something that continues to this day) and a new stadium was being built (bringing with it another pro sports franchise). His full tilt brilliance catapulted the franchise to its first lengthy run of success culminating in the thrilling ’94 Stanley Cup run that prominently featured both himself and Linden. During his time in Vancouver, Bure collected several major accolades- rookie of the year award, goal scoring championships, all-star team appointments – all completely unprecedented in a market that was typically ignored by the rest of the continent.
In the end, as we all know, things got ugly. Bure had felt mistreated by management from the get-go and wanted out. In a case of “he said, she said”, the Canucks story prevailed. Bure became known as a malingering malcontent, and despite his other worldly play and contributions to the growth of the franchise, was mercilessly tossed to the trash heap of team history.
The unofficial word from the Canucks has been that Pavel wants no recognition from the franchise. But maybe he’s been waiting for an apology first. And maybe he doesn’t deserve one, who knows? But we do know the Edmonton Oilers, in the end, didn’t begrudge Mark Messier leaving for greener pastures. Nor did Patrick Roy’s most unceremonious fall from grace in Montreal prevent them from celebrating him.
Pavel has recently said that any recognition of him by the franchise is “not up to him; he has done his part.” And he has. And it was plenty. So says the Hockey Hall of Fame. And so should anyone whose ego isn’t still childishly bruised from Bure’s Vancouver exit. And so it follows that the Canucks, still scraping the egg of their face for not having done so sooner, are about to get it done. It’s about time.
To our loyal followers, please note that these entries also appear in the Vancouver Sun’s Fan Attic Blog. We will continue to maintain entries here, but encourage you to visit there and join the discussion.
We wish to thank the Hockey Hall of Fame for finally having the good sense to induct one Pavel Bure, saving us from our annual righteous rant in support of the Russian Rocket, easily the Vancouver Canucks’ most dynamic player ever and, arguably, the most entertaining player of his generation. If you wish to be enlightened further, please consult our archives.
And while his selection is most overdue, in the end, there are no levels of HHOF membership - all players enshrined are on equal footing. And make no mistake, Bure belongs. As a second generation Russian superstar, he was a pioneer for his countrymen at the NHL level, where he was simply the most electrifying player since Guy Lafleur and Bobby Orr. And like Orr, his knees couldn’t endure the full tilt of his playing style - his longevity being perhaps the only legitimate beef against his induction. And while some may question his character upon exiting Vancouver, there are two sides to every story, but Bure’s is rarely told. In the end, he scored and entertained everywhere he went, excelling both professionally and internationally. For a brief moment in time, he was the most captivating player of his sport.
Joining Bure in today’s inductions were Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin. It seems that the HHOF is finally getting over its obsession with Stanley Cup winning players with Sakic being the only of this year’s inductees to have sipped from the cherished cup. And rightfully so, in the modern day 30 team NHL, there will be plenty of elite players who may never become champions. Indeed, in the era of the six team NHL, Cup rings may have meant something, but that notion is now prehistoric. And with the inclusion of Sundin and Bure, it seems that the HHOF is also getting over its bias against European players, which makes perfect sense since it is the “Hockey” Hall of Fame and not the “NHL” Hall of Fame.
With Bure’s induction, the Canucks once again find themselves with egg on their face as it relates to their franchise’s first and best superstar. How can the team’s only bonafide Hall of Famer (sorry, Mark Messier and Mats Sundin don’t count) not have his number hanging from the rafters while the likes of career plumber Stan Smyl is so enshrined? Some sources may say that Bure has been offered such an honour (or at least inclusion in the lower tiered Ring of Honour), but has refused. This is entirely possible, but also irrelevant. The hanging of a number from the rafters is much less about awarding the player, but recognizing his impact to the franchise and its fans. Yes, Pavel wasn’t necessarily the model community citizen, but he put the Vancouver franchise on the sporting map, making himself and his team an international brand. Stan Smyl or Trevor Linden or Markus Naslund could never have done that. And if the Canucks had retired his number (even without him attending the ceremony) before he had entered the hall, they would have looked a whole lot better than they do now, where any official acknowledgement of his career will look like after the fact pandering.
The irony of all this, of course, is that Pavel’s induction was announced by Pat Quinn, whom Pavel has now claimed as a father like figure, but was possibly part of the reason for Bure’s requested exit from Vancouver. Meanwhile, here in Vancouver, current President and General Manager Mike Gillis (Bure’s former agent) issued a very brief press release jointly recognizing Bure and Sundin, who played only half a season here in what was easily Gillis’ strangest move…
As the Canucks head into Detroit tonight for a much anticipated match-up of the two top teams in the conference, this week’s wayback machine takes us to a magical night in the Motor City 30 years ago.
In those days, the Wings were league doormats and the Canucks were (though only months before their inaugural Stanley Cup Final run) simply mediocre. And on that night, the Canucks trailed the Wings 4-2 in the third period when something happened that had never happened in the entire history of the game.
Against Red Wing keeper Gilles Gilbert, the Canucks managed to score on two penalty shots in the third period to tie the game.
Putting things in their proper perspective, penalty shots in those days were a very rare breed. In fact, in the Canucks twelve seasons to that point in time, they’d been awarded only five. And it would be another five years before they’d get another.
But on that night, Kerry Fraser was oddly generous with the Canucks. When a Wing player covered the puck in the crease early in the third period, the Canucks elected Thomas Gradin, the ever silky Swede and easily the most skilled player on the team at the time, to shoot. And he scored.
Fraser, never one to shy away from making a call when others may have the put whistle away, then called the Wings for a another penalty shot with 30 seconds remaining (and Canuck goalie Richard Brodeur on the bench for an extra attacker) when Stan Smyl was upended on a breakaway. Injuring himself on the play (though nothing that would cause him to miss any games), the Canucks elected Ivan Hlinka to hopefully snatch a tie from the jaws of defeat.
At the time, some referred to Hlinka, an international star, as the Czech version of Phil Esposito. But really, he did not have the down low net presence of Espo and spent most of his time cruising the perimeter of the ice much to the chagrin of coach Harry Neale. But he did possess perhaps the finest wrist shot we’ve seen. It was not a quick release, but hard and heavy. Rumour has it, on that particular night, coach Neale, always quick with the quips, told Hlinka that if he “didn’t score he could keep on skating back to Czechoslovakia”. Though our memory can’t recall exactly how Hlinka did score, we’d bet he wristed one off the crossbar and in. And history was made.
And there is even more history in store for tonight as the Canucks look to break the Red Wings winning streak at home, which has now reached an NHL record 23 consecutive games. And we expect they will.
With long time Canuck captain and all-time points leader Markus Naslund’s number 19 now hanging from the rafters, it is time to address the elephant in the room. Yes, we’re talking about what to do with Pavel Bure.
And we’re not the only ones wondering. Back in the summer when it was announced that the Canucks would be celebrating Naslund with the franchise’s highest honour, Mike Gills was queried on this very idea and he responded by saying they would need to look into it adding something about ensuring that honourees have the “right character”.
Gillis now has this to say, “he’s on our radar.” He added, “part of it is the person and it didn’t end the way people had hoped. But there are two sides to the story. He’s a private person and I don’t think it’s any deviation from the criteria.” From the man who was player agent for both Naslund and Bure, and now the man in charge of the decision making, this is an interesting development.
If anyone needed reminding, Bure was the Canucks’ first, and arguably only (the careers of Daniel and Henrik still being open books) true superstar. He will likely wind up in the Hockey Hall of Fame at some point, and having played the majority of his career here would represent the only member of hockey’s hallowed hall to have done so.
During the Naslund love-in of the last week much has been made about crediting him with “saving” the franchise in the wake of the Mark Messier era. While this smacks of revisionist history more than anything else, the argument that Bure did the same during his day is an easier point to make.
When Bure arrived in Vancouver, the Canucks were in the middle years of the Pat Quinn era and finally on the ascent. With the Russian Rocket on board, the sky was the proverbial limit. Unlike Naslund (or the Sedins for that matter), Pavel was no work in progress. From his opening game, as a Macualy Culkin fresh faced 20 year old in the body of a Greek God, it was clear that this was not just another Canuck highly touted European prospect. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And we were all overjoyed to be along for the ride.
It was Bure’s explosive talent that marked the turning point for the franchise from cottage industry to global entity. In short order, the Canucks were a drawing card on the road (something that continues to this day) and a new stadium was being built (bringing with it another pro sports franchise); you might say that GM Place was the house that Bure built. When it was recently discovered that number one NFL draft pick Sam Bradford, despite being born and bred in football mad Oklahoma, dreamt of playing for the Vancouver Canucks because of his adoration of Pavel Bure, you fully realized the extent of Bure’s influence.
Of course, after two 60 goal seasons, a brush with the Stanley Cup, numerous All-Star recognitions, knee injuries and one final 51 goal campaign, the petals were off the rose. Pavel wanted out. And the adoring faithful were hurt. And it’s this seeming lack of character that is the biggest reason to argue against honouring him with jersey retirement.
But as much as Markus Naslund (and the Sedins for that matter) get due recognition for being honest honourable men, such characterization should be taken in the context of time and place.
By the time Naslund made it to the NHL, it was a reasonably easy adjustment. After all, that trail had been blazed many times over by his countrymen. And with a good grasp of the English language, not to mention, a free society, it was hardly the culture clash that young Russians arriving in North America in the wake of the fall of communism had to endure.
Make no mistake, young men like Alex Mogilny (who pretended he was afraid of flying so he could stay in Buffalo and shag his girlfriend) or Pavel were breaking fresh ground on so many levels, making mistakes along the way. Really, it is any wonder that Russian players are labelled greedy malcontents while the Swedes get tagged as stoically honest?
As Mike Gillis has rightly noted, there are two sides to this story. And while we could explore further, it’s all really “he said, she said” at this point, not that anyone is talking anyway. In the end, it could be said that the Canucks had zero experience in handling Pavel’s potential prima donna antics. It’s no stretch to say that there were missteps by both parties.
What is clear is that Bure was the most remarkable player to play for this team. While his point totals do not rank near Naslund (in part to his injury problems and in part to his request to be traded), his point and goal per game totals are off the charts and will likely never be surpassed. He is as responsible for the development of the Canucks’ brand as any single player. And in the entertainment business, what is more important than that?
The biggest problem facing Mike Gillis right now is what if you threw a party (ring of honour or jersey retirement) and the guest of honour didn’t show? Some have rumoured that Bure has requested to not be recognized or affiliated with any club - a further extension of his shy retiring persona. Indeed, like his boyish lookalike, he’d rather be “Home Alone”.
But really, such honours are not about the player as much as they are about the organization and its fan base and honouring those who are worthy whether they want it or not.
In the end, Gillis knows Pavel as well as anyone. His latest comments have opened the door for some official recognition. And you’d think if anyone can mend the fences between the organization and it’s fallen superstar, it would be Gillis. He should even be able to pronounce his name properly, something he had difficulty with when introducing inaugural retired jersey inductee Stan Smyl (Mike, that’s Smeel, not Shmeel) at Saturday night’s party.
You would think that we will know Pavel’s fate rather soon. With two more ring of honour inductees to be named before season’s end, if he’s not one of them, then perhaps something bigger is in the works down the road. We hope there is.
From the rain tortured slopes of the North Shore mountains, we interrupt our ark building to revisit a topic we covered this past summer; that is this Saturday’s ceremony to officially retire Markus Naslund’s number 19. With this esteemed honour, Naslund will join fellow long time Canuck captains Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl as the only players to have their jerseys hoisted to the rafters.
This induction has been a somewhat divisive proclamation amongst the Canuck faithful, some referring to Saturday’s ceremony as simply “Markus Naslund Sham Night” - the best opportunity for a season ticket holder to dump a regular season seat for a healthy profit.
It is easy to argue that Naslund does not belong in the company of Smyl and Linden simply because as a leader he did not accomplish the post season success that they did. Nor did he embody their workman-like heart and soul; qualities that are typically more likely to win over the adoration of the fan base in this market.
But after Pavel Bure, he was the Canucks next bonafide superstar, or at least, perennial all-star. For a good number of seasons, he was the best left winger in hockey during the height of the dead puck era. By winning a Lester Pearson award, he was clearly respected by his playing colleagues throughout the league.
Perhaps most importantly to those making the induction decision, he was a classy fellow who put his community obligations first and foremost. He was a genuinely nice guy it seemed; so much so that he was able to befriend the certifiably gruff Todd Bertuzzi.
We say that retiring Markus’ number is lowering the bar. With induction being limited to only Smyl and Linden to date (as opposed to skill players like Bure or, even, Thomas Gradin), a premium has been historically placed on leadership and playoff success.
As we all know, Naslund’s teams were perennial playoff busts. And his fans will argue that Markus can’t be held responsible for the fact that his goal-keeper couldn’t stop a beach ball when it mattered most. And that’s fair.
But here’s the thing; leaders lead. Or at least good ones do. Markus did not. In fact, when it came to crunch time, Naslund, being the intelligent and sensitive man that he was, wilted under the pressure. How do we know this? How can we prove this? Well, since Naslund was not a physical player nor an old school holler guy, his opportunity to lead was through his goal scoring talent. So what do you remember?
When you think of clutch goal scoring in Canuck history, you think of Pavel Bure, Geoff Courtnall, Greg Adams, Brendan Morrison, Trevor Linden, Mattias Ohlund and Daniel Sedin. Naslund does not even enter the discussion.
In fact, what you remember about Naslund, the goal scorer, is wrist shots from the sideboards on the power play. You remember him forgetting the puck at centre ice during a shootout. You remember his coach being so afraid to use the team’s highest scoring player ever that he typically found his ass nailed to the bench during the tie-breaking session. Can you imagine that happening to Trevor Linden, who despite a declining skill set, was still such a valuable clutch player that he became a most successful shootout specialist in his latter years?
Forget for a moment about what we might remember, what do the stats tell us? Well, the stats tell us that Naslund lit it up against inferior opponents. On a point-per-game basis, the teams he was most successful against were Atlanta, Columbus, Toronto, Anaheim, Edmonton and Nashville - hardly a collection of the league’s elite. And his post season line? A paltry 33 points in 45 games and a minus 9.
Really, what was Markus Naslund’s defining moment? For too many, it was the “we choked” apology speech after a stretch drive collapse that cost them a division title. Or no less memorably, the Steve Moore elbow to the head that cued best friend Todd Bertuzzi’s side show that still lingers over this franchise and this great game to this day.
When you get right down to it, Naslund was not a heroic figure that deserves celebration, but more likely a tragic figure that draws our sympathy.
And in the sorry history of this franchise, perhaps that’s enough. But what it really means is that the bar it now lowered to include skillful players with great regular seasons, and nothing more.
And if it is, then what about Pavel Bure? Our first, and arguably only, superstar (not to mention, likely Hockey Hall of Famer). And then surely what about the twins? Another season or two of regular season dominance followed by playoff failure should be enough to enshrine them, too? And before you know it, our rafters will look like Molson Centre but missing the most important piece - a single Stanley Cup playoff banner.
As a side note, we find it interesting that the Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to retire Mats Sundin’s number. It’s a pretty easy argument to make that he mattered more to Leaf Nation than Naslund ever did to ours.
In the end, we can passively accept the Naslund induction on the very simple premise that this franchise has had so little to honour, though it only means that our campaigning for Pavel Bure will continue in earnest. Can you guess the topic of our next blog entry?
As part of the Canucks’ 40th anniversary celebrations, there will be four inductees into what is being referred to as the “Ring of Honour”, which is meant to honour those who fall short of jersey retirement (limited so far to Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden and, shortly, Markus Naslund).
So far two players have already been inducted: original Captain Canuck, Orland Kurtenbach and Captain Kirk (the most successful Canuck goalie to date), Kirk McLean. It’s difficult to find fault with either of these selections, who clearly fall short of jersey retirement status but were both integral players in Canuck history.
Kurtenbach had a reputation as one of the genuinely toughest guys of his generation and led an expansion crew, that at the very least, was tough to play against. And while he played only a mostly injury plagued four seasons with Vancouver and despite not having an official capacity with the team since a brief coaching stint in the late 70’s, he has often been an ambassador for the team.
McLean, of course, was one of the key players (arguably the most valuable player) of the famed ‘94 near Cup squad. But while this moment in time certainly stands as his high water mark, he was a consistently strong netminder, and really, the first Canuck goalie to achieve a long run of high calibre backstopping.
So that brings us to the question on the minds of the long term faithful, who else should be rightly honoured? As stated, there will be two more inductees this season and those within the organization who know have been sworn to secrecy.
The elephant in the room, of course, is Pavel Bure. How his number is not being retired before the likes of Markus Naslund, is simply stated, a typically Canuck conundrum - an issue we covered in great detail here this summer. He will almost certainly be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in due course and be the only true Canuck representative in hockey’s hallowed shrine.
On this basis alone, you’d think one day his number will hang from the rafters at Rogers Arena, after he’s paid whatever penance the club sees fit for holding his breath until he was shipped out of town. So it follows that he’s above and beyond the “Ring of Honour”. Or at least, he should be.
But putting aside the Russian Rocket for now, who else is worthy in the “Ring of Honour”?
Well, if it were up to us (as it should be), we would allocate this year’s two other inductee spots to Harold Snepsts and Thomas Gradin.
Our man Harold logged the most games of any Canuck defender ever and was as tough as they came. And damn it, we’re prepared to forget about the pass to Mike Bossy with two seconds remaining in overtime in Game 1 of the ‘82 Stanley Cup Final. Indeed, despite that blunder, Harrrrrr-ollllllllld was arguably the biggest fan favourite in this town and always a menacing presence on the back end, something that today’s squad is often lacking. And it certainly helps that he has recently returned to the Canuck operation as part of the scouting crew.
When Thomas Gradin arrived in Vancouver as the best of the Swedish contingent that Jake Milford was pioneering in the NHL, his world class skill was immediately obvious; mostly because we’d never seen anything like it from a guy in a Canuck uniform. In the end, when he left Vancouver, he was the franchise point leader and had made plumber Stan Smyl a point per game player. Like Snepsts, he has been a member of the Canucks’ scouting crew for a few seasons and is solely responsible for the drafting of Alex Edler (who happens to sport Gradin’s number 23).
So what’s your take? In the end, it’s your “Ring of Honour”.
We must confess that we were not in the building last night (we are ashamed to admit we missed “Stan Smyl night”). We did, however, watch most of the game despite being slightly distracted by “Battle of the Blades” - can you score a bigger freak factor than Georges Laraque on figure skates?
before the season started we repeatedly stated that the two biggest keys to success this season were the need for the Canucks to be prepared to start games and not be forced to come from behind (as they were last year) AND the return to form of Roberto Luongo - and on that count, the Canucks are batting 1.000 after two games, having not trailed at any point in either contest and with Luongo settling into the more composed and controlled keeper we all remember.
that said, if we go one more game with the only production coming from the twins, there will be the panicky calls from those at the back of the bus for more secondary scoring and that’s when we’ll remind everyone that guys like Kesler, Samuelsson, Raymond and Burrows MAY have had career years last year and relying on the twins MIGHT be the only reliable option.
there is no question that the Canucks’ stated goal of being more difficult to play against is one they are all taking seriously, almost to a man.
Henrik’s decision to award Kevin Bieksa with an “A” (and it was his decision apparently) has certainly increased the much maligned defender’s confidence dramatically.
The Canucks revamped fourth line featured neither a centre nor a goon, but unlike the salary cap challenged New Jersey Devils’ fourth line did, in fact, feature 3 players.
The more loosey goosey play of last year was certainly more stimulating from an entertainment standpoint, but we’ll take what we’re seeing now if it allows Roberto to get his groove back…
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?
Trust Mike Gillis to give us something else to do on a glorious summer day. In case you missed it, at yesterday’s annual season ticket holder reception, it was announced that the Canucks plan to retire the jersey of Markus Naslund this season as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations.
We find this to be a most interesting development.
There is no doubting Naslund’s accomplishments as an elite NHL player:
the Lester Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Trophy - the ultimate measure of respect from a player’s peers)
the 3 appointments to the NHL First All Star Team
the Art Ross trophy near misses
the Canucks scoring leader for seven seasons
the Canucks all-time scoring leader
Further, there is also no doubting that he was a class guy whose community contributions could not be questioned.
Mike Gillis maintains that the team has now defined criteria for jersey retirement and that Naslund had “all the attributes we’re looking for”.
This is where we get lost a little in the logic. Presumably, Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl both had these same attributes, too, since their numbers are already hanging from the rafters. Like Naslund, both Linden and Smyl embraced their community commitments. Unlike Naslund, they were not highly skilled players; in fact, if you were to draw up a list of the Canucks’ most “talented” players, they would not be at the top of that list. Like Naslund, both Linden and Smyl had lengthy runs as team captain. Quite certainly, it was their leadership ability that was the most crucial element to their jersey retirement.
So what can be made of Markus’ leadership ability? Well, when the accolades were flowing yesterday, there no was mention of it. And while he captained this team for their most consistent stretch of regular season success, when it came to crunch time, his team repeatedly self destructed. In Naslund’s defense, it’s not his fault that Dan Cloutier whiffed on Niklas Lidstrom’s one-hopper or that Marc Crawford lost the team or that Todd Bertuzzi lost his mind. But truth be told, Markus wasn’t a clutch player. Who can forget the “we choked” apology speech after the Canucks crapped the bed down the stretch handing the division title to Colorado? Or Naslund’s unbelievable ineptitude to score in shoot-outs (him leaving the puck at centre ice on one attempt still makes us cringe). Seriously, it got so bad that his coaches had little option but to nail his ass to the bunch for the circus shootout that you’d expect to be the modus operandi of a highly paid skilled winger.
It was always our opinion that the weight of the captaincy crushed Naslund. He was a sensitive intelligent player so much so that the enormity of THAT responsibility in THIS market was too much to bear. And some will say that’s not his fault; he didn’t make himself captain. And that’s true. But when the prodigal son (and Captain Canuck, Trevor Linden) returned from exile, Naslund had the opportunity to hand over the captaincy (as Trevor had unselfishly gifted to Mark Messier). He did not.
There is no question that there is an alarming discrepancy between the post season successes of the teams led by Smyl and Linden. For whatever reason, that’s seemingly no longer a crucial element to selection for jersey retirement. And to the extent that Naslund can’t necesarily be held accountable for the rest of his team, that’s certainly reasonable. But leaders lead? Don’t they? And are accountable for their troops when they fail?
In the end, we suppose we can get our heads around Naslund’s number hanging from the rafters. Although his leadership ability is not meeting the threshold of those before him, his tangible accomplishments are hard to argue; certainly in the relative history of the franchise. Add to that, he was, from all accounts, a nice guy. His befriending of the certifiably gruff Todd Bertuzzi ample evidence of that.
This, however, opens the inevitable can of worms. If Naslund is in, then why not Pavel Bure? As our upcoming post will unequivocally demonstrate, Pavel is a Hall of Famer. And as the Canucks only bonafide HHOF’er (or at the very least, the only bonafide HHOF candidate), it only follows that his number should be in the rafters, too. And on that basis, before Naslund. And if the Sedins (like Naslund) never advance beyond the second round of the playoffs but continue to earn the same regular season accolades, then their numbers should be there too, right? Mike Gillis says he’s not in the jersey retirement business. Now he is.