After squandering a 2-0 series lead, the Vancouver Canucks are now in tough against their Western Conference rival St. Louis Blues. Ever since Game 3, they have struggled with their size, speed, and relentless forecheck which has prompted thoughts that they may not have the bodies to ultimately win the series and move on to the second round of the playoffs.
So in the spirit of the Canucks’ 50th anniversary season, I thought it would be fun to select five former teammates (one from each decade) that could help them right now in their battle against the defending Stanley Cup champions. If only we had a time machine…
70s – Harold Snepsts
The Canucks have struggled to handle the Blues’ big forwards, especially down low in their own zone. If they could bring back a bruising defenceman like Harold Snepsts right now, I’m sure they would. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he could fight and hit with the best of them and was probably one of the toughest defencemen of his era. With how much punishment the star forwards are receiving right now, he would be a deterrent to anyone trying to make a run at them.
Snepsts’ hard-working, lunch-bucket play was always consistent, making life miserable for many NHL forwards who dared to venture into the Canucks’ zone.Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame
Snepsts also had the character and leadership required to push a team to the next level in the playoffs. He was a key part of the Canucks’ cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1982 and showed everyone that he was tailor-made for the physicality of the playoffs. Basically his skillset would be perfect for defending the style of hockey the Blues are playing in this series. Imagine him on the ice with Quinn Hughes? I’m pretty sure David Perron would think twice before face washing or cross-checking him.
80s – Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams
Tiger Williams was one of the most effective agitators the Canucks ever employed. He could hit, fight, annoy, and best of all, score goals. In a series where the bottom-six has been almost non-existent, he could definitely step in and provide some offence. He wasn’t a big forward by any means at 5-foot-11, but he played like he was 6-foot-4. He eclipsed the 300 penalty minute mark twice and never dropped below 100 during his time with the team.
Related: Canucks’ Top 5 Agitators of All Time
Williams also scored a career-high 35 goals in 1980-81 and is a part of Canucks lore with his iconic “riding the stick” celebration. He would probably give Adam Gaudette a run for his money when it comes to celebrations, as he was part of many unique ones over the years.
Williams would bring energy, enthusiasm, and most of all physicality and offence to the bottom six of the current version of the Canucks. Like Snepsts, he was also no stranger to playoff success as he scored three goals and ten points during the 1982 run to the Stanley Cup Final. Suffice it to say, he would be a welcome sight alongside Zack MacEwen or current agitator Antoine Roussel, especially after they lost Micheal Ferland to yet another concussion.
90s – Pavel Bure
The Blues have shown an inability to defend against speed and finesse in the past. The only reason they were able to slow the Canucks down in the last two games was because of their pressure on the forecheck. Adding the tremendous speed of Pavel Bure to the lineup (say on Pettersson’s wing?) would force them into even more adjustments to their game.
Bure was a prolific playoff performer not just against the skill teams but against physical teams like the Calgary Flames too. During the 1994 run to the Stanley Cup Final, he scored 16 goals and 31 points including a clutch goal in double overtime against the aforementioned Flames. He was a force in almost every series as teams just couldn’t contain his speed and natural goal-scoring ability.
Just the prospect of having him on the team today with the skill of Hughes and Pettersson is insane to even think about. I honestly don’t think the Blues would have an answer for it.
2000s – Todd Bertuzzi
In his prime, Todd Bertuzzi was a beast, not only offensively, but physically as well. At 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds, he could score, hit and simply overpower guys in front of the net and along the boards. For a big man, his hands were like silk as he could deke a player out of his jock as well. His skating was off the charts too, which is not usually a trait of a man that large. Basically he was the definition of a power forward.
He’s just so much bigger and stronger than so many guys in this league… He can hold you off and control the play. He can skate and get around you and once he’s around you, you can’t stop him.Former Canucks captain Trevor Linden
In a series wrought with physical play and intense battles along the boards, Bertuzzi would thrive against the Blues. At his best, he was almost unstoppable, and that’s exactly what the Canucks need right now in their top-six. Imagine him on Bo Horvat’s wing with Tanner Pearson. That would be a very large second-line that could match up against Ryan O’Reilly’s cohort while outscoring them at the same time.
2010s – Christian Ehrhoff
It’s become quite clear that the Canucks need to move the puck much quicker out of their own zone. We all know that Hughes will always be able to do that, but it’s been a struggle for the rest of the defence core throughout this series, especially since Tyler Myers went down with an injury.
Christian Ehrhoff would be a welcome addition, as his skating, vision, and offensive abilities shone in the two seasons he was with the team. During the 2010-11 season, he scored a career-high 14 goals and 50 points and was a major factor in the playoffs, scoring 2 goals and 12 points en route to the Stanley Cup Final.
Ehrhoff is the type of defenceman that would thrive in head coach Travis Green’s system of speed and puck movement. He was a major part of the most successful Canucks team ever built and even played well with the advanced skill sets of Henrik and Daniel Sedin. I’m sure it wouldn’t be much of a shift playing with Pettersson. Oh yes, he also loved to shoot the puck and could quarterback the power play too.
He has a great shot from the blue-line and likes to shoot…The one thing that really helps the forwards is he’s able to penetrate their defencemen on the rush and get to the net. That’s very difficult to do as a D-man.Former Canucks forward Kyle Wellwood
If the Canucks could bring Ehrhoff back from 2011 and insert him into the lineup today, he would make an immediate impact on this series. He’s just built for this team right now. In fact, he’s probably suited more to this version than the Sedin-led squad he’s coming from.
Canucks History is Full of Candidates
Those were just five former Canucks that could help them beat the Blues in 2020. Players like Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Gino Odjick, and others would definitely have helped as well. In my selection process, I decided to choose a combination of players that have either the speed, size, or toughness that is sorely lacking on this team right now.
The beauty of this exercise is the endless possibilities of players that could have been selected from the time machine of Canucks history. So, do you agree with my picks? If not, who would you choose? Sound off in the comments below!
My name is Matthew and I cover the Vancouver Canucks, and Vancouver Giants here at the Hockey Writers. I am also the head of the prospects and NHL Draft coverage. I am passionate about the Canucks, prospects, and all things hockey.