Over their 50-year history, the Vancouver Canucks have had many players come through the doors of Rogers Arena and the Pacific Coliseum. It’s hard to remember them all, especially when they are more well-known in another jersey. In this series, we are going to look back at some former NHLers that played for the Canucks, but do not come to mind as such when we think of their NHL careers.
Bryan McCabe is mostly known for his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs where he scored 83 goals and 297 points in 523 games. He was a staple on their blue line for seven seasons and teamed up with Tomas Kaberle to form a lethal duo during the hay day of Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and Gary Roberts. But before all that, he was a member of the Canucks for two seasons.
McCabe Becoming a Canuck
Infamously part of the trade that sent icon Trevor Linden to the New York Islanders, McCabe came over to the Canucks with Todd Bertuzzi and a third-round pick that became pesky forward Jarkko Ruutu. In hindsight, that deal was one of the most franchise-altering trades of all time as Bertuzzi eventually became part of the vaunted West Coast Express with Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison.
At the time, McCabe was thought of as one of the best young defencemen in the NHL. Touted as a mobile offensive defenceman with leadership abilities and a knack for scoring on the power play, he and Bertuzzi were acquired to help create a new core in Vancouver.
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McCabe didn’t end up becoming part of the core led by Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison. During the craziness that was the 1999 Draft, then-general manager Brian Burke used him as an asset to acquire more first-round picks in order to eventually draft the Sedins second and third overall. So, basically, he was a huge reason why they were able to get their hands on three future Canucks legends.
Donning the Orca
After spending 56 games as the Islanders’ captain, McCabe was traded for the first time in his young career to the Canucks. He was immediately named an alternate captain on his new team and became a key cog in the defence for what turned out to be 95 games. The former Medicine Hat Tiger star averaged over 24 minutes a game and accumulated eight goals and 33 points.
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Before the trade that sent McCabe to the Chicago Blackhawks, it appeared that he was going to be part of a burgeoning blue line that included 22-year-olds Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund and Brent Sopel, 25-year-old Adrian Aucoin and 28-year-old Bret Hedican. Using the benefit of hindsight, that six-man group would have been a very solid core to build around considering all but Sopel played over 1,000 games in the NHL before they retired. Though, when you think about what the trade ultimately brought the Canucks, I think we can all agree that it was the right decision.
The Rest of McCabe’s Career
As for the rest of his career, McCabe made his NHL debut in 1995-96 as a 20-year-old with the Islanders after they took him 40th overall in the 1993 NHL Draft. Over the course of his career, he played for six teams – including the Islanders, Canucks, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers.
McCabe finished his career with 145 goals and 528 points in 1,135 games. Most of his success came in Toronto where he posted three seasons with 50 points or more, including a career-high 19 goals and 68 points during the 2005-06 season. He also recorded 10 goals and 28 points in 56 playoff games. Unfortunately, the Stanley Cup eluded him as he only ever made it to Eastern Conference Final in his playing days.
Related: 5 Forgotten New York Islanders
Being Canadian in a country full of talented defencemen, McCabe didn’t see a lot of time on the international stage. He did get into one Olympics though when he was named to the 2006 Team Canada roster along with Wade Redden, Chris Pronger, Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester, Rob Blake and Adam Foote. Even though he didn’t walk away with a medal, the experience of being part of an Olympic team is probably something he will cherish forever.
McCabe didn’t get inducted into the Hall of Fame, but he will still go down as one of the best offensive defencemen the Maple Leafs ever had. He will also forever be known as the guy that helped the Canucks get two of their greatest players of all time in the Sedins.
All-Time Canucks’ Ranks
Games Played: 95 GP (T223rd)
Goals: 8 G (T234th)
Assists: 25 A (T173rd)
Points: 33 P (T205th)
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.