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.
Mike Keane is mostly known for the three Stanley Cups he won with the Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars as a gritty forward with Selke Trophy attributes. But, at the end of his storied NHL career which spanned 16 seasons and six teams, he played 64 games for the Canucks.
Keane Becoming a Canuck
After being bought out by the Avalanche in 2003, Keane signed a one-year deal with the Canucks to provide veteran leadership in the bottom six. The 36-year-old veteran had just finished his second stint with the Avs, the team he won his second championship with back in 1996 when Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg were in their heyday.
The Canucks, being the perennial playoff contender they were back in the 2000s, needed a veteran fourth-line presence like Keane to push the needle in the playoffs. His experience as a three-time Stanley Cup champion was expected to be valuable when they inevitably made it to the dance.
Donning the Orca
Before meeting the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs, Keane was a valuable member of the Canucks’ bottom-six with Jarkko Ruutu, Artem Chubarov, Brad May and Trevor Linden. He averaged 11:11 of ice time a night and saw the third-most time on the penalty kill (2:43) behind Linden (3:07) and Magnus Arvedson (2:47). Three of his eight assists also came shorthanded on goals by Chubarov, Jiri Slegr and Tyler Bouck.
By the end of the season, Keane had eight goals and 17 points, the most since 2001-02 when he had 17 points split between the Avalanche and St. Louis Blues. Two of his eight goals were also game-winners. In other words, he seemed poised to help the Canucks win a Stanley Cup.
Unfortunately, Keane didn’t transform into his old self when the postseason came around. In his previous three Cup runs, he had 10 goals and 27 points, including a 15-point effort with the Canadiens in 1993. With the Canucks, he went pointless and became a footnote in a seven-game opus that ended in heartbreak when former Canuck Martin Gelinas scored the series-winning goal in overtime after Markus Naslund tied it in the waning seconds of the third period. He retired from the NHL shortly after that.
The Rest of Keane’s Career
As for the rest of his career, Keane made his NHL debut in 1988-89 as a 21-year-old with the Canadiens after they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of the American Hockey League (AHL)’s Sherbrooke Canadiens. Before he inked his first NHL deal, he had just finished an impressive 1987-88 season that saw him score 25 goals and 68 points in 78 games. Over the course of his career, he played for six teams – including the Canadiens, Avalanche, Stars, New York Rangers, Blues and Canucks.
Keane finished his career with 168 goals and 470 points in 1,161 games. Most of his success came in Montreal where he hit his only 60-point season when he recorded 15 goals and 45 assists in 80 games. It was also there that the gritty Winnipeg-native posted a career-high 119 penalty minutes in 1993-94, just one season after winning his first Stanley Cup. Speaking of the Cup, he was also a prolific playoff performer, as he accumulated 34 goals and 74 points in 220 career playoff games. As mentioned earlier, he won Stanley Cups with the Canadiens (1993), Avalanche (1996) and Stars (1999), making him only the 11th player to win a championship with three different teams.
Despite his NHL success, Keane never saw the international stage during his career. His only experience came during the 1987 World Juniors when he put up a single assist in six games.
After the lockout that claimed the 2004-05 season, Keane signed an AHL deal with the Canucks’ farm team at the time, the Manitoba Moose. Being a hometown boy, he became an instant fan favourite and ended up captaining the team for five seasons. During that time, he mentored countless prospects including future NHLers Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond and Michael Grabner. He was basically a player-coach down there for those guys. So, it’s really no surprise that he is now a development coach for the Winnipeg Jets, a position he’s held since 2013-14. His jersey is now hanging in the rafters after the Moose retired his No. 12 in 2011.
Keane may have only played 64 games for the Canucks, but he will go down as one of the best veteran leaders they ever had. Mostly because he helped develop core pieces in Kesler, Burrows, Bieksa, Edler, Hansen and Raymond – five players who were integral to the success the Canucks had in the 2010s when they were arguably one of the best teams in the NHL. Just for his work in the AHL with the prospects, he should be remembered as a lifelong Canuck, not just a veteran that had a cup of coffee with them.
All-Time Canucks Ranks
Games Played: 64 GP (T276th)
Goals: 8 G (T235th)
Assists: 9 A (T284th)
Points: 17 PTS (T267th)
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout 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.