Around this time, NHL award ballots are completed and submitted ahead of the annual ceremony in June. The Vancouver Canucks have had their share of award winners over their 50-year history. Elias Pettersson is the most recent award winner and won the Calder Trophy for his stellar rookie campaign in 2018-19 that will be remembered for decades to come. In the same way, we cherish Pavel Bure’s Calder victory nearly 30 years ago.
What gets forgotten over time are the runner ups, second-place finishers or award finalists and their spectacular seasons that were not recognized with hardware.
Only a few hockey historians will remember without research that the second-place skater behind Bure’s Calder Trophy win was a young Swedish defenseman named Nicklas Lidstrom. Here is a collection of the top individual award snubs in Canucks history.
Roberto Luongo, Vezina (2007)
No goaltender in Canucks history has won the Vezina Trophy. In 2006-07, Roberto Luongo came painfully close but did not win. He posted the second most win totals in an NHL season with 47 in 76 appearances behind Martin Brodeur who finished with 48 in two more games played that same year (although nine of Brodeur’s 47 wins came in the shootout compared to Luongo’s five shootout wins).
Luongo’s numbers were spectacular with a .921 save percentage, 2.28 goals-against average and 5 shutouts. Unfortunately, Brodeur’s numbers were slightly more impressive and advanced analytics weren’t as prevalent as they are now. However, the Luongo versus Brodeur case ran deeper than the surface numbers.
The New Jersey Devils set the bar as an elite defensive team in the late 90s to mid-2000s. Lou Lamoriello masterminded and implemented a superb defensive scheme that became known as the “neutral zone trap” which resulted in low-scoring games and three Stanley Cup wins for the dynasty.
Since the 1992-93 season, the Devils allowed the least amount of goals in four seasons and never finished below eighth. During that time, the Canucks had not finished with a lower goals-against total than New Jersey once. That is not to take away from Brodeur, a legend of the game, but it’s to give credit to Luongo’s ability to put up nearly identical numbers with a team known for its run-and-gun offensive style.
Not to mention Vancouver’s tremendous 13-point improvement in Luongo’s first season with the franchise. They were transformed from a non-playoff team to a division leader, and the Canucks allowed 54 fewer goals once they added Luongo to the team with mostly the same defensive core from the year prior.
In a unique scenario, Luongo earned more votes for the Hart Trophy than Brodeur who finished with two more first-place votes than Luongo. Now retired and a hopeful for the Hockey Hall of Fame, an individual award would have looked nice on Luongo’s résumé. He played well enough to win it in 2006-07 if not with the Florida Panthers in 2003-04.
Daniel Sedin, Hart (2011)
The storyline was perfectly set up. Twin brothers winning back-to-back MVP awards for the first time in sports history. It sounds like a hit Disney movie already, and like most Disney movies, there is a villain. In this instance, Corey Perry was that villain.
The Canucks were infinitely better than the rest of the NHL in the 2010-11 regular season and Daniel Sedin was their best player. Daniel easily won the Art Ross Trophy by five points over Martin St. Louis and was the only player to eclipse the century mark, totaling 104 points. Sedin also set a career-high in goals with 41.
The season before, brother Henrik, won the Art Ross and surprisingly won the Hart despite having a lower points-per-game total than competitors Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. The following year, Daniel had an even stronger case for the MVP award considering he scored the most points, had the highest points-per-game average and had incredible team success.
Yet, Perry won the award.
Perry finished with six fewer points but scored nine more goals. What hypnotized voters was Perry’s scoring streak at the end of the season to squeak the Anaheim Ducks into the playoffs by a mere four points. He scored 30 points in the final 15 games.
Perry had plenty of help from teammates Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf (despite missing games), Bobby Ryan and Lubomir Visnovsky who all finished in the top-30 in scoring. Only Henrik and Ryan Kesler ranked in the top-30 for Vancouver.
Sedin undoubtedly had the better overall season while Perry caught fire at the perfect time. His extraordinary late-season heroics led to only six playoff games before the Ducks were eliminated by the Nashville Predators in the first round. The Canucks advanced to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Perry’s magical 2010-11 season is one of only two seasons when he finished with higher than 80 points or a point-per-game pace. His Hart victory stands out among other winners, Crosby, Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin, Evgeni Malkin, and Joe Thornton – all future Hall of Famers.
Perry deserves Hall of Fame consideration. Although, with his career rapidly winding down and less than 800 points to his name, he is not at the level of fellow Hart Trophy winners which should have included Daniel Sedin.
Mattias Ohlund, Calder (1998)
Mattias Ohlund’s Canucks debut was much anticipated, delayed at length and highly controversial. The 13th overall selection of the 1994 Draft took four years to sign a lucrative offer sheet with the Toronto Maple Leafs, that the Canucks were forced to match.
Nonetheless, he lived up to the hype, especially in his rookie season, scoring 7 goals and 30 points. However, Ohlund’s defensive prowess proved his value and he won the Babe Pratt Award as the club’s best defenseman. This was not enough to secure the Calder Trophy as Boston Bruins winger, Sergei Samsonov took home the award with a not-too-impressive 47 points.
Ohlund’s performance that season warranted a Calder win. The competition was particularly weak while he excelled on a horrendous team.
Markus Naslund, Hart (2003)
Markus Naslund was the first Canuck to challenge for the Hart Trophy. His stranglehold on the league’s goal and point scoring race with only a few games remaining suggested he was the front-runner for the award in 2002-03. He had a one-point lead over fellow Ornskoldsvik native, Peter Forsberg, and trailed his Colorado Avalanche teammate, Milan Hejduk, by two goals for the league-lead heading into the last day of the regular season on April 6, 2003.
The Avalanche took care of the St. Louis Blues earlier in the night, winning 5-2 and stockpiling points for Forsberg and Hedjuk who combined for 6 points. (The game was strikingly similar to when Henrik Sedin stockpiled points in the season finale against the Calgary Flames in his bid to win the Art Ross in 2009.) Forsberg passed Naslund’s point total with 5:38 left to go in regulation on Hejduk’s 50th goal of the season. The two then reversed roles on an empty net insurance goal to increase Hejduk and Forsberg’s lead in goals and points to two, respectively.
The win catapulted Colorado ahead of the slacking Canucks for the Northwest Division lead. Vancouver played their final game against the lowly Los Angeles Kings who had long been eliminated from playoff contention. The Kings shutout the Canucks 2-0.
Many believed the Canucks let up in that game, with a playoff spot already clinched, and they lost their final two games to non-playoff teams while Colorado was motivated to overtake the division lead. Hejduk ended the season with seven goals in a five-game, goal-scoring streak, surpassing Naslund in goals and capturing the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. Forsberg won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies. Naslund finished second in both.
However, Naslund won the Lester B. Pearson award which is essentially the players’ MVP instead of the media’s. Had the results of that final game been different, who knows if Naslund would have won all three.
Best of the Rest
As previously mentioned, Luongo finished second in Hart voting ahead of Brodeur in 2007. However, both Luongo and Brodeur were snubbed when a 19-year-old and newly crowned face of the league, Sidney Crosby, ran away with this award.
Ryan Kesler finished one first-place vote behind Pavel Datsyuk in Selke voting in 2010. If that isn’t as close as it gets, I don’t know what is. Although, Selke voting is less clear in determining their selections.
Both Brock Boeser (2018) and Trevor Linden (1989) had phenomenal rookie campaigns but lost the Calder race to deserving champions Mat Barzal and Brian Leetch, respectively.
Finally, if a goalie on a losing team can take home the Conn Smythe Trophy as Ron Hextall and J.S Giguere did, Kirk McLean deserves honourable mention for his 1994 playoff performance.
It remains to be seen who will be snubbed this season. Quinn Hughes is a lock to be a top candidate for the Calder this year. Might he join this list and finish as a runner-up or follow in Pettersson’s footsteps and bring the trophy to the west coast for the second consecutive year.