Vancouver Canucks fans have been fortunate enough to see some great names embroidered on the backs of jerseys for the past couple of decades. There are names that immediately come to mind when we hear the word ‘great.’ Guys like Mattias Öhlund, Markus Näslund and the Sedin twins collectively occupy a space in our hearts. There is, however, a plethora of names we sometimes forget. That doesn’t mean these other players aren’t memorable, it just means we’ve been so focused on the obviously great or elite players in the organization – past and present.
For the sake of keeping this list concise and compact, I’ll only be including players who played two seasons or less with the Canucks.
Anson Carter – Right Wing
Born in Toronto in 1974, Anson Carter played four seasons with Michigan State University and was drafted in the 10th round, 220th overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques.
As his draft position indicates, he was not a highly-touted prospect back in the early 1990s. Most players who are selected that late in their draft have little impact in the NHL. In fact, a 10th-round pick rarely plays an NHL game.
Such was not the case for Carter, as he went on to have a very respectable career that saw him change jerseys several times, once being traded for NHL legend Jaromir Jagr, player-for-player.
During the 2003-04 season, Carter played for three different teams. He started the year with the New York Rangers before being traded to the Washington Capitals and eventually the Los Angeles Kings.
Despite being a very dependable winger for several seasons, Carter only reached the 30-goal mark once in his decade-long NHL career. It only makes sense that it came while he was playing with Henrik and Daniel Sedin as his linemates. In 2005, following the NHL lockout that saw the 2004-05 season vanish into thin air, the Canucks signed Carter to a one-year deal.
Carter found immediate chemistry with the famous Swedish twins, fittingly scoring 33 goals to match Henrik’s jersey number and adding 22 assists to match Daniel’s. In his lone season with the Canucks, Carter cemented himself as one of the most potent scorers ever to play alongside the Sedins. The trio acted as a very talented second-line playing behind the highly touted and respected West Coast Express line of Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison.
As most fans will tell you, Henrik and Daniel were mostly responsible for Carter’s point totals. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound winger opted to sign a one-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the 2006-07 season but ultimately could not replicate the productivity he enjoyed with the Sedin twins as his linemates. Go figure.
Ryan Shannon – Right Wing
Having played less than 30 games for the Canucks, Ryan Shannon is an easy name to forget. But despite his best season being a 27-point campaign with the Ottawa Senators in 2010-11 — during which he scored a career-high 11 goals — his career highlights include a couple of gems.
The former Stanley Cup winner signed with the Canucks in July of 2007 as a restricted free agent of the Anaheim Ducks. In his rookie year, he scored two goals and added nine assists in 53 games for the Ducks en route to capturing the Stanley Cup. Shannon failed to register a point in 11 playoff appearances but did have six penalty minutes.
Shannon may be best remembered for his questionable — yet impressive shootout goal — against then-Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. The right-winger was recalled by the Canucks from the Manitoba Moose, Vancouver’s former AHL affiliate.
Shannon started in on the Blackhawks netminder and swung out wide to the left before cutting across the front of the goal. Khabibulin — nicknamed “the Bulin Wall” took the bait and followed Shannon across the crease, before Shannon did a full spin-o-rama and brought the puck back around behind him and tucked it into the goal, sliding into Khabibulin in the process.
Obviously unhappy with the collision — which definitely made the goal possible — Khabibulin hit the 24-year-old Canuck in the back of the head as he stood back up. Shannon triumphantly turned to face the Blackhawks goaltender and celebrated once more before skating back to the bench.
Shannon went on to play with the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning. While never becoming more than an average bottom-six player, Senators fans might remember this silky shorthanded goal:
Shannon then scored a nearly identical goal during his season with the Lighting off a pass from defender Victor Hedman. One thing is for sure — Ryan Shannon had a knack for getting behind opposing defensemen and turning on the jets.
Despite his occasional flashes of offensive brilliance, Shannon only amassed 35 goals in 305 career NHL games before joining Zurich SC in the Swiss A league. Shannon played five seasons in Switzerland before hanging up the skates.
The six-year NHL veteran ended up coaching the varsity boys hockey team at The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, where he played varsity lacrosse and hockey for four years before graduating in 2001 and subsequently attending Boston College.
Raffi Torres – Left Wing
Drafted fifth overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, Raffi Torres established himself as a gritty forward with some offensive prowess, surpassing the 15-goal mark five times in his 12-year career and twice surpassing the 20-goal mark.
While most would hope to see more from a player taken in the first round of any draft, Torres enjoyed a fruitful 635-game career that saw him accumulate a respectable 137 goals and 123 assists. For a scrappy player who collected more penalty minutes than points, he amassed solid numbers that would suggest that he was more than just a human wrecking ball.
In 2010, former Canucks general manager Mike Gillis signed the former Columbus Blue Jacket to a one-year, $1 million contract. The deal proved to be a great bargain, as his tenacity immediately had him pegged as a fan favourite. Torres registered 14 goals and 15 assists for the Canucks en route to the Stanley Cup Final, where he scored the first goal of the series against the eventual champions, the Boston Bruins.
The deal could only be described as low-risk, high-reward, as Torres provided an immediate injection of physicality and determination to the team’s bottom-six forward group. The 6-foot, 215 pound former Brampton Battalion forward was a Swiss army knife for Vancouver, scoring clutch goals, throwing big hits and dropping the gloves when needed.
Despite his general inability to avoid suspensions, amassing 74 games missed due to multiple suspensions, the Toronto native established himself as an integral part of the Canucks’ lineup during his lone season with the club. Torres appears on NHL’s list of longest suspensions not once, but twice. Not what you’d call a good look for any veteran NHLer.
Torres’ most notable moment with the Canucks came against the Chicago Blackhawks, then a bitter rival of the team. In Game 3 of their playoff series, Raffi Torres took out Brent Seabrook with a hard check while he had his head down, behind the net. Torres was penalized on the play but avoided a suspension for the hit, much to the chagrin of Blackhawks fans.
The former Edmonton Oiler struggled with discipline during his career, garnering a massive 41-game suspension once for a high, late hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg. Torres’ career came to a halt in 2016 after a nagging knee injury kept him sidelined for the better part of two NHL seasons.
After signing a professional tryout agreement with the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the 2015-16 season, the veteran winger realized that his body, mostly due to his recurring knee issues, could not operate the way that it used to.
Without good health on his side, Torres would lack the effectiveness that had cemented him as a physical force on the ice in years past. The Hurricanes released Torres prior to the start of the regular season. He announced his retirement a month later.
Torres may have played just one season with the Canucks, but he was an impact player who created moments — good and bad — and we should remember him for it.
What About the Others?
We could fill an entire book with the names of players who briefly played for the Canucks. Not all of them would be remembered fondly, of course. While Canucks’ management has made some excellent signings in the past — guys like Radim Vrbata, Pavol Demitra, Mikael Samuelsson and Willie Mitchell come to mind — it is seemingly at times much easier to remember the bad signings; the Mark Messiers and the Loui Erikssons of the world.
While many fans have become accustomed to screaming for retributive justice upon discovering that their team’s general manager overpaid for a player they personally don’t love, once in a while we might find a diamond in the rough; a Jordie Benn or a Michael Ferland.
Despite the sometimes questionable or even awful decisions of our favourite team’s GM, we ought to give respect when respect is due. Not every deal pays off, and some deals can handcuff a team for years to come. At the end of the day, we must genuinely understand that hockey is a business, and sometimes you have to make decisions that are tough.