There’s a lull in the news about the Vancouver Canucks because of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so I thought I would take an opportunity to look back over Vancouver Canucks’ history and weigh in who I believe have been the greatest Canucks of all time.
What prompted this post actually wasn’t all that historical. Like many other Canucks fans, I have been smitten by the emergence of Elias Pettersson as a force on the roster in ways I don’t remember since the 1994 Canucks Stanley Cup run and the exciting play of then-Canuck Pavel Bure.
As I was watching Pettersson chase, and eventually beat Bure’s former rookie points record this season, I couldn’t help but wonder if Pettersson would become the greatest Canuck forward of all time. There’s a chance, but he isn’t that right now. We’ll leave that consideration for another day.
Here’s my list of the top three Canucks’ forwards of all time.
First Place: Henrik Sedin
It was an odd 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Not in my elderly memory was there a time when two brothers were so highly coveted. And, although I’m not a big Brian Burke fan, the former general manager’s hard work to get the brothers Sedin at number two and number three set up the Canucks for a long time.
Rightfully, Henrik was chosen before his brother Daniel. Henrik eventually became the Canucks’ captain just prior to the 2010-11 season when Roberto Luongo was relieved (and by relieved, I really mean Luongo probably let out a sigh of relief) of the job. If Canucks fans recall, in 2008 Luongo was named only the sixth goalie/captain of an NHL team in history.
After Henrik won the Art Ross and the Hart Trophy in 2010, he became the 13th captain in Canucks history. He played more games (1,330) than any other Canuck in history. He’s the all-time leader in team scoring with 1,070 points. He leads in career plus-minus at plus-165. And, during the 2009-10 season, he set the Canucks’ season scoring record of 112 points.
Funny, I read that when Burke first scouted Henrik and Daniel he didn’t believe they would make it in the NHL. Yet, when the team celebrates its 50th anniversary as a franchise next season, they will retire both the twins’ jerseys.
Henrik Sedin is my choice #1 for the best Canuck forward of all time.
Second Place: Daniel Sedin
As much as I considered it, it was almost impossible not to choose both twins together as numbers one and two on my list of all-time best Canucks forwards. Their body of work together was too impossible to ignore. In fact, some would say that Daniel, because he was more of a goal-scoring forward, might even be better than Henrik. That’s a tough call. I chose Henrik because I included his leadership as well as his play on the ice.
During his NHL career, Daniel had almost twice as many shots-on-goal as his brother (3,474 to 1,856). Daniel is the Canucks’ all-time goal-scoring leader (393), and he leads the team both in even-strength goals (255) and power-play goals (138).
Daniel had a great 2010-11 season. He was awarded the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer (104 points) and voted the NHL’s best player by his peers (the Ted Lindsay Award). Finally, during the team’s Stanley Cup Final run against the Boston Bruins that took them to Game 7, he scored 20 points in 25 playoff games.
As I noted, it’s tough to separate the brothers – and I haven’t here. Both will one day represent the Canucks in the Hockey Hall of Fame. As many have noted before me, their play together was legendary. They seemed to know where each other was on the ice at all times.
Daniel Sedin is my choice for the second best Canuck forward of all time.
Third Place: Pavel Bure
Pavel Bure, the “Russian Rocket,” was an electrifying right-winger. But, his arrival in Vancouver wasn’t easy. He was drafted by the Canucks in the sixth round (113th overall) of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, but there was controversy. Some believed the Canucks chose Bure a year before he was eligible, and it took a year of legal procedures for the NHL to allow the pick.
As a result, Bure didn’t make his first start with the team until Nov. 3, 1991. But, although he started the season a month late, he scored a remarkable 34 goals and 60 points in 69 games and won the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie. That season was the first any Canucks player or coach had won an individual NHL award. Bure won the Calder, and head coach Pat Quinn won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s top coach.
Bure’s career with the Canucks didn’t last a long time (from 1991-1998), but I can still recall how he excited the Canucks fanbase with his play. No one else in the history of the franchise played
Bure led the Canucks to Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final and seemed to play better in the playoffs than during the regular season. His playoff scoring was outstanding; in 60 playoff
Bure was an exceptional goal-scorer. He scored 254 goals, 224 assists, and 478 points in 428 games as a Canuck. He continues to lead the team with 24 short-handed goals and a scoring average of 1.12 points per game. The only other Canuck close to averaging a point a game was Alexander Mogilny, who averaged .99 points per game.
Bure was the first Canuck to make the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had two straight 60-goal seasons (1992-93 and 1993-94), which were his two best scoring seasons. His 110-point season was the Canucks’ single-season record until Henrik Sedin broke it in 2009-10 (with 112 points).
Bure’s career as a Canuck didn’t end well. After the 1997-98 season, he announced that he wouldn’t return to the team in 1998-99 and was traded to the Florida Panthers. That ending notwithstanding, Bure had a wonderful career with the Canucks, who retired his jersey in 2013. He’s probably the most talented player ever to wear the Canucks’ jersey and was a “generational” player for the team.
Who Else Did I Consider?
No consideration of the Canucks’ best forwards would leave out Markus Naslund, who played for the team between 1995 and 2008, or Trevor Linden, who spent 16 seasons as a Canuck between 1988 to 1998 and 2001 and 2008.
I hope I’m still around in five years to weigh in on how Pettersson’s Canuck career has progressed. Until then, my votes are the Sedin twins as the two best Canuck players and Bure as the third best.