Since Trevor Linden is going to have his jersey retired tomorrow at GM Place I figured this week’s edition of Hockey Hermit’s Top 10 Tuesdays should feature the best players to ever pull on a Vancouver Canucks sweater. No, this team has never won and Stanley Cup and hasn’t had the superstars that have graced the rosters of teams like the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings, but the Canucks have been around for close to 4 decades now, and a lot of very good players and colorful characters have laced up for them. Here are my picks for the top 10 Vancouver Canucks:
10 – Todd Bertuzzi – Considering this guy’s legacy with the club following the Steve Moore incident there are probably a lot of readers thinking that I am nuts to be including him on the list of the top 10 Vancouver Canucks of all time. Well, despite the circumstances under which he parted ways with the Canucks there was a time that Big Bert was arguably the most dominant power forward in the league, and together with Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison, he absolutely devastated opposing D-men.
9 – Harold Snepsts – Definitely not the most skilled guy on this list, but Harold Snepsts played the position of defense in the style of the old guard, when guys were there simply to stop opposing players from scoring, not looking for personal glory on the score sheet. Snepsts was a superlative shutdown d-man, and he was a ferocious hitter. He is also one of the most popular Canucks of all time and chants “Haaarrrrooolllllddd” could be heard at every Canucks home game during his playing days.
8 – Roberto Luongo – You can bet that this incredible athlete will be a lot higher on the list once his tenure is done with Vancouver. Based on pure talent this is the best goalie to ever guard the pipes for the Canucks. He should have won the Vezina two seasons ago, but was robbed by the fact that Brodeur plays in the East and gets way more exposure there. Luongo won’t be denied though. He’ll have a few Vezinas of his own before his career is done, and if Vancouver can land him some scoring help he could very well lead them to the first Stanley Cup in Canucks history.
7 – Thomas Gradin – Before Markus Naslund came along there was another offensively gifted Swede who used to put up big points for the Vancouver Canucks. Thomas Gradin was a member of the Canucks team that went all the way to the finals in 1982, and he, along with Stan Smyl and Curt Fraser formed one of the best lines in hockey in the early part of the decade.
6 – Richard Brodeur – Speaking of the 1982 Stanley Cup finals, this guy was the reason the Canucks made it as far as they did that year. Gradin and Smyl were great, yes, but Brodeur elevated his game to another level, putting the Canucks on his back and carrying them into the finals. Sure, they got swept by a powerhouse Islanders team, but if not for Harold Snepsts’ gaff that saw Mike Bossy snipe the winner in game one, who knows how the series might have turned out?
5 – Kirk McLean – Another goalie on the list of the best Canucks of all time, and again one who led them to the Stanley Cup finals. Up until 1994, Richard Brodeur’s run in 1982 had been the definitive playoff performance by a Vancouver Canucks goalie. Well, Kirk McLean did him one better, taking the Canucks to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, where they would bow out by one measly goal to Mark Messier’s New York Rangers. It was the greatest run in club history, and would never have happened if not for McLean’s spectacular goaltending that year, including one incredible save in overtime of game 7 of the opening round against Calgary, where he absolutely stoned Robert Reichel.
4 – Markus Naslund – Though there are those who will question the leadership ability of Markus Naslund during his time with the Vancouver Canucks, no one can question this guy’s raw talent. For a few years playing with Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison, Markus Naslund was one of the best players in the league, and the Lester B. Pearson trophy he won in 2003 is evidence enough. When Naslund was playing with confidence and utilizing his skill and his wicked wrist shot, there was arguably no more dangerous player on the planet. Despite the fact that his numbers tailed off in his last few seasons with the Canucks, Naslund still remains the all time franchise leader in both goals and points.
3 – Stan Smyl – Until Trevor Linden came along there was no player in Vancouver Canucks history as mutually loved or respected as Stan Smyl. Steamer was the consummate Canucks captain, and his blend of skill, grit and determination endeared him to fans, coaches and teammates alike. Smyl captained the Vancouver Canucks for 8 seasons, and when Linden’s number 16 is raised to the rafters tomorrow night it will join Stan Smyl’s #12 as the only two jersey numbers ever retired by the club.
2 – Pavel Bure – Though the Canucks have boasted a lot of great players over their nearly four decades of existence they didn’t have a true superstar until “The Russian Rocket” came along. In his first game Pavel Bure showed the people of Vancouver just how exciting the game of hockey could be, pulling fans out of their seats with electrifying end to end rushes. Bure became the first Canuck player to win a major NHL award, scooping up the Calder in his rookie year. The following year Bure became the first Canuck to score 50 goals in a single season. In fact he scored 60 that year. Then, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he scored 60 again the following year. After knee problems and a less than amicable split with the club Bure went on to greener pastures in Florida. Still, no one can dispute that he is the most exciting player to ever wear and Vancouver Canucks uniform and probably the most talented as well.
1 – Trevor Linden – Can there really be any other choice for the greatest Vancouver Canuck of all time? I’m not just putting Trevor Linden at the top because his jersey is going to be retired tomorrow night. He has taken the title of Mr. Canuck from Stan Smyl, and though he played with several other franchises during his career, Trevor Linden will always be known as a Vancouver Canuck through and through. While not a prolific scorer, Linden was a consistent point producer throughout his career and currently ranks second in all major Canucks scoring categories. He, along with Kirk McLean and Pavel Bure, was a huge force in the playoff run in 1994 that saw him get within inches of hoisting the Stanley Cup. He served as a team captain, an ambassador for both the Canucks and the sport of hockey, and will be honored by all players throughout the league when his jersey goes up to the rafters tomorrow as one of the hardest working, classiest individuals in the history of NHL hockey.
Previous NHL Top 10 Lists: