Matthew Zator The Hockey Writers
Vancouver Canucks All-Time Team
Over the course of their 50-year history, the Vancouver Canucks have had many memorable and legendary players walk the halls of Rogers Arena and the Pacific Coliseum. With the 50th anniversary season now completed, I thought it would be interesting to assemble an all-time Canucks team.
Too bad we can’t go back in time and grab these players from their primes, and play them together. But alas, time machines do not exist. For now, we can only imagine a world where we could watch this team in action.
1st Line:Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alex Burrows
This was one of the most exciting lines in Canucks history. Why wouldn’t it be a line on the all-time squad? From the minute Alex Burrows was placed with the twins, we knew something special was created. In the midst of a nine-game winless streak at home and desperate for a spark, then head coach Alain Vigneault put these three together. No one thought anything would come of it, but Burrows became the triplet that the Sedins were looking for.
With hard work, smarts and a psychic connection between the Sedins, Burrows put up four seasons of over 25 goals. He was also part of many shifts where they looked almost unstoppable, passing the puck around like it was on a string.
As for Henrik and Daniel Sedin, there could be a book written about the impact they left on the team, not to mention the NHL. Proponents of the cycle game, constant no-look passes, as well as the slap pass, the twins put up quite the highlight reel throughout their careers. They are two of the biggest legends to suit up for the Canucks.
2nd Line: Markus Naslund – Brendan Morrison – Todd Bertuzzi
It would not be an all-time team without the vaunted West Coast Express line. Featuring two of the most prolific scorers in Canucks history, this line terrorized opponents nightly with their speed, skill, and power; Naslund with his laser-like wrist shot, Bertuzzi with his size and skill in front of the net, and Morrison with his defensive and play-making skills at center ice. In the 2002-03 season, the line combined for 272 points which accounted for 45 percent of the team’s scoring.
3rd Line: Alex Mogilny – Elias Pettersson – Pavel Bure
Now we come to the fantasy part of the broadcast. In other words, the fun part. Imagine if this line could play together now. Armed with speed, skill, creativity, and natural goal-scoring ability, it would probably dominate most games. Bure and Mogilny put on a show almost every night when they played, scoring a combined 465 times in Canucks colours. Add the creativity and genius of Pettersson and you have one heck of a trio.
4th Line: Stan Smyl – Bo Horvat – Trevor Linden
Introducing the character line. Two former captains and one future captain all gifted with tremendous leadership, heart, and two-way ability. Smyl and Linden both led the Canucks for eight seasons while Horvat is leading them in 2019-20 and beyond. This line would be a coach’s dream: defensively sound while providing offense and a motivational speech when needed. If I was the coach, I would be calling on this line every chance I could for an infusion of energy.
All three bleed Canucks colours. If you asked for the definition of a Vancouver Canuck, it would be either Linden, Smyl or Horvat.
Despite leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Canucks fans, I felt the need to add Kesler to this team. The truth is, you can’t ignore the fact that he was a key member of three of the most successful teams in franchise history. In his prime, he was probably one of the most valuable players on the ice. Fast, gritty, and exceptional on faceoffs, Kesler could take over a game. In fact, he did it many times during the team’s 2011 Stanley Cup run, specifically versus the Nashville Predators when he entered “beast mode” more than a few times. It appears all is forgiven now as he appeared at the Sedins’ jersey retirement ceremony and got a standing ovation from the faithful at Rogers Arena.
After much internal debate, I went with current Canucks scout Thomas Gradin for the final selection. Responsible for many of the Swedish stars that have come through the system over the years, Gradin was no slouch as an NHL player either. Possessing playmaking abilities rivaling Henrik Sedin, he was one of the most important Canucks during the Smyl era.
1st Pair: Mattias Ohlund – Sami Salo
When healthy, Ohlund and Salo were two of the most important players on the Canucks’ blue line. When out of the lineup, the defense core seemed to lack cohesion and structure. It was a no-brainer to include them as the top pairing.
Ohlund is arguably the top Canucks defenseman of all time even though Edler has surpassed him in points. Despite the lingering injuries, he still played his heart out, leading all blueliners in ice time on most nights. Injuries finally caught up with him though, prematurely ending his NHL career.
Salo was one of the most underrated blueliners during his tenure with the Canucks. He was also famous for being injured way too often. Despite this, he still put up solid numbers and was a weapon on the power play because of his booming slap shot. To this day, the Canucks have yet to replace him and his one-timer on the man advantage.
2nd Pair: Alex Edler – Kevin Bieksa
The only active member of the Canucks’ blue line on this team, Edler currently holds the all-time record for goals and games played for a defenseman. Over the years, Edler has developed into a top-pairing defender capable of playing in all situations. Having now completed his 14th season with the team, he will probably retire wearing the Orca on his chest.
Joining him is Kevin Bieksa, one of the toughest defensemen the Canucks have ever seen. He broke into the league primarily as a depth player but quickly became more. Known as a fierce fighter, he endeared himself to fans as a player who would not shy away from physical play. As he developed, so did his offensive game and he became an effective two-way defenseman, putting up 241 points in blue and green. His fun personality was a bonus that I hope comes back to the front office or coaching staff one day.
3rd Pair: Jyrki Lumme – Ed Jovanovski
The final pairing consists of two of the most prolific goal-scoring defensemen the Canucks have ever had. Until recently, Lumme held almost every defense scoring record and was a key cog in the 1994 Stanley Cup run. He put together multiple seasons of 40-plus points and drove the offense from the blue line with his smooth skating and offensive skills which have not been seen in Vancouver since. Quinn Hughes might have something to say about that, however, as he possesses many of the same qualities.
Alongside Lumme is another offensive defenseman, Ed Jovanovski. Known as “Jovocop”, he put together multiple seasons of 40-plus points and was the closest the Canucks have ever gotten to a franchise d-man. Again, Hughes will probably have something to say about that as well. Jovanovski was capable of running the offense, while also providing a physical presence from the back end.
The final selection to this team is none other than Harold Snepsts. He was never the most skilled defenseman but definitely the most popular. Known primarily for his leadership, toughness, heart, and grit, Snepsts is still popular around British Columbia. He rounds out the all-time team’s defense core.
Roberto Luongo – Kirk McLean
What can you say about this tandem that hasn’t been said already? Presiding over two of the most epic eras in Canucks hockey, Luongo and McLean rank first and second, respectively, in almost every all-time goaltending category. It would be a crime not to have them man the crease for this team. I made Luongo the starter, but it’s more of a 1A/1B scenario.
Pat Quinn – Alain Vigneault
Regarding who should coach this team, my first thought went to the late Pat Quinn. Widely considered the most influential coach/general manager in Canucks history, Quinn helped bring the Canucks out of the dark days by drafting Linden as well as making several astute trades that set the franchise up for the next decade. His influence is still felt around Rogers Arena.
Working alongside Quinn is Vigneault, the winningest coach in franchise history. Say what you want, I believe he was the only coach that truly understood how to use the Sedin twins. He found the ice time that was ideal for them and used them strategically in games. If it was up to me, Vigneault would have coached the Canucks for a few more seasons. In fact, he would probably still be coaching them today.
There you have it, the Vancouver Canucks’ all-time team. Despite all the historic highs and lows, the organization has had many exciting players over the years. We have been fortunate to witness the rarity of the Sedins and the dominance of the West Coast Express. Not to mention the many personalities who have graced the ice of the Pacific Coliseum and Rogers Arena/General Motors Place. Canucks fans should be proud to be part of the team’s history as well as the exciting journey to come.
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