Ten years ago the Vancouver Canucks celebrated their 30th anniversary season and unveiled the “30 greatest Canucks”. Sounded like a good idea right? In 30 years you ought to be able to unveil a pretty impressive list of 30 players. Well, it wasn’t. The first 30 years were not kind to the Canucks franchise and aside from a fluke run to the finals in 1982, it wasn’t until the 90s that they had any real semblance of success.
In 2010, the Canucks official website has decided instead to countdown the top 40 moments (which embarrassingly includes Chris Levesque sitting on the bench and a long road trip but I digress). If it were a true list 20 of the top 40 moments would have occurred in 1994.
The Canucks have had a lot of elite players play for them in the last ten years so I think a top list of players in franchise history is worth revisiting. Ian McIntyre from the Vancouver Sun compiled his own list, but unfortunately it sucks. In my opinion it focuses too much on games played than points scored and too much on popularity than actual substance.
My list gives a lot of weight to overall success on the ice (and less off the ice which is why marketing darling Orland Kurtenbach is not found high on my list). Seriously, check out Kurtenbach’s stats, he was about as productive as Mark Messier in a Canucks uniform (don’t expect to see Messier on the list). Simply being a fan favourite does not get you on the list (see Tiger Williams or Gino Odjick), nor does playing a lot of games in the uniform. Longevity is rewarded a little, excellence is rewarded a lot and playoff success is taken into account as well. Also taken into account is the era in which you played, thus 50 goals in the dead puck era is more impressive than 50 goals in the 1980s.
In today’s installment I will introduce players 31 through 40 on the top 40 countdown. The rest of the list will be unveiled this week. So without further ado:
40. Dale Tallon
The first ever draft pick in team history, he has been commonly seen as a disappointment because he didn’t measure up to the man who was draft before him, Gilbert Perreault. Tallon was a good defenseman in his own right though, showing some offensive flare on an expansion team.
A great guy and a good leader, Kurtenbach would rank a lot higher had he played more years in Vancouver or put up bigger numbers. He played on the team during their early years, and thus doesn’t have a playoff resume with the team. I consider Kurtenbach one of the more overrated players in Canucks history (he ranks 28th on the Vancouver Sun’s list) and is going to be the first player to be honoured by the Canucks ring of honour. He was the first captain in club history, but to me that’s not enough to get this kind of notoriety.
38. Chris Oddleifson
Oddleifson was captain of the team when they won their first division title in 1975. He was a playmaker who showed a lot of grit and leadership. His best year with the team was in 1975-76 when he put up 46 assists and 62 points.
The winger was a consistent goal scorer, putting up four 20+ goal seasons for the Canucks in the 1970s, including a 37 goal season in 1975-76.
36. Garth Butcher
Butcher is second only to Gino Odjick in career penalty minutes, so it goes without saying that he would do anything to win. He was a defensive defenseman that provided a lot of grit for ten years in Vancouver.
35. Harold Snepsts
Apart from having the best mustache in team history (apologies to Dave Babych), Snepsts makes this list mostly because of his longevity with the team. On a lot of lists he would rank higher because of that longevity (he ranks 21st on the Vancouver Sun list) but I don’t give huge points for playing a lot of games. Regardless, Snepsts was a good stay-at-home d-man for a lot of years.
34. Dave Babych
Maybe we should call the 31-40 countdown the mustache edition because here Dave Babych also sports one of the best ‘staches in club history! ‘Babs’ was a key cog on the Canucks blueline in the mid 1990s and provided excellent defending, grit and offense. He scored one of the most clutch goals for the Canucks in 1994, getting the game winner in game 5 against the Rangers. He also ranks third in defenseman playoff scoring.
33. Darcy Rota
Rota spent five seasons in Vancouver and was a consistent performer. Oddly enough, his career year came in his second last season in the league when in 1982-83 where he netted 42 goals.
32. Rick Lanz
An underrated player in Canucks history (so underrated that I couldn’t find a single picture of him on the internet!), defenceman Rick Lanz posted similar numbers to Ed Jovanovski in his time with the Canucks. He was a steady power play quarterback for seven seasons.
31. Kevin McCarthy
The former captain ranks eighth in defensemen scoring and was their top blueliner in the late 70s and early 80s. He put up four straight 40+ point seasons but was extremely unlucky in 1982 when he got a season ending injury late in the season and missed the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals.