1984 to 1987 – Bill Laforge, Tom Watt and the Cam Neely Trade

1984-85

Coach: Bill LaForge/Harry Neale
Captain: Stan Smyl
First Round Draft Pick: JJ Daigneault
Leading Scorer: Patrik Sundstrom
Playoff Result: Missed Playoffs

The 1984-85 season marked the beginning of a dark era in Vancouver Canucks history. This was an era in which bad trades, poor drafting and not much talent was worsened by the fact that the team was in the best division in hockey. The era got off to a brutal start in 1984-85 when the Canucks hired Bill LaForge to coach the team. LaForge was a successful junior coach in the WHL but had a hard time relating to NHL players. He was promptly fired after 22 games. The team finished 23 points out of a playoff spot. Petri Skriko’s 20 goal rookie season and the emergence of a young Doug Lidster were the lone bright spots in a year in which everyone else’s numbers were down.

1985-86

 

Coach: Tom Watt
Captain: Stan Smyl
First Round Draft Pick: Jim Sandlak
Leading Scorer: Petri Skriko
Playoff Result: Lost in 1st Round

Former Winnipeg Jets head coach, Tom Watt, was hired to coach the sad sack Canucks in the 1985-86 season. They finished with an even worse record than the year before, but amazingly made the playoffs due to winning the turtle derby with the Los Angeles Kings. They were trounced in 3 straight games to the two-time Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers (the scores in the three games: 7-3, 5-1, 5-1). The most significant event of the season was the rift that developed between young power forward Cam Neely and head coach Tom Watt. Neely had a poor season under Watt and was traded away in the offseason in the worst trade in team history. The Canucks traded 20 year old Cam Neely and a first round draft pick (which the Bruins used to select Glen Wesley) to the Boston Bruins for Barry Pederson. Neely would go on to a Hall of Fame career with the Bruins.

1986-87

Coach: Tom Watt
Captain: Stan Smyl
First Round Draft Pick: Dan Woodley
Leading Scorer: Tony Tanti
Playoff Result: Missed Playoffs

Cam Neely was gone before the 1986-87 season, as was one of the best players in franchise history, Thomas Gradin. ‘The House’ Jim Sandlak played in his first full NHL season, as did Dave Lowry. Rich Sutter was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Doug Lidster set a club record for points in a season by a defenceman (63), a record that still stands today. Despite the record season from Lidster, the Canucks were now a shadow of the team that made it to the Stanley Cup final in 1982. They had lost a lot of their character players and Richard Brodeur was past his prime. Tony Tanti, Barry Pederson, Petri Skriko and Patrik Sundstrom were their leading scorers and they missed the playoffs. That cost head coach Tom Watt his job, and it was back to the drawing board for the Canucks.

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