1997 to 1998 – Mark Messier, Mike Keenan, and the “Dismantling”


Coach: Tom Renney/Mike Keenan
Captain: Mark Messier
First Round Draft Pick: Brad Ference
Leading Scorer: Pavel Bure
Playoff Result: Missed Playoffs

The perception with the Canucks after the 1997-98 season was that the Canucks were a good team but lacked leadership. It should have come as no surprise then that the Canucks went after the legendary Mark Messier in the offseason. The Canucks were able to sign Messier to a three year, $18 million contract, giving Canucks fans a lot of reason for excitement.

The Canucks began the season playing two regular season games against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in Tokyo, Japan. Before the games, Trevor Linden stepped down as captain of the Canucks, giving the C to Mark Messier. Messier was commonly referred to ‘the greatest leader in sports’ and the move was largely accepted.

The thought was that with Messier, Linden, Bure and Mogilny, the Canucks would have fire power to compete with any team in the league. Unfortunately, they still hadn’t addressed their problems on defence (aside from the addition of rookie Mattias Ohlund) or in goal, and got off to a terrible start. That prompted owner John McCaw to fire president and general manager Pat Quinn, as well as head coach Tom Renney. This started a chain of events that would change the Canucks dramatically.

Mike Keenan was hired as head coach, despite the fact that a general manager had not yet been named. Keenan was given say in trades temporarily, and took full advantage. Keenan traded Trevor Linden to the Islanders for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe and a third round draft pick (Jarkko Ruutu). He also traded Kirk McLean to the Hurricanes, Dave Babych to the Flyers and Gino Odjick to the Islanders.

The season could not have gone much worse for the Canucks as they finished the season in last place in the Western Conference. The Canucks were now in full rebuild mode with a 36 year old captain and a whole lot of questions left to be answered.

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