Great leaders may retire, yet remain immortal because of their legacy.
For Vancouver great Trevor Linden, the limelight was never what he wanted, yet it is where he performed the best.
Trevor Linden (Vancouver Canucks 1988-89 - 1997-98; New York Islanders 1997-98-1998-99; Montreal Canadiens 1999-2000-2000-01; Washington Capitals 2000-01-2001-02; Vancouver Canucks 2001-02-2007-08)
Trevor Linden's life began in Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1970 as he was born to Lane and Edna Linden. Growing up in Medicine Hat, Linden excelled at school and was offered a scholarship to Princeton University. Instead, Linden declined and stayed in Medicine Hat to play for the hometown Tigers.
During Linden's time with the Tigers, he would win two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, captaining the Tigers to their second straight title in 1987-88 with 110 points in 67 games. During the 1988 playoffs, Linden set a record by scoring the fastest goal from the start of a game, only seven seconds into the game.
His play in the WHL made him the second overall pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, selected by the Vancouver Canucks. Linden was picked behind Mike Modano, who was selected by the Minnesota North Stars.
Linden's rookie season would be a phenomenal one. Linden notched his first goal on October 18th against the New York Islanders Kelly Hrudey and would notch his first hat trick on November 17th against the North Stars. He would finish first in goal scoring with 30 goals and second in points with 59. Linden became the first Canucks rookie to score 30 goals in a season.
He would also become the first Canucks rookie to win the Cyclone Taylor Award (rewarded to the MVP of the Canucks) and would finish second in Calder Trophy voting behind Brian Leetch. He would also make the NHL All-Rookie Team.
As his time in Vancouver moved on, Linden would become one of three players who would share the rotation captaincy of the Canucks, along with Doug Lidster and Dan Quinn, in only Linden's third season. He would lead the Canucks with 70 points and 37 assists and make an appearance at the 1991 NHL All-Star Game.
At the age of 21, Linden became the sole captain of the Canucks. He responded with 75 points and 33 goals along with another NHL All-Star Game appearance.
Yet, the Canucks would only make a trip to the second round in 1992 and 1993 playoffs, only defeating the lowly Winnipeg Jets in both first rounds both years.
During the 1993-94 season, Linden put up another 30 goal season and the Canucks would finish in seventh place. Yet, the Canucks would upset the heavily favoured Calgary Flames thanks to Pavel Bure's clutch goal in overtime of Game 7. They would then take out the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs, both in five games before running into the New York Rangers.
After being down 3-1 in the series, the Canucks fought their way back to force a Game 7. This game would be the stuff of legends, as legendary captain Mark Messier of the New York Rangers battled Trevor Linden for the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup. Despite being down all game, Linden notched the only two Vancouver goals as the Canucks fell one game short of the ultimate prize.
However, Linden's 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 24 playoff games put him as a frontrunner as the MVP of the Canucks during their playoff run.
The next season, the Canucks would be bounced by the Chicago Blackhawks and would fall again the next season to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the first round.
Linden would post a career year in 1995-96, when he reached the 80 point plateau, scoring 33 goals and 47 assists. Yet, Linden's numbers would drop due to injury.
His ironman streak of 482 consecutive games - from October 4, 1990 to December 3, 1996 - would be broken that season. Despite playing only 49 games during the 1996-97 season, Linden was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his contributions to the Vancouver community.
At the start of the 1997-98 season, the struggling Canucks brought in Mark Messier and head coach Mike Keenan in hopes of reviving the franchise. However, friction developed between Keenan and Linden to the point that Keenan blamed a 5-1 loss to St. Louis on Linden. It was the lowest, darkest point of Linden's career.
That season, Linden played in the Olympic for Canada, showing his grit and leadership on the world stage. He would notch the only Canadian goal against Dominik Hasek in the semi-finals as Canada would fall to the Czech Republic in the shootout.
During the 1998 season, Linden was elected as the President of the NHLPA and was directly involved in talks with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on behalf of the NHLPA and its players. Having been an NHLPA representative since 1990, Linden was well suited to take over former President Mike Gartner well.
On February 6, 1998, Linden was dealt to the New York Islanders in return for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, and the Islanders' 3rd Round Choice in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft (selected Jarko Ruutu). However, Linden was hit with injuries and managed to play only one full season with the Islanders, scoring 47 points and adding 18 goals.
Linden was again traded, this time to the Montreal Canadiens. While there, Linden signed a four-year, $15 million contract. Yet, injuries kept Linden out of the lineup and he was eventually traded to the Washington Capitals with Dainius Zubrus, in return for Richard Zednik, Jan Bulis, and Washington's 1st Round Choice in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft (selected Alex Perezhogin).
Linden would make the playoffs for the first time since 1996 in 2001, but the Capitals were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Linden's career was in whirlwind mode, having being traded three times and finally for a fourth time, back to the Vancouver Canucks in return for draft picks.
In 2003-04, Linden would play his first full season since 1998-99 and would score 36 points in 82 games. However, Linden was not the clutch goal scorer he used to be. Linden's numbers had been declining ever since the Canucks march to the finals.
Linden became a role player in Vancouver and of course, he was a leader in the dressing room, wearing an "A" for the alternate captain under captain Markus Naslund. The Canucks seemed to be a legitimate threat in the early 2000s, yet in 2002-03, the Canucks could not shut the Wild down after being up 3-1 in the series.
In 2006-07, the Canucks eliminated the Dallas Stars in the first round yet were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks in five games. It would be Linden's final playoff game.
During the 2007-08 season, Linden would score 7 goals and add 5 assists for 12 points in 59 games, playing mostly on the third line as a checker. Even with a demoted position on the Canucks, Linden's play, leadership, and determination were second to none on the Canucks and a truly valuable asset.
On June 11th, 2008, Trevor Linden announced his retirement from the NHL.
Trevor Linden's career was one that defined a hard-nosed, hard-working player who never quit, never backed down, and showed leadership at a young age. His play will be remembered forever, not only in his beloved Vancouver, but around the NHL forever.
Trevor Linden's Regular Season Stats (1382 GP, 375 Goals, 492 Assists, 867 Points, 895 PIMs)
Trevor Linden's Playoff Stats (124 GP, 34 Goals, 65 Assists, 99 Points, 104 PIMs)
Awards & Accomplishments:
Amassed 4 Goals and 9 Assists for 13 Points in 30 Senior International Events from World Championships to the Olympics
NHL All-Star Game - 1991, 1992
King Clancy Memorial Trophy - 1997
NHL All-Rookie Team - 1989
NHL Foundation Player Award - 2008
WHL East Second All-Star Team - 1988
Memorial Cup Tournament All-Star Team - 1988
Cyclone Taylor Award (Canucks MVP) - 1989, 1991, 1995, 1996
Most Exciting Canucks Player Award - 1989, 1991
Molson Cup (As Awarded by the Canucks) - 1989
Cyrus H. McLean Trophy (Top Canucks Scorer) - 1991, 1992