Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo, Pavel Bure and the All-Franchise Team

Adam Graham@@adam_grahamAnalyst IISeptember 7, 2011

Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo, Pavel Bure and the All-Franchise Team

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    The Vancouver Canucks have experienced many highs and lows in their 40-year existence as an NHL franchise, although when you look at their overall team success it’s mostly been low.

    But what would a team compiled of the best Canucks of all-time look like? I’m not talking about ranking the best players in Canucks history from top to bottom because just about anyone can do that. Instead, I’ve created a hypothetical team with four forward lines, three defence pairings and two goalies.

    I’ve decided to compile my all-time Canucks team this way because I feel it’s a much more realistic way of looking at a hockey team. After all, when a coach selects his team he assesses which players fit certain roles as opposed to simply ranking the best players available.

    The forward lines and defence pairings have been built based not only on the accomplishments of the players, but also on the chemistry I feel the players would have with each other and the positions/roles I feel would best suit each player.

    The players on the team have been selected based mostly on their statistics and overall accomplishments with the Canucks, as well as the team success they experienced with the Canucks and the amount of time they spent with the team. It’s a team I feel represents the best the Canucks have to offer, which is why it’s the ultimate Vancouver Canucks team.

Honourable Mentions/Healthy Scratches

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    Call them whatever you want. These are the players who deserve to be mentioned as some of the best players in Canucks history, even if they couldn’t fill one of the roles on the all-time Canucks team. They either didn’t have the accomplishments, team success or longevity as a Canuck to fit in on one of the top four lines or the top three defence pairings:

    Alexander Mogilny

    Don Lever

    Cliff Ronning

    Brendan Morrison

    Patrik Sundstrom

    Lars Lindgren

    Kevin Bieksa

    Sami Salo

Goaltenders: Roberto Luongo and Kirk McLean

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    Choosing the starting and back-up goaltenders was the easiest part of picking this team.

    Luongo is the best goalie in Canucks history and there is no debating it. He’s been nominated for the Vezina trophy twice during his time in Vancouver and single-handedly carried the Canucks to the second round of the playoffs in 2007. His popularity may have declined over the last two years, but he was still a huge reason why the Canucks won the Presidents trophy and made the Stanley Cup Finals this past season.

    Kirk McLean was the last consistent goalie for the Canucks before Luongo came along. He back-stopped the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994 and had one of the all-time great performances in finals history, making 52 saves en route to a Game One overtime victory.

    Not only was McLean a great goaltender, but he was also a calm leader with a minimal ego. Therefore, he would likely have no problem accepting a back-up role to Luongo on the ultimate Canucks team.

Third Defence Pairing: Harold Snepsts and Dennis Kearns

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    While Harold Snepsts' best asset as a Canuck is probably his longevity (nine seasons with the team), he was also a very solid defenseman who played an extremely important role on the Canucks team that made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982.

    He was a great stay-at-home d-man who also chipped in offensively on occasion (31 points in 1978-79) and was one tough customer when it came to the physical aspect of the game. In fact, Snepsts was arguably the best fighter in team history who could still contribute in other ways at the NHL level.

    Dennis Kearns, on the other hand, was a great offensive defenseman in the 1970’s. He still holds the record for most assists by a Canuck defenseman in one season (55 in 1976-77).

    Kearns was an extremely consistent player despite playing on some bad teams and played a big part in getting the Canucks to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1975. He spent his entire NHL career with the Canucks.

    Combining the offensive instincts of Kearns with the steady and physical play of Snepsts seems like a good balance for the No. 5 and 6 d-men on the all-time Canucks team.

Second Defence Pairing: Jyrki Lumme and Kevin McCarthy

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    Jyrki Lumme is one of the best offensive defensemen in Canucks history and is also one of the best Finnish-born hockey players off all time.

    He had four seasons with 40 or more points and was the Canucks power play quarterback throughout the early and mid '90s when the team was extremely successful.

    Kevin McCarthy is a former team captain from 1979-82 and he put up at least 40 points in all four seasons he played with the Canucks. He was the team's best defenseman during that time, although he never got to take part in their run to the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals because of a season-ending injury.

    Lumme and McCarthy would likely work as a defence pairing because they generally played on opposite sides of the ice, with Lumme being a left-handed shot and McCarthy shooting right.

Top Defence Pairing: Ed Jovanovski and Mattias Ohlund

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    Jovo Cop was a great player during the West Coast Express era. What more can you say about a guy who was drafted first overall in 1994 and was also the key player who the Canucks received in the Pavel Bure trade?

    Jovanovski’s offensive talents along with his grit and leadership made him a huge part of some very good Canucks teams early on in the 21st century.

    Mattias Ohlund is the Canucks all-time leader in defenseman scoring and was also a strong player in his own zone. In his 11 years in Vancouver, Ohlund was a great leader and a mentor to many younger Canucks players.

    Ohlund and Jovanovski played on the same team for six full seasons so they’d likely make a good pairing, even though coach Marc Crawford usually didn’t put them on the ice at the same time. The offensive rushes of Jovanovski could easily be covered by the stellar defensive play of Ohlund if they were paired together as well.

Fourth Line: Greg Adams – Ryan Kesler – Andre Boudrias

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    The forwards who play on the fourth line on any hockey team need to have some grit and be responsible in their own zone in order for their team to be successful. I believe all three of these players would be able to play on a fourth line effectively if asked to.

    Greg Adams was a gritty left winger who played eight seasons with the Canucks, his best being his first when he racked up 76 points. Adams was known more for the timely goals he scored during the Canucks 1994 playoff run, particularly his overtime winner that won the Western Conference title. 

    Ryan Kesler would make a great fourth-line centre on the all-time Canucks team because he played a similar role earlier in his career with the Canucks. He was a shut-down centre before his offensive numbers took off recently, even though he won the Selke trophy as the team's second-line centre this season.

    Andre Boudrias held the Canucks all-time record for most assists in a season for more than 30 years until Henrik Sedin broke the record in 2006-07. Boudrias had five consecutive seasons of 60 or more points with the Canucks, but he was also able to play more of a defensive role during the 1975-76 season when he captained the team. This shows that Boudrias could play on the fourth line if he had to.

Third Line: Tony Tanti – Thomas Gradin – Stan Smyl

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    Tony Tanti may have played on some of the worst teams in Canucks history, but he was a great left winger and certainly did his best to make those teams respectable. Tanti wore a Canucks jersey from 1982 (after their run to the finals) to 1990 and ranks eighth in all-time points. His best season was in 1983-84 when he scored 45 goals and racked up 86 points.

    Thomas Gradin was probably the best player on the Canucks 1982 team that made the Stanley Cup Finals. He was a wonderful play-making centre who led the team in scoring during both the regular season and playoffs that year and he ranks sixth in all-time points as a Canuck.

    At right wing, Stan Smyl would provide most of the grit to this line as he was known more for his determination than he was for his skill. With that being said, Smyl still ranks third on the Canucks all-time points list and was the first player in team history to have his jersey retired.

    Smyl is one of the most significant players in Canucks history as he played on the team for 12 seasons and captained them from 1982 to 1990. Even though he wasn’t as skilled as many of the players who made this team and even some who didn’t, Smyl deserves a spot on the team because of his leadership and his contributions to the Canucks over the years. I believe a role as a third-line winger would be perfect for Smyl on the all-time Canucks team.

Second Line: Markus Naslund – Trevor Linden – Todd Bertuzzi

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    If Markus Naslund isn’t the greatest Canuck of all time, he’s certainly on the short list of nominees. Naslund is the Canucks' all-time goals and points leader and his 48-goal, 104-point season in 2002-03 should go down as one of the greatest seasons in team history considering it came in a low-scoring era.

    Naslund captained the Canucks for almost a full decade, so who better to have as his centre than another great former captain in Trevor Linden.

    Many people consider Linden the greatest Canuck ever. He is the team's all-time playoff points leader and he’s probably the best team leader the city of Vancouver has ever seen. He could play wing or centre, but in this instance he fits in perfectly between Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi.

    How can you create the ultimate Canucks team without putting Naslund on a line with Bertuzzi? They complemented each other so well and had the best chemistry of any two forwards in Canucks history that aren’t related.

    Bertuzzi was the best power forward in the entire NHL for a short period of time. It’s a shame his dominance—along with the dominance of the West Coast Express line—didn’t last longer. Regardless, Bertuzzi did notch six straight seasons with 50 or more points as a Canuck and ranks ninth in all-time team scoring.

Top Line: Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Pavel Bure

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    The Sedin twins have formed the most dominant line in Canucks history over the past three seasons and they’ve done so while playing with relatively average right wingers. So can you imagine how good they’d be with Pavel Bure in his prime on their right side?

    Daniel needs only a few more good seasons to become the franchise's all-time goals leader. He won the Art Ross trophy this year and narrowly missed winning the MVP award, which is the only thing that separates him from his brother.

    Henrik won the franchise's first ever Art Ross trophy and MVP award in 2010 and is the franchise leader in career assists. He also needs just 91 points to become the new franchise leader in points, which he could realistically accomplish during the upcoming season.

    Bure is the most exciting player in Canucks history. He ranks seventh on the Canucks' all-time points list and fourth on the all-time goals list despite playing significantly fewer games than all the other players in the top ten. If Bure had stayed healthy and remained a Canuck for a longer period of time, his jersey would surely be hanging in the rafters of Rogers Arena.

    Some may argue that Bure might not have the greatest chemistry with the Sedins if they were put on the same line. The Sedins like to methodically work the puck into the attacking zone and cycle the puck to create scoring chances, while Bure created his chances with his breakaway speed and one-on-one talent.

    However, Bure also had a nose for the net and had a knack for scoring dirty goals and he’d get plenty of those while playing with the twins, even if he had to ease off the gas pedal to do so. Bure’s right-handed shot would make for a great finishing touch while playing with the Sedins as well, especially on the power play.

    A top forward line of Pavel Bure playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin is not only the best hypothetical line in Canucks history, but it would also rank as one of the best lines in the history of even the most storied NHL franchises. Thus, it’s a great way to conclude the all-time Canucks team.


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