Monday, August 16, 2010

The 10 Worst Canucks Since the NHL Lockout

On the whole, through the trapezoid era, the Vancouver Canucks have been a consistently good hockey team. In the last five years, they've made it to the second round of the NHL playoffs three times, an impressive stat that, technically, places them in the upper echelon of the Western Conference powers. They've been competitive all five years, failing to live up to expectations twice, and, in my estimation, exceeding expectations twice. This is even more impressive when you consider some of the players that have come through Vancouver in the last five years. Many of them played terribly during their tenure on the west coast, and have been comfortably forgotten since, buried in European leagues where the overall skill level matches the lack of skill they demonstrated while wearing the Orca. Yes, the post-lockout Vancouver Canucks have had their fair share of washouts, and since there is nothing going on right now in Canucks news, here is a list of the 10 worst Canucks since the NHL lockout.


10. Brad Isbister was a popular Canuck for one game, and it was during the preseason. Nearing the end of regulation and trying to kill off a penalty, Isbister came flying down the right side and flicked a game-winning wrist shot past the Oilers goalie to ignite the crowd. This came on the heels of a fan outcry over Isbister's signing. He was big, to be sure, but he had been a complete bust everywhere he'd played, and nobody wanted him. When he scored that goal, he thought maybe he had turned a corner and was going to be the next Todd Bertuzzi. Problem was, he had more in common with Steve Kariya, in that he impressed in the preseason and played like he was very, very small. He tried to hide in the net once. After the Canucks, Isbister played a season for EV Zug in the Swiss Hockey League, then retired. Incredibly, he was not Dave Nonis's worst signing. He is currently an assistant coach for the University of Calgary Dinos.

9. Jan Bulis can be counted among a surprisingly long list of bald players to have been terrible with the Canucks. Sure, Mats Sundin turned it on for the last three games of the NHL playoffs, but let's be honest: he didn't live up to expectations. Neither did Pavol Demitra, who narrowly misses this list because of the 53 (!) points he put up in his first year with the Canucks, or Mark Messier, who was ineligible because he didn't play here post-lockout (but nearly made the list anyway, for a suckiness that overcomes all boundaries). There is another bald player who cannot yet be named, as he finds himself higher up the list. Until Bulis reinvented himself late in the season as a checking forward, he was bloody terrible. He was more likely to take the advice of his father than his coach, he provided no scoring punch, he didn't have much chemistry with anybody, and he did weird things like this. Tommy Larscheid, never one to mince words, even famously called him a dumb hockey player, and said he had no idea what he was doing. He really didn't, which is why he would occasionally do things like this, and this--he was just kind of winging it. Bulis's inimitable weirdness did earn him a cult following, however: he was the unparalleled star of this viral video, he remains the patron saint of this blog, and, even to this day he has two devoted fans on his Facebook page. But, all things aside, Bulis was a crazy disappointment who found himself, like most of the players on this list after their Canucks career, on a plane to Europe. He currently plays for HC Atlant Moscow in the KHL.

8. Fans knew that Tommi Santala was going to be a bust when Dave Nonis overpraised the Finnish forward as the best fourth-line center money could buy. Trained in the Burke school of self-promotion, Nonis was likely trying to appear as blustery and confident as his mentor. As a PR tactic, it failed miserably, and may have been the stupidest thing he ever said. A quick perusal of Santala's stats and previous jobs indicates that he definitely wasn't the saviour Nonis made him sound like. Santala only played 30 games for the Canucks. He scored one goal. He was nondescript, slow, and seemingly good at nothing. It was a rarity to see him on the ice. Canucks fans did get some enjoyment out of Santala, however, as Nonis's hyperbole led to a bevy of Santala-style Chuck Norris jokes. My favorite? Tommi Santala isn't God's gift to man; God is Tommi Santala's gift to man. Santala currently plays for the Kloten Flyers in the Swiss League.

7. Steve McCarthy was acquired in August of 2005, and touted as an offensive defenseman whose remarkable potential had yet to be tapped. He was the captain of Canada's 2000 World Junior Team, he was drafted 23rd overall in the 1999 NHL entry draft, and he had decent size and mobility. He was going to make our very good defensive corps very, very good. Soon I will be honest about that defensive core and tell you it wasn't very good, and neither was McCarthy. He was a serviceable defenseman, but definitely not a top-four, and he didn't fit into the dressing room. Whether or not that was his fault or some of the locker-room vets (Bertuzzi seems to get all the blame these days, right or wrong), he was definitely the one who shot his mouth. There's nothing that endears you to Canucks fans like assassinating the character in their locker room after you get traded. Nobody wants to hear it, and no matter how you spin it, it sounds like sour grapes. For the record, Bertuzzi was forced to address McCarthy's comments and denies them. McCarthy still plays in the NHL, for the Atlanta Thrashers, which is just like playing in Europe.

6. Revisionist fans forget that, at the time, we really wanted Keith Carney. I couldn't tell you why. In truth, Canucks fans have been reveling in our defensive core for the last decade, claiming it to be one of the best, one through six, in the NHL. Even during the 05-06 season, when Dave Nonis picked up three NHL defenseman in Carney, Wenrich, and Brent Sopel, we had been claiming we had an excellent defense core. Fans waited that entire season for the West Coast Express era Canucks to get back to their pre-lockout ways. We liked our defensive depth before we got Carney, and we were even more excited to get him. When it turned out that he was terrible, however, we were upset. We were in denial. To us, Carney seemed like the final piece of a cup-contending team. Instead, he was an over-the-hill defenseman who fit right in with an over-the-hill team. The Canucks failed to make the playoffs, and Carney represented the end of an era. Underscoring that we needed to look again at our team, that we needed to take a second look at our core, Carney looked a Hell of a lot like Todd Bertuzzi; it was almost poetic. Worse, Carney was acquired for a second-round draft pick, as was seemingly every player Nonis ever acquired in a trade, and that pick, the sixty-first selection in the 2007 draft, turned out to be... Wayne Simmonds. I realize hindsight is 20/20, which is why I find it so easily to he upset with Nonis--I see his mistakes very clearly now.

5. Eric Weinrich was acquired during the same trading deadline as Keith Carney and Bryan Smolinski, who is not on this list. Why? Well, he wasn't terrible. Come to think of it, though, Smolinski was bald as well, and while not terrible, he wasn't good either. Warning to Canucks fans who have read that Bieksa to Washington for Jason Chimera rumour: say no to bald hockey players. Anyway, Weinrich was good for nothing. He was slower than Carney, not as tough, and apart from wearing a pretty cool yellow visor, he was a complete waste of a third-round pick. Unfortunately, the player drafted with it was not. Immediately after not making the playoffs with the Canucks, Weinrich retired. That's right: the Canucks cut the mold off of St. Louis's cheese, and then tried to make a sandwich with it.

4. Lee Goren, affectionately dubbed Lee "No-Scoren" Goren, was a star for the Manitoba Moose. He was a 6'3" right-winger with a great shot, some good hands, and a bit of grit. He averaged nearly a point a game in the AHL during his time with the Moose. With the Canucks, however, he played 30 games and got a grand total of three points. It was representative of most Canucks prospects through the years: severely overhyped, eventually underwhelming. Goren did nothing for Vancouver but disappoint. He currently plays for Tappara Tampere in the Finnish Hockey League, where he continues to be bad.

3. Jesse Schultz was another Lee Goren. Incredible in Manitoba, talked up ad infinitum before the season, Canucks fans had every reason to believe this guy was the real deal. Beloved by Alain Vigneault, the Vancouver front office had fans believing Schultz was the third Sedin. That's even where he started the season. Two games later, he was back in Manitoba, however, and he never played in the NHL again. Ouch. Is it any wonder that Mike Gillis's 08-09 signing of Jason "Krogsby" Krog was met with such skepticism by Canucks fans? We were beating back the hype as hard as we could, and for good reason. We've been hurt by AHL all-stars so many times. There's a lot of baggage there that needs to be worked through. Safe to say that if a season-long AHL standout ever wants to make the Canucks, he'll have to fight our seven evil exes, two of whom will be Lee Goren and Jesse Schultz.

2. Marc Chouinard was a fine member of the Minnesota Wild's bottom six. He had an impressive faceoff percentage, and he had scored 10+ goals and 20+ points in two consecutive seasons. Moreover, at 6'5", he added size as well as skill. He signed a two-year, 2.2 million-dollar deal with Vancouver, and fans were pleased. Why wouldn't they be? Considering the state of our bottom-six these days, we'd sign a player with that pedigree to that exact contract right now. However, rather than getting the Minnesota Chouinard, we got the Anaheim Chouinard, who was more likely to put up seven points in a season. In fact, the Vancouver Chouinard put up four. He may have been the slowest player the Canucks employed since the lockout. He was simply not made for the new NHL, and we had him for two years. It was one of Nonis's worst contracts. Once we realized he was going to suck so, so badly, however, we buried him in the minors and eventually bought him out. It remains the only buyout the Canucks have done since the lockout. Surprise, surprise, Chouinard made his way to Europe afterwards, and currently plays for Kolner Haie in Germany's DEL.

1. Mathieu Schneider is the most recent addition to the list of sucky Canucks, flunking out of his Orca jersey only last year. He should be proud, however, to top it, as it's the only thing of note he did as a Canuck. Fans were optimistic that Schneider, a top-four defenseman during the Bronze Age, could be the powerplay quarterback we so desperately needed, especially after an impressive final quarter of the NHL season prior, where he ignited the Montreal Canadiens powerplay. Schneider scored two goals in a Canucks uniform, both from the left side of the point--this one, and this one, on the powerplay. Otherwise, he was a liability, better known for his incredible teeth than his defensive footwork, speed, or positioning. Rightly benched, he then griped about playing time like someone who was not a 20-year NHL veteran, which led to irreconcilable differences between he and the Canucks front office. He was quickly demoted to the AHL in order to save the dressing room and eventually traded to Phoenix. Did Schneider do anything good with the Canucks? Well, as a 40-year-old, his signing may have helped to make the length of Roberto Luongo's contract seems plausible. But that's about it.




And that does it. If the list were to go to twenty, I would have found spots for Brandon Reid, Byron Ritchie, Steve Bernier, Bryan Smolinski, Wade Brookbank, and Jeff Cowan, who gets a pass because he would also find himself on a list of the twenty best Canucks during the same time frame. Cowan is a divisive guy.

Do you agree or disagree with this list? Let me know in the comments.

9 comments:

  1. one of the best canuck blogs i've read. entertaining and yet (sigh....), so true. well, at least we have darcy hordichuk now.

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  2. This is making me laugh so hard. What a trip down memory lane.

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  3. What about that bum Mats Sundin. I am surprised he is not on the list.

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  4. Peter Schaefer perhaps should be on this list now?

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  5. No way, By-Tor. Schaefer's penalty-killing prowess alone was legendary. The 10 above sucked at nearly everything.

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  6. Smolinski was acquired in the 2007 deadline, and Carney/Weinrich/Sean Brown were acquired in 2006. Great post nonetheless

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