The Canucks might not have the history of one of the Original Six clubs, but their over 40 years in the league have seen some great players don a Canuck uniform, and are still remembered fondly by old timers who’ve been watching the club since day one.
10 – Richard Brodeur
Though the dominant 2011 Canucks belonged in the Stanley Cup finals, there is no way the 1982 version of the team would have made it anywhere near as they did that year if not for the stellar play of King Richard. His exploits during that playoff run were so legendary they even spawned a song. He spent 8 memorable seasons with the Canucks, and may never have recaptured the same glory, but his dominant performance that gave Canuck fans the first sniff of success they’d ever had is reason alone to consider him one of the greatest Canucks ever.
9 – Roberto Luongo
Though his last few seasons with the Canucks were acrimonious, Roberto Luongo absolutely belongs on the list of the greatest Canucks of all time. Though it was some time ago, his first season he set a club record for wins in a single season and was a finalist for both the Vezina and Hart trophies. At that point the hopes of fans were sky high. Sadly those hopes would never come to fruition, though Luongo did help them get achingly close in 2011 when he led the team to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals before they finally bowed out to the Boston Bruins. In all he won an impressive 252 wins with the club, the most in franchise history, and his .919 save percentage and 2.36 GAA during his tenure are nothing to sneeze at either.
8 – Kirk McLean
Though the Canucks have been known throughout their history for having woeful goaltending, about once a decade they seem to get the right guy in between the pipes. Such was the case in the 90s, when Kirk McLean was tending the net for the club. Captain Kirk was one of the last true standup goalies to play the game, employing it with great success even though the bulk of his peers had switched to the more popular butterfly style. McLean racked up over 200 wins during his time with the club, and the pinnacle of his success came during the 1994 playoffs, where his stellar play led the team to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, where they narrowly missed glory in a heart-breaking 3-2 to the New York Rangers.
7 – Thomas Gradin
This smooth-skating Swede was a key component of one of the best lines in hockey in the early 1980s. Playing alongside Curt Fraser and captain Stan Smyl, Gradin provided the finesse to go along with the grit of his linemates. He was a consistent scorer, averaging more than a point a game between 1979 and 1984. His contributions were a key reason the Canucks made it to the 1982 Stanley Cup finals, and he deserves his spot on the list of the top 10 Vancouver Canucks of all time.
6 – Markus Naslund
Markus has been much maligned over the past couple of seasons for his failure to put up big numbers to match the big dollars he is being payed. However, despite his recent struggles, there can be little argument that this soft-spoken team captain is one of the most skilled players the franchise has ever boasted.. He is the only Canuck besides Pavel Bure, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin to ever win a major NHL award, capturing the Lester Pearson trophy in 2003, as the players’ pick as the league’s best player.
5 – Stan Smyl
“Steamer” was surely the most popular player in the history of the franchise before Linden came along to give him some competition for that title. When compiling the list of the top 10 Canucks of all time, this tireless worker was the first player that jumped to mind. For many years his number 12 was the only number the Canucks have retired in their history, and up until a few years ago, Smyl was the club’s all time leader in most offensive categories, and wore the C as team captain for 8 seasons.
4 & 3 – Henrik & Daniel Sedin
In most cases, having two players tied for the same spot on a top 10 list would be a cop-out. However, in the case of twin brothers with eerily similar stats over their careers, I think the ranking appropriate. Former team General Manager, Brian Burke was definitely on to something when he swung a deal that allowed him to draft the twins with the second and third overall picks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Though they got off to a bit of a slow start and were often vilified by fans and media, the Sedins blossomed into two of the NHL’s most dominant players in the prime of their careers. Henrik Sedin became the first Canuck to ever lead the league in scoring, winning the Art Ross in 2009-10. Not to be outdone, Daniel accomplished the very same feat the following season. In all the twins have racked up almost 1,650 points between them during their time with the club, and will almost certainly finish their careers as the only two Canucks to hit 1,000 career points with the club.
2 – Pavel Bure
It didn’t take the Russian Rocket long to serve notice he was going to be Vancouver’s very first superstar. He electrified fans in his very first game, making several exciting end to end rushes that showed his incredible speed and stick handling ability. Though he didn’t score in that first game, it wasn’t very long before the goals started to come in bunches, and that scoring prowess earned him the Calder trophy as the rookie of the year. The Russian Rocket really launched the next 2 seasons, however. He became the first Canuck in team history to record 50 goals in a single season in his sophomore year, actually hitting 60. His third year he duplicated the feat, pouring in 60 more during the regular season and adding another 16 in the playoffs, during the Canucks’ incredible 1994 Stanley Cup final run. He is easily the most exciting player ever to wear a Canuck jersey, and many would have him at the number 1 spot on their list of the top 10 Vancouver Canucks of all time.
1 – Trevor Linden
Though the Sedin twins may someday supplant him at the top of this list, as of this writing he is still considered by most as the greatest Canuck ever. This former Canuck captain, and current team president was an inspirational leader for the team for the better part of 2 decades. He is the consummate Canuck, and has done everything for the team, including keeping his silence when forced to watch from the press box. There was no classier player in the sport of hockey, and was a true role model for young players around the league. But this list is not a mere popularity contest. Linden has put up the numbers throughout his career to justify his selection to the top spot on this list. He is among the Canucks’ all time leader in games played, goals, assists and points. He left a gaping leadership void with his retirement, one that the club is struggling to fill to this day.
Featured image by Harold Cecchetti