The top five biggest Canuck letdowns
By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
#5 – Dan Cloutier is one of the first names that come to mind when you think about the most laughable players in Canucks history. The goaltender was plagued with knee injuries throughout his entire career, and is best known for his brawl when he was a part of the New York Rangers and the slap shot that got past him from Nick Lidstrom all the way from center ice. But despite all of the obvious implications, was Cloutier really all that bad? He recorded three 30-plus win seasons in the three years that he was the Canucks starting goaltender giving his team a chance to win. Sure his numbers weren’t spectacular, but they weren’t bad either. Between 2001 and 2004, Cloutier had .901, .908, and .914 save percentages with 2.43, 2.42, and 2.27 goals against averages respectably. He is fourth on the team in all-time wins as a goaltender with 109 and third in shutouts with 14.
However, those three seasons were mediocre and nothing significant enough to brag about. The fact that he was terrible in the playoffs didn’t help either. Not once did the Canucks get past the second round with Cloutier backstopping them. In fact he was probably injured by the time the post-season rolled around, similar to the year when backup goalie Alex Auld had to step up against the Calgary Flames, and we all know how that series ended.
#4 – Jason King experienced everything a professional hockey player goes through in their entire career, but condensed into one NHL season. King, who was infamously a part of “The Mattress Line” along with the Sedin’s, (two twins and a King) had a very promising start to his NHL career, being rewarded the NHL “Rookie of the month award” for the month of November for his efforts—scoring 11 points in 14 games. However in the remainder of the season, King scored only five points. All the hype had diminished and he did not return the following season in a Canucks uniform. His last NHL stint was with the Anaheim Ducks where he played a total of four games and recorded zero points. King is now playing in the minor-leagues with the Winnipeg Jets affiliate team, the St. John’s IceCaps.
#3 – Mats Sundin. Oh our saviour! The one who will save us and carry us on his shoulders on the big windy road to the Stanley Cup! He’s going to be great! Over the years my hatred for Mr. Sundin has gradually grown stronger. After taking half an NHL season to figure out his future, the giant 6’5” Swede decided that he would bless the Vancouver nation with his presence for the remainder of the year. 41 games wearing a Canucks sweater in the 2008-09 regular season, Sundin scored a whopping nine goals and 19 assists!
But don’t worry everyone! Surely big number 13 was only getting warmed up for the post-season where he would magically rediscover his game. Wrong. After two games in the first round against the St. Louis Blues, Sundin was out with an injury. But luckily the Canucks advanced to the second round without him, where they faced the Chicago Blackhawks. Sundin was back in game one against the Blackhawks where he played the last remaining games in his NHL career. The Canucks were eliminated by Chicago in six games and Sundin finished the post-season with eight points.
#2 – Mark Messier is the biggest bust in franchise history. This man came into Vancouver after his glory days with the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers and played for the Canucks at $6 million a year for three seasons. He stole the captaincy away from Captain Canuck and fan favourite Trevor Linden and demanded to wear his lucky number 11 even though it had unofficially been retired to the late Wayne Maki, who passed away of brain cancer in 1974.
Messier’s reputation started off rocky and showed in his performance on ice with career lows in his three seasons in Vancouver with 60 points in his first year, 48 points in his second, and 54 points in his third. The fact that he made $18 million in those three years and only mustered up 158 points in 207 games speaks volumes on its own. When Messier’s contract came to an end in 2000, the Canucks had no interest in re-signing him. He finished his career with the New York Rangers and retired after the 2003-04 season.
#1 – Cameron Neely is a player that the Canucks let get away. Drafted ninth overall in the 1983 NHL entry draft, Neely was expected to be a top performer to change the franchise. However playing behind Canucks captain at the time Stan Smyl as well as Tony Tanti, he did not see a lot of offensive playing time. In his three seasons with the Canucks, Neely scored a high of 39 points—a statistic which inevitably led to his departure to the Boston Bruins along with a first round selection in the 1987 NHL draft (which turned out to be Glen Wesley) in exchange for Barry Pederson.
In the following season with the Bruins, Neely put up spectacular numbers scoring 36 goals and 36 assists. A huge shift from his previous year as a Canuck where he had only 14 goals and 20 assists. It was apparent that the hulking Canadian had found his niche with the Bruins. He would go on to spend the next 10 seasons with the Bruins to finish his career where he recorded six 30 plus goal seasons along with three 50 plus goal seasons. In 2005, Neely was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As for the Canucks, Pederson’s career took a downward spiral and he was traded four years later to the Pittsburgh Penguins. And to make matters worse the first round selection that the Canucks traded to the Bruins alongside Neely happened to be Wesley—who turned out to be an all-star defenseman for the Bruins. The Cam Neely trade was possibly the worst Canucks decision of all time.