(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
I was going to give this nod to Roberto Luongo in an effort to charm him back to town, but then I wrote him a song instead. It worked out. This is Linden all the way anyway. Ask a Vancouverite to talk about Vancouver's best things, and Linden is up there with Stanley Park, John Fluevog and Japadog. The man is a local treasure.
Most of his legacy is for the hockey he played -- and fairly well, at that. Linden played a franchise-high 16 seasons in Vancouver (and while he had a couple stops elsewhere in between, we like to tell ourselves that his heart never left). He was the captain for seven years, including during the 1994 run to the Cup Final, and for the better part of two decades, he was the Canucks.
More than that, he established the template by which all other great Canucks are measured, leaving a legacy of community involvement and charity work that established both as cornerstones of "franchise great" status. That's sort of dumb, in my opinion -- but it's not Linden's fault that he was one of the best all-around people the Canucks have ever employed.
All due respect to Mika Noronen, Tommi Santala, and Sami Salo, the latter of whom I mention without sarcasm, the nod here has to go to swift-skating defenceman Jyrki Lumme, a rock on the Canucks' back-end through Buzzfeed's favourite decade, the 1990s.
Sami Salo was a rock on the Canucks' back-end for nine seasons before bolting for, well, the Bolts, and he's fresher in people's minds. But in terms of impact, Lumme, who also played nine Canuck seasons, narrowly edges him out. The difference? Offence.
Granted, it was a little easier to create offence in Lumme's era, and it's even easier if you spend most of your shifts deep in the offensive zone, as he did, but still, Lumme was as gifted a scorer as the Canucks have ever had on their blueline. He had seven seasons of 30 points or more for the team, and four above 40. When he left, he was the Canucks' all-time leader in goals and points by a defenceman.
Acquired for a second round draft pick, Lumme was instrumental in turning around the Canucks in the early 90s -- they had been a laughingstock for most of their existence up to that point. He was also instrumental in their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994.
Honourable mention to Petri Skriko, who led the Canucks in scoring twice, and became the first-ever Canuck named NHL Player of the Month in November 1986 after recording three hat tricks in eight flippin' days.
We all know, by the time he's done here, it will be David Booth, obviously, but for right now, Ryan Kesler remains the Canucks' best American hockey player ever.
As one of the league's most hated players and egregious divers, Kesler is also largely responsible for the reputation the Canucks have around the league. In that sense, while Henrik Sedin is the captain, Ryan Kesler is the Canucks.
He's still got time to cement his legacy, but he's already done far more than any other Murican. His 350 points is tops among U.S.-born Canucks, and his 578 games is over 100 more than Gerry O'Flaherty, the second-longest tenured American in Canucks' history. Kesler won the team's first ever Selke trophy, he came within a game of beast-moding Vancouver to their first Stanley Cup, and he's the only American import to get butt-booty naked for ESPN.
The Canucks have had a lot of great Swedes, from Thomas Gradin to Markus Naslund to awkward, half-season, old Mats Sundin, but for my money, the best one they've ever had is the one that currently serves as their captain.
Daniel is a close, close, close second, but I've always hated the way they're lumped together when you're supposed to pick just one. Henrik edges just ahead, to my mind, because he wears the "C", plays the harder position, and has slightly better career numbers. So yeah, they're one and two, but Henrik is first.
Maybe even first overall. No disrespect to Trevor Linden, but I think, at that point, there's an argument to be made that Daniel and Henrik are the best Canucks ever, let alone the best Swedes. They're the top scorers in franchise history with plenty of time left to pad their numbers -- they might be the first two Canucks to hit the 1000-point plateau. Henrik's the captain. They've both won Art Ross trophies and MVP awards, they've led the Canucks to a Stanley Cup Final, and they're the most entertaining Canucks to watch since Pavel Bure.
I mean, yeah, Trevor Linden worked hard and we all loved him, but when it comes to raw talent, he's got nothing on the Sedins.
While the debate can simmer over who's the best Canuck ever, there's little debate over who's the best player to ever play for the Canucks. That's Bure in a landslide.
There's a reason his number is getting retired this coming season despite playing just seven seasons in Vancouver. Bure was an incredible, phenomenal talent who vaulted the Canucks onto the national stage and was instrumental in their trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994. He was so good, he managed to overcome the scandalous nature of his departure and all that touchy-feely nonsense about community involvement and charity work being a mandatory part of being considered a great hockey player.
Although the team still sneaked a little of that stuff in under the buzzer, so as to preserve their precious, righteous criteria. Hence, that's Bure holding a baby up above. A local baby, no doubt! See, Vancouver? Bure loves your infants! He is one of you! (Clearly, the baby resents being used as a prop in a hasty character rehabilitation program. But I digress.)
In their 40-plus year history, the Canucks have dressed three Slovakian-born players: Jozef Balej, whose name sounds about as believable backwards, Lubomir Vaic, and the late Pavol Demitra. Since Vaic and Balej played a combined 10 games, this was a pretty easy decision.
Demitra was a former Mike Gillis client that followed Gillis to Vancouver, playing two years for the Canucks in a thankless role replacing Markus Naslund, in effect. He was better in year one, with 20 goals and 53 points in 69 games. In year two, he struggled through injuries, playing just 28 games for the Canucks before calling an end to his NHL career and heading to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL.
Demitra played one season there and planned to play another, at least, but he lost his life in the crash of Yak-Service Flight 9633. He's still missed.
If everything had gone well for the Canucks, this spot would be taken by Petr Nedved and it wouldn't even be up for debate. The Canucks drafted Nedved 2nd overall in 1990 (three spots before Jaromir Jagr, who would probably also be in this spot had they known what he'd become). Nedved was supposed to be their star of the future. Instead, he played just three tumultuous and disappointing seasons in Vancouver before a bitter holdout ended the relationship and took him to St. Louis.
Thus, the best Czech Vancouver's ever had remains their first round draft pick from 10 years earlier, 1980's 7th overall pick, Rick Lanz.
Lanz was born in Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, which is now a popular spa town in the Czech Republic, and his family defected to Canada during the Soviet invasion in 1968, when he was seven.
A defenceman, Lanz played 417 games for the Canucks and racked up 227 points, both of those numbers the most among Czech-born players. His best season was 1983-84, when he scored 18 goals and 57 points and was named the team's top defenceman, which seems reasonable since it's still one of the best seasons from a blueliner in team history, and especially since his 14 powerplay goals tied him for the league lead among defenders with this dude named Paul Coffey.
After 8 seasons in Vancouver, Lanz was traded to Toronto. Now he's the head scout for the Colorado Avalanche.
Honourable Czech mentions go to Jan Bulis, patron saint of that other blog I write for, and Marek Malik, who led the NHL in plus/minus, thus exposing plus/minus as a flawed statistic.
Ed Hatoum (Lebanon)
This is probably where Jannik Hansen is supposed to go, since he's been the most impactful and notable Canuck from a non-traditional hockey nation (with honourable mentions to South Korea's Richard Park and Latvia's Arturs Irbe).
But nevermind all that. Ed Hatoum, a member of the inaugural 1970-71 Vancouver Canucks, was born in Lebanon, and what he lacks in impact, he makes up for in non-traditional. The NHL has seen just four Lebanese players over the years, with the most notable being Nazem Kadri, but Hatoum is the only one to have actually been born in Lebanon. From Greatest Hockey Legends:
Hatoum, who grew up in Ontario, was born in Lebanon on December 7th, 1947. His family of ten began emigrating to the Ottawa area in 1954, where one of Ed's uncles lived. It took three years to get the entire family to Canada. Ed was one of the last, aged 10 when he began calling Canada home.
Within a couple of years Ed picked up the Canadian game and to many people's surprise, probably including his own, he quickly discovered he was pretty good at it. He was one of the top youth players in the Ottawa area.
The glory of Lebanon came to the Canucks, just as the prophet Isaiah said, in the 1970 expansion draft, when Vancouver took him from Detroit.
Hatoum would play the last 26 games of his 47-game NHL career for them, scoring just one goal -- shorthanded, at that -- before being loaned to the Seattle Totems in exchange for the rights to Bobby Schmautz.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Trevor Linden