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Your Call: Who is the Greatest All-Time Vancouver Canuck?

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Matt Burt, TSN.ca
10/19/2010 10:41:01 PM
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It was 1970  - the year that Jimi Hendrix died, Bobby Orr scored his famous Stanley Cup-winning goal, "Patton" won the Oscar for Best Picture and the Beatles broke up.

It was also the year that the Vancouver Canucks joined the National Hockey League. To acknowledge this milestone, the NHL on TSN will launch its All-Canucks Team on Wednesday Night Hockey.

Forty years on, there have been good times and bad.

Last week, the team kicked off its anniversary celebration with a game against the Kings, the very first opponent they ever faced off against 40 years ago to the day. For some perspective on how long ago that was, keep in mind that not one member of the current Canucks roster was even born yet.

Since 1970, the Canucks have won seven division titles - including last year's - but so far the ultimate prize has eluded them. On the heels of last year's strong campaign and the off-season addition of some useful roster pickups, many hockey prognosticators have picked Vancouver to go all the way this season.

In this edition of Your Call, though, we're going to focus on the individuals who helped make the team what it has been over the last four decades. The franchise has seen its fair share of elite players pass through its locker room over the years, and we want to know:  Who is the Greatest All-Time Canuck? This will also be debated by the panel on Wednesday night.

Your seven choices (in alphabetical order):

Pavel Bure

Pavel Bure was simply a pleasure to watch. Dubbed "The Russian Rocket" by fans, he was lightning quick on his skates and had the stickhandling pizzazz to match. At 5'10 and 192 pounds, Bure was frighteningly agile, and it was not uncommon to see him deke in and out, undressing an entire team before sniping one past a helpless goaltender.

Bure was selected 113th overall in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. Soon enough, he would be proving himself not only as a capable NHL player but as an elite one.

In 1991-92, Bure had 60 points in 65 games, winning the Calder Trophy for best rookie in the league. Two years later, in his top season with Vancouver statistics-wise, Bure had 60 goals and 50 assists for 110 points. His 60 tallies were the most of any player in the league; at the time there was no formal award for that mark, but he would later win the Maurice Richard Trophy for most goals in a season two years in a row with the Panthers.

Bure was a four-time All-Star as a member of the Canucks and set several team milestones. He was also a key component of the 1994 Stanley Cup run, where the Canucks eventually fell to Mark Messier and the New York Rangers.

In November of 2005, Bure announced his retirement from professional hockey at the age of 34 due to problems with his chronically injured knee. Five years later, he continues to be a treasured part of Canucks history, definitely considered one of the best players ever to take the ice in the team's history.

Trevor Linden

Trevor Linden is arguably as significant a piece of the fabric of the Canucks franchise as any player in its history.

Selected second overall by the Canucks in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, he would be a prominent figure in the team's story for many years to come.

Linden was with the Canucks from that first year in the league until 1998, when he was traded to the Islanders. After spending time with the Isles, the Canadiens and the Capitals, he made his return to Vancouver in 2001 to much fanfare.

Looking back on Linden's career, it's interesting to note that he never had a Bure-esque season of 110 points. His best season was 80 points (1995-96), and he had three 70-point-plus seasons - all excellent outputs but not league-leading type numbers. Rather, Linden was renowned for his stunning consistency year-in and year-out, his hard-nosed but skilled play, his leadership abilities and his class.

In 1996-97, he won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice. These qualities, combined with the fact that he was awesome on the ice as well, made Linden a fan favourite in Vancouver.

Roberto Luongo

Over the past four seasons, Roberto Luongo has endeared himself to fans at Rogers Arena (formerly GM Place) with some pretty dazzling numbers. When he arrived in Vancouver in 2006 as the result of a trade with the Panthers, things were not particularly rosy. The team had missed the playoffs the year before and they were looking for some consistency in the crease.

They got it.

In 2006-07, he went 47-22-6 with a 2.28 GAA, a .921 save percentage and five shutouts.

In 2007-08, Luongo was 35-29-9 with a 2.38 GAA, a .917 save percentage and six shutouts.

2008-09, he went 33-13-7 with a 2.34 GAA, a .920 save percentage and nine shutouts.

2009-10 brought a record of 40-22-4, with a 2.57 GAA, a .913 save percentage and four shutouts.

That's an overall record of 155-86-26, exactly the kind of statistics the Canucks' front office was looking for when they brought Luongo over in that lopsided 2006 trade.

Now 31, Luongo has wowed in the regular season, but he will perhaps have to help the team bring home the Cup before he becomes the stuff of legend in Canucks lore. Should he help to deliver the grail to this team that has been hungering for it since 1970, he would certainly manage to make his mark permanently.

Kirk McLean

Along with Luongo, Kirk McLean was undoubtedly one of the two best goaltenders in the history of the Vancouver Canucks. It was on September 15, 1987 that he came to Vancouver in a trade from the Devils, who had drafted him 107th overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.

McLean would go on to become one of the key parts of the franchise's core foundation, leading it out of a rebuilding process and into a prolonged period of success. McLean would be in the blue paint for Canucks for just over ten years, from 1987-88 to 1997-98.

During that period, he was a two-time All-Star (1990 and 1992) and was nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender in 1989 and 1992, losing out both times to the Canadiens' Patrick Roy.

Lovingly nicknamed "Captain Kirk", McLean had some stellar years between the pipes in Vancouver. In that 1991-92 season, he went 38-17-9 with a 2.74 GAA, a .901 save percentage and five shutouts.

He was arguably at his peak when the 'Nucks made their run to the 1994 Stanley Cup final, only to lose to the New York Rangers in the seventh and deciding game.

Nonetheless, McLean's post-season performance had been dazzling; he had made several game-saving (and sometimes-season saving) stops, and posted four shutouts in the playoffs alone.

He probably has the most famous save in team history. Typing in "Kirk McLean" on YouTube will bring up the suggestion "The Save". That's right...it's known as "the save". In overtime of Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs in '94, McLean slid across with a beautiful two-pad stack to rob the Flames' Robert Reichel on an almost-certain one-timer. In the second overtime, Bure scored to eliminate the Flames and advance the Canucks to the next round, paving the way for them to reach the Cup final.

Saves like this ensured McLean's legacy with the 'Nucks and helped him join the category of players being considered for the best Canuck of all time.

Markus Naslund

Drafted 16th overall by the Penguins in 1991, Naslund was traded to the Canucks in 1996 for Alek Stojanov. Hindsight may be 20/20, but that transaction is generally considered one of the most one-sided deals in league history.

After all, Stojanov went on to have just seven points in 107 career NHL games. And Naslund? Well, he spent 11-plus seasons with the Canucks, eight of them as captain, putting up impressive stats and proving to be an effective team leader the whole time.

With Mark Messier leaving the Canucks in 2000 to head back to the Rangers, Naslund had big shoes to fill when he was given the "C", but he took on the role admirably and quickly became a fan favourite in Vancouver.

In 2002-03, he was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Trophy as the most outstanding player as selected by the members of the NHLPA. That was Naslund's best NHL season in terms of production, chalking up 48 goals and 56 assists for 104 points in 82 games. It earned him a nomination for the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP, but he was beaten out by fellow Swede Peter Forsberg of the Avalanche. 

In his career with the Canucks, Naslund appeared in the All-Star game five times. He had 346 goals (including ten hat tricks) and 756 points in the team's jersey.

Henrik Sedin

It was just last season that Henrik Sedin made perhaps his greatest case for the title of "Best Canuck Ever". He was named an All-Star, won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP, the Art Ross as the league's leading scorer and broke three franchise records. The Swedish forward put up 83 assists and 112 points, setting team records for assists in one season and points in one season while simultaneously becoming the team's all-time assist leader.

The capper was a beautiful play where Sedin tipped a pass to his twin brother Daniel, who buried the puck behind the Flames' Miikaa Kiprusoff, sealing the duo's connection as TSN.ca's "Play of the Year" for the 2009-10 hockey season.

That campaign marked the first time Sedin passed the 100-point plateau in his career, and he smashed it. His previous career high had been 2009-10, when he registered 22 goals and 60 assists for 82 points.

Sedin was selected third overall by the Canucks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and has spent his entire career with the team. 

In 733 games with the Canucks, the 30-year-old Sedin has 138 goals and 441 assists for 579 points.

Early in this young NHL season, he has continued to add to his reputation as a playmaker with seven assists in five games.

Stan Smyl

Stan Smyl has many accolades as a member of the Canucks, and one of them is having been around long enough that he had the pleasure of wearing those garish V-necked brown and gold jerseys from the early 1980s.

But that's not the only thing that sets Smyl apart.

Selected by Vancouver 40th overall in the third round of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, the Glendon, Alberta native would end up spending his entire NHL career with the team. Playing in 896 games over 13 seasons with the Canucks, Smyl registered 262 goals and 411 assists for 673 points.

Listed at 5'10, 190 pounds, Smyl provided a skilled but physical presence for the Canucks, the best player who had taken the ice for the young team in those early years.

Affectionately nicknamed "Steamer", he went on to serve as team captain for eight seasons.

By the time he retired in 1991, Smyl had left an indelible mark in Vancouver. He was the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists and points and, not coincidentally, he was the first member of the team to have his number (12) retired by the team.

A two-time Memorial Cup winner in his junior years, that was unfortunately the most prominent championship trophy Smyl would ever have the pleasure of hoisting; the Canucks' Stanley Cup final appearance in 1982 ended with a sweep at the hands of the then-mighty Islanders.

Still working within the Canucks organization in 2010, Smyl, now 52, is currently the Senior Advisor to GM Mike Gillis. And last February, he ran a leg with the Olympic torch on the final day of the relay leading up to the 2010 games in B.C.

Those are the seven choices for you to consider. Now, as always, we turn things over to you. It's Your Call: Who is the Greatest All-Time Canuck? Weigh in below and don't forget to vote in our poll and tune in on Wednesday night!

Vancouver Canucks 40th anniversary  (Photo: dcelia)

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(Photo: dcelia)
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