As most of you are probably aware, Puck Daddy has been running an August feature entitled "Mount Puckmore" wherein bloggers from around the NHL nominate four players, coaches, or executives that they would carve into a mountain as the defining faces of the franchise. The Canucks' Mount Puckmore is set to be put together by the fine folks at Orland Kurtenblog, but it strikes me that a franchise is defined by more than just the legends and heroes of the past; they are also defined by their failures.
The superb California hockey blog, Battle of California, has posted what they consider to be the San Jose Sharks' Mount Suckmore, the four faces of shame and embarrassment that define the franchise and Japers' Rink responded with one for the Washington Capitals. Here are the four faces that define the dark side of the Vancouver Canucks: these faces should be carved into a mountain far away from where any hockey fan might see it, such as Phoenix or Atlanta (ah, easy jokes).
1. Dale Tallon
Tallon gets his face carved on Mount Suckmore simply for not being Gilbert Perreault, which really isn't his fault. But the first draft pick in Canucks history was one notch on a roulette wheel away from being the legendary Hall-of-Famer Perreault, one of the best players to ever play in the NHL. Instead, he went to the Buffalo Sabres, who entered the league at the same time as the Canucks. Instead of the franchise cornerstone Perreault, who led the Sabres to the playoffs for the first time just three years into their existence and the Stanley Cup finals shortly thereafter, the Canucks ended up with Dale Tallon, who played with the Canucks for only three seasons. He was a fine player in those three seasons, representing the Canucks in the All-Star game in '71 and '72, but he was too much of a reminder of how Vancouver could have had a legend, instead of simply a serviceable defenceman. The Canucks wouldn't make the Stanley Cup finals until 1982, 7 years after the Sabres.
2. Vladimir Krutov
Krutov was one of the finest players of his generation, part of the famed KLM line with Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov, and won two World Junior Championship gold medals, the 1981 Canada Cup, two Olympic gold medals, and six World Championship gold medals playing for the Soviet Union. When he made the jump to the NHL with Igor Larionov to play for the Vancouver Canucks, fans were thrilled to have two of the top Soviet players in the world on the team. But while The Professor managed to adapt to North American customs and NHL hockey, The Tank showed up to training camp looking much like his moniker. Krutov was out-of-shape and overweight and quickly developed a love for junk food. Bob McCammon, the coach of the Canucks at the time, noted "His usual routine was to stop at a 7-11 store and order two hot dogs, a bag of potato chips, and a soft drink. After practice, he would return for a second order."
Krutov was just 29, ostensibly in the prime of his career, but he only managed 34 points for the Canucks, was frequently benched, and ended up cut from the team the following year.
3. Mike Keenan
Keenan presided over one of the darkest eras in Canucks history. Sure, looking back objectively we can see that his trade of Trevor Linden for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, and a third-round pick paid dividends for the Canucks and helped establish the current team. Brian Burke parlayed McCabe into the Daniel Sedin pick, allowing him to continue playing with Henrik and Dave Nonis somehow duped Keenan into taking on the persona non grata of Todd Bertuzzi for goaltender par excellence Roberto Luongo. Even the third rounder became Jarkko Ruutu, an effective agitator in his time with the Canucks.
But the trade was emblematic of all the reasons Keenan is hated in Vancouver. Keenan did everything in his power to excise any remnant of the '94 Canucks from his version of the team. At least, that was the perception. And, since the '94 Canucks are one of the most beloved incarnations amongst its fanbase, this did not go over well. Combine that with his notoriously confrontational personality and you have the most hated GM and coach in Canucks history. Was he the worst GM and coach in Canucks history? Not at all; in fact, the trades he pulled off improved the Canucks in the long run and his coaching...okay, his coaching wasn't great. But Mike Keenan is the symbol of one of the darkest times in many Canucks fans' memories and is worthy of having his face carved into Mount Puckmore.
4. Mark Messier
Let's face it, this list could have simply been me saying "Mark Messier" four times in a row, but I'm afraid that might summon him up from some dark netherworld so he can challenge me to eat one or fewer Lays potato chips. Pat Quinn signed Messier as a free agent with much fanfare. He was, after all, coming off 99 and 84 point seasons. However, he quickly earned the fans' ire by wearing the unofficially retired number of Wayne Maki, the same number 11 he had worn in Edmonton and New York. It was all downhill from there, as he replaced the beloved Trevor Linden as captain. It was apparently Trevor's decision, but it didn't sit well with fans, especially as Messier failed to live up to his contract, scoring only 60 points, his lowest total in a full season. He was blasted by brawler Gino Odjick for being power-hungry, provided the impetus for Linden to be traded to the Islanders, and failed to lead the Canucks to the playoffs in any of his three years with the team. It's difficult to imagine a more hated Canuck in the team's history.
What do you think? Who goes on your Vancouver Canuck Mount Suckmore?
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Dan Cloutier - The poor guy was great one game, lousy the next. The best years of the West Coast Express were squandered and a lot of that blame gets unfairly placed on Cloutier. Yes, he deserves some blame, but not face-carved-into-a-mountain blame.
Jan Bulis - Bulis was not a good hockey player for the Canucks, but he's more of a symbol of Dave Nonis's terrible record of free agent signings. Other players in this category include Tommi Santala, Marc Chouinard, and Byron Ritchie. Nonis did, however, pull off the miracle of the Luongo trade, so he avoids getting his own face on Mount Suckmore. And besides, I like Jan Bulis.
Craig Janney - Janney never played for the Canucks, which is why he almost made it up on Mount Suckmore. Confused? When Petr Nedved was signed by the St. Louis Blues as a restricted free agent, an arbitrator awarded the Canucks Craig Janney and a second round pick as compensation. Janney, however, refused to report, which was seen as a snub of the team and the city. This did not endear him to Canucks fans.
Felix Potvin - The Cat was bad with the Canucks, certainly, but he's just another headstone in the Canucks' goalie graveyard.
Dan Woodley, Jason Herter, Alek Stojanov, Libor Polasek, and every other first round bust.
Petr Nedved - Expectations were high for Nedved after he scored 145 points in 71 games in Junior, but he underperformed when he first played with the Canucks. Just when he looked to be turning the corner, a contract dispute led to him signing with the Blues. Sigh.
Todd Bertuzzi - No explanation necessary.