Now that the Canucks have a couple of days off, we at the Army figured we take a little bit of time to wrap up our look at the history of this fine team. You’ve seen our all-time roster – but who do we actually rank in the highest of echelons?
Let’s kick things off with the most important position in hockey – the goaltender. They’re the ones who bail you out, night after night. Well, in theory at least; if there’s a position where the Canucks haven’t had a ton of luck in over the years, it’s definitely between the pipes. Despite the fact that this team has spent forty-five years in the NHL, it was terrifyingly difficult to come up with these rankings. Regardless, lets take a look.
5. Dan Cloutier
Do you see what I mean?
Dan Cloutier is the scapegoat for West Coast Express era’s lack of success. If you asked a hundred Canucks fans why the team couldn’t win a Stanley Cup in the early 2000’s, a hundred and eight of them would respond with Dan Cloutier.
Yet, he’s on our all-time team. Why is that? Because, early exits be damned, he was between the pipes for a long time, which is more than just about any Vancouver goaltender can say. Cloutier’s 208 games played ranks him fourth in team history, and everybody ahead of him is also ahead of him on this list. Thanks to the Canucks’ scoring prowess, he also found himself with one of the better win-loss ratio’s in team history.
Beyond that, though, it’s hard to argue much in his favour. His save percentage was only (barely) above the league average in one of this seasons (2003/04), and finally managed to carry that level of performance over to the playoffs, he suffered a right ankle sprain three games in and ended his season. His 0.872 SV% in the playoffs is the lowest of any goaltender with 25+ games played in the 21st century by a whopping 30 points. He makes this list almost entirely because the Canucks didn’t really have any other options in his era.
4. Richard Brodeur
This is the best photo of Richard Brodeur that I could find on Getty Images, in the sense that it has him completely out of position, but not yet in the process of letting in a goal. I’m being serious; there just isn’t a lot of “save by Brodeur” photography out there for us bloggers to use.
That’s not to say that he didn’t make a lot of saves while wearing the V and the flying skate; his 377 games played ranks him third all time, and he was a key component in the Canucks’ first-ever run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982. League wide numbers for that year are impossible to come by, but his 0.891 SV% was likely far ahead of the curve, and he performed well enough to give the Canucks wins in 11 of their first 13 playoff games. At that point, they ran into the Dynasty-Era New York Islanders and got shell-shocked, but to even bring them to that point was impressive for Brodeur, then in his second season for Vancouver.
He would go on to play six more seasons for the team, ranging from below the curve to below replacement level, but was well liked by his teammates and the fanbase, and remains a member of the Vancouver community to this day. He also represented the Canucks in the 1983 all-star game, and won team MVP on three occasions (1981, 1982, and 1985).
3. Kirk McLean
As we get into the top three, we begin to stop things up a little bit. Admittedly, McLean probably isn’t statistically a top-three goaltender on most teams (then again, if we sorted via a spreadsheet we would probably be stuck with a list that somehow includes Eddie Lack), but like Brodeur, he defined an era and ended his tenure as the best Canucks goalie of all time, at the time.
To this day, no goaltender has worn any of the Canucks logos on their chest as many times as Kirk has, appearing in 516 games over eleven seasons. While not all of those years were the best (particularly his last three), when he was on his game, he was in the top half of the league. His best season game in 1992, when he put up 38 wins, 5 shutouts, and a 0.901 save percentage – bad today, but well ahead of the 0.888 average at the time. His performance put him just behind Patrick Roy as the best goaltender in hockey that year, and earned him enough Hart Trophy votes to finish fourth in the polls.
Of course, his most memorable year came two years later, as he turned a slightly subpar regular season into one of the best playoff runs by a Canucks player ever, posting four shutouts in 24 games en route to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. No goalie in this city has been able to attain that level of dominance for an entire long-term run since, nor had anybody prior.
2. Cory Schneider
I know we just said that we weren’t going to sort by a spreadsheet when making these rankings, but if there was ever a goaltender to do it for, it would probably be Cory Schneider. While he wasn’t my personal #2, the dominance he displayed such a relatively short period of time speaks for itself.
The Canucks originally drafted Schneider to be their goaltender of the future in 2004, and eventually, he proved himself to be worthy of the moniker. While his 98 games played ranks just 11th on the all-time list, his 0.927 SV% and 2.20 GAA put him at the very top of the charts by a fairly wide margin. His 55-26-8 record is also incredibly strong compared to those surrounding him, and his nine shutouts rank him fifth on the team’s list.
Unfortunately for Schneider, team politics, internal competition, and a half-season lockout set him up to never play more than 33 games for the team in a season before being traded to the New Jersey Devils at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. One would assume that whoever pushed this wonder-kid away from the team that planned around him must be something else…
1. Roberto Luongo
…and boy, was he ever.
I don’t think there’s a single Canucks fan that had any doubt as to who would lead these rankings. In a sea of goaltenders ranging from “awful” to “good enough”, Roberto Luongo was the trophy orca. He was everything that was interesting about the four previous goalies, and then some.
Longevity in the organization? He’s got it. His 448 games played are second only to McLean.
Statistical dominance? Luongo finished with 41 more wins a much better overall record, and nearly a whole goal fewer allowed per game. His 38 shutouts rank him first by a wide margin; McLean and Cloutier, who rank 2nd and 3rd respectively, have four fewer combined.
A great entry story? Dave Nonis managed to turn the page on the Todd Bertuzzi saga by pulling off one of the most lopsided trades in team history to acquire him.
Carrying the team on his back? You bet. His first playoff run in 2007 was one for the ages; a 0.941 SV% through twelve games is nearly impossible for a near mortal. His 72 save performance against the Stars is probably the best individual performance in Canucks history. Just a few years after that, he would get as close to the promised land as McLean, bringing his team to within one game of the Stanley Cup while putting up two shutouts in the final.
He even took the responsibility of being the Captain of the Canucks for some time; probably not the wisest decision by the club in hindsight, but given what he meant to the room and the fanbase, their blatant disregard for logic and the NHL rulebook made sense at the time.
While Luongo had his moments, and his last months in Vancouver could have went a lot smoother, there’s no doubt that he’s the best goaltender this team has ever had. Hell, he might be better than all of the others combined.