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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Do The Canucks Currently Have A True Rival?

The question in the headline might seem silly, but the more one thinks about it the more they realize that the Vancouver Canucks haven’t had a true rival team in quite some time. Long gone are the anti-Chicago 2000s and the all-encompassing post-2011 hatred of Boston—these days, it’s tough for Canuck fans to summon up anything more than a general dislike for either franchise. There are always plenty of reasons to bash the Flames and Oilers, of course, and nobody really likes the Maple Leafs—but there just isn’t another organization out there right now that consistently brings the Vancouver fanbase’s blood to a boil.

There are a couple of notable reasons for this rivalry rut—with the most obvious being that rivalries are typically born in the playoffs and the Canucks haven’t touched the postseason in four years. There’s also been the slow-but-steady departure of all Vancouver’s own antagonistic players—Ryan Kesler, Maxim Lapierre, and Alex Burrows—who have only recently been replaced by a new retinue of agitators in Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, and Micheal Ferland.

It’s almost inevitable that as the team become more competitive, a new contentious contender will emerge for the crown of chief Canuck challengers. Below, we’ve broken down the other organizations around the league that have recently raised the ire of both the Vancouver franchise and its fanbase—in a valiant attempt to predict who will be the Canucks’ next top rival.

 

Boston Bruins

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Brad Marchand, who will never not be hated in Vancouver—and, indeed, everywhere in the NHL that isn’t Boston. He also gave Canuck fans their one and only reason to enjoy Brandon Prust’s tenure.

  • Zdeno Chara, who gets harder and harder to dislike as he ages—but who still deserves boos in Vancouver just for captaining that 2011 team.

Why We Hate Them:

There’s not much mystery to this one—it starts with a 20 and ends in an 11. Though the Bruins only have a handful of players remaining from their Cup champion squad—and the Canucks have just two in Alex Edler and Chris Tanev—the scars of that ill-fated run to the final run deep in Vancouver. Some subsequent meetups—including 2012’s infamous “Game 8”—have added fuel to the fire.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

It’s been eight years since 2011, and the rosters of both the Canucks and Bruins have changed drastically in the interim. Boston simply isn’t the same team it was back then—neither in terms of personnel nor “Big Bad Bruins” culture. They’re still jerks, but they won’t be inducing riots anytime soon.

 

Calgary Flames

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Matthew Tkachuk, who Canuck fans hate both for his general peskiness and the whole “Olli Juolevi” thing. Destined to take over from Marchand as league’s most despised.

  • Milan Lucic, who isn’t the same player he was back in 2011—but is still every bit the same ornery prick that he’s always been.
  • Travis Hamonic, who is probably salivating at the chance to gain some measure of revenge against an Erik Gudbranson-less Canucks.
  • Mark Giordano, who is disliked both for his overall longevity with the Flames organization and his disturbing resemblance to Mr. Bean.

Why We Hate Them:

The two most prominent reasons to hate the Flames both relate to the province of Alberta—its proximity to British Columbia and its existence in general. As the geographically-nearest NHL team to Vancouver, there’s always going to be plenty of animosity between the two franchises—and the current Flames roster is built both for longevity and unrelenting antagonism. There’s a very good chance these two teams will meet in the near-ish future for an absolute bloodbath of a playoff series.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

Aside from Tkachuk, the core of the Calgary roster is still relatively pacifist—as personified by Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. If they can’t figure out a long-term goaltending solution, the Flames may end up slipping from contender status just as the Canucks are rising to it—and thus their chance for a true rivalry may go by like two ships passing in the night.

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Duncan Keith, who—unlike Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews—Vancouver fans still hate just as much as they did a decade ago. Never forget the elbow on Daniel Sedin.
  • Andrew Shaw, who is a throwback Blackhawk agitator back for a second tour with the team.

Why We Hate Them:

One hard-fought playoff series can be enough to spark a long-lasting rivalry—and the Canucks and Blackhawks had an obscene amount of them over the last decade-and-a-half. Neither team has had much success since then, but some slights are not easily forgotten.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

Alex Burrows put this rivalry to rest when he slayed the dragon in 2011. The Blackhawks haven’t done anything since then to reignite the disdain—and they don’t project to be serious playoff contenders again anytime soon.

 

Edmonton Oilers

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Zack Kassian, who has an extremely complicated history with the Vancouver organization and has had numerous run-ins with Canucks since leaving.
  • Darnell Nurse, who has harboured a low-key personal rivalry with Jake Virtanen since they first clashed at the Penticton Young Stars.
  • Mike Smith, who might just be the goaltender most hated by the Canucks—as evidenced by Alex Edler’s habit of smashing into him.

Why We Hate Them:

As with Calgary, the rivalry with Edmonton has always been proximity-based to an extent. In truth, much of the dislike for the Oilers extends back to the ‘80s when they dominated the Western Conference for a half-decade. They also qualify as a rival to the Canucks’ status as the top “up and comer” in the Pacific Division—but only because of the existence of Connor McDavid.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

These days, it’s hard to feel anything but pity for the Edmonton Oilers. Unlike the Flames, the Oilers don’t really have much recent history of clashing with the Canucks in the playoffs—and the chances of it happening in the near-future are about as slim as Connor McDavid having NHL-quality linemates this season.

 

Florida Panthers

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Mike Matheson, who bought himself a lifetime of boos at Rogers Arena with his ridiculous pro wrestling takedown of Elias Pettersson—and for his subsequent refusal to answer for his sacrilege.
  • Mike Matheson, who is so hated in Vancouver that we had to list him twice.
  • Keith Yandle, who is low-key one of the dirtiest players in the league—infamous for his vicious slashes—and is mostly listed here to avoid mentioning Matheson a third time.

Why We Hate Them:

Let’s be honest here, this one is 100% on Michael Matheson. That being said, games between the Canucks and Panthers have typically had some spice to them in the last half-decade—see the infamous peanut butter finger incident—and there’s plenty of reason to believe that they’ll continue to.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

There once was a time when the Panthers were made up of approximately 50% ex-Canucks, but those days have passed. Now, Florida isn’t just geographically distant from Vancouver—they’re on completely different planes of relevance right now. The only way for these two franchise to develop a true rivalry would be for them to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals—and even the most optimistic of Canuck fans aren’t ready to make that prediction quite yet.

 

Los Angeles Kings

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Dustin Brown, who doesn’t play with a fraction of his old physicality—but who has earned the eternal ire of Canucks fans for that one hit on Henrik Sedin alone.

  • Drew Doughty, who is typically likeable until you have to play against him for too many nights in a row.
  • Kyle Clifford, who has been the go-to enforcer/agitator on the Kings’ roster for a preposterous amount of time.

Why We Hate Them:

This is probably the team on the list who the Canucks have the least reason to hate—just a couple of decade-old playoff matchups. Even then, the Kings were never the Canucks’ top rival. Still, Los Angeles currently has the only prospect cupboard in the Pacific Division that could be considered superior to Vancouver’s—and that could lead to some hotly-contested first round showdowns in the 2020s.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

All of the reasons to dislike the Kings are either in the past or the future. They might be the Canucks’ next rival, but it would be a first-time occurrence.

 

Seattle TBAs

Notable Public Enemies:

  • No one…yet.

Why We Hate Them:

When the Seattle Sockeyes/Kraken/Battle Cattle hit the ice in 2021, they’ll instantly become the Canucks’ geographically-closest opponent—finally giving the Canucks their equivalent to the Battles of Alberta and Ontario in the Battle of the Pacific Northwest. A rivalry seems inevitable—and the odds of it developing will sharply increase if the NHL is smart enough to schedule a couple of home-and-home series between them each season.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

They don’t exist yet.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Auston Matthews, who has both his league-breaking contract and overall creep factor working against him.
  • Morgan Reilly, who once broke Jannik Hansen’s ribs and who deserves a ton of hate for that and that alone.

Why We Hate Them:

Everybody who isn’t Toronto hates Toronto, primarily because the Maple Leaf fanbase makes it impossible not to. The media’s unceasing fascination with the most mundane comings and goings of the franchise doesn’t help. The never-ending onslaught of Leafs-related headlines has reached a fever pitch as they’ve approached contender status—and before the 2019/20 has even begun, most in the hockey world are already sick of hearing about them.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

The Leafs are easy to hate, but Canucks fans only get the opportunity twice a year at best. There’s also the prospect of Toronto’s impending salary cap doom to assuage any hard feelings Vancouverites might still retain for the center of the hockey universe.

 

Winnipeg Jets

Notable Public Enemies:

  • Patrik Laine, who beaked the Canucks for banning video games on the road—and then proceeded to Fortnite himself right out of a giant contract extension.
  • Dustin Byfuglien, who may be pseudo-retired—but who will still not be forgiven for parking his big ass in Roberto Luongo’s face.

Why We Hate Them:

The Jets are built to bully the rest of the Western Conference, and they’ve done a pretty good job of exactly that over the past few seasons. There are also a couple of compelling off-ice reasons to dislike the Winnipeg organization—not the least of which is Laine and his literal and figurative big mouth.

Why They’re Not So Bad:

The Jets had an absolutely brutal offseason, and it’s hard not to feel bad for them—and to imagine them continuing to contend. Winnipeg is trending in the wrong direction to make them a potential rival for the Canucks.

 

If We Had To Pick One:

The Calgary Flames have been the Canucks’ top rivals before, and they’ll probably hold that title again one day—and perhaps in the very near future. The Flames have both the talent and the truculence to make a miserable first round opponent, and the league’s current playoff structure makes such a series virtually impossible to avoid if the Canucks ever want to go deep into the postseason again.

The presence of Matthew Tkachuk and Milan Lucic alone ensures that any game between the Canucks and Flames in the 2019/20 season will have the potential to get heated—and the Canucks are finally built to push back.