WWYDW Summer Debates: Who is the Canucks’ all-time unsung hero?

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
8 months ago
Welcome back to WDYTT, er, WWYDW, the only hockey column on the internet that doesn’t require an annual fee.
Speaking of doing things annually, every year the Vancouver Canucks hand out a bevy of team awards, including four that are voted on by the fans.
But they’ve never conducted similar polling on the long-term, big-picture view of the franchise.
As an earlier segment in our Summer Debates, we kind of got the ball rolling by asking you if Quinn Hughes was the best defenseman in Canucks’ history, a question the fanbase answered with a hearty “yeah, duh.”
And since we’ve thus accidentally covered one of the four fan-voted team awards on an all-time basis, we figured we might as well do all of them.
Next up is Unsung Hero. This is the award category that often sparks the greatest debate each year, and it’s really no mystery as to why. What exactly an “unsung hero” is remains largely undefined, and the more accolades a player gets for being an unsung hero, the less unsung they become.
It’s complicated, and it means something a little bit different to everyone.
But what does it mean to you?
This week, we’re asked you to look back on the less-celebrated lights in Canucks history, because we’re debating:

Who is the Canucks’ all-time unsung hero?

Make your case in the comment section.
Last week, we debated:

Who is the best coach in Vancouver Canucks history?

Your responses are listed below!
Pat Quinn, the double threat, was an even better coach than he was a GM. There are some honourable mentions like Roger Neilson for his amazing work with the 1982 team, and solid work by Alain Vigneault and Marc Crawford, but the big Irishman gets the nod. He managed to be both a players’ coach and a hardass at the same time. Many times I’ve wished for another Pat Quinn for this franchise, so there’s no doubt in my mind he tops the list.
Most will suggest AV, however, IMO he isn’t the best we have seen,.
Yes, one of the best with the media and arguably the best in selling himself as being great, but he walked into a situation where he couldn’t lose and yet he couldn’t win when it counted.
IMO the best is Crawford, Quinn is another one we can say was great here.
Most probably don’t like him but I loved Torts as the coach, mostly because of his honesty about the state of the team when he left.
Jesse James Town:
Coach AV for sure, the in-season domination and playoff work are not comparable. If it weren’t for Chicago also at their prime, who knows?
Honourable mention to the Irishman Patty Quinn.
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
  1. If you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t poppin’. AV’s Canucks had haters.
What makes this hard is nobody has ever won the Cup.
Nobody “delivered.”
I don’t have all the love for PQ that many have.
I’ll take Crawford, with AV number two.
AV is the best coach in Canucks history. He never received the recognition around the league. I don’t think he was in the running to be one of Team Canada’s coaches (head coach or assistant) for an Olympic team.
This is despite the fact that he took two different teams to the Cup finals. Won three Presidents’ trophies with two teams.
He is the winningest coach in Canucks history with 63% winning percentage. This is higher than Babcock.
He had a long tenure with TWO GMs and two different playing styles: defensive team with Nonis and offensive with Gillis.
He isn’t yet, but he will be.
Rick Tocchet.
Hockey Bunker:
Phil Maloney was the first to make the team respectable.
He had a collection of old journeymen and young talented players, particularly defensemen.
He did a great job for a couple of years.
He was also a very good player for the WHL Canucks.
Sure, Quinn was better, but Maloney was the first to give the fans some hope.
FV Fan:
AV – Pat Quinn – Marc Crawford
AV had a no nonsense but logical approach combined with a great sense of humor the players loved.
I thought he ran his bench perfectly on most nights.
For me, the best coaches were Pat Quinn, Alain Vigneault, and Mark Crawford, in that order.
Bartholomew Gimble:
Pat Quinn 1st; AV 2nd. All others next. Bill LaForge last.
Tim Noble:
AV was very good. Pat Quinn inspired the room (or perhaps terrified it) like nobody else. But for sheer imagination, the legendary Roger Neilson gets my vote. His “surrender” to the refs in Chicago during the ’82 playoffs inspired the manic white towel craze not only in Vancouver, but throughout the league. He was a visionary, and anybody who is so revered he gets a statue outside an NHL rink deserves a ton of respect.
It’s AV, indubitably and emphatically. Most regular season wins (313), most playoff wins (33), and highest regular season points % (.632) of any Canuck coach. You simply can’t argue with six division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies, and a Stanley Cup Game 7.
Yes, Captain Video was an innovator of coaching technology, had the highest playoff win % (.571), and came up with the towel. But Neilson was a losing coach in the regular season with only 51 wins and a points % of .462.
The internet has spoken.
Canuck Dog:
Harry Neale!
I find this question a lot harder than one would think at first glance, but to me it boils down to Roger Nielsen, Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford, and Alain Vigneault.
As much as I admire Quinn as a coach, GM, and all-around good guy, I will eliminate him from consideration. Quinn was an excellent coach but has a few fatal flaws. One being he was too loyal to underperforming players. This is to be expected from a players’ coach, and a lot of the time it benefitted the team, but I always felt that some players took advantage of this.
Crawford is the next to draw out. Again, another excellent coach who, at one time, Brian Burke solely attributed the team’s success to. I think that assessment was a bit generous because the players had to play, but Crow did expect a lot from the guys and got a lot back. He had a good technical approach and was a great in-game coach. The main downfall was overreliance on the run-and-gun style that exposed the team’s woes in the net.
A bit of a toss-up for the finalist, but I give it to Neilson
I loved Neilson, as did the rest of the NHL. Often, when I go to games, I stand and look at his statue outside the arena and remember that day favorably as a 10-year-old kid falling in love with the Canucks at the very moment that is captured by the statue. Nielsen gets the nod as he brought innovations to his approach that were unheard of at the time. Captain Video took a ragtag group to the finals and brought the team its first glimmer of success.
AV is a very close runner-up and one of the best at adapting between losses to meet the challenges posed by different teams’ systems. He falls just short of being the best, imo, because of a failure to protect the team’s superstars and the unbounding belief to turn the other cheek and take the PP for the wins.
Alan Hans:
In 1982, Roger Neilson captured lightning in a bottle. With a roster of journeymen and characters, ‘Captain Video’ led us on a magic carpet ride for the ages. Pushing all the right buttons with his players, all the right buttons with the fans, and all the right buttons with the media. Heck, he only took over a team that was outside the playoff window, with 10 games left in the season. Went 9-1 to sneak in, built momentum along the way to a Stanley Cup final appearance against a NY Islander team looking to win their fourth Stanley Cup in a row. In the Conference Final series against the Blackhawks, there was the beginning of a ritual that still holds today, in all sports. The ‘Towel Incident,’ draping a players towel over a stick, and surrendering to the referees, was brilliant!
Roger Neilson did this impulsively.
I just think Roger Neilson impacted the game like no other with his creativity. He was universally loved and respected, and I wish all Canuck fans could experience a time like that. Looking back at how many ‘hockey people’ came out of that team is impressive, but the leader was unquestionably Roger.
Bruce Boudreau was #1 in fun !!!
Craig Gowan:
In my view, it’s a three-horse race: Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford, and Alain Vigneault, and it’s difficult to choose from amongst them. No one has had the command presence of Quinn behind the bench. Crawford (529) and Vigneault (540) each coached over 500 games for the Canucks, while Quinn coached 274. Vigneault (2007) and Quinn (1992) each won the coach of the year award. Vigneault was successful with a defensive style under Nonis and an offensive style under Gillis. For his sustained success, I think Vigneault is the best coach in Canucks’ history.
AV is a coach that knows the game well, can teach a good system, and can generate buy-in and get his players playing that system. This led to a lot of regular season success, as you don’t play the same teams back-to-back a lot, which gives the other teams no ability to adjust to your system. However, when the playoff series started, and the system would get the Canucks the first win or two, the other team would analyze the games, find where they were being beaten, and adjust their play to stop the breakdowns from happening. At this point, AV would continue to do the same thing, play the same system, roll all four lines, and go down in flames. Great regular season coach, terrible playoff coach. I can remember swearing at the TV a lot during those Chicago series, the Canucks would have won them all if they swapped AV and Quenneville as coaches.
PQ was the best Canucks coach by a mile, watch the Rangers series Games 5 and 6, and see how he got the team playing completely differently in Game 6 and pulling off a masterpiece. Best coached game of hockey ever played on a Vancouver sheet of ice.

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