VANCOUVER – If the nineties were the promise of what was possible for the Vancouver Canucks, a vision came true at the beginning of the 21st century: an entertaining, talented, star-driven team that wasn't just for one season, but also was excellent for one season.
General Manager Mike Gillis strategically preserved the valuable pieces Dave Nonis, including coach Alain Vigneault, had left for him, and the Canucks developed into one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
In a seven-season period that started in 2006/07, the Canucks won six championship titles, two Presidents' Trophies, and more games than any team at their conference other than the San Jose Sharks.
The Canucks made it four times after the first round of playoffs and were by far the best team in the NHL in 2010/11 until the Boston Bruins defeated them in the Stanley Cup final.
This loss will burn forever, but this era has become even more golden over time on the west coast.
Since Sportsnet put together teams up to the decade to mark the 50th anniversary of the franchise in the NHL, the best players of that time were divided into two teams. Here is our team from the 2000s.
CANUCKS ALL-2000s TEAM
2006-2014, 0.919 Sv%, 2.36 GAA
It is possible that no other trade in franchise history changed the Canucks' perception so directly and profoundly and boosted the development of the team when Nonis 2006 Luongo of the Florida Panthers exchanged for a package of players with Todd Bertuzzi took over.
As one of the best goalkeepers of his generation and especially in his peak years, Luongo changed the way the opponents looked and planned for the Canucks, helping to make a good aspiring team a championship candidate. Luongo was so important to the Canucks that Gillis, who replaced Nonis in 2008, appointed his goalkeeper team captain, although the NHL refused to accept the label.
Luongo will go to the Hockey Hall of Fame as the third winning goalkeeper in NHL history, and more than half of his 489 wins came during his eight years in Vancouver. "Lou" is also the only player to appear on more than one of Sportsnet's Canucks teams spanning ten decades.
Starting grid of Sportsnet
Ron MacLean reflects on Roberto Luongo's career
March 6, 2020
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1997–2009, 93 G, 232 A
The Swedish defender with the all-round game was a warrior for the Canucks. He spent eleven seasons in Vancouver before leaving in 2009 as a free agent as the team's top scorer under the Blue Liners. Remarkably, he did all of this after suffering eye damage at the start of his warm-up warm-up career. He played the rest with a valve in his cheek to relieve pressure around the eye.
The first choice of 1994, one of the few gleaming from the dark age of the Canucks designs, was immediately made a top pairing defender by coach Mike Keenan and became a fearless and respected leader in the team. He was skillful, mobile, and physically strong – the kind of defender you build around like the Canucks did.
2002–2012, 74 G, 162 A
We were torn between Salo and Ed Jovanovski for the second choice in defense for the team of the 2000s. The powerful Jovanovski fleet was the more dynamic and effective of the two, good enough to be part of the Canadian Olympic team that won the gold medal in 2002. But "Jovo" only played six full seasons in Vancouver before moving to sunny Arizona as a suitor. Salo, on the other hand, spent nine seasons and his best NHL years with the Canucks, which he acquired in 2002, when GM Brian Burke Peter Schaefer to the Senators of Ottawa sold.
Salo was never the team's best defender, but always one of the most important. The contempt that some directed at him for his unfortunate medical record was grossly unfair; The games the Finn played during his injury were innumerable and he took part in every shift. Unforgettable chants from “Balls of Steel! Steel Eggs! "Rolled off the stands during the 2010 playoffs when Salo pulled out to play against the Chicago Blackhawks after being hit by a blow to the pelvic region in Game 5.
Salo set a good example and made his defense partners better, and his shot was arguably the hardest in franchise history.
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1996-2008, 346 G, 410 A
Perhaps because his personality was so reserved and calm and he rarely celebrated his goals, Naslund did not generate the same emotional and stimulating response from fans as the other greatest players in franchise history. However, this does not reduce its effectiveness or performance.
Naslund was acquired by Pat Quinn of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1996 in one of the most one-sided trades in Canucks history (Alek Stojanov went the other way) and developed from a talented but enigmatic and inconsistent winger to one of the best scorers the USA NHL at the beginning of this century. He scored 48 goals in 2002/03 when he was the first Canuck to win the Ted Lindsay Award – Liga MVP as chosen by the players. No Canuck has scored nearly as many goals in a season since then.
Naslund was the linchpin of the Linemates Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison on the West Coast Express, and his eight-year tenure as captain corresponds to Stan Smyls and Henrik Sedins as the longest in franchise history. When Naslund left Canucks as a free agent in 2008, he outperformed Trevor Linden as the Canucks' top scorer. Smyl, Sedin, Linden – that's a pretty good company.
1998-2006, 188 G, 261 A
In the 2000s there were few characters in the NHL who separated more than Bertuzzi, who was already one of the most unpopular opponents when he ended Steve Moore's career with a sucker in 2004. This attack paid off for Moore's dirty goal that had injured his best friend Naslund earlier this season and was also the beginning of the end for Bertuzzi.
The incident and subsequent decline in Bertuzzi's game, which accelerated with his trade for Luongo in 2006, made it easy to forget how good "Big Bert" had been for the Canucks when his unworldly combination of size and Ability made one of the most dominant strikers in the NHL. He scored 46 goals in 2003 and scored 25 or more in six of his seven seasons in Vancouver. Bertuzzi's brand was relatively short, but blindingly bright, and he remains among the top 10 in franchise history in terms of goals, points and penalty minutes.
2003–2014, 182 G, 211 A
Ryan Kesler's peak years with the Canucks spanned the first two decades of this century. But we're adding him partially to the 2000s team to leave space for someone else alongside the Sedins in the Sportsnet 2010 team, and because Kesler has been so damn effective since he was selected in the first round of the 2003 design.
The Canucks had never had an elite shutdown center like Kesler, which won the Selke Trophy in 2011. The American was an absolute beast to play against. He combined his testing, skating and agitating skills with excellent offensive skills and made him dangerous on both ends of the ice. With the centers Henrik Sedin and Kesler, Vancouver had the best double victory in franchise history – the current Canucks Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat could question this – and there was a pretty good debate at the time about the NHL about which star was more important.
Vancouver fans hated Kesler when he forced a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in 2014 after 10 seasons with the Canucks – and then lied about it. But this broken relationship began to heal when Kesler appeared last month to resign the Sedins and one day his name was added to the Canucks' ring of honor.
Do you want more? Click here for the 1970s schedule, the 1980s schedule, and the 1990s schedule.