It’s actually not fun or easy trying to construct a list that basically calls professional hockey players “the worst.” Perhaps a more polite way of putting things would be to call these the 15 most ineffective Vancouver Canucks in franchise history. It’s a difficult task to complete since the style of play in the NHL has changed quite a bit over the years and new rules have also been introduced, Comparing players from different eras is never going to be a perfect science. Ideally, these players listed below would have been just as bad or ineffective in any era of the NHL.
All of these players appeared in a minimum of 40 games with Vancouver, but the majority of them suited up for quite a lot more. Factors taken into consideration when making the list were the player’s draft position, potential, statistics with previous teams and expectations with the Canucks. Some of these players may have performed well with other teams, but for some reason, were underachievers in Vancouver. Some of them also had the misfortune of playing with the club shortly after it joined the NHL as an expansion team.
Having said that, the stats show that some of these players simply weren’t cut out to be elite players at the NHL level and didn’t make much of an impact no matter where they played. For these players, their entire NHL careers were mediocre at best. Also, so-called goons and enforcers weren’t left off the list just because they supposedly have a job to do. Any player who makes it to the NHL should have enough ability to chip in with at least five points a season and not be a defensive liability while on the ice. In addition, these types of players should know when to pick their spots and not leave their teammates shorthanded by taking ill-timed penalties. After taking these factors into consideration these are the top 15 worst players in Vancouver Canucks history.
15 Steve Staios
Staios played both wing and defense in his NHL career, and it wasn’t a bad one. He played in 1,001 regular season games and racked up 220 points, but was a minus-86. He didn’t fare too well with Vancouver though after the 27th overall draft pick was taken by the Canucks on waivers in 1996-97. He started off well with six points in nine games that season and was a plus-2. Things went downhill after that as Staios managed just nine more points in 139 games with a minus-15 rating. Vancouver didn’t feel he could help the team and he was left unprotected in the 1999 expansion draft and taken by the Atlanta Thrashers.
14 Ed Dyck
Goaltender Ed Dyck was chosen in the third round of the 1970 draft with the 30th overall pick by the Canucks. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the grade and his NHL career lasted all of 49 games. Dyck tended the net a dozen times in 1971-72 and won one game while losing six and tying two with a 3.66 goals-against average. He had a tougher time the next season when he won five, lost 17, tied one and posted a 4.53 GAA.
Dyck was back again the next campaign for another dozen games and went 2-5-2 with a 4.63 GAA. He managed to win eight out of 49 games for the Canucks while losing 28 and tying five. Dyck never played another NHL game after the 1973-74 season and left the league with a 4.35 GAA.
13 Jeff Cowan
Left-winger Jeff Cowan was an undrafted player who made it to the NHL. He was never a big scorer, but he didn’t fit the enforcer role very well either even though he was 6-foot-2. The Canucks took Cowan on waivers from Los Angeles in December of 2006. Cowan did okay with the team by scoring seven goals and three assists in 42 games and added two markers in 10 postseason outings.
However, the next year he couldn’t do anything right and contributed just one point in 46 appearances while posting a minus-5 rating. He was placed on waivers and never played in the NHL again.
12 Jim Agnew
The Canucks drafted defenseman Jim Agnew with the 257th pick in 1984, but he wasn’t really cut out for the NHL game. He was up and down with the team between 1986 and 1992 and appeared in 65 games. Offensively, he mustered just one assist and defensively he was a minus-12 player. Agnew suffered with injury problems and was released in 1992. The Hartford Whalers took a gamble on him, but he played just 16 games before retiring. Agnew scored a lone point in his 81 NHL games and served 257 minutes in the penalty box.
11 Jason Strudwick
Strudwick was taken by the Islanders with the 63rd overall pick in the 1994 draft. He played 18 games with the team before ending up in Vancouver in 1997/98. The defenceman appeared in 243 contests with the Canucks and chipped in with four goals, 15 assists and 367 penalty minutes up until 2002 and was a minus-15. He played eight more years in the NHL, but didn’t really improve as he retired with 55 points in 674 games with 811 penalty minutes and a minus-82 rating.
10 Shane O’Brien
Defenseman Shane O’Brien has carved out a decent NHL career considering he was drafted in the eighth round with the 250th pick by Anaheim in 2003. The Canucks picked him up in a trade in October of 2008 and he had problems getting along with then-GM Mike Gillis and coach Alain Vigneault, who believed he was more interested in fighting than playing hockey. He continued to have disciplinary problems with the club and was placed on waivers two years after arriving.
O’Brien scored just two goals and 16 assists in 141 regular season games with 275 penalty minutes. Ironically, after playing just one season with the Ducks and then being shipped out, the 32-year-old O’Brien signed a two-way contract with the club this summer as a free agent.
9 Byron Ritchie
Centre Byron Ritchie was a player who could rack up the points in every league he played in except the NHL. He’s only 5-foot-10 and a late draft pick, 165th overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1995. The Canucks were hoping for a little more than they got though when they signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2007. Ritchie played 71 games for Vancouver in 2007-08 but was a disappointment with just three goals and eight assists with a minus-10 rating.
The Canucks didn’t re-sign him after that and he left the NHL for good and has been playing in Europe for the past seven campaigns. The 38-year-old Ritchie is still playing with Modo of the Swedish league this season. He scored 58 points in 324 NHL games and went pointless in eight postseason fixtures.
8 Larry Melnyk
The Boston Bruins drafted defenceman Larry Melnyk with the 78th overall pick in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, but he was sent to Edmonton after 75 appearances. He spent a lot of time going back and forth to AHL teams and found himself with the Canucks in the 1987-88 season. He played 190 games with the west-coast club and racked up five goals, 16 assists and 245 penalty minutes. Melnyk also played in four playoff encounters and went pointless.
He didn’t provide much offence and didn’t help out defensively either as he posted a minus-36 rating with Vancouver, going minus-27 in 67 contests in 1989-90 with just a pair of assists. Unfortunately, Melnyk was the target of booing fans and retired from the NHL following that campaign.
7 Marc Chouinard
Centre Marc Chouinard was chosen by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1995 draft after starring in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He never played with the Jets though and was shipped off to Anaheim, making his NHL debut five years after being drafted. Chouinard had problems scoring and setting up teammates at the NHL level. He was big at 6-foot-5, but quite slow.
He was signed as a free agent by the Canucks in July of 2006 and placed on waivers just seven months later. In the meantime, Chouinard played in 42 games and chipped in with just two goals and two assists. He cleared waivers, ended up in the AHL for the remainder of the season and left the NHL for good to play in Europe.
6 Alek Stojanov
Stojanov was a seventh-overall draft pick in 1991 from the Guelph Storm because of the forward’s scoring prowess and toughness. However, it basically disappeared when he hit the big time. He was called up from Syracuse of the AHL in 1994-95 for a brief time and went scoreless while posting a minus-2 rating.
He was given a legitimate shot the next season when he played 58 games. However, he failed miserably by contributing a lone assist, 123 penalty minutes and a minus-12 rating. He was shipped out to the Pittsburgh Penguins and played the last 10 games of the season with them, scoring one goal. He played 35 games the next year with five points and never set foot on an NHL rink again.
5 Dean Malkoc
Dean Malkoc was drafted in the fifth round with the 95th selection by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. He was basically chosen for his toughness and size. He didn’t play a game with the Devils and the Canucks picked him up from the AHL for the 1995-96 season as a free agent. Malkoc wasn’t much help to his hometown team as he recorded just two assists in 41 games and served 136 penalty minutes.
It’s one thing to be added to the roster for toughness, but Malkoc was a defensive liability and posted a minus-10 rating in those 41 games. The Canucks didn’t protect him in the waiver draft the next year and Boston took a chance on him. He retired with four points in 116 NHL contests.
4 Curt Ridley
Goaltender Curt Ridley was the 28th player taken in the 1971 draft when Boston took him. Unfortunately, he didn’t play a game with the Bruins and ended up with the New York Rangers for a couple of games in 1974-75 and posted a 5.19 goals-against average. He joined the Canucks the next season and went unbeaten with six wins and two ties and a sparkling GAA of 2.28. He made it back to the Canucks’ net the next year and things went downhill quickly. Ridley won just eight games while losing 21 and tying four. His GAA for the season was 3.88. In 1977-78 he went 9-17-8 with a 4.06 GAA.
Ridley spent the next two years in the minors before playing 10 games with the Canucks in 1979-80 when he went 2-6-2 with a GAA of 3.91. He was then shipped off to the Maple Leafs and appeared in just six more NHL contests. Ridley played 96 games in Vancouver and won 25 of them while losing 44 and tying 16. He also lost both of his playoff games with a GAA of 4.00.
3 Craig Coxe
The Detroit Red Wings drafted centre Craig Coxe in the fourth round in 1982 with the 66th pick. He couldn’t agree to contract terms with the club though and two years later was signed by the Canucks as a free agent. He played 177 games with Vancouver and spent most of his time in the penalty box with his 535 minutes.
He found the time to score 10 goals and 21 assists though, but was a defensive liability every time he was on the ice and went minus-29 during his Canucks’ stint. Vancouver let Coxe go in the 1991 expansion draft when San Jose took him. He played 10 games for the Sharks and spent the last eight years of his career in the minors.
2 Darren Langdon
The argument could be made that the undrafted Darren Langdon had no business playing in the NHL. He was nothing more than an enforcer who lasted 521 games and recorded a total of 39 points and 1251 penalty minutes. That doesn’t mean he should be excluded from this list though. Langdon played with the Canucks in the 2002-03 season and played 41 games. He helped the team out by scoring one assist while spending 143 minutes in the penalty box. He was gone the next year.
1 Shawn Antoski
Left-winger Shawn Antoski was taken 18th overall in the first round by Vancouver in 1991, ahead of Martin Brodeur and Keith Tkachuk. Antoski was 6-foot-4 and could take care of himself. However, he was also a fine skater with good speed who had the potential to be a solid two-way NHL player. Antoski didn’t go that route though, instead he preferred to stir things up and took too many penalties. He played just 70 games with Vancouver between 1990 and 1995 and chipped in with one goal, two assists and 265 penalty minutes.
The Canucks traded him to the Flyers in the 1994-95 season and he played parts of four more seasons in the NHL. Antoski retired in 1998 after playing just 183 NHL games and scoring three goals and five assists. He added four more points in 36 playoff games. Through no fault of his own, the Canucks wasted a first-round draft pick on Antoski and he never lived up to his potential as he didn’t utilize his talent.
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