Ever since the 2004-05 lockout, Vancouver Canucks fans sure have seen a lot of ups and downs. There has been a little bit of everything: outstanding regular seasons followed by heartbreaking playoff losses, which of course includes the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Boston Bruins in seven games, and there have also been regular seasons where the team has not made the playoffs. During this era, there have been many different players to represent the Canucks. Of course, no general manager is always going to make the correct signing or trade, however, there were some players on these Canucks teams that make one wonder what the general manager was thinking when acquiring that player. To be fair, there are also some instances where the acquisition has been praised at first glance, but criticized after the fact when the player did not work out.
Moreover, all players that make it to the National Hockey League are amazing athletes, which is why it is hard to use “worst,” but there have been many players to come through Vancouver that have not lived up to the expectations, to say the least. It is important to note that many of these players did have productive seasons in their careers prior to, or after their stint with Vancouver, but for whatever reason did not impress while wearing a Canuck jersey. Additionally, some of the players included on this list did not perform terribly, but in comparison to expectations based on their draft or contractual status, they were a major disappointment. So, since this is a relatively quiet time for the NHL, let’s take a look at some of the most disappointing post 2004-05 lockout players to play for the Canucks. Remember, this is referring to the players’ time with the Canucks, and not their time with other teams.
20. Cody Hodgson
This was easily the most difficult decision when producing this list. Yes, Hodgson did produce decent point totals at a very young age, but the fact that Canucks fans/management hyped him up to be a future franchise cornerstone is the reason he is on this list. Everything was going well until the shocking trade that sent Hodgson to Buffalo for Zack Kassian where it was learned that Hodgson had been complaining behind the scenes about playing time. Safe to say his time with the Canucks ended up being a huge disappointment, mainly for the fact he was gone so soon and never developed into what he was hyped to be. He played 71 games with the Canucks from 2010-11 tallying 17 goals and 18 assists with a plus-9 rating. He went on to have productive seasons in Buffalo before suddenly dropping his level of play significantly.
Due to this, Hodgson was bought out by the Sabres. He also spent time in the Nashville organization. Currently, Hodgson is an unrestricted free agent.
19. Jordan Schroeder
The only reason Schroeder is worse than Hodgson on this list is because Hodgson did produce statistically for the Canucks at some point, while Schroeder did not.
Most Canucks fans were delighted on draft day when Vancouver announced the drafting of Schroeder. It seemed like a no-brainer and a steal at the time, as some scouts had Schroeder being drafted in the top 10. Yet, somehow he slid all the way to the Canucks at 22, delighting many Canucks fans in the process. However, this was the best it got for the fans, as Schroeder never panned out for the Canucks. Schroeder did show flashes of what made him a first round talent in the AHL while playing with the Manitoba Moose and Chicago Wolves, but could not carry this over to the big club.
In total, he played 56 games for the Canucks over two seasons in 2012-13, and 2013-14 accumulating 6 goals and 9 assists with a minus-7 rating before the Canucks chose not to extending a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. Schroeder is currently in the second year of two year contract with Minnesota (two way contract). Schroeder still has a chance to establish an NHL career, as he is only 25 years old.
18. Marco Sturm
Is it fair to put a player on this list that only played six games with the Canucks? Maybe, maybe not, but there is no denying how out of place Sturm looked while with the Canucks. Sturm was brought into help with secondary scoring behind the Sedin twins, but it looked as if his knees were still injured from previous seasons and therefore, Sturm could not rediscover his past scoring touch. Some have argued that this was one of the worst free agency gambles in Canucks history, but luckily, then Canucks general manager, Mike Gillis realized his mistake and Sturm was quickly traded along with other assets to acquire David Booth (even though Booth also disappointed, it looked like a good trade at the time).
In total, Sturm scored 0 points and posted a minus-5 rating with the Canucks before being shipped to the Florida Panthers in 2011-2012. He finished the season with the Panthers, then retired for good.
17. Bryan Smolinski
Smolinski, a playmaking center, undoubtedly had a solid NHL career, playing over 1,000 games and recording 651 points. However, his time in Vancouver definitely was a disappointment. Smolinski was acquired at the 2007 trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a 2007 2nd round pick to help the struggling Canucks offence in exchange. However, this was not the case, as he contributed just 4 goals and 3 assists and a minus-3 rating for the Canucks in 20 games.
Smolinski never seemed to fit in with what the Canucks were trying to do and only had a quarter of a season to try and fit in with the team. Maybe this is why general managers are more reluctant to make trade deadline deals today. As for Smolinski, he ended up playing one more season in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens after the Canucks did not re-sign him. He also spent time in the AHL.
16. David Booth
Finally, the Canucks were getting the power forward they had coveted since the days of Todd Bertuzzi. Well, this is what many people had thought, but unfortunately for the Canucks, it did not turn out that way. What seemed like a great trade at first glance for the Canucks, turned out to be the opposite. Although Booth did play three seasons with the Canucks, it needs to be made clear that in comparison to the expectations on him, he was a major disappointment. The Canucks traded a popular forward Mikael Samuelsson along with other assets such as Marco Sturm to Florida for Booth.
Once a 30 goal scorer for Florida, Booth never scored more than 16 in his three seasons with the Canucks. Overall, he tallied 26 goals, 25 assists and a -1 rating in 134 games played. Some of this can be due to health issues, as Booth did have some trouble staying healthy. Today, Booth is playing in the KHL after also spending time with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
15. Keith Ballard
Similar to Booth, Ballard had high expectations because of his contractual status. To be fair, he was solid as a bottom pairing defenceman, but the idea was for Ballard to be much more than that. He was supposed to be a key defenceman that could move the puck, play on the power play, and play 20 plus minutes a game. Unfortunately for Ballard and Canucks fans, it did not turn out this way as, Ballard never saw eye to eye with Coach Alain Vigneault. This all meant the Canucks ended up paying a 5th defenceman over $4 million per year in a tight salary cap era.
It especially hurt, because the Canucks were legitimate cup contenders at this time and could have used the extra money for other areas of need. Ballard played 148 games in three seasons for the Canucks (2011-2014), tallying 3 goals and 13 assists with a plus-8 rating, not exactly what Canucks fans hoped for when giving up Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier, and a first round pick.
14. Keith Carney
Adding Carney to this list was another tough decision, because at the time of this trade deadline acquisition, most Canucks fans were pleased with this pickup. Carney seemed like the final piece for a cup contending team (somehow the Canucks did not even make the playoffs that year, thanks to a collapse towards the end of the regular season). Hindsight is 20-20, but this is definitely a trade that Dave Nonis would like to have back, as a useful second round pick was part of the package to acquire Carney.
Carney only went on to only play 18 games with the Canucks, acquiring 2 assists and a minus-5 rating. He went on to sign with the Minnesota Wild for one year and never played in the NHL again after that. It’s safe to say this is another trade deadline acquisition that did not work out for the Canucks.
13. Eric Weinrich
Apart from having a shiny visor, there was not much flare to Weinrich’s game while with the Canucks. Weinrich looked old and slow during his tenure with the Canucks (there seems a pattern here of Canucks acquiring too many old players). To be fair it was towards the end of his career and Weinrich had previously proven he was a capable NHL defenceman. This player was just another example of a trade deadline acquisition that did not work out, as Weinrich could not establish a rhythm in the short amount of time he was with the Canucks.
Weinrich was acquired at the trade deadline in 2006 from the St Louis Blues. Weinrich played 16 games for the Canucks, tallying 0 points and a minus-13 rating. I repeat, a minus-13 rating in just 16 games. Weinrich spent the next two years playing in the AHL before retiring. One of the worst trade deadline pickups in Canucks history, in my opinion.
12. Shane O’Brien
O’Brien showed potential as a reliable bottom pairing defenseman during his tenure with the Canucks from 2008-2010, but ultimately could not put all of the pieces together and remain consistent. In time, instead of being known for his on ice play, O’Brien became more known for his partying away from the rink, (Roxy, anyone?) weight issues, and having a fractured relationship with the Canucks’ management. Eventually O’Brien wore out his welcome in Vancouver, and was waived.
He played 141 regular season games, recording 2 goals and 16 assists and a +21 rating. He did have a couple of productive seasons afterwards in the NHL, but he is currently a free agent. To this day, it still feels like O’Brien could have been a much better player, but there were too many distractions away from the rink, especially in Vancouver.
11. Jeff Cowan
Who could forget Jeff Cowan, or better known in Vancouver as Cowan, the “Bra-Barian?” Cowan, known as a tough guy, unexpectedly scored 6 goals in 4 games for the Canucks at the end of the 2006-07 season and became the new fan favorite. This is also when the “Bra-Barian was born, as a bra was thrown on the ice in celebration of his goal streak. Cowan eventually used this newly built momentum to secure a two year contract extension from the Canucks. Unfortunately, he did not come close to maintaining the same level of production the next season, including his role as an enforcer.
It started to become known to some Canucks fans that the majority of his fights would end up in losses and he was not producing any points. So what was his role? In the end, Cowan only recorded one assist in 46 games in the first year of his new contract and was placed on waivers.
10. Linden Vey
A Willie Desjardins favourite and one of the most recent players to play on the Canucks that will be included on this list. It is important to first be fair, and acknowledge Vey was going through a very difficult personal situation this latest NHL season and this most definitely would have had an impact on his play. You could see that Vey has the skills to be an effective point producer, but it just never panned out in Vancouver. Vey cost the Canucks a second round pick. This also probably cost them a good prospect/future player knowing how good Jim Benning is at scouting and drafting players.
Overall, Vey played two seasons with the Canucks and totaled 14 goals and 25 assists with a minus-17 rating in 116 games. Vey has recently signed a one year, two way contract with the Calgary Flames. Fingers are crossed for Vey.
9. Byron Ritchie
Ritchie never really fit in with the Canucks during his one season in 2007-08. Ritchie was able to produce statistically in other leagues such as the AHL, but this never carried over into the NHL. The Canucks hoped that signing the local product (Burnaby, BC) would ignite Ritchie and possibly provide a solid bottom 6 forward for a playoff team. With the exception of some penalty killing duty, Ritchie was largely ineffective for the Canucks. Perhaps this is why his tenure with the Canucks was not a very long one.
In total, Ritchie only played 71 games for the Canucks producing 3 goals and 8 assists with a minus-10 rating. It’s a shame that things didn’t pan out for the hometown boy. He was not re-signed the following season and has since gone on to continue his career in Europe.
8. Steve McCarthy
To be fair, this acquisition seemed like a good gamble by the Canucks at the time. McCarthy was acquired in August 2005 for a third round pick. Remember, McCarthy was once captain of the 2000 Canadian World Junior team and he was always regarded as as a defenceman that could make a significant impact in the NHL. However, he will mostly be remembered by Canucks fans in relation to his comments regarding team chemistry, specifically when he talked about how poor the relationship between Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi had become.
Maybe McCarthy should have focused more on his production, as he played 51 games with the Canucks tallying only 2 goals and 4 assists with a plus-3 rating, before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for a conditional fourth round pick. He wound up playing parts of three seasons in the NHL after his time with the Canucks, before moving on to other lower level leagues.
7. Lee Goren
Goren had all of the physical tools to be an impact player at the NHL level. He was over 6 feet, over 200 pounds, he had a great shot and displayed soft hands. He was never afraid to go grind it out in the dirty areas. So what happened to Goren when he was with the Canucks? That is a difficult question to answer for many Canucks fans. We do know he was a fantastic player in the AHL for the Manitoba Moose. However, Goren could not carry this level of play over to the Canucks. Goren ended up playing in only 30 games for the Canucks from 2005-2007, tallying 1 goal and 2 assists with a minus-8 rating. He had his chances but just could not put all of the tools he had together. Goren never ended up playing in the NHL again and spent the rest of his career in the AHL, or overseas.
6. Jesse Schultz
Schultz was a well-known favourite to then Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Like Goren, Schultz was a star at the AHL level, but ultimately he turned out to be another disappointment for Canucks fans when this high level play did not carry over to the NHL. He had such a great preseason in the 2006-2007 season that he started on a line with the Sedin twins when the regular season started. However, and shockingly, he only lasted two games in the regular season and was sent back to the AHL. Schultz never played in the NHL again.
The most disappointing part for Canucks fans was how management had hyped this player up as another potential perfect fit for the twins, only to break Canucks fans’ hearts. He did not record any points in his two games, and ended up playing the rest of his career in the AHL and other overseas leagues.
5. Brad Isbister
Even before him time as a Canuck, Isbister was mostly known as a player that never truly fulfilled his potential. For these reasons, most Canucks fans did not expect much from Isbister based on his previous stints in the NHL with the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers. However, it is all not negative, as Isbister was signed as a free agent and it did not require the Canucks any assets to obtain him. Additionally, many saw him as a cheap option that could turn out to be a bargain (which was not the case).
Overall, Isbister lasted 55 games with the Canucks in 2007-08 and tallied 6 goals with 5 assists on a minus-4 rating. After his time in Vancouver, Isbister played one season overseas. It is safe to say Isbister did not turn out to be the power forward many Canucks fans craved.
4. Tommi Santala
Santala probably would not have been on this list if it was not for the Dave Nonis hype machine. Canucks fans were led to believe that Santala was one of the best 4th line centers in the league, which was interesting because usually when one thinks of a 4th liner, they think of grit and toughness and with all due respect to Santala, this was not what he was known for. Overall, Santala turned out be another disappointment courtesy of then general manager Nonis. Santala seemed too slow of foot to play the role that had been promoted for him and he truly never established any momentum as a Canuck, as he truly had an undefined role. He ended up playing only 30 games with the Canucks tallying 1 goal with an even rating. Santala also spent some time in the AHL before finishing his career in Europe.
3. Marc Chouinard
What seemed like an effective signing at the time, turned out to be the exact opposite. Before his time in Vancouver, Chouinard was known as a solid two-way forward that could penalty kills, win face-offs, and also provide a big body in needed situations. Finally, the Canucks had their guy that could go out and win face-offs in crunch time. However, this did not turn out to be the case.
Unfortunately, Chouinard was not made for the “new” NHL that emphasized speed and skill. His signing proved to be a few years too late. Chouinard lasted just 42 games with the ‘Nucks, registering 2 goals and 2 assists with a -2 rating before being sent to the AHL. He was eventually bought out (at least he got a nice payday) and never played in the NHL again.
2. Jan Bulis
Finally, the perfect fit for the Sedin twins. A player that had scored 4 goals in one game was going to be a huge factor for the Canucks in terms of scoring. Well, that is what most Canucks fans thought, until they watched Bulis play. During his tenure, Bulis was the butt end of many jokes from Canucks fans due to his disappointing play, including the infamous moment of being called dumb by former Canuck commentator Tommy Larschied. Bulis never did fit in well with the twins and was eventually moved off of the line. To his credit, Bulis did reinvent himself towards the end of the season to become a serviceable checking forward. However, Bulis was brought into be a scorer and not a checking forward. Overall, Bulis also only lasted the 2006-2007 season with the Canucks, scoring a disappointing 12 goals and 11 assists with -8 rating. Bulis went on to play several seasons in the KHL after his time in Vancouver.
1. Mathieu Schneider
One cannot deny the great career of Mathieu Schneider, however his time with the Canucks was downright atrocious. Canucks fans were expecting a solid veteran that could play on the power play and be a calming presence for the team. Schneider ended up signing a one year contract with the Canucks in 2009 and missed time at the start of season due to injury. When he did play, Schneider was mostly used for depth and he was not fond of this role. This led to a fallout with management and the coaching staff, which then led to a demotion to the AHL, and an eventual trade to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Schneider finished his time with the Canucks playing just 17 games and tallying 2 goals and 3 assists, with an even rating. Schneider finished his playing career that same season of 2009-10 with the Coyotes. Schneider did not exactly provide the veteran leadership the Canucks expected.
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