Moments In Time: Canucks Top Skillful Goons
The Vancouver Canucks in recent years have become synonymous with skill and offensive prowess, and though they have often been complimented on their evolution they have also been knocked in some quarters for their perceived lack of toughness.
This impression many observers feel was made most obvious when they were pushed around by the big, bad Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals this year.
Team management has emphasized that they do not feel they need to take the goon route, for fear of upsetting the current blend of speed and skill believed to be required for the modern NHL.
However, long-time team followers will remember the years when the team was often notable for the robustness of some of its harder edged teammates, who also brought some skill to the table. Such players are difficult to find, especially in the context of fitting within the team in the salary cap era.
However, if it could be done, the addition of a capable enforcer could be the final key to the promised land of the elusive Stanley Cup championship. Who are the most well rounded fighters/ enforcers in Canuck lore?
5. Rick Rypien – The sadness of Ripper’s death is tempered somewhat by the memory of the battles he took on for his teammates.
Rypien feared no opponent and fought other enforcers several pounds outside his weight class. Numerous eulogies following his passing have noted his dedication to his linemates and his unselfish team play. Rypien also hinted at his offensive potential with some decent goals.
One can’t help but think were it not for the depression issues he struggled to overcome, that more time would have helped further develop the skills and leadership of the tough ex-Regina Pats captain.
4. Donald Brashear – Brash was an extraordinarily powerful fighter, whose very presence intimidated other teams to the point where he would not even need to drop his gloves. An impressive 85 goals over his career, also hinted strongly at an ability to find the net.
3. Orland Kurtenbach – The very first Canucks captain was in the twilight of his career when he joined the team for the first four years of its existence, but what a presence he provided.
At six feet and two inches, with a mean streak, he was able to look out for himself and the players he led, while also producing points at an admirable rate for the infant Canucks franchise.
In fact, Orland managed to put up over a point a game pace at the age of 34 in that first year, while still taking on a number of battles with opposing fighters.
2. Gino Odjick – One of the most beloved players in team history, Big Gino was not only tough as nails, but also possessed reasonable skills that allowed him to score enough goals to play beyond the 4th line.
In one memorable season, Gino slotted 16 times, allowing him to ride shotgun alongside those he was assigned to protect, creating space for others including the remarkable Pavel Bure, who became Gino’s closest friend on the team.
1. Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams – Tiger was the most colourful figure of the Canucks earlier years. He was a well-rounded enforcer, whose bravado was backed up by his lack of fear in taking on the toughest fighters the league had on offer.
Intriguingly, he remains the NHL’s career penalty minutes leader, but also boasts an excellent 241 goals over his NHL time.