Monday, November 25, 2013

Raymond and the top five "how come he never did it here" ex-Canucks

So...what do these three players have in common?

This past Thursday, I took a look at Mason Raymond's very well-publicized revival in Toronto. And while I may have been a little premature about Todd Bertuzzi "beating the odds once again" (six games without a point since my post), Raymond is just now coming off a career-high 5-game point streak, upping his season totals to 8 goals and 9 assists in 23 games.

With nearly a third of the season through, it seems like May Ray's awakening has some legitimate staying power. At his current pace, he'll have 28 goals and 60 points by season's end. But without repeating why Raymond's scoring rate would likely not have occurred if he had stayed in Vancouver (see the previous post), it nonetheless constitutes a cruel, cruel joke, given the Canucks' current offensive vacuum.

For years, fans in Vancouver waited patiently, err... passionately for Raymond to put forth this kind of secondary scoring. It's the kind of "he really couldn't have done that here?" scenario that a self-deprecating Canucks fan can really feast on.

So with Raymond's current run with the Leafs in mind, here are the top five players who put in their best years only after handing in their Canucks jerseys.



5. Martin Rucinsky, New York Rangers

Yes, Martin Rucinsky. At 20 total games with Vancouver, it's difficult to even call him an ex-Canuck. But here's why he's leading this list off. In anticipation of a very long playoff run, Brian Burke went all in at the trade deadline and packaged R.J. Umberger to the Rangers in exchange for Rucinsky. The veteran Czech came to Vancouver with 42 points in 69 games and the promise of legitimate secondary scoring.

Despite being played 19 minutes per game in Todd Bertuzzi's absence, Rucinsky contributed all of 3 points in his 13 games following the trade. And in the playoffs? One goal and one assist, as the Canucks bowed out to Calgary in seven games.

To be fair, it's clear that Umberger had no intention of ever playing in Vancouver (he sat out the entire 2003-04 season rather than sign a rookie deal). But as a first-rounder coming off an All-Star season in the NCAA, you would have hoped that the return would have been represented by more than two paltry goals in less than half a season's worth of service.

Adding insult to injury, Rucinsky re-joined New York following the lockout and proceeded to score 55 points -- the second-highest total of his career despite an injury-shortened 52-game season. Could have really used some of that in Game 7 against Calgary.

4. Felix Potvin, Los Angeles Kings

Potvin came to Vancouver in the very depths of the goalie graveyard age. Acquired via trade from the Islanders in December 1999, the immediate return was promising. In 34 games for Vancouver that season, he recorded a 2.59 GAA and .906 save percentage, generating the belief that Potvin had rediscovered his early-90s self and that the days of Kevin Weeks-calibre goaltending were over in Vancouver.

The following season, however, his stats plummeted (3.08 GAA, .887 save percentage) and the Potvin experiment was over. The Canucks acquired Dan Cloutier from the Lightning and the former All-Star was promptly off-loaded to L.A. for nothing more than "future considerations".

Now, Cloutier put in several respectable seasons for the Canucks. But the performance that Potvin turned in for L.A. following the trade was simply incomparable. The ubiquitous belief surrounding Cloutier's time with Vancouver is that the Canucks won in spite of him, whereas Potvin literally carried the Kings in the two years that followed.

Playing in 23 of the Kings' final 25 games in 2000-01, he went 13-5-5 with an astounding 1.96 GAA and .919 save percentage -- consider him L.A.'s Jonathan Quick before Jonathan Quick. With the Kings well out of a 2001 playoff spot at the time of the trade, Potvin's performance propelled them into seventh place -- one spot ahead of the Canucks. Potvin then took L.A. within one game of the semifinals with a two-shutout performance against the Avalanche in the second round.

Cloutier's numbers in those same playoffs? A 4.63 GAA and .842 save percentage in two losses as the Canucks were swept by the same Colorado team.

3. Pavol Demitra, Slovakia

This was one's admittedly a bit of a curve ball, as Demitra was still a Canuck when he suited up for Slovakia in 2010. But the sentiment remains the same. While he was certainly serviceable on the second line, the second he switched jerseys, he morphed into something that even the most optimistic Canucks fan would have failed to imagine.

In a tournament featuring the very best-on-best, Demitra led all scorers with 10 points in 7 games. That's 3 more than Crosby and 2 more than the tournament Best Forward, Jonathan Toews. And while Demitra inevitably failed to lead Slovakia to a medal, he was literally inches away from tying their semifinal against Canada.

Had Slovakia advanced to the gold medal game, Tournament MVP would have likely been a dead heat between Demitra and the eventual winner, Ryan Miller. Instead, the 35-year-old was voted onto the Tournament All-Star Team, alongside a pair of NHL superstars in Toews and Zach Parise.

All things considered, Demitra was far from a disappointment as a Canuck. With 69 points in 97 games over the course of two seasons, he was no Martin Rucinsky. And much of his perceived inconsistency with the Canucks during that Olympic year can be attributed to shoulder surgery in between seasons. Nonetheless, what he did for Slovakia in 2010 was as incredible as it was generally frustrating for Canucks fans. Olympic Demitra could have certainly been useful against Chicago later that year.

2. Dirk Graham, Minnesota North Stars

Credit goes to @SteveMay for this gem, as I am apparently not very well-versed in the list of late-seventies draft picks that got away. Selected 89th overall in 1979, Graham starred for Regina in the WHL. After failing to crack a very weak Canucks team out of junior, he was assigned to the CHL affiliate in Dallas where he scored 32 points in 62 games.

I will freely admit to not having even heard of Graham before @SteveMay, so I won't even begin to pretend to know what happened that the Canucks cut ties with this Graham so quickly. But after a handful of games the next season, the future Blackhawks captain and Selke winner disappears from the Canucks farm system altogether and starts playing with the Toledo GoalDiggers. After several years starring in the IHL, the Minnesota North Stars took notice and signed the Canucks cast-off.

CrashingTheGoalie has a very comprehensive article outlining his well-respected and decorated career as a defensive specialist with Chicago. Here's the Sparknotes version: a Selke in 1991, a record three goals in 10 minutes during the 1992 Finals and a top-ten ranking in all-time short handed goals.

Apparently whatever Graham was doing in the Canucks' farm system around 1980 was extremely frustrating. Because the rugged Saskatchewan-native is certainly someone the team could have used in the 80s.

1. Cam Neely, Boston Bruins

Hey, speaking of the 80s.

Taken ninth overall in 1983, Neely put in three consecutive 30-point seasons before the Canucks decided that Barry Pederson was a better long-term investment. While Pederson did his part, hitting 70 points in each of the two seasons following the infamous swap, Neely wasted no time in proving the Canucks management and coaching staff wrong.

While GM Jack Gordon is often blamed for being impatient with Neely's development, it's clear that the power forward was already there, as he immediately doubled his output from 34 points to 72 in his first season with Boston. As with Rucinsky, Potvin and Demitra, it simply wasn't happening as long as he was a Canuck.

-HC

1 comment:

  1. Rucinsky (and Geoff Sanderson) were less "all in" type moves than stopgap measures after Bertuzzi got suspended for the rest of the year. The deadline was just days after The Incident™.

    I remember Graham well -- I actually had no idea he was a Canuck draft pick.

    Rick Vaive is another who could be on this list, though his time in Vancouver was brief.

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