Why didn't Messier work out for the Canucks?
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02-08-2013, 11:18 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Originally Posted by
Mark Messier was not a good player for the team at all. I'd argue he was one of the reasons the team struggled. He was not a good fit for the team, he did not seem interested in playing the way he did previously in New York, and the controversies surrounding him were distracting to the team.
This was when the goaltending graveyard began for the Canucks, and many of the team's core players were traded during Messier's first year. Throughout the next few years, the team was rebuilding with the beginnings of what would become one of the strongest rosters in the early 2000s. Messier became the leader of this young group consisting of Ohlund, Naslund, Bertuzzi, Aucoin, McCabe, Jovanovski/Hedican, Klatt, May, etc. Players such as Steve Staios, Dana Murzyn, Bure, Linden, Odjick, Gelinas, and Lumme had all been replaced by the middle of Messier's tenure in Vancouver. Alexander Mogilny, meanwhile, played there until the midway point of Messier's last season, when he was traded for Brendan Morrison.
This was a transition period for the Canucks, and Messier was caught in the middle. He certainly did not help the team with his performance, though, frequently demonstrating himself to be lazy and disinterested. His play factored into the team's struggles, though some of it is due to the young core in Vancouver throughout most of his tenure as well as the carousel of goaltenders in the 2.5 years after McLean's departure (Artus Irbe, Sean Burke, Garth Snow, Corey Hirsch, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin, Corey Schwab). It's not that he just wasn't "as good as he was before" -- his play was detrimental to the team's success. As the team's top-line center, he led the team towards the bottom of the NHL standings.
The Canucks did steer themselves in the right direction by Messier's final season, bringing in Andrew Cassels as the team's top centerman; Cassels scored more points that year (62) than Messier had in any of his three years in Vancouver. Cassels, meanwhile, was a +8 that year while Messier was last in the team's +/- rankings with a -15. Brendan Morrison contributed 9 points in his 12 games with Vancouver that year as well, helping the team at center during the final stretch of the season. If anything can be attributed to the Canucks nearly reaching the playoffs that year, it's the gradual improvement of the team's young players, as well as the acquisition of Cassels. Messier often dragged down the team's top line and was more suited to play a lesser position.
Many Canucks fans call this the "dark age" of Canucks history, having fallen from the grace of the early 1990s, though finding redemption in the early 2000s. The moniker is not only because of the team's on-ice performance, but also because the putrid ownership group at the time and the financial instability of the franchise. The Griffiths family had lost its share of the team as a result of their financial contributions to the construction of GM Place; John McCaw, meanwhile, was an incredibly shadowy figure, making fans question his intentions with the team. He moved the Grizzlies and did not seem interested much in the Canucks. It was a tough time for Canucks fans. Mark Messier became the on-ice representation of the team's failures during that period.
to me the canucks' dark ages are everything between the opening of GM place (the failed mogilny + bure experiment) and when luongo came over (which also coincides with the sedins taking over as the go-to scorers from naslund). but those of you who follow my posts probably all know how i feel about the nastuzzi era.
the late 90s teams were indeed terrible, with or without messier. with a better dressing room culture, could they have annually contended for and sometimes make the playoffs only to be bounced in the first round like the post-lockout calgary flames? maybe. the talent was there. but is that any kind of team to cheer for?
as has consistently happened with the canucks since i started following the team the year larionov and krutov came over, the younger generation and older generation didn't overlap in any meaningful way (except maybe right now? #kassian #schneider #schroeder #dreaming).
whether or not linden, bure, mclean, and the other stars of '94 sucked or were injured or were slumping when messier got there (you could include the other star, mogilny, as well), the depth that made the '94 team so great was almost completely gone. timely scoring from adams and geoff courtnall (both unbelievably clutch)? gone. diduck was gone, ronning was gone, lumme and babych were on their way out (and had massively declined anyway), i have no idea what happened to gelinas' game that year before he was traded (but unfortunate because he would have been a consummate keenan guy if he hadn't been dumped so soon after keenan replaced renney)...
ohlund was a rookie, aucoin was an awkward PP specialist, corey hirsch turned out to be terrible, naslund wasn't ready yet, and drafting through the 90s had generally been bad. if we'd gotten more from the '90-'93 drafts, we could have at least augmented the '94 group in '95 and '96 before they all fell off a cliff.
but by the same token, the naslund/bertuzzi years were also plagued by terrible goaltending, a complete lack of second and third line scoring depth, and seasoned veteran defenders playing at a high level. pat quinn struck gold in the early 90s, getting an entire scoring line (courtnall, ronning, and big mo) from st. louis for garth butcher while also picking up diduck, lumme, and babych for almost nothing. they added three contributors, including an excellent PP QB, without losing a single roster player at the deadline that year. as much as i love bure, captain kirk, and linden, '94 happened because of depth players-- second liners scoring clutch goals, guys who were second liners on most teams on the third line, five top four defensemen plus journeyman brian glynn playing out of his mind.
which is all to say, messier was right about one thing: '94 was a fluke. not that the team overachieved as messier was implying, but getting that group together was best case scenario after best case scenario for pat quinn. grinding that same group down to just those stars by '97/'98 was a grave misunderstanding of what he'd accomplished earlier in the decade. and his successor brian burke never seemed to understand how to build that kind of winning team either (big stars, mostly crap for depth, garbage for goaltending).
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