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Why Mark Messier is Often Regarded the Worst/Most Hated Vancouver Canuck of All Time.

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03-26-2013, 12:22 AM
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JetsAlternate
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Why Mark Messier is Often Regarded the Worst/Most Hated Vancouver Canuck of All Time.

*Disclaimer: this is a purely informative piece meant to enlighten hockey fans on the influence of Mark Messier on the Vancouver Canucks. This is not meant to be offensive or controversial, and is only designed to allow readers to understand his relationship with the team and the fanbase.

With all due to respect to Mark Messier and the incredible career he had, there was a period in his career in which he was nothing short of a cancer to his team. Canucks fans who experienced this era are well aware of Messier's effect on the franchise and why he is the most hated player in franchise history. This thread is designed to share with readers the story of Mark Messier's relationship with the Vancouver Canucks throughout the 1990s. Undoubtedly, this story was not as well-documented outside of Vancouver, but those who had witnessed and experienced it over a period of those three years will be able to recall a tale of disappointment, division, and bitterness.

The story begins in the 1996 off-season when the Canucks were in search of a top-line center. Pat Quinn, the Canucks' general manager at the time, had targeted Wayne Gretzky as his free agent of choice. Unfortunately, Quinn's own impatience resulted in him presenting Gretzky with an ultimatum in the middle of one summer's evening, calling him in the middle of the night to make a decision about where he would sign. Gretzky took offense and ultimately chose not to sign with Vancouver. Having missed this opportunity, another high-profile free agent centerman, Mark Messier, was available the following off-season, and served as a consolation for Quinn's failure.

Messier signed with the team in the summer of 1997, and fans generally viewed the acquisition positively. They were well aware of how Messier had led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup victory in the 1994 playoffs and how he had decimated the hopes and dreams of Canucks fans that year. Fans were still bitter, but were generally prepared to forgive him; he was a Canadian player, a renowned leader returning to the Canadian west. When he joined the team, he was expected to contribute as one of the team's top players. He was the highest-paid player on the team, earning $6 million per year, and fans had certain hopes for him.

Instead, his signing marked the beginning of a period of disaster for the franchise. As soon as he joined the team, he demanded to wear the unofficially-retired #11, which had been retired to acknowledge and respect the passing of an original Canuck, Wayne Maki, in 1974. The organization gave him the number without the consent of Maki's family, which sparked outrage from the family. At this point, the team had a new owner, having bought the team from the Canucks' previous long-time owners, the Griffiths family, after the latter had overspent to build GM Place. The McCaws were supposed to only own a share of the team, but took advantage of this opportunity to buy the remaining shares. The mysterious and very private McCaw brothers now owned the team, and business became very secretive and sketchy. Giving the #11 to Messier was one of these slimy decisions.

More on the Griffiths-McCaw story: http://www.lcshockey.com/issues/57/feature10.asp

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Here in Vancouver, the McCaw family remains shrouded in mystery. The brothers are notoriously media-shy and do not grant interviews. There has been little public indication of their plans for Orca Bay or their teams. Local sports fans take solace in the knowledge that the family also owns the arena, so they would gain nothing by moving their two prime tenants out of Vancouver. There's also some reassurance in the success that the McCaws had in building, then selling, their cellular phone business. But that's about all that anybody knows so far. When Orca Bay held the press conference to announce the change in Arthur's ownership status, John McCaw agreed to talk to the media afterwards only on the condition that no cameras or tape recorders be present in the room. Even then, he offered little in the way of a vision of the future of Orca Bay.
Before the season began, Trevor Linden gave his captaincy to Messier as a sign of respect, but later regretted giving the captaincy to him, as he felt Messier had imposed an unwelcome presence on the team. As soon as Messier stepped on the ice, fans knew he was not the same player he was even a year ago. Game footage from the 1997-98, 1998-99, and 1999-2000 seasons clearly show that Messier was not interested from the very start. Statistics affirm this as well. He was a disastrous signing, proving to be a lazy player who took short shifts, shied away from physicality, did not shoot the puck, nor carried with him his mean streak from past years. Those who witnessed those seasons know how dreadful he was.

Mark Messier looked like only a shell of his former self. He was a totally different player, despite wearing the captain's "C" and being paid $6 million. Mickey Redmond mentioned in an early game between the Canucks and Red Wings during the 1997-98 season that Messier did not look like himself. He showed no heart, no grit, no passion. He played a lazy game and was often a liability.

The team struggled early in the season, and so GM Pat Quinn fired coach Tom Renney and introduced Mike Keenan to the team -- another mistake. Keenan immediately changed the dressing room philosophy and made the team feel even more uncomfortable; soon afterwards, the McCaws fired Quinn and promoted Keenan to GM as well as coach.

Keenan played favorites, often allowing Messier to roam in whatever role he was comfortable with. Messier, meanwhile, was often seen socializing with Keenan at Vancouver Grizzlies games. The two had a clear connection that the rest of the team did not share. As the Canucks continued to sink with Messier and Keenan at the helm, the organization did the unthinkable and traded away all of the fan favorite players, including the beloved long-time captain, Trevor Linden. Keenan traded away Linden, Gino Odjick, Kirk McLean, Martin Gelinas, and Dave Babych that season, leaving the Canucks with barely any of its previous personality. They were soulless, cycling through goaltenders, swapping parts, and remaining a bottom-dweller for three seasons. Keenan and Messier were in full control until Keenan was replaced by Brian Burke the following year.

Linden's camp later made clear that Messier's presence felt hostile, and that Keenan was a huge issue as well:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/hoc...intso_canucks/

Quote:
In the offseason, the Canucks signed Mark Messier, and Linden graciously gave up his captaincy to him. But the team continued to struggle with Renney, and he was fired on Nov. 12.

Keenan replaced Renney and was given the authority to make personnel changes. He did just that. From his arrival, Keenan feuded with Linden, and the coach got rid of his problem, angering the Vancouver fans.
And, in the words of the New York Daily News' Frank Brown:
Quote:
Linden, asked to deal with Mark Messier's hostile takeover of the dressing room, responded by surrendering the captaincy.
Another quotation from the Vancouver Sun is from Trevor Linden and Pat Quinn in retrospect:
http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/S...425/story.html

Quote:
Linden claimed the decision to hand over the 'C' was his and his alone. "I didn't know what I was going to do and I didn't want to make a quick decision," Linden explained. "I wanted to see how it played out. You know, the day I was driving from Whistler to go to the [Messier signing] announcement I turned on the radio in my car and the first thing I heard was 'would Messier be captain?' "I was monitoring the situation and was waiting to see what felt right. And it just felt right. Now I'll be apprenticing under one of the best leaders in professional sport." Long-time Canuck GM Pat Quinn nodded his approval. "Let's face it, we acquired a player who has an aura of leadership about him," Quinn said of Messier. "Trevor felt it would be better to defer the captaincy to a person of Mark's presence and accomplishments." A month later, Quinn was fired. Four months later, Linden was traded to the New York Islanders.
And more about his relationship with Keenan:
Quote:
He was an outstanding prospect as a teenager and won two Memorial Cups with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was drafted second overall by the Canucks in 1988, had a wonderful 30-goal rookie season, was named captain at age 20 and nearly led his team to the Stanley Cup in 1994. So he was unprepared — would anybody be? — for the vicious verbal assault from new head coach Mike Keenan on Dec. 8, 1997. Keenan had replaced Tom Renney a month earlier and obviously wasn't enamoured with Linden or anything about him. Linden injured his groin just one week into Keenan's reign and returned to the lineup that fateful night in St. Louis. It was also Keenan's first time back in St. Louis after being fired by the Blues the previous season. With the Canucks down 4-1 heading into the third period, Keenan decided to unload on Linden. According to former Sun columnist Gary Mason, Iron Mike was incensed that Linden was commending some of his teammates for their effort to that point. "Shut the bleep up, just shut the bleep up!" Keenan screamed. "Who the bleep are you?" Keenan questioned Linden's pride in a tirade that continued for three or four minutes. Mason wrote that Keenan later apologized, but the damage was done. The relationship between coach and player was beyond repair. It was only a matter of time until Linden was gone. Two of his pals, Kirk McLean and Martin Gelinas, were traded on Jan. 2. The house cleaning in Vancouver was under way. Linden would be next.
Quote:
Trevor Linden knew the trade was coming, he just didn't know where or when. He finally found out on Feb. 6, 1998. The first to tell him was equipment manager Pat O'Neill. He then heard it from head coach Mike Keenan moments later. He was off to the New York Islanders for young defenceman Bryan McCabe, promising but moody power forward Todd Bertuzzi and a third-round pick that became Jarkko Ruutu. After 10 years, Trevor Linden was finished as a Canuck. "It's a difficult day," said Linden, 27, at his farewell news conference. "I can't say enough about the time I spent here. The people have been tremendous. On the other hand, I knew something was going to happen. It's a chance for me to start again and move forward. "I have to say things weren't going really well here, the team was struggling and I was as well." At the heart of the trade was the poisonous relationship between Keenan, who became coach in mid-November, and Linden, the former franchise golden boy who had surrendered his captaincy to Keenan favourite Mark Messier. Everyone considered the moving of Linden as inevitable. "I don't know if the word 'inevitable' is correct," responded Keenan. "There was certainly a little bit of controversy that was expounded upon to make it a great deal of controversy by the media. "However, I think it should be noted that Trevor has unfortunately had some injuries this year and didn't quite get on track even before I arrived here." Linden was suffering from a knee injury when he was traded.
Traded now was the team captain who had led the team through thick and thin since 1990, who had offered the most inspiring playoff performance in franchise history playing through some of the most difficult injuries any player could endure, and who was the heart of the team:

http://canucks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=453227
Quote:
"You don't know this, but Trevor Linden had cracked ribs and torn rib cartilage for the last four games of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final," Cliff Ronning said. "You can't imagine what it's like to hear your captain, in a room down the hall, screaming at the top of his lungs as they injected the needle into his rib cage. Knowing him, he probably thought we couldn't hear. He would then walk into our dressing room like nothing had happened. That was inspirational."
Quote:
At one point in Game 6 in Vancouver, Linden crawled on the ice to get to his bench, he was in so much pain.
Quote:
"Quinn slowly groomed our team as he went along and he needed a captain who shared his philosophy of hard work," Ronning said. "Trevor never took a shift off. He sacrificed his body to block shots and did a lot of little things that some scorers won't do. That's what made him an excellent captain."
With the core group of players now gone as part of Keenan's regime, the team was left mangled, hardly resembling its former self; meanwhile, the team finished in third-last place in the NHL that year with a record of 25-43-14. The team was absolute garbage, had a slimy owner, a ruinous GM/coach, and a cancerous team captain.

McCaw replaced Keenan the following season with Brian Burke and Marc Crawford, and things began to move in the proper direction again; Keenan's removal prompted Messier to change in ways, and the youth on the team began to listen to him, though Messier's continued on-ice laziness and poor performances would eventually lead to Brian Burke buying out the last two years of Messier's contract in Vancouver:



A dozen years later, however, the story still had not ended. Though Messier had by this time been long retired, news surfaced in 2012 that echoed the shady business practices of the McCaws and Messier's sense of entitlement from that era. The latter had included a clause in his contract that would allow him to profit from any increase in the franchise's value from 1997 to 2002. Of course, since the McCaws had, in 2004, sold their share of the team to the current owners, the Aquilinis, Messier went after the latter:


http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/M...843/story.html
Quote:
Mark Messier wins $6-million arbitration case against Vancouver Canucks
Hall of Fame centre awarded multimillion-dollar settlement
By Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun August 3, 2012

VANCOUVER - Mark Messier has been awarded a $6-million settlement in the Hall of Famer’s long-standing grievance over money he claimed he was owed by the Vancouver Canucks.

George Nicolau, an 87-year-old New York-based arbitrator with a long history of handling high-profile sports arbitration cases, rendered his decision recently after meeting with both sides earlier this year.

The Canucks made only a brief comment on the decision.

“Canucks Sports & Entertainment is aware of the arbitrator’s decision and will have no further comment on the matter,” the team said in a statement to The Vancouver Sun Thursday.

Messier did not return a message left for him with the New York Rangers, for whom he serves as special assistant to the president.

Messier signed a five-year, free-agent contract with the Canucks in 1997 for $6 million a season. The dispute between Messier and the team is believed to centre on deferred money the hockey player felt was owed to him.

It has been reported that Messier had a clause in his contract that would compensate him if the value of the Canuck franchise increased over the life of his contract, which expired in 2002.
After the way he destroyed the team, he now wanted money he felt he was owed. In truth, the team recorded its worst ever attendance at GM Place/Rogers Arena during the Messier years. Attendance in 1999-2000 averaged 14,641. The season after Messier was bought out, attendance rose to an average of 17,026 seats per game.

http://www.hockeydb.com/nhl-attendan...h.php?tmi=8756

Without a doubt, Mark Messier was the face of evil for Canucks fans throughout the 1990s. Along with his role in the destruction of the team with his former Rangers bench boss in the latter half of that decade, Messier's greed continues to carry into the business of the Canucks organization. Prior to any of these events, he was responsible for ending the Canucks' hopes of a Stanley Cup in 1994 and injuring Linden in the Finals. From 1997 to 2000, he and Keenan forced Linden out and ruined the team from internally.

Perhaps the most encapsulating moment of the relationship between Canucks fans, Trevor Linden, and Mark Messier is from the dying seconds of Game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. It was Messier who was responsible for taking a cheap shot at Linden while he was already down injured, injuring him even further, away from the play in the final seconds of the game in Vancouver. You can see it all in the video below at the bottom of the screen. Linden was left broken physically, but pieced himself together for the mightiest performance of his career. The moment spawned one of the most memorable quotations in franchise history: "he will play, you know he'll play."



Despite a broken nose, broken ribs and torn rib cartilage, and now this injury, Linden rallied back with two goals in Game 7 to bring the Canucks within one goal of tying the game. Contrasted with Messier, Linden was the heart and soul of the Vancouver Canucks. The team had faced Messier in 1994 when the latter took liberties with his dirty play. By 1998, the team's leader had been displaced by a heartless, disinterested egomaniac, the same man who had robbed them of a championship and who now would impose his destructive influence on the team.

Canucks fans have every reason to despise Mark Messier. The Mark Messier years in Vancouver were an absolute disaster, and fans have every reason to despise him, Mike Keenan, and John McCaw. Messier was overpaid, created distraction after distraction, controlled the dressing room and his own fate with a sense of entitlement, disrespected long-time players, traditions, and members of the community, and played as lazily as one could imagine as the team's supposed leader, leading them only towards the bottom of the NHL standings. He destroyed the Canucks' hopes in 1994 and injured the captain, then played a role in Linden's removal and mutilated the team from within. If there was any one individual who could be identified as this franchise's greatest evil in the 1990s, it would be him.

*UPDATE* April 4th, 2013:

Here's more evidence:

Gino Odjick, one of the NHL's great enforcers and a long-time member of the Vancouver Canucks, was asked about this in interview Dan Russell of CKNW 980 this past Thursday (April 4th, 2013). Odjick had been very outspoken at the time of Messier's arrival about how vile the latter's presence was to the team. His view has not changed. The full interview is a half-hour long, part of Russell's series about the hockey journey of NHL players from youth to retirement. I've posted the segment in which Gino discusses his time with the Canucks, his fights, and his friendships.

Inevitably, the issue of Mark Messier and Mike Keenan was brought up, and Gino was clear to state he believes Messier and Keenan destroyed the dressing room. Nobody on the team was comfortable with how Keenan and Messier imposed their authority on the organization:

13:00:



*UPDATE* April 9th, 2013:

More on Mike Keenan, this time from Markus Naslund circa 2003. A Swedish article was posted with comments from Markus; many discussed it in this thread:

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...ad.php?t=13842

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...56&postcount=7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riddarn
Well he basicly just says that Keenan is an @sshole..
http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...20&postcount=9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heimy
I remember reading awhile back that Keenan almost dealt Naslund for next to nothing and was only prevented by an injury. Would someone that recalls the details of that story please re-post it?

Thanks


btw, Mrs. Heimy and I spent some time in beautiful Vancouver over the summer and fell in love with the place.
http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...1&postcount=10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Griffin
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heimy
I remember reading awhile back that Keenan almost dealt Naslund for next to nothing and was only prevented by an injury. Would someone that recalls the details of that story please re-post it?
He was almost dealt to the Sens for a mid-round pick, but Todd Bertuzzi got injured and the Canucks had to keep Naslund because they didn't have enough forwards.
http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...9&postcount=11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Canucklehead
^4th Round Draft Pick, to be precise. We would have looked as foolish as Pittsburgh. The deal was all but done when Todd Bertuzzi took an Adrian Aucoin slapshot to the leg and was done for the season. Naslund was kept around due to a shortage of NHL ready wingers on the Canucks team.

It would have been a typical Keenan thing to do.

~Canucklehead~
http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...2&postcount=12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Freudian
Rough translation:

Quote:
He is the coach that scares his players, that sends talents to the farm team just to ***** with them. And that hates swedes.
"Mike Keenan likes to scare guys and humiliate them just to elevate himself" Markus Näslund has to say about the most feared coach in the NHL.

Näslund is not known as a loud mouth who says negative things about others but there is one person he can't stand. Mike Keenan. Iron Mike. "He used to go after us younger and less established players and after a while I was sick of it" Markus says.

Mike Keenan had his breakthrough when he in less than a year turned Rangers from a loserteam to SC-champions 1994. From then he has wandered from team to team and scaring players but not won any more titles.

Keenan - now in Florida - is infamous for his rock hard work methods, that often turns into pure personal attacks on the players. Brutal coaching. Or Management by fear. "If you grew up in Sweden with the security we have here it is totally different having Keenan as coach" Näslund says.

The list of swedish players that has had problems with Keenan is long.

Keenan and Näslund immediately was on a collision course when Iron-Mike arrived in Vancouver. The 98-99 season the swedish goalgetter started in the press box. Sent there by Keenan. He just wanted tough players. "It was a very hard period. Luckily for me players got injured and I got the chance. That turned things around for me and I am glad I was able to get through it" Näslund says with a sigh.

Despite the fact that it was under Keenan Näslund got his breakthrough he is still bitter. "His ways really got to me. A person that has to degrade others is a small person" Näslund says.
It's fortunate McCaw fired Keenan partway through the 1998-99 season, in time before Markus was traded away. At that time, Naslund's confidence was not very high, and had Keenan remained it could have had adverse effects on Markus and the entire franchise. Without Naslund, the Canucks might not have climbed back out from their bottom-dwelling status of the Messier era. Attendance continually declined from 1997-98 to 1999-2000, dropping from an average of 17,320 in 1996-97 to 14,641 in 1999-2000. Markus had a 41-goal season the year after Messier left and was named the team's new captain. Attendance jumped back up to an average of 17,712 again.

http://www.hockeydb.com/nhl-attendan...h.php?tmi=8756


Last edited by JetsAlternate: 06-27-2013 at 10:19 PM.
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03-26-2013, 12:46 AM
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Excellent write up JetsAlternate. Very nice to read.

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03-26-2013, 01:24 AM
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This is why I never bought the whole "greatest leader ever" argument.

He was an absolute cancer for Vancouver, with an ego the size of the moon.

Everyone likes to talk about his game 6 "guarantee" against New Jersey, but everyone seems to forget that in the 1999-2000 season, with 7 games remaining, Messier publicly guaranteed that the Canucks would make the playoffs. They missed by 4 points.

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03-26-2013, 01:37 AM
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Pretty much covers it & then some... tbh, hadnt been a Messier fan at any point in his career, from Indianapolis through Edmonton, New York, certainly not here in Vancouver. Foolish move by Quinn, exacerbating matters with Keenan...

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03-26-2013, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by JetsAlternate View Post

The story begins in the 1997 off-season when the Canucks were in search of a top-line center. Pat Quinn, the Canucks' general manager at the time, had apparently targeted Wayne Gretzky as his free agent of choice.
Wasn't Gretzky still under contract with the Rangers at this time?

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03-26-2013, 02:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Megahab View Post
Wasn't Gretzky still under contract with the Rangers at this time?
Absolutely. The date in that sentence has been changed. Minor typo. Had Gretzky signed with Vancouver, the Messier fiasco would have been avoided entirely. He was leaning towards signing with the team, and had been thrilled about the idea of returning to Canada and playing with Pavel Bure, as he later expressed. Unfortunately, Quinn completely mishandled the situation and drove Gretzky away. Desperate to sign a high-profile centerman, he opted for Messier instead the following season.

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Al Strachan:

http://anecdotage.com/articles/10629...couver-canucks
Quote:
In 1996, Wayne Gretzky was the greatest name in hockey. Yet he was a free agent who had to go to the United States [with the Los Angeles Kings] to exhibit his talent...

Gretzky was leaning towards a return to Canada and let it be known that he would have no objection to playing for Vancouver [Canucks], but the GM of the day, Pat Quinn, said he had no interest and departed for a vacation in the Far East.

He should have checked with the team owner, John McCaw -- an American. When McCaw found out that Gretzky was willing to play for his Canucks, he was thrilled and called Quinn back from his vacation.

The logisitics of the negotiations were unusual... Gretzky's agent and lawyer were trying to hammer out a contract with Quinn, Canucks assistant GM George McPhee and team accountants. Meanwhile, in an adjacent room, Gretzky and McCaw chatted, relaxed, shared reminiscences and generally set the foundation for a firm friendship.

Late in the evening, with negotiations still dragging on, those two decided that they'd hung around long enough. McCaw went his way and Gretzky went back to his hotel room.

In the wee hours, the phone rang. A deal had been reached. Gretzky had to return to the offices and sign it immediately.

Gretzky refused. He would give his word that he would sign the deal in the morning, but he had no intention of trooping back to the office at 2 a.m...

That wasn't good enough. "It's now or never," was the response.

"That's up to you," said Gretzky.

No doubt the Canucks management felt that Gretzky was trying to use their offer as leverage. That simply was not true. Either way, Gretzky was lost to the Canucks. When McCaw found out, he was furious... Because the Canucks wanted a big name, they went after Mark Messier. They got him, but the contract cost $20 million, considerably more than the proposed Gretzky deal, and Messier's tenure was something less than a resounding success.

In November 1997, McCaw fired Quinn.
It was ultimately Quinn's blunder during the Gretzky negotiations that resulted in the Canucks' search for an alternative centerman. The team looked at the next available option: Mark Messier.


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03-26-2013, 03:15 AM
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Were there any other Canadian teams that came close to signing Gretzky in the 1996 off-season? I was only 10 in the 1996 off-season, don't really remember what the rumours were or even if I was paying attention. I do remember rumours of the Leafs trying to get him from the Kings, before he got traded to the Blues.

Also didn't know about Quinn's ultimatum to Gretzky. Did this cause any long-term conflict between the two? It's interesting considering they worked together for the 2002 Olympics.

Imagine Gretzky centering Bure. Wow.

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03-26-2013, 03:16 AM
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Sorry, my post is a little off-topic.

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03-26-2013, 03:31 AM
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I've spoken to many Canucks fans about Mark Messier and they all agree he was awful in Vancouver and his signing was a huge mistake for the franchise. But the reason he is not just considered a lazy, overpaid, dissapointment and instead is hated with such passion is because he is a symbol for eveyrthing that went wrong during a dark time in Canucks history. On the ice Messier's didn't live up to to expectations the team and fans had for him but some of the truths have been stretched and some details that might spread some of the blame around to other parties are often omitted to vilify him.

Some of those things are:

1 The organizations problems started with the signing of Messier, Messier was responsible for the getting rid of talent. the team started to imrove as soon as Messier left.

The Vancouver Canucks had went to the Cup final in 94 and they had declined each season since and missed the playoffs prior to Messier's arrival.

1994 - 85pts, 2nd in the Pacific, Lost Stanley Cup Finals
1995 - 48pts, 2nd in the Pacific, Lost Conference Semifinals
1996 - 79pts, 3rd in the Pacific, Lost Conference Quarterfinals
1997 - 77pts, 4th in the Pacific, Did not qualify

In Summer of 1997 the Canucks signed Messier (age 36) to a 3 year $6 million/season deal.

During Messier's first 2 seasons, the Canucks continued their decline. Pavel Bure (the teams leading scorer) held out and demanded a trade blaming a history of being mistreated by management. They also moved out many popular players due to poor play.

Trevor Linden (Age 27): 42GP 7G 14A 21Pts -13
Martin Gelinas (Age 27): 24GP 4G 4A 8Pts -6
Gino Odjick (Age 27): 35GP 3G 2A 5Pts -3
Dave Babych (Age 36): 47GP 0G 9A 9Pts -11
Kirk McLean (Age 31): 3.68 GAA 6W 17L 4T/OT 0.879SV%

1998 - 64pts, 7th in the Pacific, Did not qualify
1999 - 58pts, 4th in the Northwest, Did not qualify

In Messier's 3rd Season the Canucks lead by a younger retooled team had their best season since 1994, falling 4 points short of a playoff spot.

2000 - 83pts, 3rd in the Northwest, Did not qualify

Messier signed with Rangers as an UFA and the Canucks continued their rise back to the playoffs.


2 Messier wasn't the same player in Vancouver because of lack of interest. While it's true Messier did score 14 less goals and 22 less points than he did the previous year in NY, ths decline started the year before with the Rangers when his goals total dropped by 11 and points total dropped by 15. Messier was getting old and his play was declining rapidly. Despie Messier's huge drops in production, during his 3 years in Vancouver (ages 37-39), he finished 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd in team scoring.

3 Trevor Linden and the captaincy. At the press conference when Messier was signed by Vancouver, Messier was asked about the captaincy, he said, "Everybody knows Trevor Linden is the captain of Vancouver and that he's done a tremendous job being captain. Their is no reason to change that."

Messier had said Linden was captain, yet Linden still asked teammates and Messier himself what he should do with the captaincy and they all told him to do what he thought was right, Linden stands up in front of the whole dressing room and says to his teammates that he wanted to turn the captaincy over to Messier. Messier accepted.

Trevor Linden told Gary Mason of the Vancouver Sun tht, "It was just something I had to do. If I remained the captain, bringing in a player with his history and leadership qualities, if things did go wrong I was going to be second-guessed the whole time. So my only option was to say to, 'Mark, listen, I think this is the way it should be,' and Mark accepted it, so we moved on."

Linden was playing poorly and was dealt for Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe (who was packaged with a 1st round pick for Chicago's 1st round pick so the Canucks could draft both Sedin's).

4 Wayne Maki and #11. Mark Messier was told that using the number had been cleared with the Maki family. They had no idea Messier was going to be wearing the number and found out watching the news. They were hurt and when finally contacted by the Canucks were told they should be honored that Messier is wearing the number, they understandably weren't. Later they offered their blessing to have Messier wear the number during the length of his contract as long as the Canucks would acknowledge the number as retired. The Canucks refused saying the number never was retired.

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03-26-2013, 03:33 AM
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Were there any other Canadian teams that came close to signing Gretzky in the 1996 off-season? I was only 10 in the 1996 off-season, don't really remember what the rumours were or even if I was paying attention. I do remember rumours of the Leafs trying to get him from the Kings, before he got traded to the Blues.

Also didn't know about Quinn's ultimatum to Gretzky. Did this cause any long-term conflict between the two? It's interesting considering they worked together for the 2002 Olympics.

Imagine Gretzky centering Bure. Wow.
It seems Vancouver and Toronto were the only two Canadian teams seeking Gretzky's services during the 1996 off-season. Here are two sources, one from a 2011 Damien Cox article, and the other from a 2008 Howard Berger article.

http://www.bergerbytes.ca/gretzky-to-run-leafs/
Quote:
In the summer of 1996 — long after he had re-written the NHL record book — Gretzky wanted to finish his playing career as a member of the Leafs. Fletcher, in his first coming as Toronto GM, had all but worked out the details of a free agent contract with Barnett when Leafs’ owner Steve Stavro put the kibosh on the deal. In the ensuing years, two stories have made the rounds. The first, and most prominent, is that Stavro denied approval on the grounds that Gretzky could not possibly fill any vacant seats at the Gardens. Stavro was in a financial crunch at the time and had recently slashed the Leafs’ payroll. But, Stavro, himself, had a different take — one he relayed to me on a long flight from Vienna to Toronto after the 2005 World Hockey Championships. The owner, who would pass away just more than a year later, claimed that Gretzky and Barnett wanted equity in the Leafs — a demand that he and his board of directors were unprepared to meet.

Whatever the case, the situation didn’t pan out, and Gretzky signed with the New York Rangers — the club with which he finished his career three years later.
http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey...for_leafs.html
Quote:
In 1996, Gretzky was a 35-year-old free agent, and set up an arrangement with then Leaf GM Cliff Fletcher to leave St. Louis and join the Leafs.

“We were talking about something between $2 million and $3 million a season,” Gretzky told Gord Stellick for the book ’67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory and the End of An Empire, published in 2004.

“And you know, the ridiculous part is that Vancouver was offering me $8 million a season. But I wanted to be a Leaf in the worst way. I told Cliff, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. You can defer my salary for 25 years if you have to. Whatever it takes to get the deal done.’”

Ultimately, partly because Stavro was forced to pay millions to the charities named in Harold Ballard’s will, the Leafs declined to sign Gretzky, who joined the New York Rangers, instead.

“(Fletcher) said he couldn’t get the deal approved,” said Gretzky, who said he was convinced at the time he was going to play for the Leafs. “Oh, definitely. I thought that way for a few weeks.”
Based on these two articles and Pat Quinn's infamous mishandling of his negotiations with Gretzky, it's difficult to say in which order Gretzky was approached by each team. I'm not sure whether the ordeal between him and the Canucks had an influence on what he says in the Cox article; of course, resentment of any sort would change the story he would report, though none can be sure except him.

Regardless, both teams failed to sign Gretzky when it seemed each deal was very close; in Vancouver's case, it resulted in the Canucks pursuing Messier instead.

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03-26-2013, 03:35 AM
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Massive Canucks fan. Especially during that time.

Messier was not hated nor considered the worst Canuck of all time.

In most people's eyes around here, he just didn't work out.

Keenan, Burke, Nedved would go down as more disliked.

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03-26-2013, 03:44 AM
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In a short time, I may provide footage involving commentators' discussion about Messier from the games I have archived. Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond of the Detroit Red Wings broadcasts make many observations during one game regarding Messier's play. In an MSG broadcast, John Davidson remarks the same. Messier took short shifts, was not physical, and looked very disinterested.

Here is a fight involving Messier from the 1998-99 season. Aside from the fight itself, the more glaring detail is the comment Jim Robson, the Canucks' legendary play-by-play announcer, makes in the following video clip:

"We haven't seen that from Messier for two seasons."


Messier was once a tough, inspired leader with the Oilers and Rangers, but was now emotionless.

In February 2000, after the infamous Marty McSorley slash on Donald Brashear, each team's coaches and players were interviewed. Everyone from Marc Crawford to Pat Burns to Brad May showed emotion. Messier lacked any emotion in contrast with everyone else.

3:41:


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Originally Posted by LetsBeReality View Post
Massive Canucks fan. Especially during that time.

Messier was not hated nor considered the worst Canuck of all time.

In most people's eyes around here, he just didn't work out.

Keenan, Burke, Nedved would go down as more disliked.
I disagree. If you were to ask any Canucks fan from that time, they would cite Messier as a major problem. He was disliked already after 1994. To invade that dressing room along with Keenan and dismantle the entire team, and then to play without any sort of emotion or effort, made him the focal point of criticism throughout those years. The topic has arisen every few years, and the consensus has always been the same. He was hated, and he still is very much hated by Canucks fans.

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Originally Posted by Sonny Lamateena View Post
Messier signed with Rangers as an UFA and the Canucks continued their rise back to the playoffs.
He was bought out in the third year of his five-year deal. The team did not want him around any longer. He was an overpaid, lazy player who showed little effort or passion, and who was supposed to represent them as their captain. At no time did he lead the team; he was 12th, 9th, and 18th in penalty minutes, took fewer shots than he had ever taken up to that point, did not hit, and simply drifted around often, taking short shifts. He and Keenan had changed the dressing room environment dramatically in his first season with the team, ousting the team's core pieces, and was now leading the team to mediocrity by coasting through these seasons with little interest.

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2 Messier wasn't the same player in Vancouver because of lack of interest. While it's true Messier did score 14 less goals and 22 less points than he did the previous year in NY, ths decline started the year before with the Rangers when his goals total dropped by 11 and points total dropped by 15. Messier was getting old and his play was declining rapidly. Despie Messier's huge drops in production, during his 3 years in Vancouver (ages 37-39), he finished 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd in team scoring.
He hadn't shown any effort. That was a major factor in everyone's disappointment with his play. Had he put in any effort or showed even a portion of the aggression or passion he had played with in his previous years, he would not have bothered Canucks fans to the same degree; his on-ice play made him an even greater burden to the team, and his off-ice disturbance made him an unacceptable distraction. In those three years, he played on the team's top line and often benefited from playing with two more impactful linemates.

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Originally Posted by Sonny Lamateena View Post
3 Trevor Linden and the captaincy. At the press conference when Messier was signed by Vancouver, Messier was asked about the captaincy, he said, "Everybody knows Trevor Linden is the captain of Vancouver and that he's done a tremendous job being captain. Their is no reason to change that."

Messier had said Linden was captain, yet Linden still asked teammates and Messier himself what he should do with the captaincy and they all told him to do what he thought was right, Linden stands up in front of the whole dressing room and says to his teammates that he wanted to turn the captaincy over to Messier. Messier accepted.

Trevor Linden told Gary Mason of the Vancouver Sun tht, "It was just something I had to do. If I remained the captain, bringing in a player with his history and leadership qualities, if things did go wrong I was going to be second-guessed the whole time. So my only option was to say to, 'Mark, listen, I think this is the way it should be,' and Mark accepted it, so we moved on."

Linden was playing poorly and was dealt for Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe (who was packaged with a 1st round pick for Chicago's 1st round pick so the Canucks could draft both Sedin's).
Keenan had decided to dismantle the team upon becoming the team's general manager. His feuds with Linden are certainly well-documented, and definitely played a role in Linden's removal from the team. He was previously considered the one player who would not be traded due to his importance to the team's culture, to the franchise, to the fans, and to the city. As soon as Keenan and Messier arrived, the dressing room became hostile and wholesale changes were made to remove the entire core of players.

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Originally Posted by Sonny Lamateena View Post
4 Wayne Maki and #11. Mark Messier was told that using the number had been cleared with the Maki family. They had no idea Messier was going to be wearing the number and found out watching the news. They were hurt and when finally contacted by the Canucks were told they should be honored that Messier is wearing the number, they understandably weren't. Later they offered their blessing to have Messier wear the number during the length of his contract as long as the Canucks would acknowledge the number as retired. The Canucks refused saying the number never was retired.
Messier never made any effort or request to wear a different number despite the Maki family's plea. He was made fully aware of the situation. We have already documented his sense of entitlement during his time in Vancouver. He remained idle while everything else happened around him; the organization spoon-fed him anything he wanted. One has to wonder if the Keenan hiring was influenced by him, whether it be Quinn who felt Keenan could ignite a spark in Messier or if Messier wanted Keenan to coach.


Last edited by JetsAlternate: 03-26-2013 at 04:49 AM.
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03-26-2013, 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by JetsAlternate View Post
Here is a fight involving Messier from the 1998-99 season. Aside from the fight itself, the more glaring detail is the comment Jim Robson, the Canucks' legendary play-by-play announcer, makes in the following video clip:

"We haven't seen that from Messier for two seasons."
It cannot be understated, too, just how much Robson loved the Canucks and their players. To hear him speak like that about a Canuck is really significant.

I remember another time when Messier was here when there was a line brawl, and everyone was going at it, and then the camera pans out and Messier is just skating around in the neutral zone gazing off into the crowd as if nothing was happening. The guy didn't give a ****.

Also, the guy went on the radio in Vancouver in 2008 or so, and had the nerve to say that he thought his time in Vancouver was a great success.

He remains the only Canuck player that I've ever heard my mother, a rabid Canuck fan since they joined the league, wish bodily harm.

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03-26-2013, 07:07 AM
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Sonny Lamateena
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He was bought out in the third year of his five-year deal. The team did not want him around any longer. He was an overpaid, lazy player who showed little effort or passion, and who was supposed to represent them as their captain. At no time did he lead the team; he was 12th, 9th, and 18th in penalty minutes, took fewer shots than he had ever taken up to that point, did not hit, and simply drifted around often, taking short shifts. He and Keenan had changed the dressing room environment dramatically in his first season with the team, ousting the team's core pieces, and was now leading the team to mediocrity by coasting through these seasons with little interest

He hadn't shown any effort. That was a major factor in everyone's disappointment with his play. Had he put in any effort or showed even a portion of the aggression or passion he had played with in his previous years, he would not have bothered Canucks fans to the same degree; his on-ice play made him an even greater burden to the team, and his off-ice disturbance made him an unacceptable distraction. In those three years, he played on the team's top line and often benefited from playing with two more impactful linemates.

Keenan had decided to dismantle the team upon becoming the team's general manager. His feuds with Linden are certainly well-documented, and definitely played a role in Linden's removal from the team. He was previously considered the one player who would not be traded due to his importance to the team's culture, to the franchise, to the fans, and to the city. As soon as Keenan and Messier arrived, the dressing room became hostile and wholesale changes were made to remove the entire core of players.

Messier never made any effort or request to wear a different number despite the Maki family's plea. He was made fully aware of the situation. We have already documented his sense of entitlement during his time in Vancouver. He remained idle while everything else happened around him; the organization spoon-fed him anything he wanted. One has to wonder if the Keenan hiring was influenced by him, whether it be Quinn who felt Keenan could ignite a spark in Messier or if Messier wanted Keenan to coach.

So your theory is after 18 seasons in the NHL Messier decided it's time to start mailing it in. He said no more hitting, racking up tonnes of penalty minutes, and super long shifts (because that's what you want from a 36-40 year old Mark Messier). It's not possible that he physically had declined to the point that he couldn't play that way anymore and that the production decline he had the previous year in NY wasn't the beginning of a steep decline for Messier?

Why is Messier so hated? It's because some vocal Canucks fans blame Messier not only for his failures but for decisions of ownership, management, and coach's. Even the poor play of other players are blamed on Messier. No one else is accountable for their actions. Everyone gets a pass, Messier either did it or made someone else do do it.

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03-26-2013, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Sonny Lamateena View Post
So your theory is after 18 seasons in the NHL Messier decided it's time to start mailing it in. He said no more hitting, racking up tonnes of penalty minutes, and super long shifts (because that's what you want from a 36-40 year old Mark Messier). It's not possible that he physically had declined to the point that he couldn't play that way anymore and that the production decline he had the previous year in NY wasn't the beginning of a steep decline for Messier?

Why is Messier so hated? It's because some vocal Canucks fans blame Messier not only for his failures but for decisions of ownership, management, and coach's. Even the poor play of other players are blamed on Messier. No one else is accountable for their actions. Everyone gets a pass, Messier either did it or made someone else do do it.
I definitely found the criticism for taking shifts that were too short to be really strange.

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03-26-2013, 09:29 AM
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Messier and the Canucks were just not a good fit. Guess Messier was set in his ways being a league veteran at that time and wasn't willing to change for the sake of the team.

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03-26-2013, 11:09 AM
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Long time Canucks fan... good work, jetsalternate. You hit most of the salient points.

Messier is easily my all time least favourite Canuck (followed by Randy Boyd, but that's another story).

I just want to add that, part of the galling factor about his time here was that he sucked so bad after having been so good. Up to then, Messier had made a career out of beating the Canucks in every way imaginable. A decade plus of *****-slapping us while he was with the Oilers, and then, when we had finally seen him shipped off to the Eastern conference, he came back and yanked our Stanley Cup away.

We'd spent 15 years cursing his name and wishing we had someone like him... and then we did... but we got old, complacent, entitled Messier instead. He even managed to beat us by joining us.

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03-26-2013, 10:26 PM
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I always thought that with Messier coming in it opened the door to get rid of Linden. We all know how loved Linden is in Vancouver at a Beliveau-type level. He's a saint in Vancouver. The most popular player in franchise history is moved out after Messier comes in. That wouldn't have sat well with me and to be honest I can remember something similar happening in Toronto. When Clark was traded for Sundin it gutted a lot of heart from Toronto. Not that we didn't love Sundin, but it took a while to warm up to him. Gilmour got the captaincy after Clark and then Gilmour moved out and Sundin took it afterwards. Not everyone was a fan of Sundin taking the captaincy after two of the most popular players in team history.

I think the difference is Sundin never had much of an ego and was very likable and we ended up liking him. But it is sort of the same context, no?

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03-26-2013, 10:37 PM
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I always thought that with Messier coming in it opened the door to get rid of Linden. We all know how loved Linden is in Vancouver at a Beliveau-type level. He's a saint in Vancouver. The most popular player in franchise history is moved out after Messier comes in. That wouldn't have sat well with me and to be honest I can remember something similar happening in Toronto. When Clark was traded for Sundin it gutted a lot of heart from Toronto. Not that we didn't love Sundin, but it took a while to warm up to him. Gilmour got the captaincy after Clark and then Gilmour moved out and Sundin took it afterwards. Not everyone was a fan of Sundin taking the captaincy after two of the most popular players in team history.

I think the difference is Sundin never had much of an ego and was very likable and we ended up liking him. But it is sort of the same context, no?
Sundin was also 23 years old and, while Messier was 36, so it's not exactly the same situation.

I get that trading fan favorites sucks, but from a purely cold hockey perspective, trading Linden for Bertuzzi and McCabe has to be considered a win for the Canucks, right?

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03-26-2013, 10:45 PM
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I always thought that with Messier coming in it opened the door to get rid of Linden. We all know how loved Linden is in Vancouver at a Beliveau-type level. He's a saint in Vancouver. The most popular player in franchise history is moved out after Messier comes in. That wouldn't have sat well with me and to be honest I can remember something similar happening in Toronto. When Clark was traded for Sundin it gutted a lot of heart from Toronto. Not that we didn't love Sundin, but it took a while to warm up to him. Gilmour got the captaincy after Clark and then Gilmour moved out and Sundin took it afterwards. Not everyone was a fan of Sundin taking the captaincy after two of the most popular players in team history.

I think the difference is Sundin never had much of an ego and was very likable and we ended up liking him. But it is sort of the same context, no?
this was the biggest problem with the Mess here in Vancouver, his ego just wrecked an already poor situation.

Nevermind his play on the ice, he showed a total alck of leadership and commitment to the team, it was more like "Hey I'm a legend whorship me " attitude that Canuck fans didn't like and for good reaons.

The way Moose conducted himself in Vancouver wouldn't fly in any NHL city period.

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03-27-2013, 12:57 AM
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I always thought that with Messier coming in it opened the door to get rid of Linden. We all know how loved Linden is in Vancouver at a Beliveau-type level. He's a saint in Vancouver. The most popular player in franchise history is moved out after Messier comes in. That wouldn't have sat well with me and to be honest I can remember something similar happening in Toronto. When Clark was traded for Sundin it gutted a lot of heart from Toronto. Not that we didn't love Sundin, but it took a while to warm up to him. Gilmour got the captaincy after Clark and then Gilmour moved out and Sundin took it afterwards. Not everyone was a fan of Sundin taking the captaincy after two of the most popular players in team history.

I think the difference is Sundin never had much of an ego and was very likable and we ended up liking him. But it is sort of the same context, no?
well, sundin didn't captain the evil big market jerks that beat your franchise's best and most beloved team ever.


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Massive Canucks fan. Especially during that time.

Messier was not hated nor considered the worst Canuck of all time.

In most people's eyes around here, he just didn't work out.

Keenan, Burke, Nedved would go down as more disliked.
lies. completely and total lies. messier was at the time, continues to be, and will always be the most hated canuck of all time. in the eyes of the vast majority of canucks fans who remember those years, messier was satan x hitler x brad marchand. i was there, i heard many many unrepeatable things said about him in the stands.

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Sundin was also 23 years old and, while Messier was 36, so it's not exactly the same situation.

I get that trading fan favorites sucks, but from a purely cold hockey perspective, trading Linden for Bertuzzi and McCabe has to be considered a win for the Canucks, right?
luongo and one of the sedins, plus we eventually got to cheer for trevor again in his last years anyway? yep, definite win.

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03-27-2013, 01:14 AM
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and re: the quinn/gretzky debacle, which led to the messier debacle, here's a what-if: i never heard a rumour about this so i'm this was probably never in the plans. but one of the other big ticket free agents center the year we picked up messier was joe sakic. yes, local boy joe sakic. joe was on the market because pierre lacroix was jerking him around one year after giving forsberg huge dollars. the rangers gave sakic that $21 million offer sheet only after they lost messier to the canucks. messier's contract was $20 million over the same three years. nice one, pat quinn.


interestingly, given my last post, the five draft picks we would have lost: one of the sedins, nathan smith, r.j. umberger, the first round pick sent to washington for trevor linden (boyd gordon), ryan kesler.

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03-27-2013, 05:01 AM
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Burke should have kept Messier.

But it was a bad choice for Messier to go to the Canucks who were a bad team when he joined and missed the playoffs the previous year.

His first two years were injury plagued seasons...he suffered a bad injury in year 3 but was still the best Canuck that year other then maybe Naslund.

in Hindsight the Messier signing was great for the Canucks as they were able to gut the team and get rid of Linden/Quinn who had turned the franchise into a real country club...Linden was sent to New York where he couldn't give a damn and was then passed around the league like a doobie.

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03-27-2013, 11:38 AM
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It should be noted that Messier never made (let alone led his team to) the playoffs again even after leaving Vancouver. In his four years in New York, he couldn't bring a team consisting of guys like Leetch, Fleury, Bure, Jagr, Kovalev, Lindros, Nedved, Holik, Graves, Dvorak, Richter, Dunham, Poti, York, Rucinsky, Berard, Barnaby, Malakhov, Malhotra et al to the playoffs once.

The season immediately after Messier's departure, Vancouver makes the playoffs despite being led on a 75-point Naslund, a 56-point Andrew Cassels and whose #1 goalie for 35 games was Bob Essensa (Potvin played the other 35, with Cloutier coming in later). And yes, the NHL season after Messier's departure, New York makes the playoffs too, for several consecutive seasons.

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03-27-2013, 12:46 PM
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thanks for that. there are things i forgot and a lot more that i learned from your post.

I was very excited when Trevor Linden Became an Islander, unfortunatly we were a (no pun intended) Mess at the time.

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