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Sports fans love to reminisce over the days that it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.
CNNSI.com Producer Robert Rodriguez has to hand it to Canucks fans. Cam Neely for Barry Pederson? They've made their share of bad moves, but somehow the Canucks manage to claw their way to the Stanley Cup finals every now and again. Of course, it wasn't the Canucks' fault they lost out on Gil Perreault, but who told them to trade Trevor Linden, bypass Jaromir Jagr and Keith Tkachuk in the '90 draft or select any one of a number of stiffs over the years?
| June 6,
| Canucks trade RW Cam Neely and a 1st-round pick
(D Glen Wesley) to Boston for RW Barry Pederson
Perhaps the worst trade in Vancouver history. But when it went down, many thought the Bruins got robbed.
Pederson was a points machine, having scored more than 76 in four of his first five full seasons. Neely was having trouble reaching the 40-point mark before being traded on his birthday.
Neely's combination of power and finesse was unmatched in his prime.
Instead of getting mad, Neely got even by becoming the prototypical power forward. Besides possessing a deft scoring touch, Neely also was unafraid to deliver the big hit against the boards, paving the way for monsters like Eric Lindros and Keith Tkachuk. He became a fan favorite in Boston, as well as a five-time All-Star.
A defenseman taken third overall in the 1987 draft, Wesley enjoyed seven solid seasons with Boston, making the All-Star team in 1989. That year, he set career highs in goals (19) and points (54).
Pederson's career went into a downward spiral after the trade. After notching more than 70 points in his first two seasons as a Canuck, Pederson managed only 50 points in his next two seasons combined. He was traded to the Penguins in 1990.
|| Neale Reflects As Neely Retires
Vancouver Sun -- September 6, 1996
By Sun News Services
As general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Harry Neale sent Cam Neely to the Bruins with a 1987 first-round draft choice for Barry Pederson on June 6, 1986.
Neale figured he was sending Boston a potential 30-goal scorer, not the 50-goal terror who became the prototypical NHL power forward.
But, looking back, it all makes sense to Neale.
"I was fortunate enough to coach him his first season with Vancouver," said Neale as he reflected on the career of the Canucks' 1983 first-round draft pick, who retired Thursday after 10 storied seasons in Boston, "and I always thought he would turn out to be one of the top-notch players, but I never thought of him becoming a 50-goal scorer.
"But he developed that talent in Boston. He changed as a player with the Bruins because he went with a better hockey team, while we already had two right wings in Stan Smyl and Tony Tanti on power plays, so Cam never got to play on our top lines. In Boston, he did and he got to play their power play.
"There's a whole lot of difference between a player who is in the league for his third or fourth season than there is a player who has only played one or two seasons."
| June 9,
| Canucks select D Dale Tallon at No. 2 overall
In Vancouver, they call it "Black Tuesday."
After selecting the typical riff-raff available in the expansion draft, the new Vancouver Canucks set their sights on the junior draft ... particularly a talented center from the OHA's Montreal Jr. Canadiens, Gilbert Perreault. However, their expansion brethren from Buffalo also were eyeing Perreault.
The league decided to spin a wheel at the draft meetings in Montreal to determine who would receive the No. 1 pick. The Canucks had Nos. 1-6, and the Sabres had 7-12. The wheel spun and it was announced that No. 1 came up, sending Canucks GM Norman "Bud" Poile and his entourage into a frenzy. But Buffalo GM Punch Imlach noticed that the digits were on top of one another and the wheel actually had landed on No. 11. The league sided with Imlach, giving the Sabres the top pick, which they used to draft Perreault.
With the second pick, the Canucks drafted Dale Tallon, a defenseman with the OHA's Toronto Marlboros. But Tallon failed to fulfill the expectations of a second overall pick. After an All-Star rookie season in which he scored 56 points, Tallon mustered only 44 points in 1971-72. He made the All-Star team again that season, but that was his final appearance. He finished with 37 points in the 1972-73 season before being traded to Chicago for Jerry Kobab and Gary Smith on May 14, 1973.
Perreault was the Calder Memorial Trophy winner in 1971 and won the Lady Byng trophy in 1973. He spent his entire 17-season career on the shores of Lake Erie, twice scoring more than 100 points in a season and being named to the All-Star team five times.
For his career, Perreault finished with 512 goals and 1,326 points, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990. The Sabres retired his No. 11 jersey that year, a number he chose in honor of that fateful spin of the wheel.
|| Perreault Retires, But Hints At Return
Toronto Star -- June 18, 1986
By Frank Orr
The Sabres and Vancouver Canucks were entering the NHL in the '70-71 season in the second wave of expansion and as one NHL scout said it on draft day: "The general manager who gets first pick and lands Perreault will have a job for the next 10 years and the guy who doesn't will be out of work in two years."
George [Punch] Imlach, the Sabres original GM, won a roulette wheel spin to pick first, he chose Perreault and lasted in the job until '79. Canuck GM at the time Bud Poile took Tallon as second choice and was out of the job after two seasons.
From his first game, it was obvious that Perreault's great offensive skills, his quick, strong, agile skating, his stickhandlng brilliance and his superb instincts would make him a star. He scored 30 goals in his first season and won the Calder Trophy as top rookie.
Imlach quickly constructed a contender around the shy, quiet centre, claiming Perreault's junior linemate, hard-shooting Richard Martin in the '72 draft and adding pro veteran Rene Robert to play the right side on the fabled French Connection forward line that led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup final in 1975.
| February 6,
| Canucks trade F Trevor Linden to the N.Y. Islanders for C Todd Bertuzzi, D Bryan McCabe and a 3rd-round pick (Jarkko Ruutu)
The Canucks faithful have a message for teams interested in letting Mike Keenan run their team: Don't do it.
Linden was a fan favorite and excelled under coach Bob McCammon's system during his first three seasons. After being selected second overall in the 1988 draft, Linden was named the team MVP and finished runner-up to the Rangers' Brian Leetch for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He got better when GM Pat Quinn got behind the bench, playing in the 1991 and 1992 All-Star Games and becoming the Canucks captain.
Captain Trevor took the Canucks to within one victory of the Stanley Cup in 1994. Ian Tomlinson/Allsport
But when Quinn chose Tom Renney to replace him as coach after the 1996-97 season, Linden struggled, scoring only 40 points. 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.
Objectively speaking, however, the Linden trade helped Vancouver. Bertuzzi has scored 50 and 55 points the past two seasons. McCabe scored 21 points in 69 games in the 1998-99 season before being shipped to Chicago in a move that helped the Canucks draft both Sedin twins.
|| For Linden, A Fresh Start
New York Daily News -- February 26, 1998
By Frank Brown
Linden, asked to deal with Mark Messier's hostile takeover of the dressing room, responded by surrendering the captaincy. Linden had been captain and leader, but the team Linden led never won a thing that mattered. Winning is a Messier trademark, winning has a price; and in this matter Linden paid with his pride.
In the other matter, Linden paid with his job, because the question of dealing with Messier's mandate was nothing compared with dealing with Mike Keenan.
If you know Keenan's way, you know Linden was doomed from the moment Keenan replaced Tom Renney behind Vancouver's bench. Keenan likes to "change the culture." In Vancouver, a lot of the culture was mediocrity. Changing the culture meant the end of Linden in Vancouver and the start of Linden on Long Island, where there never can be enough earnest players of size and skill.
Yesterday, Linden was part of the Islanders' new look. He tried to fit in with his new group, gave whatever energy he had left after having his heart ripped out in Vancouver, then at Nagano, then making the long trip here to all the new uncertainties traded players have to face.
"I never knew any other city. Vancouver was always the place," Linden said. "Everything was just so easy, you took it for granted." Last night, nothing was easy. And the adjustment was the same drain on Trevor Linden that it has been on anybody who ever has endured a long first day of work after so very many years at the same office.
| February 6,
| Canucks choose C Petr Nedved and
LW Scott Antoski with their 1st-round selections
Imagine the Canucks with Jaromir Jagr and Keith Tkachuk. Or perhaps Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur. It could have happened.
Ironically, the 1990 entry draft took place at BC Place in Vancouver in front of a record crowd. The Canucks owned the second overall pick as well as the 18th pick. With the No. 1 pick, the Quebec Nordiques took Owen Nolan, leaving Vancouver with a choice of three centers and a winger. In addition to Nedved, the other centers were Keith Primeau and Mike Ricci. The winger -- Jagr.
It wasn't that the Canucks could have had either Jaromir Jagr or Keith Tkachuk ... they could have had both.
Brian Babineau, Ian Tomlinson/Allsport
The Canucks decided on Nedved, who amassed 145 points with the Seattle T-Birds of the Western Hockey League the previous season. Primeau was selected third by Detroit, while Ricci went to Philadelphia at No. 4 and Jagr became a Penguin with the fifth pick. Nedved played three seasons with Vancouver, his best coming in 1992-93, his final year with the team. He signed a free-agent contract with St. Louis in 1994, which cost the Blues three young players at the ruling of an arbitrator. Coincidentally, he teamed with Jagr at Pittsburgh from 1995-97 and set his career-best marks in goals, assists and points.
With the 18th pick, the Canucks decided Shawn Antoski was their future left winger instead of another left winger -- Keith Tkachuk. Winnipeg quickly grabbed Tkachuk with the next pick. After Tkachuk, the Devils selected goalie Martin Brodeur at No. 20.
"Moose" Antoski played in only 70 games in 4 1/2 seasons in Vancouver, scoring only three points. Antoski was shipped to Philadelphia on Feb. 15, 1995, for Josef Beranek. He also spent time with Pittsburgh and Anaheim before suffering career-ending injuries in an automobile accident on Nov. 24, 1997.
| June 1986
|| Canucks select C Dan Woodley at No. 7 overall
| June 1989
|| Canucks select D Jason Herter at No. 8 overall
| June 1991
|| Canucks select D Alek Stojanov at No. 7 overall
| June 1992
|| Canucks select F Libor Polasek at No. 21 overall
What, more draft gaffes? Vancouver had quite a few of them, especially in the late '80s and early '90s.
A top-10 selection usually becomes at least a role player or someone relegated to the fourth line. The Canucks couldn't even get that. A center with the World Hockey League's Portland Winter Hawks, Woodley had two consecutive seasons with 80 points or more. But he managed only two goals in five games for his NHL career. The Rangers picked ninth in the 1986 draft and selected defenseman Brian Leetch.
Had the Canucks drafted Leetch, they might not have needed to pick Herter in 1989. A defenseman at the University of North Dakota, Herter failed to suit up for even one game as a Canuck. In fact, the only NHL game he played in occurred in the 1995-96 season with the Islanders (he had an assist). He was traded from the Islanders to the Stars for cash on Sept. 21, 1995, and was last seen playing in Germany.
Stojanov made his NHL debut during the 1994-95 season, four years after the Canucks chose him. He played in four games, tallying not a single point. In 58 games the following season, Stojanov dished out one assist, amassed 123 penalty minutes and sported a minus-12 rating. Not exactly what the Canucks were expecting from right winger drafted in the top 10. However, he did help make Vancouver a better team in the end -- he was traded to Pittsburgh on March 20, 1996, for Markus Naslund.
Polasek fared worse than the previous three combined -- he never played in an NHL game. In fact, one is hard-pressed to even find statistics on Polasek in many hockey annuls.
|| Draft Hits Long Time Coming:
There Aren't Many Examples Of Early Success When Vancouver Selected Talent
Vancouver Sun -- June 22, 2001
By Iain MacIntyre
Back in the dark ages - let's call them the 1980s - the Vancouver Canucks would have been unable to figure out a draft had they been sitting by an open window.
The National Hockey League team tripped so many booby traps in so few years near the end of that decade that it's a wonder the United Nations did not send a mine-sweeping team to accompany the Canucks to the annual entry draft.
Dan Woodley, seventh overall in 1986 -- boom. Rob Murphy, top selection in 1987 -- boom. Jason Herter and Rob Woodward, eighth and 29th in 1989 -- kaboom. Nuclear winter.
The Canucks staggered into the 1990s and in the draft's first round that decade actually picked three guys who did not spend vacations at the kennel.
But the organization reinforced its canine reputation when, in successive first rounds, they plucked Alek Stojanov seventh over-all in 1991 and then detonated the H-bomb on themselves in 1992 in the form of Libor Polasek, who soon vanished.
Not so the Canucks' reputation for picking more duds than CBS programmers.
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