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Hockey

Vancouver Canucks

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 24

By Luis Fernando Llosa

 
1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
Shots
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
Hits
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Markus Naslund
Mark Messier
Markus Naslund
Peter Zezel
Markus Naslund
Mark Messier
Mattias Ohlund
Dave Scatchard
Adrian Aucoin
Markus Naslund
Mark Messier
36
35
66
+5
205
22.6
26.1
56.3
208
28
7
Sports Illustrated So what do Canucks fans have to look forward to this season? Vancouver's only star is aging, injury-prone center Mark Messier, whose uninspired play has contributed to consecutive last-place finishes. The club's best offensive prospects, 19-year-old Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who were drafted second and third overall in June, won't join the team until next season. Moreover, the club's No. 1 goaltender, Garth Snow, finished 1998-99 tied for the most losses (31) in the league. His backup, Kevin Weekes, who was acquired in last January's infamous Pavel Bure trade, has tons of potential but has yet to win an NHL game in 15 starts.

Still, general manager Brian Burke insists that Vancouver, which finished 23-47-12 last season, will fight for a playoff spot. "We went out and signed [center Andrew] Cassels and [defenseman Doug] Bodger," Burke says of those two free agents. "I don't think it's fair to ask our season-ticket holders to wait until the Sedin twins arrive."

Whom is he kidding? Cassels, who scored only 12 goals for the Flames last year, can hardly be expected to revive the league's fourth-worst offense. In fact, the Canucks' forwards were the lowest-scoring group in franchise history. One good sign is that former scoring whiz Alexander Mogilny, who had 76 goals for the Sabres in 1992-93 but who slumped to only 14 in 59 games last year, said he is motivated and ready for a big comeback. Another positive is the preseason play of 21-year-old rookie wing Steve Kariya, whose big brother, Paul, is among the NHL's elite.

As for Bodger, he's a 15-year journeyman who will not make much of a difference on an inexperienced defense that relies too heavily on 23-year-old star-to-be Mattias Ohlund. Vancouver is hoping that defensemen Ed Jovanovski, 23, the centerpiece of the Bure deal, and 26-year-old Adrian Aucion, who scored 23 goals last season, a franchise record for a blueliner, can at least take care of their own zone.

Vancouver has a better shot at making the playoffs next year. Coach Marc Crawford, who replaced Mike Keenan last January, won the Stanley Cup with the gifted Avalanche in 1995-96, but can he work magic with players who, for the most part, have middling talent? Next summer the Canucks may have plenty of cash to go shopping with if Messier, who is finishing a three-year, $20 million contract, departs as expected. Then there are the Sedins. "Our goal is to get better right away and make the playoffs," says Burke. "But everything I've done in the draft and with the Bure trade is oriented to the future. We'll definitely be better when the twins get here."

Issue date: October 4, 1999

ALSO:
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings


BRIGHT SPOTS   GRAY AREAS
  • LW Markus Naslund is coming off a breakthrough season with 36 goals, breaking his career high by 14. He had 15 PP goals.
  • LW Bill Muckalt (7th in Calder voting) and D Adrian Aucoin (23 goals, including 18 on PP) also coming off impressive years.
  •  
  • C Mark Messier has been largely a disappointment since signing huge free-agent contract two years ago.
  • Coach Mark Crawford begins first full year behind the bench, hopefully ending a turbulent couple of years.
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Brian Burke
    Coach: Marc Crawford; 1st full season (8-23-6); 6th overall (173-111-47)
    Assistants: Jack McIlhargey; Mike Johnston
    Captain: Mark Messier
    Last year: 23-47-12 (26th overall)
    Playoffs: None
    PP: 12th (15.9%)
    PK: 19th (82.9%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Sat., Oct. 2: Home opener against a worn-out Rangers team that will have played in Edmonton the night before.
    Fri., Nov. 5: Chances are the "Welcome Back Kotter" theme won't be playing when Pavel Bure and the Florida Panthers come calling.
    Sun., Dec. 12 to Sat., Dec. 18: Three consecutive games against division winners from last season -- Colorado, Ottawa and Dallas.

    Notable Number
    101-85-79-77-64: The decreasing point totals over the last five regular seasons (lockout-shortened 1994-95 season not included).

    Quoteworthy
    "Right now, to be honest, I don't know what's going on with Vancouver ... They're not putting much value on my play or my presence with the team and that's what's frustrating. I've been there the last (five) years, played well and had a breakthrough season last year. It's not like I'm a big question mark ... I'm just going to stay in shape so if something happens I'll be ready to go." -- Adrian Aucoin



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