Since there's no hockey actively happening, we thought we’d spend time burrowing through the NHL’s archives and bring you a ranking of the best former Vancouver Canucks on each other NHL team. We will only be ranking the players based on the time they spent with the two teams in question. Where possible, we’ll try and not double up on players. But be warned, that’s going to happen occasionally.
Since we started off examining the shared players between the Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks, there exists a strong likelihood that it could be all downhill from here (until we get to Florida, of course).
But let’s see how the Arizona Coyotes fare in this exercise. Unlike the Anaheim Ducks, there’s no obvious top player, which keeps it fun (and extremely subjective). And yes, we’ll be counting players from the (original) Winnipeg Jets as well. We couldn’t possibly deprive you of the David Babych content you’re entitled to.
Before we get to the top five, here are some honourable mentions that just missed the cut. (And don’t worry, Brad Richardson didn’t quite make it, so we don’t have to remind you of this—whoops, guess we just did.)
Hands up if you knew that Aucoin held the Canucks record for goals in a single season by a defenceman with 23, 18 of which were on the powerplay. (He was also a minus-14 that season.) But he never really saw eye-to-eye with coach Marc Crawford and the oft-injured blueliner was eventually dealt (for Dan Cloutier) after parts of seven seasons with the Canucks. He would play three serviceable campaigns near the end of his career with the Coyotes.
Pyatt had 166 points in 447 games between the two franchises and had some decent playoff runs too. Though he was a solid player, he’ll probably be best remembered for being one of the better-looking players in Canucks history. (*Saves “IDEA: Best looking Canucks of all-time” in folder marked “Pandemic”*)
We’re trying to avoid repeats during this exercise, so we are wittingly and unfortunately participating in the continued underrating of Ronning while wholly acknowledging that he's one of the most underrated Canucks of all time. He racked up 441 points in 522 games played between the two teams in question, which is impressive. But like we said, he’ll almost definitely find himself on multiple teams’ lists.
The Finn played the bulk of his career with the Canucks in the mid-80s and early ‘90s, and put up some impressive numbers. He scored more than 60 points in four different seasons with Vancouver—not bad for an eighth round pick in the 1981 draft (that round doesn’t even exist anymore).
But his 15 Jets games weren’t quite enough to land him on this list. Will his 37 games with Boston or 17 contests with San Jose be allow him to crack those teams’ respective top fives? We’ll see.
Like Ronning, Adams will likely find himself on a couple other lists as this exercise continues. A fan favourite in Vancouver obviously, Adams only played two seasons with Arizona (then called the Phoenix Coyotes) but acquitted himself well, scoring over 40 points both years. Due mostly to his eight seasons with the Canucks, he put up 458 points (the second-highest mark) between both franchises.
And the top five:
5. Ed Jovanovski – 766 GP, 294 pts
While Jovocop might be more famous for playing on another team than either of these two, he logged a substantial amount of time for both the Canucks and Coyotes. Of course he was a fan favourite in Vancouver, earning notoriety for his physical play and offensive production after coming over in the Pavel Bure trade. He even had more goals than Henrik Sedin in two consecutive seasons.
He’s still fifth among Canucks defencemen in goals and no Canuck rearguard has scored more goals in a single season since he potted 17 in 2001-02. As a Coyote, he played five mostly productive seasons, including putting up 51 points in 2007-08. Some might argue this is a little low for Jovo, but his tendency to get injured means he left some games (and points) on the table.
4. Bob Essensa – 320 GP, 129 wins
The second-winningest goalie in Coyotes/Jets history (he’s one back from Ilya Bryzgalov’s 130), Essensa had to make this list.
Was Essensa ever great? Well, no. He only had one season with the Jets in which he registered a save percentage higher than .900 (1991-92, in which he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy). And he only played in 16 playoff games total.
But hey, he’s one of the best goalies in Jets/Coyotes history and even played 67 games one year. His 39 games with the Canucks in 2000-01 (he and Cloutier shared the net after the Aucoin trade) weren’t a lot but hey, at least he got two playoff appearances in there (he lost both).
3. Radim Vrbata – 651 GP, 433 pts
This might seem high for Vrbata, but of all the players who spent time with both franchises, the Czech ranks the highest on either of the clubs' individual scoring lists—he’s the 12th highest-scorer in Coyotes/Jets history.
He actually spent three separate stints in Arizona, first breaking out as a scorer there in 2007-08 with 56 points after being traded by Chicago. He used that season to sign a three-year contract with Tampa Bay. Things didn’t go very well there and in December he was granted release to play in his home country. The next season, his agent orchestrated a trade back to Arizona, where he thrived once again, scoring at a 40-point pace or better for each of the next five seasons.
He’d leave again, this time lured by the promise of playing with the Sedin twins. He had the best year of his career playing with Henrik and Daniel, scoring 63 points in 79 games. The next season didn’t go quite as well—he had only 27 points in 63 matches. So he headed back to Arizona for one more year and was once again productive to the tune of 55 points in 81 games.
(He did spend one more year in the NHL, going to Florida for 42 unremarkable games, but that doesn’t really make for a great story.)
2. Jykri Lumme – 789 GP, 414 pts
The two top Canucks/Coyotes/Jets played during the same era and occupied the same position on the ice.
Lumme is just edged out here by our number one pick, mostly because his tenure on the Coyotes/Jets wasn’t quite as prolific.
But the Tampere, Finland native enjoyed one of the more productive careers by a Canuck defenceman. He’s currently third among rearguards in points, behind only Mattias Ohlund and Alex Edler, who both played many more games with Vancouver than he did.
In fact, among the top 10 Canucks blueliners in points, only Kevin McCarthy (number 10) scored at a better points-per-game rate than Lumme.
After nine seasons with the Canucks, four Babe Pratt Trophies as the team’s best defenceman and some very productive playoff runs, Lumme chose to sign with the emerging Coyotes.
He was second on the club in points behind Teppo Numminen all three seasons (he put up 28, 40 and 25 points, respectively) but was traded in 2001 to the Dallas Stars.
A great Canucks career and a solid stint with the Coyotes, but not quite good enough for first. Well, he also played for Montreal and Toronto… we’ll see about that.
1. Dave Babych – 799 GP, 475 pts
OK, when we wrote that intro we didn’t imagine that Babych would be the number one player to spend time with both franchises.
But the evidence is pretty strong.
The most games played between the two franchises and the most points—pretty impressive as a defenceman.
And that might come as surprising to Canucks fans that remember Babych for having an awesome moustache and a solid defensive game. He did, after all, log seven seasons with the Canucks and only had one season of over 30 points.
But that was an older, more responsible Babych than the one who went absolutely ham for the Winnipeg Jets in the early and mid-80s. After being drafted second overall in 1980 due to his destruction of the WHL, Babych stepped directly into Winnipeg’s lineup and put up 44 points in 69 games.
He’d log parts of six years with the Jets, posting remarkable numbers in a freewheeling era of hockey. He even got to 74 points in 1982-83. (Of course, Paul Coffey had 96 points that season.)
So yeah, Dave Babych is the best player to play for both the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets.
Best moustache too, but that probably goes without saying.
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