Who is the greatest defenseman in the history of the Vancouver Canucks?
That's the question on my mind with Ed Jovanovski returning to town as the Phoenix Coyotes take on the Canucks on Thursday night.
I always liked Jovo. He was susceptible to bad giveaways but I always appreciated his skating, his physicality and especially his intensity. Based on ability, he was able to raise his game to a higher level than any defenseman I've seen in Vancouver. He was rewarded with three consecutive Babe Pratt trophies as the Canucks best defenseman, from 2001-2003.
That being said, his whole career picture in the whale jersey pales in comparison to the steadier and less flashy Matthias Ohlund. Ohlund, a 4 time winner of the Pratt trophy, has never taken his game to the highest level, instead quietly being one of the best in the game. His mobility and toughness make him a workhorse and stabilizing force. He is the highest scoring defenseman in terms of goals, and could take the points lead this season. He will need to return next season for the all time games played record.
I tend to gravitate towards these two when I think of the best Canucks blue liner ever. But there are certainly other noteworthy candidates:
Paul Reinhart - The most talented and smartest Canucks defenseman ever, bar none, despite playing with a debilitating back injury. The problem is he only played 2 seasons in Vancouver, finishing off a career torpedoed by the injuries. He won the Pratt Trophy in each of his 2 seasons.
Jyrki Lumme - He played over nine seasons in Vancouver, finishing tied as the all time scoring leader amongst Canucks blue liners. He was sort of a less physical version of Jovanovski, rushing the puck out of the zone, and a riskier version of Reinhart, sometimes looking foolish with high risk plays. His defensive play evolved into an improved defensive contributor, though he had no physical game at all. He also won the Pratt Trophy 4 times.
Dennis Kearns - Lumme shares that record with Dennis Kearns, a long forgotten defender from the 1970s. He was a great puck moving defenseman, with 290 of his 321 points were assists. Fans never really appreciated Kearns. In the rough and tumble 70s, his intellectual approach to the game got him labelled as soft. Despite that he earned two Pratt Trophies.
Doug Lidster - For much of the 1980s and the early 1990s, Doug Lidster was one of the NHL's best kept secrets. The former Olympian toiled on weak Vancouver blue lines. He may have been misplaced as a number one defenseman, but teams around the league coveted him. He would have been recognized as one of the best second pair defensemen in the game if he was on a stronger team. He won four Pratt trophies, including three in a row.
Harold Snepsts - The Canucks all time games played leader amongst rearguards may also be the all time fan favorite. He lacked fluidity and elegance, but he was all heart. He did not offer a lot of tangible finesse skills, but lots of intangible heart and guts and leadership. He is another 4 time winner of the Pratt Trophy. No player has won more than four in a career, although Ohlund remains active with a good shot this year and beyond assuming he resigns in the summer of 2009.
I would be pretty happy to have these seven defensemen on my blue line. But who would rank as the greatest Canucks defenseman of all time? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
I'm thinking I will have to lean towards Ohlund.
He may have lost the dynamic offensive skills he had in Hartford and Winnipeg but I've always been a big Dave Babych fan even in Vancouver and Philly.
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