Ranking the best (and worst) captains in Vancouver Canucks history

Oct 8 2019, 5:48 pm

The worst-kept secret in town is about to become a reality during the Vancouver Canucks home opener against the Los Angeles Kings.

It’s expected that the Canucks will officially name Bo Horvat the 14th captain in team history. They played the 2018-19 season without a captain following Henrik Sedin’s retirement.

The average Canucks fan could probably name off half the captains in team history, but there are certainly some obscure names on this list. That’s partly because eight of the 13 captains only wore the “C” for three seasons or less.

So in short, the new Canucks captain will be among some elite, and some obscure company. We cover them all in this ranking of the best (and worst) captains in Canucks history.

13. Mark Messier

Captain from 1997-2000.

Let’s be honest, there’s only one “bad captain” in team history.

Just three years after the New York Rangers beat the Canucks for the 1994 Stanley Cup, the same head coach and captain that beat them, took over the team. Mark Messier took over as team captain and not long after Mike Keenan was the head coach.

On top of that, Messier chose to wear No. 11, which hadn’t been worn by a Canuck since the death of 29-year-old Wayne Maki in 1974.

The atrocious beginning of the Messier era led to three of the worst seasons in team history. Undoubtedly, Messier was the worst captain this franchise has ever had.

12. Dan Quinn

Co-captain during the 1990-91 season.

Yes, Dan Quinn was once captain of the Vancouver Canucks.

The 1990-91 season was an oddity for the Canucks, since they had three players who alternated wearing the “C” in Quinn, Doug Lidster, and Trevor Linden.

We’ll rank Quinn as lowest of the three, considering he was traded to St. Louis at the trade deadline that season. In total, he played only 101 games for the Canucks.

11. Doug Lidster

doug lidster canucks captain

ThirdStringGoalie

Co-captain during the 1990-91 season.

The other co-captain during the 1990-91 season, Lidster was certainly a more prolific Canuck than Quinn, hence his higher place in our rankings. Lidster played in Vancouver for 10 seasons before being traded to the New York Rangers in 1993.

He still holds the franchise record for points from a defenceman in one season, when he posted 63 points. Lidster also returned to the Canucks from 2014-17 as a member of Willie Desjardins’ coaching staff.

10. Chris Oddleifson

Captain during the 1976-77 season.

Following the retirement of fan-favourite Andre Boudrias, Chris Oddleifson stepped in as the captain for one season. Even though he only wore the C for a year, he did spend eight seasons in a Canucks jersey.

9. Andre Boudrias

andre boudrias canucks

Vancouver Canucks

Captain during the 1975-76 season.

Arguably the Canucks’ first star player, the late Andre Boudrias was the second-ever captain of the Canucks, taking over from Orland Kurtenbach in the 1975-76 season.

During his first five seasons in Vancouver, Boudrias was the team’s most prolific offensive player. He had 350 points in 387 games in those years and never posted less than 60 points in a season.

That was until the year he was named captain. He was 32 years old at the time, and it ended up being his last season in the NHL.

8. Don Lever

don lever canucks captain

NHL

Captain from 1977-79.

A prolific tw0-way forward, Lever broke the Canucks streak of having one-year captains… by captaining the team for two seasons.

Lever did keep up the trend set by Boudrias as his production dipped after being named captain. That led to him being traded by the Canucks to the Atlanta Flames during the 1979-80 season (when he was no longer captain).

He later became the first captain in New Jersey Devils history. Tuck that one away for sports trivia night.

7. Kevin McCarthy

Captain from 1979-1982.

The smooth-skating defenceman took over from Lever beginning in the 1979-80 season. Kevin McCarthy was only 22 years old at the time, but he was named captain for a team that was beginning to climb out of the NHL’s basement.

Perhaps McCarthy was a good luck charm for the Canucks, as they made the playoffs in each of his three seasons as captain. What wasn’t good luck was that he broke his ankle right before the Canucks’ Stanley Cup run in 1982. That allowed Stan Smyl to establish himself as the leader of the Canucks for years to come.

6. Roberto Luongo

Captain from 2008-2010.

Although nowhere near the drama following Messier being given the C, there was skepticism about Roberto Luongo being named Canucks captain in 2008. Before him, the last goalie to captain an NHL team was when Bill Durnam held the distinction for the Montreal Canadiens back in 1947-48.

Luongo captained the team for two seasons, but his numbers in both the regular season and playoffs dipped during that second year. He then stepped down as captain to focus on goaltending. Still, because of the team’s success at the time, and because he’s one of the greatest players in franchise history, he finds himself in the upper half of this list.

5. Orland Kurtenbach

NHL

Captain from 1970-74.

Orland Kurtenbach was the Canucks’ second selection in the 1970 NHL expansion draft, and shortly thereafter he was named the first captain in franchise history.

Even though Kurtenbach was 34 years old in 1970, statistically, he had the best two seasons of his career after joining the Canucks. He was named team MVP for three of his four seasons in Vancouver. Although he was lauded for his leadership qualities, the lack of team success has him behind the other notable captains in these rankings.

4. Markus Naslund

naslund-bertuzzi-morrison

Image: Vancouver Canucks

Captain from 2000-2008.

The first European captain in franchise history, Markus Naslund becoming captain would signal a shift in the organization from a bottom-feeder to a regular playoff contender.

Naslund was arguably the best sniper in team history behind Pavel Bure, and he was at the forefront of a hockey team that was exciting to watch on a nightly basis. The “West Coast Express” line was one of the best in hockey during the early 2000s, and a large part of that was because of Naslund and his offensive prowess.

He was a quiet leader, but the Canucks made the playoffs in five of the seven seasons when he wore the “C.”

3. Stan Smyl

stan smyl

Vancouver Canucks

Captain from 1982-1990.

Smyl really cemented himself as a leader during the Canucks’ Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1982. With McCarthy missing in action prior to the playoffs, the 24-year-old Smyl stepped up and tied Thomas Gradin for the team lead with nine goals lead during that run.

He was named captain following that season, and the man they call “Steamer” would maintain captaincy for the following eight seasons. After his retirement, he would become the first player to have his number retired by the Canucks in 1991.

2. Trevor Linden

1994 canucks linden

Vancouver Canucks / Twitter

Captain from 1990-1997.

One of the youngest captains in NHL history, Linden was eased into the role beginning in 1990-91 when he shared captain duties with Lidster and Quinn. Beginning in 1991-92, Linden became the captain for one of the best eras in Canucks history.

By then, the 21-year-old Linden was already in his fourth NHL. He proved that the pressure of being one of the youngest captains in NHL history wasn’t a burden, as the Canucks made the playoffs for six straight seasons with him as captain.

1. Henrik Sedin

Captain from 2010-2018.

While Linden was a warrior for the Canucks, there shouldn’t be any question about who the greatest captain in team history is.

Henrik Sedin was the best playmaker this city has ever seen, but that’s not what made him a great captain. That came from him being a leader both on and off the ice.

Throughout Henrik’s tenure as captain, both he and his brother Daniel grew into leaders after learning from previous captains like Naslund and Linden. They were two of the best players in the game and brought the Canucks incredibly close to their first Stanley Cup.

It’s only fitting that the next captain of the Canucks learned the ropes from Henrik and Daniel.