This summer sucks. Who would have thought losing the Cup and the riot afterward would be the end of it?
As you know, following on the heels of Rick Rypien's passing was the tragic news this morning that a plane crash near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia claimed the lives of 43 of the 45 people aboard. Former Canucks winger Pavol Demitra has been confirmed as one of those lost.
Demitra was far from a fan favorite, at least in this neck of the interwebs. Both Sean and I weren't fans of how much money the brittle winger cost. But regardless of how we felt that shouldn't detract from his on-ice product. Over the course of his career Demitra was a skilled threat who ranks as the 154th highest scorer in league history (just behind Sergei Zubov and ahead of guys like Mike Ridley, Russ Courtnall, Greg Adams, Scott Niedermayer, Ziggy Palffy, Petr Nedved and Cam Neely).
Roll the tape back to the 1993 draft (yes the Alexander Daigle knee slapper of a draft) when Demo was selected in the 9th round (227 overall) by the Senators. That alone is worth remembering since 9th rounders rarely pan out; in fact of the 25 players taken in that round only six would go on to play at the NHL level with only three playing above 100 games (Demitra, Mike Grier and Brad Norton). Norton and Grier didn't (or rather haven't) come close to matching Demo's 304 career goals and 768 career points.
Demitra would play sparingly for the Senators before he held out and was moved in November 1996 to St. Louis for Christer Olsson. It was then that Demitra went off, spending eight seasons with the Note, making three All Star Game appearances (1999, 2000 and 2002) and winning the Lady Byng in 2000. He lead the league in game winners in 2001-02 (10) and would finish 6th best in 2002-03 with 93 points. He currently sits as the fifth best scorer in St. Louis history.
Demitra would move on to one injury-plagued season with the Kings, one which he still scored 62 points before landing in Minnesota for two seasons and then finally to Vancouver where he'd finish his NHL career. Unfortunately for us it was one of Gillis' attempts at getting a former agent in house who was well past his prime. He was perceived, at a time when Vancouver let Markus Naslund walk, as replacing one "soft" winger with another.
He never played a full season for the Canucks and literally took himself out the majority of the 2009-10 season when he collided with Brian Campbell during the second round loss to Chicago the season before. As a Canuck Demitra played a total of 97 games and added 23 goals, 46 assists, 69 points, five PPGs and one GWG. His lasting legacy may be his time with the RPM line (Kesler/Sundin/Demitra) which was the first real time in this era that Vancouver had a legit second scoring line to relieve the pressure off the Sedins. The RPM days pretty much gave birth to the KesLORD that we know and love today. It also allowed Sean to warm up his PS skills from time to time.
When the end of his contract was up, some of us were happy (myself included) to see Demo and his $4 million dollar price tag skip on over to the KHL. And, for the record, Demitra was outscoring Jagr last season and didn't miss any games to boot. (*head slap*)
In the end his time here wasn't the best, but it wasn't his fault that (a) Gillis threw a ton of money at him and (b) he was asked to shoulder a heavy load as a sunsetting player. I'm sure you're quickly recollecting some of your favorite memories that Demo provided us over his two years, so I'll toss mine out there as well: his first goal as a Canuck. The quality of that video is pretty bad, but I remember at the time we had a slew of new players, the new GM, no Naslund and a lingering pang of "where precisely is this team going?" So when one of the new guys not only scores to beat a rival but showed some passion afterwards, it warmed my cold heart. His series opening goal against the Hawks in the 2008-09 post season was a thing of beauty as well which is tough for me to say considering Wellwood and Sundin factored in on the score.
RIP Pavol and to the others who lost their lives today in the crash.