If you ever find yourself being mad at the Canucks for losing a few games over a short span, or maybe struggling over the span of a month or so...remember this: the Canucks REALLY sucked in the late 1990's. The pinnacle of suck happened early in the 1997-98 season. Tom Renney was the coach of a Canucks team that had Mark "The Messiah" Messier, Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, Alexander Mogilny, Mike Sillinger, Martin Gelinas, and a whole slew of goons up front, along with Jyrki Lumme, a young Mattias Ohlund, Brett Hedican, Adrian Aucoin, Grant Ledyard the mighty Dave Babych and several others on defence. It was a tough and mean team with some serious skill on top of it all. Arturs Irbe and Kirk McLean manned the pipes. The Canucks went through a lot of players that year, as you can see here. How's it going, Bert Robertsson?
But they couldn't put the pieces together. The only identity they could find was a losing one. From October 23 to November 11, 1997, a team that had no excuse to suck lost 10 games in a row. It still is the longest losing streak in team history. It was a tad traumatic watching the highlights of these games on VHS. Mark Messier was talking about the players playing as individuals and not as a team, which was true. Tom Renney kept a calm demeanor and talked about "the process". Dear God, remember "The Process"? It should be a historic Canucks drama film. They played as individuals, and they also played some of the worst defence I have ever seen. The goaltending was bum. It was a rotating door between the pipes.
Anyway, the losing streak came to an end in kick ass fashion, and I converted the VHS to YouTube for you to see:
Is Squire Barnes gold, or what? Also golden was the quality of those Canucks goals. Total skill on display.
As great as it was that the losing streak ended, times remained tough with that squad. After a 4-13-2 start, including that losing skid mark, Tom Renney was fired and Iron Mike Keenan was hired. Woo! President and GM Pat Quinn was also fired. With Keenan in place as coach and no GM hired...Keenan kind of became the coach and the GM, and what resulted was a swift dismantling. Keenan traded away Dave Babych, Gino Odjick (giving Bure a sad), Kirk McLean and the biggest move of all: Trevor Linden (who had surrendered the captaincy to Messier prior to the season starting) was traded to the Islanders for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe and a pick, which ended up being Jarko Ruutu. You owe Keenan a debt of gratitude, people. Todd Bertuzzi kicked some butt on the West Coast Express Line with Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison before getting traded to Florida for Roberto Luongo. Bryan McCabe was traded for a high pick, so that Brian Burke, the eventual successor to Pat Quinn, could draft the Sedins together. Jarko Ruutu was a beloved pest, right Dion?
Keenan also brought in some gritty checkers with character that he had coached in the past, like Peter Zezel (RIP) and Brian Noonan. It didn't help much. The Canucks went 21-30-12 the rest of the '97/98 season and missed the playoffs. Probably the darkest time for any Canucks fans old enough to live through it and understand it.
So like I said before...when times get tough....remember the fallacy of 1997-98. If you are one of those people who bought Brittany Spears or BSB as one of your first albums, talk to somebody older about how badly the Canucks stunk in the late 90's. Education! Perspective! After watching these tapes I feel very fortunate to be witnessing the Canucks recent successful seasons, and that includes the Draft. There is improvement from the top-down. These are the good times. Take it all in and enjoy the ride!