THE GREAT EXPANSION, VOL 19: THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The “target” for the Vancouver Canucks on expansion draft day was Doug Favell. The man targeting Favell was Bud Poile, one of the architects of the brilliant Philadelphia Flyers expansion draft just three summers before the Canucks entered confederation. Poile had planned to do in Vancouver what the Flyers did in 1967, but the available talent was much poorer in 1970 (the league had been watered down and still had 6 expansion teams much inferior to the original 6).

The key for Poile, as it had been in 1967 in Philadelphia, was a good young goaltender.

The Favell deal never came about, and it was (as always) due to expansion theatrics authored by Punch Imlach (now Buffalo’s GM and Poile’s expansion opposite number). Vancouver had a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers: select LW Garnet Bailey from the Boston list and Philadelphia would send Favell over for the former Edmonton Oil King. However, Imlach used the first pick in the expansion draft to select Boston RW Tom Webster–something he had agreed not to do in a pre-draft deal with Boston GM Milt Schmidt–and Boston pulled back Bailey.

This moved the “target” and changed the “face” of the original Vancouver Canucks.

ORLAND KURTENBACH

The first “star” in Vancouver was Orland Kurtenbach. The big, tough center served as both policeman and top center, skating miles in the early days and thrilling the fanbase with goals, fights and the promise of a better day when more than one Kurtenbach might be a Vancouver Canuck.

  • Bud Poile: “Sure I’m satisfied, we did as well as expected, maybe a little better.”
  • Canucks coach Hal Laycoe: “I subscribe to the Branch Rickey theory of drafting. His idea was to go for big young guys who haven’t had a real chance to play. I think we did that.”

I don’t know of any evidence about Branch Rickey drafting big men, but it is true Rickey didn’t let bias get in the way of finding good ballplayers. Poile’s draft in 1970 does not compare to the Flyers brilliant draft but there were some successes. He did select the same player type as the Flyers–young men who had been in pro hockey for two or more years and not yet received an opportunity to play as NHL regulars despite some solid resume’s. One thing that helped the Canucks a great deal: Buffalo’s draft template was at the absolute opposite end of the spectrum.

 GOALIES

The Canucks chose another Flyer goaltender–Dunc Wilson–as their “goalie of the future” on expansion draft day 1970. Wilson was originally a Bruins procurement, but had been selected by the Flyers in a special “internal” NHL draft  the details of which are long forgotten and unavailable for reporting.  Wilson would establish himself as an NHL calibre goalie during 286 games in the 1970′s.

The second goalie taken was Charlie Hodge–he’d been the Seals expansion goalie choice and three years later was again on the move. As we move forward in the expansion years we’ll see more cases of goaltenders being expendable for expansion teams and taken multiple times. Hodge would play just 35 more games in the NHL, all during the Canucks expansion season of 1970-71.

SKATERS

  1. D Gary Doak (611)
  2. C Orland Kurtenbach (229)
  3. C Ray Cullen (70)
  4. D Pat Quinn (507)
  5. C Rosaire Paiement (147)
  6. D Darryl Sly (31)
  7. L Jim Wiste (23)
  8. C Danny Johnson (120)
  9. D Barry Wilkins (410)
  10. C Ralph Stewart (252)
  11. L Mike Corrigan (553)
  12. L Wayne Maki (180)
  13. R Ed Hatoum (26)
  14. D Poul Popiel (126)
  15. R Ron Ward (71)
  16. D John Schella (115)
  17. C Bob Dillabough (0)
  18. C Garth Rizzuto (37)

3,508 games played and remember, the Canucks and Sabres were the first to come into the NHL during the modern draft. a lot of jobs went to draft picks in 1970, and Vancouver picked 2nd overall (Dale Tallon) out of the gate. The best players Vancouver drafted were Gary Doak, Pat Quinn, Mike Corrigan and Wayne Maki who was on his way to a fine career before passing away at age 29. The most famous name of the expansion for Vancouver fans is most certainly Kurtenbach who was the face of the franchise in the early years.

SKATER TOTALS

  1. Los Angeles (5,126)
  2. St. Louis (4,845)
  3. Philadelphia (4,831)
  4. Minnesota (4,551)
  5. Oakland (4,458)
  6. Vancouver (3,508)
  7. Pittsburgh (3,181)

GOALIE TOTALS

  1. Philadelphia (924)
  2. Oakland (648)
  3. Minnesota (546)
  4. Pittsburgh (342)
  5. Vancouver (321)
  6. St. Louis (141)
  7. Los Angeles (139)

The Canucks drafted in a watered down league and they did have their own minor league team (Vancouver Canucks, WHL) going into the draft. So, some of the players drafted didn’t get the kind of opportunity they would hope for since Vancouver already had (for instance) Murray Hall, Ted Taylor, Duke Harris and Pat Hannigan as possible solutions on the wing.

One more thing: several of the Canucks expansion draft picks (notably Popiel, Ward, Schella and Paiement) jumped to the WHA and had quality careers in the new league. I don’t give them credit for it here, as I did not give credit to the 6 clubs who arrived in 1967, but it merits a mention.

tallon

Bud Poile was the GM from 1970 to 1973, and spent his 1st rd picks on Dale Tallon, Jocelyn Guevremont, Don Lever and Dennis Ververgaert. All were good players, but the picks directly behind them were superior: Reggie Leach (1970); Gene Carr and Rick Martin (1971); Steve Shutt (1972) and Lanny McDonald (1973). Some were injured, like Tallon and Guevremont, but that 4 year cluster of drafting had a lot to do with Vancouver’s lack of playoff success during the first decade of club history.

 

PLAYOFF WINS (GAMES) BY 1967 EXPANSION TEAMS first 8 seasons

  1. Philadelphia 32
  2. St. Louis 31
  3. Minnesota 20
  4. Pittsburgh 11
  5. Los Angeles 9
  6. Oakland 3
  7. Vancouver 1

Far be it for me to defend the Vancouver Canucks, but it isn’t as bad as it looks. The NHL placed both Buffalo and Vancouver in the ‘original 6′ division with Boston, Montreal, the NY Rangers, Toronto and Detroit. I mean really. Canucks finished with 24 wins (as did Buffalo) and wouldn’t become a quality team until 1974-75 when the club won 38 games. That wins total would remain team best until Pat Quinn arrived in the early 1990s, winning 42, 46 and 41 in consecutive seasons. The team record for wins–54–would come in 2010-11, the same season they lost their 3rd Stanley cup final.

 

The best player from the early days of the franchise was probably Andre Boudrias. They got him for a song and he turned out to be an outstanding little 2-way playmaker for a few years. I don’t hear much about him anymore, but old timey Canuck fans will tell you the guy could play.

 

My favorite story involving the Canucks is this man, Roger Neilson. How he got that ragtag bunch of hockey players into the Stanley Cup finals remains a mystery of epic proportions. He didn’t even get the job as head coach until late in the season, and then he kept winning so they couldn’t replace him. He had four good scorers–Thomas Gradin, Stan Smyl, Darcy Rota and Ivan Boldirev, a hot goalie–Richard Brodeur played the 6 weeks of his life–and everyone else played miles over their heads as the Canucks got all the way to the dance one magical spring.

I don’t care how many finals they get to, the 1982 Vancouver Canucks were a unique hockey team and the one shining light during the first phase of franchise history.

Up next: Punch Imlach, evil genius.

 

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3 Responses to "THE GREAT EXPANSION, VOL 19: THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS"

  1. blackdog says:

    ” that 4 year cluster of drafting had a lot to do with Vancouver’s lack of playoff success during the first decade of club history”

    What was the reason for what happened the following three decades?

    *rimshot*

    Try the veal folks, its outstanding.

  2. Mr DeBakey says:

    Thomas Gradin, Stan Smyl, Darcy Rota and Ivan Boldirev, a hot goalie–Richard Brodeur

    Harold Snepsts is the guy I think about when thinking about that ’82 run.
    4 Pts, 50 PIM in their 22 play-off games.
    Quality stats!

    The Canucks started their first ever exhibition season playing the North Stars in Edmonton at the Gardens.

    http://tinyurl.com/atsfaup

  3. spoiler says:

    Excellent article, if only for the mention of the special double secret internal draft, lol.

    Re: the 82 Cup run… Surprised there was no mention of BJ being traded there, or of the young Curt Fraser or the old Ivan Hlinka (he of the tournament fame).

    Also Tiger Williams had an absolutely fantastic playoffs. Played a mile above his head.

    Of course, this article isn’t really about the Dynasties first, and greatest, success.

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