Top 5: The Worst Seasons in Vancouver Canucks History

The Vancouver Canucks are nearing their 50th anniversary in a few seasons, and with that comes a list of great moments and an equal list of bad ones. Today, we look at the 5 worst seasons in Vancouver Canucks history, but beware: there are some ugly times ahead.



Record: 25-41-14 – 64PTS (10th/10th in the Campbell Conference, 20th/21st in the NHL)
245 Goals For / 306 Goals Against

Biggest Win: 6-3 vs. Los Angeles (Mar. 31st/1990)
Biggest Loss: 10-1 vs. Montreal (Feb. 14th/1990)

Head Coach: Bob McCammon
Captain: Stan Smyl

Leading Scorers:
Paul Reinhart (30) – 67GP – 17G – 40A – 57PTS
Trevor Linden (19) – 73GP – 21G – 30PTS – 51PTS
Greg Adams (26) – 65GP – 30G – 20A – 50PTS

Starting Goaltender:
Kirk McLean (23) – 63GP – 21W – 30L – 10T – 3.47GAA – 0.880SV% – 0SO

Other Notable Players:
Igor Larionov (29) – 74GP – 17G – 27A – 44PTS
Vladimir Krutov (29) – 61GP – 11G – 23A – 34PTS
Tony Tanti (26) – 41GP – 14G – 18A – 32PTS (traded to Pittsburgh)
Rich Sutter (26) – 62P – 9G – 9A – 18PTS (traded to St. Louis)
Jim Benning (26) – 45GP – 3G – 9A – 12PTS

Who They Picked in the 1990 Draft:
2nd Overall – Petr Nedved – LW
18th Overall – Shawn Antoski – LW
23rd Overall – Jiri Slegr – D

The Quebec Nordiques finished 33 points behind the Canucks for last place in the NHL, so if you look at it that way, this Vancouver season wasn’t half bad. They just couldn’t seem to string together any wins, winning more than one game in a row only 5 times on the season, including a season-high 4 game win streak from February 4th to 11th, which was then followed by only 3 wins in their next 13 games, including the 10-1 shellacking against the Patrick Roy-led Montreal Canadiens team who were not all that good this year.

This version of the Canucks should have been better than their record indicated. Paul Reinhart, in his last season in the NHL, led the team in points with 57, while the team had the likes of a 19-year-old sophomore Trevor Linden, rugged captain Stan Smyl, 29-year-old rookie and future Hall-of-Famer Igor Larionov and a 30 goal campaign from Greg Adams. This team laid the groundwork for and had a lot of the core pieces that formed the 1994 club, but it’s odd that they couldn’t be more successful in 1990. The Canucks just couldn’t score goals, which has been a problem for a lot of their teams over the last 48 years.

The Canucks made a few interesting trades as their season winded down. They acquired young defensemen Adrien Plavsic, a 1st Round Pick in 1990 (Shawn Antoski) and a 2nd Round Pick in 1991 (Craig Darby) from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for 35-year-old Harold Snepsts, Rich Sutter and a 2nd Round Pick in 1990 (Craig Johnson). They then sent that 2nd Round Pick to Montreal for defensemen Jyrki Lumme, who would play a big role in Canucks’ history. They also traded Tony Tanti and Barry Pedersen in a 6 player trade with Pittsburgh and received Dan Quinn.

This season would go down as the 5th worst in franchise history because they didn’t have any individual players who had great years, didn’t make the playoffs and the trades they made, besides acquiring Lumme, fizzled.



Record: 25-46-9 – 59PTS (8th out of 10th in the Campbell Conference, 19th out of 21st in the NHL)
272 Goals For / 320 Goals Against

Biggest Win: 8-2 vs. St. Louis (Oct. 8th, 1987)
Biggest Loss: 9-5 vs. Edmonton (Oct. 24th/1987)

Head Coach: Bob McCammon
Captain: Stan Smyl

Leading Scorers: 
Tony Tanti (24) – 73G – 40G – 37A – 77PTS
Greg Adams (24) – 80GP – 36G – 40A – 76PTS
Barry Pedersen (26) – 76GP – 19G – 52A – 71PTS

Starting Goaltender:
Kirk McLean – 41GP – 11W – 27A – 3T – 3.71GAA – 0.875SV% – 1SO

Other Notable Players:
Petr Skriko (25) – 73GP – 30G – 34A – 64PTS
Jim Benning (24) – 77GP – 7G – 26A – 33PTS
Jim Sandlak (21) – 49GP – 16G – 15A – 31PTS
Doug Wickenheiser (26) – 80GP – 7G – 19A – 26PTS

Who They Picked in the 1988 Draft:
2nd Overall – Trevor Linden – C
33rd Overall – Leif Rohlin – D
44th Overall – Dane Jackson – RW

This season got the team Trevor Linden, but it was still a dumpster fire all around. The team wasted great seasons by Tony Tanti and Greg Adams, and Stan Smyl certainly wasn’t getting any younger. Defense and goaltending continue to handicap the franchise, but a 21 year old Kirk McLean sure looks promising despite his win/loss record.

The very first game of the season was their best win of the season, an 8-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. The two newest players made the biggest impact, as former New Jersey Devil Greg Adams scored 4 goals and McLean got his first win as a Canuck as the team reeked of potential after a relatively disappointing last three seasons. Then the wheels fell off, and they lost 7-1 to the New York Islanders in game 2. That could have been the worst loss of the season, but they surrendered 9 goals in a game just two weeks later to those Edmonton Oilers. In late February to mid-March, the Canucks wouldn’t win a single game, instead going 0-10-2 as their playoff hopes imploded.

As noted above, the Canucks traded Patrik Sundstrom and some picks to New Jersey for Adams and McLean in September, which would be a very important trade for the 1994 cup run. As the season was headed into the ditch, they shipped off Michael Petit (New York Rangers), Craig Coxe (Calgary Flames) and Richard Brodeur (Hartford Whalers) without receiving much back (unless you count a few seasons of Brian Bradley and Steve Weeks as something).

This team was bad, but it certainly wasn’t even the worst team this decade.



Record: 25-46-9 – 59PTS (9th/10th in the Campbell Conference, 18th/21st in the NHL)
284 Goals For / 401 Goals Against

Biggest Win: 7-4 vs. Winnipeg (Jan. 25th/1985)
Biggest Loss: 13-2 vs. Philadelphia (Oct. 18th/1984)

Head Coach: Bill Laforge (fired) / Harry Neale
Captain: Stan Smyl

Leading Scorers:
Patrik Sundstrom (23) – 71GP – 25G – 43A – 68PTS
Stan Smyl (27) – 80GP – 27G – 37A – 64PTS
Thomas Gradin (28) – 76GP – 22G – 42A – 64PTS

Starting Goaltender:
Richard Brodeur (32) – 51GP – 16W – 27L – 6T – 4.67GAA – 0.855SV% – 0SO

Other Notable Players:
Tony Tanti (21) – 68GP – 39G – 20A – 59PTS
Cam Neely (19) – 72GP – 21G – 18A – 39PTS
Doug Lidster (24) – 78GP – 6G – 24A – 30PTS

Who They Picked in the 1985 Draft:
4th Overall – Jim Sandlak – RW
25th Overall – Troy Gamble – G
46th Overall – Shane Doyle – D

The 1980’s were not kind to this franchise.

The Vancouver Canucks of 1984-1985 season allowed 401 goals in only 80 games. Their defense was led by guys like Doug Halward and Michael Petit, who had a combined -68 through 140 games. Goaltender Richard Brodeur didn’t help things out either, putting up his worst professional season by far. They would go on to put up a nearly identical record the next season but somehow squeezed into the playoffs.

There were a lot of ugly games for the team this season. They gave up 7 or more goals in a game 15 times, which one would have to assume is a franchise record. A lot of teams run roughshod over these hapless Canucks and it ended up costing Bill Laforge his coaching job after the first 20 games of the season, where they won only 4 times.

Before the season started, they traded Tiger Williams to Detroit, ending his tenure with the club. They received center Rob McClanahan in return, who never played another game in the NHL, and Williams didn’t finish the season for the Red Wings, instead getting flipped to Los Angeles for future considerations at the trade deadline.




Record: 20-43-17 – 57PTS (7th out of 9th in the Campbell Conference, 14th out of 18th in the NHL)
239 Goals For / 320 Goals Against

Biggest Win: 8-3 vs. St. Louis (Jan. 28th/1978)
Biggest Loss: 9-2 vs. New York Islanders (Nov. 19th/1977)

Head Coach: Orland Kurtenbach
Captain: Don Lever

Leading Scorers:
Mike Walton (33) – 65GP – 29G – 37A – 66PTS
Rick Blight (22) – 80GP – 25G – 38A – 63PTS
Dennis Ververgaert (24) – 80GP – 21G – 33A – 54PTS

Starting Goaltender:
Cesare Maniago (39) – 46GP – 10W – 24L – 8T – 4.02GAA – 1SO

Other Notable Players:
Dennis Kearns (32) – 80GP – 4G – 43A – 47PTS
Pit Martin (34) – 67GP – 15G – 31A – 46PTS
Jere Gillis (21) – 79GP – 21G – 18A – 39PTS

Who They Picked in the 1978 Draft:
4th Overall – Bill Derlago – C
22nd Overall – Curt Fraser – LW
40th Overall – Stan Smyl – W

So, we had the year that drafted them Trevor Linden and now the year that drafted them Stan Smyl on the list. Hopefully, the worst season in their history is 2016-2017, which netted them Elias Pettersson, allowing him to be the next saviour of the franchise. If only it was that easy.

This incarnation of the Canucks were very old.  11 of their players were 27 or older, including their 39-year-old goaltender Cesare Maniago. This was a team that as 2 years removed from 86 and 81 point seasons, which won them their first Smythe Division but they only won one playoff game. The Canucks kept getting older and hoped to get back to the playoffs with the veteran-laden roster, but it went in the opposite direction.

A month into the season, Vancouver acquired 34-year-old Pit Martin from Chicago for future considerations. The team was 3-5-2 at the time and in the middle of a 7 game losing streak. Adding this veteran presence did not help. Three weeks later, they traded 26-year-old Larry Cassiere for defenseman Sheldon Kannegiesser, and at 30 would be out of the league by the end of the season. The Canucks also picked up 32-year-old Claire Alexander from Toronto for cash in January. This was not a team who noticed that they were awful and needed to sell off assets.

There was a little hope for the future, as Jere Gillis (21), Rick Blight (22) and Dennis Ververgaert (24) had great offensive seasons, but the club was dominated by Mike Walton (33) and Dennis Kearns (32). Vancouver finished 2 points out of a playoff spot thanks to a weak Smythe Division, as the Colorado Rockies snuck in with 59 points, and there were 4 teams with less points. More parity in the league and this could have been the worst season in Canucks history.




Record: 20-50-8 – 48PTS (7th out of 7th in the East Division, 14th out of 14th in the NHL)
203 Goals For / 297 Goals Against

Biggest Win: 6-1 vs. Pittsburgh (Jan. 19th/1972)
Biggest Loss: 9-1 vs. Boston (Feb. 10th/1972)

Head Coach: Hal Laycoe
Captain: Orland Kurtenbach

Leading Scorers:
Andre Boudrias (28) – 78GP – 27G – 34A – 61PTS
Orland Kurtenbach (35) – 78GP – 24G – 37A – 61PTS
Jocelyn Guevremont (20) – 75GP – 13G – 38A – 51PTS

Starting Goaltender:
Dunc Wilson (23) – 53GP – 16W – 30L – 3T – 3.62GAA – 1SO

Other Notable Players:
Wayne Maki (27) – 76GP – 22G – 25A – 47PTS
Dale Tallon (21) – 69GP – 17G – 27A – 44PTS
Pat Quinn (29) – 57GP – 2G – 3A – 5PTS

Who They Picked in the 1972 Draft:
3rd Overall – Don Lever – F
19th Overall – Bryan McSheffrey – F
35th Overall – Paul Raymer – F

The worst season in Vancouver Canucks history happened in year number 2 of the franchise, putting up 48 points in 78 games with some underwhelming seasons by the club’s stars. They finished dead last in the NHL, and would have had the first overall pick in the Amateur Draft had it not been for the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames who would start playing in the 1972-1973 season.

This team had a solid young defense, led by Dale Tallon (21) and Jocelyn Guevremont (20), and was set up for a long time with these two young offensive defensemen at the helm. Except for the fact that Tallon would spend one more season in Vancouver and Guevremont would be gone the year after that.

They only won more than once in a row 4 times in the season, with their biggest winning streak stuck at 2 games. There were a lot of extended winning streaks, and the season looked a little better on paper thanks to wins over other hapless franchises, like the California Golden Seals, and the fact they seemed to have the number of the Minnesota North Stars, who finished with 38 more points than the Canucks.

Vancouver would improve next season and jump up to 86 points and their first division win and playoff appearance in 1974-1975, but would crash back down to earth at the end of the decade. This was the worst season, but it was a hard decision because there were quite a few horrid seasons in Canucks’ franchise history.

(Dis)Honourable mentions: 2016/2017 (last season) and 2013/2014 (The Tortorella season).



Coming up later in the week: Optimism! We look at the top 5 greatest seasons in Canucks history.

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