by Ron Spence
The Canucks’ netminding is the best ever.
Roberto has signed a 12 year deal – with a few outs along the way – but has still made a commitment to the franchise – and the fans.
And the best goalie in the AHL is Vancouver’s number two guy.
It’s a long way from Brian Burke’s goalie graveyard.
Now, before I start, I have to say that it was Dave Nonis who brought in Roberto from Florida, and drafted Cory Schneider.
But, it’s Mike Gillis who enticed Roberto into signing for a long time.
Burke inherited a half decent goalie in Garth Snow – not a number one guy by today’s standards.
Snow had been obtained for Sean Burke, who had been obtained for Kirk McLean.
He also had a two-time Allstar in Arturs Irbe, but let him go (I had talked to Arturs many times when he played for Vancouver, and he admitted when he returned to B.C. – with Carolina – that he had wanted to remain a ‘nuck, but was never given an offer.). Archie would go on to star in Carolina and play better than any ‘nucks’ goalie over the next number of seasons.
Arturs had good numbers on the left coast. On a brutal team – 25-43-14 – he was 14-11-6 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.73 GAA.
Burke had to get rid of Pavel Bure – who was doing a Dany Heatley – and picked up Kevin Weeks in the trade.
In 11 games, his first NHL season in Vancouver “The Goalie of the Future” went .868 with 3.83 GAA – and took forever to earn his first win. During the following season, he improved to .898 and 2.86.
That’s when Burke made the first of his reclamation trades. He swapped Weekes and two other players to the New York Islanders for Felix Potvin and two picks – on December 19, 1999. The former darling of Leafs’ fans, had been traded to the Islanders, where he continued to lose his game.
“An all-star, No. 1 goaltender early in his career,” wrote The Sports Forecaster, “Potvin’s past turmoils with the Toronto and Long Island organizations are now considered water under the bridge. A reflex goalie, he needs lots of playing time in order to stay sharp. “The Cat” still has a tendency to stay too deep in his net and is often victimized by soft, back-breaking goals.”
Potvin lasted just over one calendar year – never had a winning record either part seasons – and was traded to L.A for future considerations on February 15, 2001.
Garth Snow lasted in Vancouver for 2 1/2 seasons, and maintained a .900 average, but never had a winning campaign. He was signed by Pittsburgh before the 2000-01 season.
Corey Schab was one goalie who had a winning average during this time – 2-1- but only played in six games, before being sent to the minors. Burke had given Atlanta a 4th round pick for him on October 29, 1999.
Alfie Michaud was a free agent signing who played in Manitoba and made it to the Big Tent for a total of 2 games.
Burke’s second reclamation project was Dan Cloutier. He became Canucks’ property on February 7, 2001, eight days before Felix Potvin was traded.
Vancouver gave up Adrian Aucoin and a 2nd round pick for the former hot prospect.
“At one time considered one of the NHL’s brightest young goaltenders,” wrote The Sports Forecaster, “Cloutier’s career has stalled. Both the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning gave up on him, so Vancouver may be his last opportunity to seize a No. 1 job. However, his shaky play during the 2000-01 playoffs has put the 25-year-old’s status in doubt. Competitive and fiery, Cloutier must work on his concentration, especially in high traffic. With Bob Essensa out of the picture for 2001-02, the Canucks have given Cloutier a vote of confidence.”
Burke’s second reclamation project was brilliant at moments. He was named the National Hockey League Player of the Week on March 18, 2002, and again on February 17, 2003.
He had a respectable win vs. loss record, but his 2.39 GAA wasn’t particularly stellar.
And, Cloutier was inconsistent, lost his confidence and was traded to L.A.
During the 2000-01 season, the Canucks had an excellent backup who outplayed both Potvin and Cloutier. Bob Essensa went 18-12 and was Vancouver’s best goalie during the playoffs.
But like he did with Arturs Irbe, Burke let Essensa go.
The Martin Brochu backup experiment that followed is up there with the Bill Laforge coaching experiment decades before.
Brochu had been the AHL’s MVP, with 32 wins and a 2.18 GAA the season before.
Brochu was a total flop, however, and Burke picked up free agent Petr Skudra on November 7, 2001. Skudra went 10-8 during his first Vancouver season and 9 and 5 his second campaign. Crawford decided to use Alex Auld rather that Skudra during the 2003 playoffs, so Skudra signed to play in Russia.
Burke picked a good young goalie on May 31, 2001. He gave Florida 2nd and 3rd round picks for Alex Auld.
He would become Vancouver’s best netminder – when Dave Nonis was GM – replacing Dan Cloutier during the 2005-06 season.
Then, he was sent back to the Panthers as part of the Luongo trade on June 23, 2006.
The last victim of the Burke goalie graveyard was Johan Hedberg. He was traded to Vancouver by Pittsburgh for Vancouver’s 2nd round choice. He signed with Dallas following the lockout season, and now plays in Atlanta.
The sad part of the graveyard saga was that there were good goalies that Burke let go, and reclamation projects that he should have stayed away from.
But, I guess if Brian Burke knew more about goalies, he’d still be Vancouver’s GM.
And the Canucks wouldn’t have Roberto – who’s bulldozed the memories of the ‘nucks’ goalie graveyard.
Goalie data compliments of Hockey-Reference.com