Vancouver Canucks History: Pavel Bure Trade


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Each week I look back at a moment in Vancouver Canucks history. I explore big stories and small stories, solemn stories and silly stories. Each week is an excuse to talk about old-timey, and not so old-timey, hockey and hockey players. This week: The best player in franchise history is traded.

You read that right. Pavel Bure was the best player the Vancouver Canucks ever had. And, on January 17, 1999 his trade demands were met and he was sent to the Florida Panthers. Thus began the team tradition of sending the best player of his position in franchise history to Florida — or, back to Florida.

Before anyone gets too excited, I said ‘best’. I am not arguing that Pavel Bure is the greatest Canuck of all time. But, he’s clearly the best Canuck ever. It’s not really close.

‘Best’ vs. ‘Greatest’

The difference between best and greatest needs clarification. In sports, I take my lead from Max Kellerman, who is a boxing guy. Greatest is about era and legacy. It’s an equation about relative strength of an era and how much that fighter dominated the era.

In hockey, individuals don’t dominate eras. So, ‘greatest’ hockey player for a team has to take into account time played, impact on the franchise and quality of the team they played with, alongside the era of the league itself.

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(Obviously, when I say something like ‘equation’ I don’t mean an actual equation. I just mean a way of thinking about the concepts that takes a silly drunken bar argument and gives it a tiny bit of structure).

The best player is just that. The best player without consideration of era, technology, teammates, etc. It obviously skews towards the present era, but not always.

For instance, Roberto Luongo is the best Canucks goalie of all time, and also the greatest. The greatest Montreal Canadiens goalie of all time is an argument between Jacques Plante, George Hainsworth, Georges Vezina, Bill Durnan, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy… okay, you get my point.

But, the best Montreal Canadiens goalie ever is Carey Price. And, it isn’t close.

Likewise, the best Vancouver Canucks skater of all time is Pavel Bure. And it ain’t close either.

Saying Goodbye to Vancouver’s Best

This week, in 1999, the franchise said goodbye to the best player that would ever play for the Canucks. If you want to rehash the demands he made, and the reason he wanted out, feel free.

I am not going to do that.

I just want to talk about the player and his greatness. There are many reasons Bure was the best, but let’s start with an acknowledgment from the hockey world.

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How many Vancouver Canucks, who played most of their careers in Vancouver, are in the Hall of Fame?


Want to guess who?

In the next five or six years Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin will likely follow, but they aren’t locks. As of now, only Pavel Bure represents the Canucks as a player.

How many Canucks have a point per game total above 1.00?

That’s right, one.

And yes, it’s Pavel. In 428 games, he scored 254 goals added 224 assists for 478 points. That works out to 1.117 points per game and an astonishing .593 goals per game.

To put that in context, the next-highest Canuck ever is Tony Tanti at .471. Pavel Bure’s goals per game is .122 higher than the closest Canuck. And, Tony Tanti played in an era when goalies were legally required to be under 5-foot-10 tall, 45 pounds overweight and use old magazines for leg pads.

In comparison, Bure played from 1991-92 to 2002-03. He played in the era of Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur and Ed Belfour.

The only thing stopping Pavel Bure from being the greatest Canuck ever is the length of time he played in Vancouver and Harold Snepsts mustache. Bure did not have the lasting impact of the Sedins, or Stan Smyl or Roberto Luongo.

But, at his best, he was better than all of them.

Here is one more glimpse of his hockey brilliance. In the magical 1993-94 season, Bure scored 49 goals in 51 games at the end of the year to drag Vancouver into the playoffs. During much of that time, his linemates were Gino Odjick and Murray Craven.

Next: Canucks History - Mike Duco's Inspirational Story

Please don’t misunderstand me, I love Gino Odjick. And Murray Craven is fine. But the fact Bure had any assists is quite remarkable.

This week in history, we said goodbye to the Russian Rocket. He was the most exciting player I ever saw. And he was the best Vancouver Canuck of all time.