Friday marks the 20-year anniversary of the Vancouver Canucks signing Mark Messier. Here’s a look back at the controversial tenure between ‘Mess’ and the Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks narrowly lost to the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, as Mark Messier captained the Blueshirts to their first championship in 54 years. For that, ‘Mess’ didn’t become the most popular of people on the west coast.
Following a pair of early playoff exits in 1995 and 1996 and a non-postseason appearance in 1997, the Canucks were convinced that a 35-year-old Messier was all they needed to return as a championship contender. 20 years to this date, they signed the six-time Stanley Cup champion:
Messier was joining a Canucks team that already featured two franchise cornerstones in Trevor Linden and Russian superstar, Pavel Bure. At the time, the Messier deal looked like a franchise-changing moment, even though the term was excessively high.
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But Messier’s tenure with Vancouver got off to a rocky star. Linden, the captain and fan favorite, had to hand over the captaincy to Messier.
That move turned out to be so questionable, that Messier himself admitted that he made a mistake to take the “C”.
Nonetheless, the Canucks only goal was to win. With Messier, Bure and Linden in the fold, failure wasn’t acceptable.
Beginning of a disaster
Messier had a solid first season with the Canucks, scoring 22 goals and 60 points. However, it wasn’t enough as the Canucks missed the final playoff spot in the west by four games. They gave it another go around in 1998-99, but this too turned out to be another terrible year.
Messier had a mere 13 goals and 48 points, and the Canucks finished last in the Western Conference with just 64 points.
With 1999-2000 expected to be another down year in Vancouver, it was hard for fans (and perhaps Messier), to feel inspired. He scored 17 goals and 54 points as the Canucks finished 10th in the west.
So the Canucks and Messier bid farewell, and he returned to the Rangers where he spent four seasons before retiring. And so ended the most forgettable tenure of Messier’s career, and the Canucks would live to regret that signing.
20 years later
Messier and the Canucks may always seem to have some tension. Back in 2012, Messier pocketed $6 million more from the organization after winning an arbitration case.
So it’s tough to believe that Messier and Canucks ownership are on good terms. He simply didn’t deliver as a player nor a leader, despite the hefty money Vancouver gave to him. Messier then was able to get a few million bucks over a decade after playing his last game with the Canucks.
The Canucks and Messier just weren’t meant to be. Vancouver was desperate to add a star that could breathe more interest and faith into the fan base, but Messier just wasn’t the guy to do it at that stage of his career.
Nonetheless, the great Wayne Gretzky did say “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”. The Vancouver Canucks tried it with Mark Messier 20 years ago, and it’s one that simply didn’t work the way we had hoped.