VANCOUVER – Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Who you going to call?
The Ghostbusters won’t help. We’re looking for the greatest players in franchise history for the ultimate Game 7, a clutch Dream Team.
So with everything on the line for the Canucks, who are you going to call?
But before you take the most talented 12 forwards and top six defencemen from the last five decades, my boss says the idea is to choose by role – so talent up the lineup, gritty players at the bottom of it. Yes, Canada made the same mistake at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.
The boss is also far away in Toronto, and I noticed colleague Luke Fox stacked the Maple Leafs — Frank Mahovlich on the third line, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark on the fourth — so we’re going to bend the rules just slightly. Besides, you know how long NHL fans on West Coast have been waiting for a Stanley Cup? Not as long as people in Southern Ontario. Ba-da-bing.
For the record, the Canucks are 6-5 all-time in Game 7s. Alas, two of those losses were for the Stanley Cup. But none of those Vancouver teams were as good as this one.
First line: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Trevor Linden
We thought it sensible to begin with the best left-winger, best centre and second-best right-winger in franchise history. No Canuck has played as many playoff games as Linden (118), and in his prime he’s a great fit with the Sedins because someone has to stay third-man high, and that isn’t going to be Pavel Bure. Linden will win and recover pucks so Daniel and Henrik can perform their Sedinery as the Canucks’ greatest players.
Second line: Markus Naslund, Thomas Gradin, Pavel Bure
Even as the sixth-leading scorer all-time, Gradin remains underappreciated for how good he was at both ends of the ice in the late 1970s and early ’80s. He’ll get pucks to Naslund and Bure, who is free to blow past opposition defencemen and make Mike Vernon look silly. Naslund can finish and make plays, and his ability to skate on both wings gives him a top-six spot on this dream team.
Third line: Todd Bertuzzi, Ryan Kesler, Stan Smyl
Here is where we take some artistic licence because these guys all played higher in the lineup. But imagine the pain and misery of going against these three. Kesler is a big-game player and one of the National Hockey League’s greatest shutdown centres of the last 20 years. And no defenceman ever looked forward to retrieving a dump-in when Smyl or Bertuzzi was coming at him. You’d rather sleep shirtless on an anthill during mosquito season than play against this line.
Fourth line: Alex Burrows, Manny Malhotra, Jannik Hansen
We could have Don Lever, Elias Pettersson and Tony Tanti here, but we’re adhering to the rules and going with three guys whose skillsets made them elite role players. Burrows and Hansen are two of the most relentless workers in team history. Neither took a shift off, and Malhotra was a smart, experienced leader who could dominate on faceoffs, kill penalties and match up against anyone — the perfect fourth-line centre.
First pairing: Mattias Ohlund and Jyrki Lumme
We love this combination of workhorses — big, mobile and skilled defenders who always troubled the opposition. Ohlund was a formidable warrior who handled the puck and punished the other teams’ forwards physically, while Lumme could dance around opponents, run a power play and skate all over the ice.
Second pairing: Ed Jovanovski and Paul Reinhart
JovoCop just seemed tailored to big games, able to deliver a physical wallop while getting up the ice and backing down from no one — kind of like Kevin Bieksa, only bigger and faster. Reinhart was a tough choice, not because he wasn’t worthy, but played only two seasons with the Canucks at the end of his career. But until Quinn Hughes came along, he was the best power-play quarterback the team ever had. (Hughes might make this team next year, but we need to see a Game 1 first).
Third pairing: Willie Mitchell and Alex Edler
As with the third line, these players should actually be higher on the depth chart, but we’re not leaving out a samurai-like Mitchell in a winner-take-all Game 7 (if only the Canucks had him in 2011). And Edler is simply one of the best all-around defencemen in franchise history, and elevates physically at playoff time.
Starter: Roberto Luongo
Backup: Kirk McLean
Luongo was among the culpable in the 2011 Final when he bombed with the most ill-timed attempt at humour in recent memory, but is still the best goalie the Canucks have had and delivered some of his best performances under pressure (see Team Canada in 2010). McLean could easily start, too, and made the biggest playoff save in franchise history before Bure beat the Calgary Flames in Game 7 OT in 1994.
Greg Adams, Geoff Courtnall, Bieksa
Head coach: Alain Vigneault
Assistant coaches: Pat Quinn, Roger Neilson