The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the print edition of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down! This is from last week's edition, but somehow got missed for online publication. Sorry!
Canucks fans have gotten used to being cut down in the cruelest of ways. It started right from the first moment as an NHL franchise: a spinning wheel to decide the first overall pick between the Canucks and Buffalo Sabres seemed to land on the Canucks’ number, giving them the the chance to draft future Hall-of-Famer Gilbert Perreault. A moment later they were informed that they had misread the wheel and would draft second, getting the lesser prize of defenceman Dale Tallon.
The hockey gods being cruel seems to come part and parcel with being a Canucks fan.
So, when the Canucks’ new hotshot rookie got off to a five-game point streak to start his career, longtime fans were likely just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure enough, the fans’ main source of joy this season, Elias Pettersson, was cruelly taken out by a dirty play from Michael Matheson, giving him a concussion that will cause him to miss an unknown number of games. That Matheson got a suspension is cold comfort for the Canucks, who will dearly miss their best player.
For the moment, however, let’s look on the bright side. Before he got injured, Pettersson scored his fifth goal in as many games, tying a Canucks’ record set by Don Tannahill back in 1972 for longest point streak to start a rookie season.
How does Pettersson’s five goals and eight points in five games compare to the first five games of some other legendary Canucks? Let’s take a look at the former forwards whose names and numbers are in the rafters and the Ring of Honour and see how they started their careers.
Orland Kurtenbach | We don’t have game-by-game records of Kurtenbach’s first professional season with the Canucks, back when they were in the WHL in 1957-58. In his first NHL season with the New York Rangers, however, he was held off the scoreboard in his first four games, then had a three-point night against the Detroit Red Wings in his fifth game, giving him no goals and three assists in his first five games.
Stan Smyl | The Steamer was a driven, heart-and-soul captain for the Canucks in the 80’s and the first player to have his number retired by the organization. He quickly made an impression in his rookie season, putting together a four-point night against the St. Louis Blues in his fourth game. All-told, he had one goal and seven points in his first five games.
Thomas Gradin | Gradin was the first great Swede to play for the Canucks and has become a great scout for the team as well; he was instrumental in the selections of the Sedins, Alex Edler, and Pettersson himself. Oddly enough, his career started the same way as Pettersson’s: five goals and eight points in five games.
Trevor Linden | While he would eventually score 318 goals and 733 points with the Canucks, Linden got off to a slow start in his rookie season as an 18 year old, tallying just one assist in his first five games. He heated up after that, however, finishing 30 goals and 59 points in 80 games.
Pavel Bure | The excitement surrounding Pettersson’s first NHL game doesn’t quite compare to that of Bure’s first game, but Pettersson got off to the hotter start. Bure was held pointless in his first two games before he broke through. He had three goals and four points in his first five games and his rookie season didn’t really take off until the second half, when he had 28 goals and 48 points in his final 38 games.
Markus Naslund | Naslund’s rookie season as a 20 year old with the Pittsburgh Penguins gave little indication of the incredible highs he would reach with the Canucks. He managed just one assist through his first five games and finished the season with just 11 points.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin | Their names and numbers aren’t retired just yet, but they will be next season. Daniel was slightly better than Henrik in their first five NHL games, tallying one goal and two assists, while Henrik merely had two assists.