Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman
President Richard Nixon ordered an invasion of Cambodia, widening the scope of the Vietnam War. The U.S. Senate repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that had given Presidents Johnson and Nixon sweeping powers during the war. The Beatles broke up. The Baltimore Orioles won the World Series, taking four of five games from the Cincinnati Reds. Yes, the year was 1970 and, of more importance to hockey fans, the NHL added two expansion teams in Buffalo and Vancouver.
A coin flip gave the No. 1 overall amateur draft pick (center Gilbert Perreault (HHoF 1990) to the Sabres, while the Canucks used the No. 2 overall selection to choose defenseman Dale Tallon, former General Manager and now the President of Hockey Operations of the Florida Panthers.
During its first ten years of NHL play, Vancouver qualified for the postseason only four times and lost in the opening round all four times, winning only three of 14 games. Overall, the Canucks made the playoffs 27 times in 45 attempts and reached the Stanley Cup Finals three times. In those three Finals, Vancouver was swept by the Islanders in 1982, lost to the Rangers ten years later in 1992 in seven games and lost to the Bruins in 2011 in a seven-game series. Like the Blues, the Canucks have never sipped champagne from Lord Stanley’s Cup.
St. Louis and Vancouver have met three times in postseason play. Incredibly, at least to Blues Nation, the Canucks took all three series in the opening round, winning in seven games in 1995, seven games in 2003 and a mere four games in an embarrassing four-game sweep in 2009. Ouch!
From 1970 to 1980, the Blues and Canucks exchanged players in eight minor trades. Center Andre Boudrias was dispatched to Vancouver by St. Louis for two late-round draft picks and cash before the Canucks ever played a game, and in 1977 the Blues sold the contract of controversial center Derek Sanderson to Vancouver, with the Canucks returning the favor by sending center Mike “Shaky” Walton to St. Louis for cash in 1978. In November 1979 the Blues sold the contract of defenseman Bruce Affleck to Vancouver. After playing only five games for the Canucks, Affleck was sold back to St. Louis for cash in February 1980. However, the current Executive Vice President of the Blues never wore the Note again, being posted to the Indianapolis Checkers of the old Central Hockey League. He would also play two seasons for Kloten HC of the Swiss Elite League before returning to the Checkers for two seasons. Affleck also played one game for the New York Islanders in 1984 before retiring from active play.
A major trade was carried out in March 1982 when the Note acquired goaltender Glen Hanlon from the Canucks in exchange for wingers Tony Currie and Jim Nill, a fourth-round draft pick and goaltender Rick Heinz. Hanlon played only 16 undistinguished games over two seasons with the Blues before he was unloaded to the New York Rangers for defenseman Andre Dore. And during the summer of 1982, Vancouver sold Heinz back to St. Louis for cash.
Two minor trades in September 1988 saw defenseman Dave Richter and winger Dave Lowry join the Blues from Vancouver, respectively, for defenseman Robert Nordmark and winger Ernie Vargas. However, a much more significant trade occurred in March 1990 when St. Louis received defenseman Harold Snepsts, winger Rich Sutter and a second-round draft pick from the Canucks in exchange for defenseman Adrien Plavsic, a 1990 first-round pick and a 1991 second-round choice.
One of the biggest blockbuster trades in NHL history occurred between these two teams in March 1991. It was a trade that the Blues later regretted and one that turned the Canucks into a powerhouse, taking them to the Cup Finals in 1992. The Blues got the defenseman they wanted, Garth Butcher, along with center Dan Quinn, in exchange for Geoff Courtnall, Sergio Momesso, Cliff Ronning, defenseman Robert Dirk and a fifth-round draft pick in 1992. Butcher played four distinguished seasons in St. Louis before moving on to Quebec in 1993 (with Bob Bassen and Ron Sutter) in exchange for defenseman Steve Duchesne and winger Denis Chasse. (In 1994 Butcher was part of another blockbuster deal when he, center Mats Sundin, Todd Warriner and a first-round pick went from the Nordiques to Toronto for feisty winger Wendel Clark, Sylvian Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a first-round draft choice.)
Another major trade took place in March 1994 when the Blues acquired the rights to center Craig Janney in exchange for defensemen Jeff Brown and Bret Hedican and forward Nathan Lafayette. St. Louis had originally obtained Janney from Boston in the Adam Oates trade in 1992, but at the conclusion of the 1993-94 season, the Blues signed restricted free agent Petr Nedved from the Canucks. An independent arbitrator named Janney (and a second-round draft pick) as compensation for the Blues’ signing of Nedved. Janney refused to report, so Brown, Hedican and Lafayette were dispatched to Vancouver while Janney stayed in St. Louis.
Finally, four minor transactions occurred between 2004 and 2010 with lesser-known forwards Ryan Ready, F.P. Guenette and P.C. Labrie and defenseman Tomas Mojis coming to St. Louis and forwards Sergei Varlamov and Yan Stastny and defensemen Eric Weinrich and Zack Fitzgerald going to Vancouver. It has been almost seven years since the last trade between the Blues and Canucks.
Vancouver may be the more desperate team tonight, but the Blues are on a roll (though mostly on the road), and the game tonight offers the Note an opportunity to improve on a 17-9-4 record on home ice and solidify their position as a solid playoff-bound team with the ability to dominate any and all opponents.