The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1998 Expansion Draft. The overwhelming majority of players who do not carry over are either old, unproductive, injured, primarily used for fighting, marginal players, minor league veterans, or unsigned European prospects. The majority of pending UFAs (Group III, Group V, and Group VI) will not carry over. Exceptions to these rules are provided if the incumbent team left almost nothing of value available to choose from, in which case everyone gets at least a closer look.
As we are capped by league restrictions to selecting no more than six pending free agents, we must be judicious with our choices.
The Canucks’ 64 points put them last in the Pacific, last in the West, and third-last overall.
Goalies: Arturs Irbe(Gr.III – UFA), Tim Keyes, Garth Snow(Gr.II – RFA)
Defensemen: Roger Akerstrom(UE), Adrian Aucoin(Gr.II – RFA), Karri Kivi(UE), Dana Murzyn, Bert Robertsson, Mark Wotton(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Hakan Ahlund(UE), Evgeny Babariko(UE), Brandon Convery, Larry Courville(Gr.II – RFA), Roger Hansson(UE), Tyson Nash(Gr.II – RFA), Steffan Nilsson(UE), Brian Noonan(Gr.III – UFA), David Roberts, Steve Staios(Gr.II – RFA), Scott Walker
Despite the poor season, we’ll look at several of the 20 unprotected Canucks: goalies Arturs Irbe and Garth Snow, defensemen Adrian Aucoin and Dana Murzyn, and forwards Brandon Convery and Scott Walker.
G Arturs Irbe – 31-year-old goalie, originally a 10th-round pick of Minnesota (1989)
The case for taking Irbe – The consummate professional, Irbe is best known for a handful of things: his short stature, his plain white goaltending equipment, the fact that he repairs his equipment himself instead of trusting someone else to do it, his unusual style, and most of all his relentless work ethic. Okay, his brutal puckhandling goes on there as well.
Irbe was the backbone of the Sharks in their rise from a bad joke to a very tough team. The 1992-93 team finished with 24 points of a possible 168 (.143 point percentage); the 1993-94 team made the playoffs. Once there, they knocked off a vastly superior Detroit team in seven hard-fought games, and went seven games in the second round against Toronto (coming within a crossbar of winning that series as well).
It’s been up and down since then. He suffered a severe hand injury in 1994 after his dog bit him, causing arterial and nerve damage and badly hampering his play on the ice. He ended up in the IHL in 1995-96 and was thought to be done, but came back with Dallas in 1996-97 and Vancouver this past year. Through it all, he hasn’t changed; he’s still a popular guy in the locker room, and his play on the ice appears to have come all the way back. He was easily Vancouver’s best goalie this season, outplaying longtime incumbent Kirk McLean and newcomer Sean Burke.
The case against taking Irbe – His NHL resume of a high caliber consists of a rebound last year at age 30, and one season five years ago. His popularity notwithstanding, it’s impossible to tell what we’ll get out of him: will he stand on his head and help us scrap out way to victories, or will he have the same up-and-down inconsistency that’s plagued him for most of his career?
In addition, he’s a pending Group III free agent. We’re going to use our one goalie free agent selection on one of Richter, Vanbiesbrouck, or Joseph. However, if the consensus in the room is that Irbe can play for us, we can definitely pursue him once July 1 hits.
G Garth Snow – 29-year-old goalie, originally a 6th-round pick of Quebec (1987)
The case for taking Snow – A big goalie who fills a lot of net, Snow has showed himself to be more than adequate as a co-starter in Philadelphia before ending up in Vancouver’s goalie carousel this past season. Even if we plan on taking Mike Dunham and using him as the starter, we know that Snow can fill in long-term if Dunham is injured or ineffective.
The case against taking Snow – The fact that he’s 29 and has barely 100 NHL games to his name notwithstanding, this will come back to simple assets. Snow is a pending Group II free agent, and there’s no point in using our one goalie free agent spot on him.
D Adrian Aucoin – 25-year-old defenseman, originally a 5th-round pick of Vancouver (1992)
The case for taking Aucoin – A scrappy defenseman with a booming shot, Aucoin can play on any pairing, kill penalties, and go onto the second power play unit. He played a full season with the Canadian National Team when he was 20, including the 1994 Olympics. With Syracuse in the AHL, he’s shown that he can finish offensively, particularly on the power play. He hasn’t gotten a good opportunity with Vancouver thanks to mismanagement and a coaching carousel, but we’ll have enough stability early on to give him a chance to excel. Imagine a power play unit that has Fredrik Olausson setting up Aucoin’s devastating shot.
The case against taking Aucoin – Although he hasn’t been able to find a steady spot in the lineup, a big part of that was because he missed 47 games last year with groin and ankle injuries. He didn’t look anywhere close to 100%, and we’ve seen plenty of guys in recent years who haven’t been able to make it fully back from injuries of that nature. Aucoin might be able to do it, but it’s a gamble.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.
D Dana Murzyn -31-year-old defenseman, originally a 1st-round pick of Hartford (1985)
The case for taking Murzyn – An intimidating physical defenseman, Murzyn can bring a lot to the defensive side and the penalty kill. He’s got a mean streak that helps keep the front of the net clear, and also has the mobility and awareness to cover a large radius around him. We should be able to find some offense from the back end, but finding someone who can help shut down opponents is going to be more difficult.
The case against taking Murzyn – In his prime, all of the above is true. But Murzyn is not in his prime, and injuries are starting to pile up. He’s missed 85 games the last three seasons, 51 of them last year alone with a knee injury. He wasn’t particularly fast in the first place, and at age 31, this may be too much to come back from effectively.
F Brandon Convery – 24-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of Toronto (1992)
The case for taking Convery – A dynamic scoring forward, Convery has shown the ability to produce a lot of offense in the OHL and AHL, but has yet to be given a real chance in the NHL. Despite scoring plenty in the AHL, then having 5 goals and 7 points during an 11-game callup in 1995-96, Toronto buried him on their fourth line during an extended callup in 1996-97 and also used him to kill penalties. They gave up on him in March of this year, still never really knowing what they have.
We won’t bury him with checkers; we can give him an extended shot in the top two lines and see if we can get what Toronto didn’t feel like finding out about him.
The case against taking Convery – He’s scored in the AHL, and he scored in a short callup but not a long one. Then he did nothing with Vancouver this year after being acquired. None of these are promising signs. In 46 NHL games in the last two seasons, he has 2 goals and 12 points total. And although he can kill penalties, it’s not his strong suit.
There’s no reason to burn an expansion draft pick on a possible AHL All-Star who can’t crack our lineup full-time in the future.
F Scott Walker – 25-year-old forward, originally a 5th-round pick of Vancouver (1993)
The case for taking Walker – Twice passed over in the entry draft, Walker finally heard his name called after a season in which he had 23 goals and 91 points in the OHL as a defenseman.
Converted to forward by Vancouver, Walker’s been used primarily on the fourth line and as a fighter. This is despite the fact that he’s got plenty of offensive skill; he’s been shoehorned into this caricature of a player. It perfectly crystallizes Vancouver’s mismanagement over the recent years; they can’t turn up forward prospects who can score, and the one who obviously has the skill is a checker and fighter.
Just because they’ve messed up doesn’t mean we have to. His years as a defenseman allow him to see the game differently than most forwards, and his rambunctious style could allow him the chance to succeed around the net and especially on our power play. We don’t need him to be a fighter at all, we just need him to play like he has previously.
The case against taking Walker – In 197 NHL games so far, Walker has 10 goals. If this offensive skill actually exists, are we sure that he didn’t leave it in the OHL when he left there five years ago? He’s too small to be a defenseman in the current game, so we’re going to use him as a forward. And more specifically, we’re going to use him as a forward where he hasn’t shown much in the NHL except as an energy guy. We have several options from Vancouver; this doesn’t seem like a wise pick.