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Vancouver Canucks

Though the Vancouver Canucks would not make their run to the Stanley Cup Finals until the next calendar year, the 1993 release of NHL 94, and especially on the SNES, sees the team display some of the same characteristics and qualities that the real life NHL team would later come to embody. As such, while this 16 bit version of the Canucks will never be mistaken for one of the game’s elite teams, there are certainly plenty of reasons why this team is not only above average, but can absolutely perform well against the league’s toughest competition and even despite one notable weakness.

Forwards

Courtnall-Linden-Bure

If you were asked to name the one defining trait of Geoff Courtnall’s game, I think the answer is relatively straight-forward: pure speed. It goes without saying that Courtnall’s presence on the ice will absolutely result in a healthy amount of breakaway chances for the Canucks. While he’s not necessarily a huge one timing threat due to relatively average shot ratings, Courtnall’s great speed/agility and 196 lb. weight simply make him an effective player on both sides of the ice and an essential part of the Canucks’ starting lineup even despite only being perhaps the team’s 3rd best Forward.

Regardless of where he’s used, it’s hard to overstate just how much of a difference Trevor Linden makes to the Vancouver Canucks starting lineup. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and state that Linden is arguably the best bench player in the entire game. In replacing Cliff Ronning, Linden’s 212 lb. weight adds much needed size and grit to a pretty light group of Forwards. In short, Linden’s size, combined with relatively good speed and agility ratings, makes him a very effective defensive forward and one that also can be used on the backcheck in rush situations. Even better, Linden’s good shot ratings make him a credible one timer threat and again, a strong upgrade over Ronning but also in the offensive zone. It’s always fun to remember Linden’s outstanding performance in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals where he more than proved why he was deserving of the moniker “Captain Canuck”. It’s even more fun to recapture that same magic in using him as part of the Canucks lineup and letting him go off for some big games.

In Pavel Bure, the Canucks possess a superstar Forward with excellent speed and agility and also good shot ratings. Whether it’s trying for breakaways, going 1 on 1 with defenders, or setting up for one timers, Bure simply adds that much more to the Canucks offense than what is already present with Courtnall and Linden. The only knock on Pavel Bure is that his 180 lb. weight will sometimes make him a target for the game’s larger forwards and defensemen. So while Bure can be used at Center, with sometimes very effective results, it’s probably best to keep him on the Wing where he can best use his speed to get by opposing defenders. Doing so also allows Trevor Linden to play a more physical game at Center and overall seems to help the Canucks offense flow a bit better in general.

As mentioned previously, Cliff Ronning’s skills don’t quite match up to what is brought to the table by the Canucks three best Forwards. However, calling Ronning an ineffective bench option would be selling him short as he does possess great speed and agility ratings which make him an effective option for deking and rushing the puck into the offensive zone. The only thing holding Ronning back from being a more effective player and a starter in the Canucks lineup is being a target to the opposition at 180 lbs. and having mediocre shot ratings. Greg Adams represents the best of the Canucks remaining bench forwards as he weighs in at 196 lbs. and possesses good shot accuracy which can keep the Canucks dangerous in one timing situations. However, Adams can handicap the team in some instances due to mediocre speed and stick handling and so he is likely best reserved for spot duty in injury or maybe blowout situations.

Defense

Lidster-Lumme

From here, things go somewhat downhill as we’re now faced with the Canucks biggest weakness in the form of mediocre Defensemen. It’s not that Doug Lidster and Jyrki Lumme are terrible by any means, but in comparison to the game’s best defensive pairs, the two Canucks starting Defensemen absolutely leave something to be desired. At 212 lbs., Lidster represents the more physical of the Canucks starting defenders, but lacks the skills necessary to be a real game changer due to very mediocre speed and agility ratings. Lumme, on the other hand, is the more mobile of the two Canucks starting Defensemen with a good agility rating, but lacks a higher speed rating that would make him a more coveted defender. Also, Lumme’s 196 lb. weight decreases his physical effectiveness against the game’s larger players and teams.

The Canucks bench sees several similarly mediocre defensive options with the best of these coming in the form of Jiri Slegr and Gerald Diduck. Both players weigh in at 220 lbs. and can thereby bring some more physicality to the lineup. However, both players have similar average speed and agility ratings and thus do not improve the Canucks overall lack of speed on Defense. Worse yet, Slegr and Diduck’s average stick handling ratings could pose some problems for the Canucks transition and overall offensive game. In short, no matter if a coach decides to stick with the default Canucks Defensemen or make some substitutions, it’s probably best to expect at least something of an uphill battle in the defensive zone and know that it’s probably best to take a more conservative approach with usage of the team’s defenders.

Summary

A great group of Forwards with an average, at best, group of Defensemen puts the Vancouver Canucks at something of a middle tier in terms of best teams in SNES NHL 94. However, the team’s abundance of speed and skill on offense can certainly give opponents lots of trouble and be more than a match for even the most elite teams. While the Canucks defense is absolutely the team’s biggest question mark, overcoming, or at least working around this weakness can see coaches rack up a lot of victories in a manner similar to that of the team’s legendary real life 1994 counterpart.

Edited by Oilers442
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