When it became obvious that the Canucks weren’t willing to give Sami Salo a contract longer than one year, he did what any logical human being would by taking the security and money of Tampa Bay’s generous two-year, $7.5 million contract offer.
Sami was a warrior during his tenure with the Canucks. The word warrior gets tossed around too much in pro sports, but we are talking about a guy whose injury history reads like that of a movie stuntman. Salo’s testicular region was on the receiving end of a 100 mile-per-hour slap shot from Duncan Keith, and it didn’t even cause him to miss a game. He has torn muscles, cracked bones, dislocated limbs, suffered concussions, and been bitten by snakes (well only one snake, but I’m sure if you dig deep enough you will find another snake bite incident in his life).
Salo leaves the Canucks as one of the best defensemen in the history of the organization. Even with the immense number of games he has missed, he still ranks statistically among the best defensemen the organization has ever seen:
- 5th in points with 236
- 3rd in goals with 74
- 1st in game-winning goals with 20
- 3rd in shots on goal with 1078 (I’d wager 1070 of them of the slap shot variety)
- 1st in power play goals with 48
- 1st in postseason games played with 74
- 1st (tied) in postseason goals with 9
- 1st in awkward goal celebrations
Salo’s tenure in Vancouver was filled with many memorable goals and highlights. Let’s count down 10 of the best.
10. The bomb. Sami has/had arguably the best shot in hockey. His slapper is hard and accurate (considering how hard he shoots it, at least). This goal from the 2009-10 season didn’t have any particular significant – it was a January game against Columbus, but it was perhaps the hardest shot of Salo’s career. He steps in to a puck that was slowly making its way into his wheel house. Steve Mason managed to avoid getting hit, but the post wasn’t so lucky. The Finnish MacInnis lived up to the nickname bestowed upon him by former NHL goaltender Curtis Joseph.
9. This goal didn’t occur while Sami was playing for the Canucks, but it was during his tenure with the team. At the 2006 Olympics, he was on the ice as Finland was killing a penalty against the Americans (a 4-on-3 advantage). Sami stole the puck in the neutral zone, Peter Forsberg’d his way into the American zone, and unleashed an unscreened howitzer from just over the blue line. The puck may have been tipped, but it could also have been a case of gravity trying to get out of the way.
This video is also the only evidence we have of Sami Salo and Rick DiPietro playing hockey at the same time.
8. As mentioned above, Sami is first all-time in game-winning goals by a Canucks defenseman. Here is one of his 20. Poor water bottle…
7. Awkward goal celebrations were a staple from Salo during his tenure with the Canucks. He earned the nickname “the tickler” after this improvised celebration.
6. Sami Salo, on the power play, with a clean and unscreened slap shot past the goaltender. Reads a bit like a round of Clue. Salo did this so many times, but this goal below is one of a few that stands out. For one, it broke a 3-3 tie against the Kings in Game 4 of Round 1 in 2010. The Canucks were trailing the series 2 games to 1 at the time, but they won three straight to close the Kings out in six.
5. Sami Salo, on the power play, with a clean and unscreened slap shot past the goaltender (déjà vu). This one stands out not only because it was once again in the postseason, but Salo actually tore his gluteus medius muscle while taking this shot. Imagine shooting the puck so hard that you tear a muscle in your own ass?
4. The development of Alex Edler. Salo, perhaps more so than any other Canuck defenseman, has played a huge part of Edler’s development into one of the game’s best two-way defensemen. This past season in particular Salo helped Edler set career highs with 11 goals and 49 points.
3. In the 2010 season, Salo took a Duncan Keith slap shot off of the testicle. He was stretchered to a hospital in Chicago, but somehow was able to suit up and play in Vancouver’s next game. This incident is a great example of Salo’s unluckiness and his toughness all in one. Watch if you must.
2. Sami Salo never showed a lot of emotion on the ice, but when he did, he didn’t hold back. This led to some… shall we say… over exuberant goal celebrations. Here is Sami capping off a three-on-one (thanks to Brian Campbell) to give the Canucks the game winning goal against Chicago.
One of the most awkward hockey hugs ever followed by a fist pump that would make Daniel Briere proud.
1. Sami’s most memorable moment as a Canuck came just over a year ago in San Jose. The Canucks weathered early penalty problems against the Sharks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, and then the tables turned and they were given multiple power play opportunities themselves. Salo hammered home two rockets past Antti Niemi in a span of 16 seconds. After the first goal, you would think the Sharks would have figured out Vancouver’s plan (yes, I know they were shorthanded two men).
The 2-0 goal:
The 3-0 goal:
Sami was one of the greatest defensemen in team history, and will undoubtedly have his name put up in the Ring of Honour after his career ends. He released a statement thanking the Canucks and their fans after signing the contract with Tampa Bay.
“I would like to thank my teammates for the friendship, hard-fought battles, and all of their support over the years. Most importantly, I would like to thank the fans in Vancouver for their support. I was not always a perfect player, but I always gave my best and I appreciate the way the fans treated me.”
Sami wasn’t the perfect player. But Vancouver wasn’t the perfect team, either. He battled through incredible adversity, never complained or created any problems, and delivered at a high level both defensively and offensively. He provided some memorable moments as you can see from reading the above, but it is the night-in and night-out consistency that the Canucks are going to miss the most.