Wednesday

Jim Sandlak

Jim Sandlak was nicknamed "The House" because he was as big as a house. He was one of the biggest players in the league during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He stood 6'4" and 220lbs.

Sandlak had good size but sometimes came across as complacent. When he hit, he hit really hard. His bone crunching hits would thunder through out the building and people feared him. He had the potential to be one of the greatest body checkers in a long time. However he didn't always play that way. He was very inconsistent in being that effective banger. Sometimes he tried to be more a finesse player, and often played smaller than he actually was.

He wasn't always willing to pay the physical price to play the role as a dominant hitter. He rarely fought, which was a good thing because he couldn't fight very well. Plus his skating didn't help him much either. He actually skated pretty well for a big guy, but had a hard time catching smaller guys when he wanted to paste them onto the wall.

Sandlak also possessed an extremely heavy shot. Both his wrist and slap shots were powerful and fast. However he lacked a quick release which all but limited him to a fringe scorer. His shot was anything but accurate either. It seemed like "House" hit the glass behind the net instead of the goalie on a nightly basis. When his booming shot hit that glass the crowd would "ooh" and "ahh." Even fans sitting in the nosebleed seats would shudder at the sound of the puck hitting the glass. The "Nosebleeders" were probably thankful to sit that high up when Sandlak and the Canucks came to town. Can you imagine one of those cannons going into the crowd?!

Sandlak had the scouts drooling all over him by the 1985 Entry Draft when the Canucks selected him 5th overall. His combination of his size and booming shot dominated the junior leagues with the London Knights. With the Knights he often played on a line with Brian Bradley and Dave Lowry - both former future Canucks as well, although the magic could not be recreated at the NHL level.

Jim really cemented his status as a top prospect in the 1986 World Junior Championships. Having 23 NHL games under his belt, the Canucks sent Sandlak overseas to help Canada in the tournament. Sandlak scored 5 goals and 7 points in 7 games and was named as the best forward in the tournament.

While his size, strength and shot dominated the junior leagues, he never really got untracked at the NHL level. His best season was in 1988-89 when he scored 20 goals and 20 assists. He had an equally strong season in 1991-92 when he scored 16 goals and 24 assists and a career high 176 PIM. Sandlak was probably at his best that season as he was more consistent in his physical play.

Sandlak was a good third or fourth right winger for the Canucks for 8 seasons but never developed like they had hoped. Despite this the Canucks were reluctant to trade the popular big guy. The Canucks were burned when the traded another big right winger with a good shot earlier in the decade. That of course was Cam Neely. The Canucks were afraid of looking foolish if Sandlak developed into a good player in another organization, so they stuck with him, hoping for the best.

By the summer of 1993 the Canucks finally traded him to Hartford to complete an earlier deal that saw Murray Craven come to Vancouver. Sandlak had a tough time in Hartford as he battled some serious injuries. He only played in 40 games in 2 seasons. He scored just 6 goals and 8 points.

Sandlak returned the Vancouver organization in 1995-96. A popular player in the dressing room and the community, Sandlak scored 4 goals and 6 points in 33 games before being waived and deciding to retire from hockey. Sandlak's back was hurting him after a serious injury that occurred during a Canucks practice. He fell and slid into the net and cracked a vertebrae when he collided with the post. Sandlak also suffered two broken feet and a smashed heel in his playing career.

Sandlak scored 110 goals and 229 points in 549 games, plus 7 goals and 17 points in 33 playoff games. After a year spent as an assistant coach with the IHL Detroit Vipers, Sandlak came out of retirement to play 18 games with a second division German Team called ERC Ingolstadt in 1997-98.

2 comments:

Anonymous,  5:19 PM  

I was at the game when he scored his first NHL goal, Nov 2 , 1985. He then proceeded to break his leg in the third period and his rookie season was over.

Anonymous,  4:35 PM  

He has always done well....including teaching btoh his sons to play the game he loves.....CArter plays for Belleville Bulls and hopefully will we drafted up

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