Drafted at 10th overall in the 1969 Amateur Draft by the Boston Bruins, Chris Oddleifson always had some potential. Vancouver showed they believed that he could capitalize on that when they traded accomplished goal scorer Bobby Schmautz for Oddleifson near the end of the 1973-74 season. Oddleifson, just 23 years old at this time, had begun to break out and the Canucks believed that he would have a greater opportunity to take a large role on their team instead of the powerful Boston Bruins.
Oddleifson was a generally liked player, but he was very different from Schmautz in that he specialized in passing rather than scoring goals. Oddleifson’s first full season in Vancouver was arguably his best one. In the 1974-75 season, Oddleifson played in just 60 games, but still managed 51 points, including 35 assists. In the 5 playoff games Vancouver played against the deadly Montreal Canadiens, Oddleifson managed 3 assists.
In the 1975-76 season, Oddleifson set a new Canuck record for most assists in a season by a centreman with his 46 assist season. He lined up with Don Lever to make a solid 1-2 punch for Vancouver down the middle. Oddleifson was the main part of the Canucks’ second line featuring Gerry O’Flaherty and Garry Monahan. Not only could Oddleifson put up points, but he was also a notably good face-off man, helping the Canucks maintain possession as much as possible.
Oddleifson was also used on the penalty kill and was eventually the first Canuck to score two shorthanded goals in a single game. He was your quintessential playmaking defensive forward. For the 1976-77 season, Oddleifson was named the team captain after Andre Boudrias decided to leave to the WHA. While Oddleifson did play in all 80 games for the second straight season, the pressure seemed to get to him somewhat as he dropped to 40 points and -18 from the previous two seasons of +17 each.
Don Lever replaced Oddleifson as captain the following season, but Oddleifson’s numbers stayed relatively similar with 39 points in 78 games, though it’s worth noting that he did score a career-high 17 goals. Oddleifson continued to focus more and more on the defensive side of his game, with his offensive numbers slowly dipping over the years, though the 1978-79 season saw a slight uptick to 37 points in just 67 games. After dropping to 28 points in 75 games for the 1979-80 season, it became clear that Oddleifson’s job was at risk. By the 1980-81 season, Oddleifson had been beaten out by other Canucks and he was sent to the CHL’s Dallas Blackhawks where he dominated for one season before retiring in 1981 at the age of 30.
While Oddleifson didn’t play to an old age, he had a long enough time in Vancouver that he his still remembered for his play-making and defensive abilities. It wasn’t until his last NHL season (1980-81) that his single-season assist record for centres was broken by Thomas Gradin. For much of his career, Oddleifson was somewhat in Don Lever’s shadow, but he still retired as 5th all-time among Canucks in points and 2nd among centres, again just below Lever.