Markus Naslund’s last full shift as a Vancouver Canuck came late in the third period on April 5, 2008, the final day of the season. It was an anonymous shift in a 7-1 home loss to Calgary with linemates Byron Ritchie and Ryan Shannon.
I remember it well because very few people noticed or pointed out it might be Naslund’s last shift. We were all pre-occupied. GM Place was in the midst of a Trevor Linden love-in as the iconic Vancouver winger played in what everyone sensed was his last NHL game. Naslund came back on with Linden as the game ended and nobody noticed – again.
So it ended for Naslund the way it began when he arrived as a 22-year-old in a trade from Pittsburgh in March 1996. He was a fourth-line spare part then, struggling to crack the lineup. The end came playing with fourth liners, struggling with what went wrong and what to do next.
The Canucks fell short of their Cup goal in Naslund’s dozen years in Vancouver, but he need not apologize. He was one of the franchise’s greatest players during some of its most exciting seasons.
Too bad on that April night as he skated off for the last time, no one stopped to say thanks. It had been quite a ride.
I think regular readers know that, for all the same reasons Jim wrote, I am a big Markus fan. Before I took my blogging hiatus this summer, I wanted to post my thanks to Markus. I know I didn’t and I think part of that was because I wanted to believe he would re-sign in Vancouver. Sure he wasn’t a 48-goal scorer anymore, but he was still a 25-goal scorer on a team that only scored 207. And yes, the captaincy and the $6 million per season contract appeared to burden him and fans questioned his abilities, but would they have questioned him if he had re-signed at $4 million per season – his current contract with the Rangers?
Markus did everything for this city, including countless hours at Canucks Place and Children’s Hospital. And as Iain MacIntyre (Vancouver Sun) points out this morning, he only set franchise highs in goals, assists and points in his 10 seasons in a Canucks jersey.
That’s not saying re-signing Markus would have been the right move. In fact, emotion aside, it was best that he get a fresh start somewhere. I just wish we would have given him a proper send-off.
I’m taking that opportunity now. Thanks Markus, and I hope when your Rangers visit Vancouver next season, that we recognize everything you’ve done and accomplished for this city.