The great debate
Besides the decision on whether or not to re-sign the Sedins to a contract extension, I don’t think any other Canucks-related subject divides Canucks fans like the subject of whether or not to retire Markus Naslund’s number 19.
From Larry Brooks (NY Post):
Proud and classy to the apparent end, Markus Naslund has told his Rangers teammates he is retiring despite having one season at $3 million remaining on the two-year, $8 million free agent contract he signed last summer, The Post has learned.
It is believed that the 35-year-old Naslund, who wore down dramatically as the season and then the seven-game series against the Caps progressed, notified GM Glen Sather of his decision at his exit interview on Thursday, though The Post has not been able to confirm that.
Let the Great Debate begin.
If a New York Post report is accurate that Markus Naslund will retire from the NHL at age 35, following a poor 46-point season with the Rangers, then the battle lines will be drawn in Vancouver as to whether the former Canucks captain should have his No. 19 jersey retired.
Some will shout “Yes!” Others will scream “No!”
As the franchise leader in career points (756) and single-season leader in goals (48), assists (56) and points (104) by a left-winger — established in the 2002-03 season on the famed West Coast Express line with Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi — you could argue that Naslund did more than enough to have his jersey join Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden in the GM Place rafters.
Or, you could argue that there seemed to be something missing in Naslund’s 12-year tenure here.
The statistics speak for themselves – BTW, Richard has more here – but also, Naslund was obviously respected by his peers and his fans. Consider these awards:
- Played in NHL All-Star Game in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004
- Name to NHL First-Team All-Star in 2002, 2003 and 2004
- Nominated for the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2003
- Won the Lester B. Pearson Trophy as Most Outstanding Player as nominated by the players in 2003
- Won the Cyclone Taylor Award as Canucks MVP in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004
- Voted by the fans as Canucks Most Exciting Player in 1999 and 2001
- Won the Canucks Molson Cup Award in 2001, 2002 and 2003
Combine all that with the fact that he spent 12 seasons in Vancouver – 7 of them as Captain – and was an integral part in resurrecting this franchise from the dark ages (aka the Messier years aka the late-90’s), add in his community work, and you have to think that he deserves the honor of getting his number raised to the rafters as much as Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden.
What a lot of the “no” side of this debate point to is Naslund’s (seemingly) lackadaisical playoff performance. Naslund scored 33 points (13G-20A) in 45 playoff games as a Canuck (0.73 points/game). In comparison, Linden scored 95 points (34G-65A) in 118 playoff games (0.81 points/game) and Smyl 33 points (16G-17A) in 41 playoff games (0.81 points/game) – in terms of playoff production, Naslund produced a mere 0.08 points/game less than Smyl and Linden.
Others point to Naslund’s teams’ lack of playoff success. While it’s true that Naslund was never able to take the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks, in his seven-season tenure as captain, at least made the playoffs every year except for two (2006 and 2008). I agree that Linden’s teams in the early ’90s had more success (the Canucks made the second round 4 times between 1990 and 1996, and of course, they made the Final in 1994); however, Naslund’s playoff history is probably more similar to Smyl’s, who only made it out of the first round once – the Cup run in 1982 – and remember Smyl wasn’t named captain until the year after that.
While some certainly appreciate his accomplishments, others don’t. For whatever reason, Naslund has never received his proper due from this city. He may not have won us the Cup, but neither did anyone else. That aside, his career was at least as successful as number 12 and 16 before him, and when he does decide to (officially) retire, I hope we finally acknowledge it.