May 042009
 

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.

From Ben Kuzma (Vancouver Province):

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.

Apr 282009
 

Cody Hodgson was just named OHL Player of the year.

The other day someone asked, “If given the opportunity, would you trade Hodgson for the first round pick in the 2009 draft?” (Or work a trade that included Hodgson for the first round pick)

As speculation goes there’s a snowballs chance in hell, or Patrick Stefan’s chance at scoring on an empty net breakaway, that John Tavares will not go first overall in the 2009 draft. If it’s not him, it will be Victor Hedman. Tavares amongst the class of 2009 is the standout. There’s likely no one that will match his level of talent and skill in his draft year. But, he’s no Crosby, and looks closer to Stamkos than anything else. He also draws other parallels, they both were stand outs in the World Juniors. Stamkos so far has looked like a bust, maybe Tavares will, maybe he won’t. He’s proved he can be the big fish in the little pond, now let’s see if he can roll with the big boys. He’ll likely go to St. Louis, or Tampa, the usual bottom feeders, but it takes a Crosby level player to affect a cellar dweller team. That’s what Crosby did for the pens, that’s what Stamkos failed to do for the Lightning. But for all those things that they can do, I wouldn’t give up Hodgson for either of them. It’d have to be Gretzky reborn again or the second coming of Trevor Linden for me to give up Hodgson for Tavares or Hedman.

Cody Hodgson isn’t a showstopper, a heart breaker. He’s not a one trick pony and he’s not a selfish player. I’m not saying that the greats are selfish, but when you look at a lot of the greats their shoot to pass ratio is a lot higher. This kid isn’t selfish. He’s selfless. Take a look at his play at the World Juniors. Alongside the best this country has to offer, and the best of the 2009 draft he shone bright. He set a World Juniors record with 16 points, 5 goals and 11 assists. He beat out TSN’s favourite junior John Tavares, and while people like Eberle were getting the spotlight for late game heroics, and Tavares was played over and over again on the highlight reel for his lacrosse antics with a hockey stick, Cody Hodgson was flying under the radar. Maybe flying under the radar isn’t the right term as all of those world juniors were on a public stage. But he wasn’t providing last minute one off heroics. Hodgson was solid at both ends of the ice. Hodgson was timely, Hodgson was clutch.

When the Canucks chose not to give him a shot I admit I was pretty peeved about that. In hindsight though when you look at it the Canucks are preparing Cody for something different. They already have a pre-established plan for him. Sending him back to play with the Battalion is putting him in a pond where he’s not just the big fish, he’s the king fish. He’s going back to a team that is going to look to him when and if times get tough. A team that is going to rely on him to lead them through good and bad. Cody back on the Battalion is gaining a wealth of experience as, yes I’ll say it again, he’s being moulded into Trevor v2.0. There’s nothing wrong with that. This city needs another Captain Vancouver to get teary eyed over. Cody is that guy.

Mike Gillis knows how to play his cards right. Next season if he is able to sign Mats again and is also able to bring back the Sedins you’re going to find that once again Vancouver is extremely deep at center. Hodgson is going to join a group of centers which are amongst the best at what they do, invaluable experience for our future Mr. Canuck. Hodgson has the capability of playing at a second line level very soon. The Canucks have created an environment at the moment which will prove to be enormously helpful to the development of this young talent if the pieces of the puzzle all fit. Hodgson also coming into a situation where he’s surrounded by speed will allow him to play at his level. He’s a playmaker; the World Juniors has proved that. If you place him alongside anyone but Taylor Pyatt this kid is going to produce. So placing him with two wheeling and dealing wingers such as Hansen, Burrows, Raymond or Wellwood is likely to pay dividends soon. Now I may be putting the wagon before the horse here with all this speculation but this kid has proven himself to me early on. Even with his pre-season play at the start of this campaign he made a compelling case to fill a roster spot. Had it not been for the potential arrival of Mats, our superstar center Sedin, Kesler and the fact Johnson had been picked up that summer he might have gotten a shot.

Hodgson is young and has a lot to learn, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer he’s a class act. He’s your Trevor Linden and Joe Sackic all tied into one minus the leaf blower incident. He has me excited as a fan just because of what I hope he’s capable of. He may be a little smaller and lighter than is ideal at this point but the Sedins proved to us they could bulk up and with some work Cody’s NHL level of play will match an NHL size.

While he was sent down and his chance to play at the NHL level postponed, Cody is getting opportunities that are developing him as the future leader of the Canucks. His World Juniors experience was a fantastic demonstration of his growth as a player and just another reason for Canuck fans to get excited. I’m almost positive Hodgson will have a spot in the line up next year and with the budding wealth of talent the Canucks have right now this team is getting younger, faster, and I love every second of it. Cody is coming into an environment with playmaking veteran centers to learn from and if this season’s preseason was anything to go off of Cody is the future of this franchise, now.

So, if given the opportunity, would I trade Hodgson for the first round pick in the 2009 draft? Would you?

Dec 182008
 

On the night when the spotlight was on him, Trevor Linden turned the spotlight back on everyone else. On the night we thanked him for leading many Canucks teams and being a mentor to many Canucks players, he asked us to think of all his great teammates and great coaches. On the night we thanked him for everything he’s ever done for the Canucks, the city of Vancouver, the province of British Columbia and the game of hockey, he came back and thanked us instead for allowing him to be a part of our lives.

In other words, on Trevor Linden night, Trevor Linden was simply Trevor Linden. He was gracious as friend after friend after 18,630 friends inside GM Place and millions more around BC showered him with accolades. Even in the spotlight, he was honored and humbled.

As if we needed more proof that Trevor deserved to have his jersey retired to the rafters, last night’s ceremony provided more. In his final farewell, everything we loved about him – the man, his character, his leadership – was made more prominent.

There were a few times I felt tears well up. The first was when veterans of the ’94 Stanley Cup run walked on the ice. That that many former teammates from one team showed up shows how much Trevor meant during that run.

The second time was when Pam Keith from the Canucks for Kids Fund recalled the story of the kid from Prince George that started refusing treatments for his cancer at 9 before an also then-injured Trevor met him and told him not to give up. He came back the next day, started taking his treatments again and lived to be 16. Trevor flew up to Prince George for the funeral.

The third time was when they finally raised Trevor’s #16 to the rafters. For Trevor, this was obviously the culmination of 20 years of being the consummate pro and being everything we wanted a Vancouver Canuck to be.

There may never be another Canuck to wear #16 – and that’s just the way it should be – but I do hope though that there will be more Trevors to come out of this organization.

From canucks.com, here are some videos from last night’s ceremony. (I’ll update this post as more become available.)

The tribute video they played before the start of the ceremony:

Trevor’s presser after the ceremony:

Dec 172008
 

My apologies for being out of touch for the last week and a half. I was in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for work last week and had to deal with some medical issues when I got back. At any rate, I wasn’t going to miss tonight’s game. (I made sure to tell my doctors at Abby Hospital that.)

The tributes have been coming in fast and furious for Trevor Linden. I’ve expressed mine here, here and here. But as everyone is recounting their most memorable Linden moments, let me share the first time I ever noticed Trevor.

As some of you know, I didn’t move to Vancouver until the early ’90s. Truth be told, while I watched the odd Canucks game here and there, I didn’t start really following the team until the ’94 Cup run and I didn’t pay much attention to Trevor Linden until round 1, game 6 against the Calgary Flames.

I was still bussing tables at abc Family Restaurants in 1994. I had worked a few extra shifts, and after paying my pager bill (I know, I know), I had some money left over for Canucks playoff tickets. I had just already gone to my first ever hockey game (round 1, game 3) and I was hooked. I wanted to go to another game so the morning after the Canucks won game 5 in overtime, I headed to the Ticketmaster at Scottsdale Mall to buy tickets for game 6.

I took an ex-girlfriend to the game. (We had just broken up after dating for a couple of years and were trying to work things out. I thought a night out would be a good idea.) There was a special feeling as soon as we walked into the Pacific Coliseum. Trevor was playing great even before he won it in overtime. There was a feeling that he wouldn’t let his team lose. He may not have publicly guaranteed a game 7 like other leaders did later that postseason, but he damn well played like he did and made sure the other guys on the bench did as well. Right at that game, and during the pandemonium that ensued after his OT winner, was when I realized how special Trevor was and this was of course backed up by his play to game 7 through the end of the Rangers series.

The thing about that night is that I broke up with my girlfriend for good on the drive home after the game. (Let’s just say I believe there are boundaries to the girlfriend/my best friend relationship and she didn’t.) The other thing is, after being upset for an hour or so, I turned on the radio, listened to Sports Talk (remember this was back when the program was actually still relevant), and after recapping the most memorable moments of that game, was completely over her. Only a couple of nights later, I was with my best guy buddies watching game 7 and watching Linden hug Bure after Bure scored in the 2nd overtime. Maybe it was coincidence, but my serious relationship with the Canucks began at precisely the same time my first serious relationship with a girl ended. And to this day, I still believe Trevor had something to do with it.

Here are some more stories and tributes:

From Alanah (written for NHL.com):

It might seem strange to most, but my favorite and most enduring memory of Trevor Linden was represented in a scene which depicts what might have been the most heartbreaking moment of his NHL career.

It was in the immediate postgame aftermath of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers. While the Blueshirts celebrated their hard-fought victory to the roaring appreciation of the Garden’s faithful after the final buzzer, the Canucks were slumped on the sidelines witnessing the atmosphere. And it was in that moment that a cameraman caught Linden in his lens.

Resting on his knees and looking battered and utterly spent, the Canucks’ captain watched the celebrations knowing that there was no tomorrow; that he was the leader of a lost fight. And yet, to me, that image is a reminder of his greatest strengths, too.

From the boys at Orland Kurtenblog:

On Wednesday night at GM Place, Vancouver will thank Trevor Linden.

We’ll thank him for the goals he scored, we’ll thank him for his leadership, and we’ll thank him for his hard work in the community.

But mostly, when the No. 16 jersey Linden wore is raised to the rafters, we’ll thank him for making us feel really old.

From Sean (Waiting For Stanley):

I really thought the Leafs would beat the Canucks in the semi-finals. All of my friends back then, being Canucks fans, were mocking me during the whole series. I stood by my team. But Trevor Linden and co. demolished Toronto in 5 games. I was shocked and angered…seeing Gus Adams bag that OT winner at the Pacific Colisseum and watching poor Potvin slump into his net.
I actually hated the Canucks for knocking off the Leafs. In fact, and I hate to admit this, I was actually cheering for the Rangers early on in the Finals because I was so mad at Vancouver.

I think it took me a fair bit into overtime in Game 1 to get over my stupidity and rally for the home team. OK, I got that off my chest. Why was that significant? Because that hardly-arguably was the best Finals in NHL history. And when the gritty Canucks pushed the Rangers to 7 games, it was a scar-faced Trevor Linden that grabbed his team by the throat in that Final game and nearly propelled them to a Cup win.

And finally, from Brian (Canucks Corner):

Almost every Canucks fan out there has a favorite Linden memory. His continued presence and contributions in our community will create more memories for others in the future. He will always represent this team, but he will also continue to be an icon in our city. Perhaps he will eventually become involved with the team again, there are many who think he would make a great coach.

Whatever the future holds for Trevor Linden, I am thankful I saw his career from beginning to end and for the memories and excitement he provided me. Enjoy your night on Wednesday Trevor, it’s our turn to say thanks to you.

Amen.

Thank you Trevor. And a million more times, thank you.

Dec 012008
 

From the Vancouver Canucks:

The Vancouver Canucks are proud to announce that Canucks.com will celebrate 16 Days of Trevor Linden, beginning on Monday, December 1st, 2008. The special 16-day initiative will take an in-depth look at Trevor Linden’s career, concluding on December 16th, 2008 just one day prior to Trevor Linden’s sweater retirement ceremony.

The 16 Days of Trevor Linden will feature video and print content as well as a series of photo galleries highlighting Linden’s hockey career spanning more than two decades. The 16 days of coverage encompasses draft day in 1988 through to his last game on April 5, 2008 and will include stories and accounts from on and off the ice courtesy of former teammates, coaches, fans and countless others impacted by Trevor.

More on canucks.com.

Sep 082008
 

It wasn’t much of a surprise when the Vancouver Canucks announced that they will retire Trevor Linden’s jersey and raise it to the rafters this season.

The Vancouver Canucks announced today that they will host ‘Trevor Linden Night’ at General Motors Place on December 17th when they play the Edmonton Oilers. The night dedicated to the longtime Captain of the Canucks will be highlighted by a pre-game ceremony where Linden’s number 16 will be retired. Linden’s sweater will join Stan Smyl’s number 12 in the rafters at General Motors Place.

“Retiring a player’s sweater is one of the highest honours a club can pay to its most elite players and ambassadors,” said Chris Zimmerman, President and CEO, Canucks Sports & Entertainment. “Trevor embodies the qualities we strive for as an organization; character, hard working, commitment, generous and loyal. We are proud that his sweater will hang beside Stan Smyl’s at General Motors Place.”

I already said my piece regarding Trevor here and here. I won’t add much more, except to say I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor.

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