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.

May 032009

Earlier in the season, I wrote this post about the media and how they treated Naslund. I was frustrated and can’t stand the way Iain MacIntyre would go on about him even after he’d left. I called THEN for the retirement of his number back when people were still going on about how he didn’t deserve a thing and the bandwagon thought it was fine to continue chewing him up and spitting him out.

Naslund did on this team what no one else had done, and what no one else has replicated yet. There’s a reason he:

• He played 13 seasons in Vancouver
• Most Points by a Canuck (756)
• Most Goals by a Canuck (346)
• 3rd most assists (410 – 1st Linden 415, 2nd Smyl 411)
• Most hattricks by a Canuck (10)
• Holds all records for Left Wingers (Most Goals, Assists, Points)

In my (very humble) opinion, I think the media was the result of what I see as a shortened career. On a team where there were a number of faults, the blame was placed on him for the lack of success, and really there was an issue with the team and a number of gaps that needed filling. When you look at the numbers, Naslund’s 19 should be up there alongside Smyl’s 12 and Linden’s 16. (but please, don’t go renaming the gate’s at GM Place and making errors on the plaques.)

If the Montreal Canadiens can put aside their differences and retire Patrick Roy’s number, then the Canucks should have no problem doing the same for Naslund. Here’s a player that played his best year’s for the Canucks and put up numbers that won’t be touched for some time. People need to look at the player he was when he was with us, and not the negative image of him that the media created and portrayed so vividly.

Nov 202008
Nov 192008

Alanah linked to this article from Jim Hughson (CBC):

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.

Nov 192008
Sep 262008
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