Näslund’s legacy was good, but not great
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Markus Näslund’s number shouldn’t be in the rafters. There, I said it. The unspeakable words an overwhelmingly large number of Canucks fans would boo and hiss at. But if you think about it, was Nazzy really that great? He was a good player for the Canucks, but there’s a huge difference between “good” and “great.”
There’s no denying that Näslund was an offensive powerhouse. His wrister was arguably the best in the league when he was in his prime and that glorious West Coast Express line with Morrison and Bertuzzi was pure magic. Practically a guarantee to get you up on your feet at least a few dozen times a game. He took home the Lester one year, and made multiple all-star games. He was one smooth Swede. That, however, at the risk of coming off as too Don Cherry-ish, was one of my problems with him. While he was a maestro on offense, he was invisible on defense. Fans have tried to glorify every aspect of his game since retirement, but anyone who ever actually watched Nazzy knows otherwise. Take out that one spectacular diving effort all those years ago, and it’s difficult to come up with any case for his defensive “capabilities.” The guy couldn’t play “d,” which isn’t a huge knock on him since a lot of stars can’t, but a knock nonetheless.
Näslund was captain of the Canucks when I started to seriously watch hockey, and even then, as nothing but an armpit-farting tyke, I knew he wasn’t quite cut out for the role. Captains don’t have to be vocal leaders, but if they’re going to play the strong and silent type, they’d better be oozing with confidence. I never got that feeling from Näslund. When he wasn’t contributing offensively, he disappeared, and since he wasn’t a physical player or a defensive player, that’s about all he could do. As for speaking to the press, he was certainly nothing to write home about. Neither eloquent nor opinionated, Näslund always seemed to stumble and bumble his way through the press’ queries.
The final point about Nazzy is that he didn’t show up in the playoffs. As he so perfectly put it after one miserable playoff walk (though he was speaking on behalf of the whole team) they/he “choked.” There is a saying that statistics never lie, but Näslund does well to disprove this. Looking at his stats, he has 36 points in 52 playoff games. Not bad, right? Wrong. Most of Näslund’s points came in bunches, and thus, the points-per-game figure doesn’t really tell the story. I remember sitting there screaming at the TV many nights in the hopes that somehow it would wake up our dear captain, but to no avail. He just couldn’t keep up with the physical style of the post-season.
I don’t hate Näslund, but I just don’t hold him in as high regard as the majority of the Canuck fan base. Regular season statistics only count for half the battle, and perhaps not even that much. Nobody goes into the season playing for the Presidents’ Trophy. You can’t trade in the Lester for a Conn Smythe. Nazzy was good, but he wasn’t even the best Swede during his time with the team. That honour belongs to Matthias Öhlund. Now there was a solid player.
A milestone for Markus Näslund
By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
The Vancouver Canucks have always been an underdog team. Right from the beginning when they were introduced to the league, the Canucks never really established themselves as a designation for the best players in the NHL. When you take a look at the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings, they seem to always have great players every single year—with a legitimate chance at winning the Stanley Cup, which only attracts even greater players to come and join them. But with Vancouver, the players that have come and gone through the organization that were considered to be all-star players were all drafted within the system or acquired from another team for peanuts. It seems that the Canucks have gotten themselves into a habit of having a solid group of players for only a few years, and once they get older or lose their “skill,” the cycle repeats.
One can argue that the current era of the Canucks has been the best in franchise history. The shiny pieces that attract attention around the league are the Sedin twins, the goaltending tandem of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, and the impressive winning record of Coach Alain Vigneault. However, what will happen in a few years when the Sedin’s get older? Or Vigneault gets fired? Or Schneider joins the goalie graveyard list?
It’s almost an identical situation to the Canucks team in the early ‘90s. They had shiny pieces for several years through the system with Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Kirk McLean, Alex Mogilny, etc, and almost won a Stanley Cup in the ’94 series against the Rangers. But shortly after that, the team fell apart. Everyone left and in return a new crop of players came in, and amongst them was future captain, Markus Näslund.
Näslund, who was essentially traded for peanuts, came into this organization and brought it hope.
The start of a new era. One that would have to follow the Bure/Linden days and compete among the best teams in the NHL. After two seasons of being a part of the Canucks, Näslund gave Vancouver something to be excited about. Finally a player that reminded fans of the raw talent in the NHL—something Vancouver was desperately yearning for.
It is proven that great players make those around them great as well. Gretzky is the best example here, as he did wonders with the Edmonton Oilers in their golden years—with Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, and so forth with four Stanley Cup wins to boot. Now, I’m not saying that Näslund is on the same calibre as Gretzky, but he did do a similar thing with Vancouver. He made the others around him better than they actually were—with Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison, the Sedin twins (at the time), Ed Jovanovski, etc. He gave the Canucks an opportunity to win with his teammates.
To Vancouver, Näslund was a true captain. He led the charge in transition from the post-Bure days and brought Vancouver a winning team. The Canucks may have never of won a Stanley Cup with him, but neither did they win with Stan Smyl, Linden, and haven’t yet with the Sedins. He represented a new era of hope for the fans of Vancouver which brought them out of their depression of not winning a Stanley Cup. Smyl and Linden both had their jerseys retired because of what they represented to the team as great players to the franchise in their eras and when Naslund had his number 19 retired into the rafters, it was no different. He was, and still is, one of the greatest Canucks of all time.