Markus Naslund officially called it quits on his NHL career Monday, and as far as I’m concerned, he deserves nothing but thanks and good wishes from Canucks fans.
“I would like to sincerely thank Glen Sather and the New York Rangers for giving me the opportunity this past season in New York,” said Naslund in a statement. “I would also like to thank the Vancouver Canucks and all of their fans for their support over the 11-plus seasons I was a part of their organization, as well as to the Pittsburgh Penguins where I began my NHL career.”
The debate will now begin amongst Canucks fans whether or not Naslund’s number 19 should be retired by the Canucks. He’s the Canucks all-time leading scorer with 756 points He holds the single season record for goals (48), assists (56) and points (104) by a left-winger. Statistically there is no doubt he has done enough for his number to hang beside Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl in the rafters of GM Place. He played here for over eleven seasons.
Naslund returned home to Sweden each off-season and never really called Vancouver “home”. It was important to him for his children to experience their culture and have some schooling in Sweden. In contrast, Linden and Smyl adopted our city as their home, and became hockey heroes, entrenched on our community. However, Naslund did enough in the community over his eleven seasons here to meet this criteria as well.
Where some will say Naslund falls short is playoff success. Both Smyl and Linden were part of Stanley Cup final teams. Linden saved his best for the post-season, and was always a post season warrior. Naslund’s teams always fell short, and many would argue underachieved under his captaincy.
Whatever the decision ends up being there is no doubt that Markus Naslund is one of the most talented players to ever wear a Canucks jersey. He played here long enough, put up club record numbers, and was the captain of this team for several years, as well as being a contributing member of the community. At the very least Naslund should be honoured in some way by the team, even if that doesn’t include raising the number 19 to the rafters.
The BC Lions have a policy of not retiring numbers, rather they honour their greats on a ring of honour in the stadium. Perhaps Naslund should be among the first inductees in a similar effort at GM Place.