With a year left on his contract with the New York Rangers, Markus Naslund announced his retirement today. And with the announcement, the discussion began as to whether or not Nazzy should have his jersey retired in Vancouver.
Much like his (in my strong opinion, wrongly maligned) career here in Vancouver, the debate on whether or not the Canucks should send the number 19 up to join 12 and 16 is split right down the middle. There are those that state that Nazzy has no business joining TL or the Steamer in the rafters due to his lack of playoff success. Others say that he wasn’t a true leader and should have never received the captaincy, therefore spoiling the good name of the captains that preceded him. More often or not, these people also felt that Naslund was never a true Canuck, with some even hoping that he would be driven to the airport a la Trent Klatt .
Then there are those like me who see no reason why the man who happens to be the all-time points leader for the franchise, let alone the owner of single season records for goals, assists, and points by a left winger having any reason to prove anything more. True he was never the type of player who wore his emotions on his sleeve, but he went about his business and did his job well – in fact did his job extremely well regardless of the abnormally high expectations placed upon him.
What’s that you say? Where was his success in the post-season when it counted?
Well I ask you this, why did we not retire Kirk McLean’s number then? Up until Louie arrived, we never had a keeper like Captain Kirk – if it wasn’t for the “save” against Calgary in Game 7, the run in 1994 would have been nothing more than a false start. If we simply measured a player by his role with the team, contribution come playoff time, and how he excelled in his particular position, Kirk would have been in the same category as Trevor. But he is not and that’s not a knock against Kirk. He was good, but not “that” good.
Having survived the Keenan years (I hear that medieval serfs got it easier than he did), he began to flourish under the Crawford system of “we’ll score more goals than the other team does” and benefited from players who complemented his style of play. After the organization found that it was far more difficult to score more goals than the opposition in the postseason, especially when the opposition was putting them in from centre ice, they committed themselves to a defensive system that would make Jacques Lemaire smile, but would reduce Nazzy’s ability to contribute. His stats began to tail off and the phone lines on talk radio throughout Vancouver lit up. Trade him some would shout! Send him to the minors others would exclaim! Yet through this, Markus simply plugged away and contributed offensively to a defensive minded team.
And here you tell me, the guy wasn’t worth the hockey tape he put on the blade of his stick. Give me a freaking break (and I’m not talking about a Kit Kat Bar).
So here I proclaim, rightly or wrongly, that Nazzy should be given the same honour and decorum that Trevor and Stan have received. We should see 19 rise up with all the glory that 16 and 12 were provided and we as Canucks fans should be proud. Although it may not happen next year or the year after that, it should happen – if only to honour a man who has contributed much to the team and re-written the record books in ways that many of those who had preceded him could not.
Okay, I feel better now.