The Canucks held their annual Summer Summit (formerly known as the state of the franchise) last night at Rogers Arena (yes, it will take a while to get used to the new name) where they announced that Markus Naslund will have his #19 jersey retired on December 11th. And so the debate begins: is he deserving of this honour? This was a debate Canuckz.com brought up at about this time last year, to which I thought he was deserving, but I thought the team ought to wait a few years before retiring it.
My reason for retiring Naslund’s jersey in a few years from now is because his disappointing last few years with the team are still too fresh in our minds. All some people can remember is the disappointment, while we gloss over the good times. As the years go by, we’ll remember the good times more. Retiring his jersey now sparks a debate among Canucks fans which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Retiring a jersey should be a celebration, not a debate.
Does he Deserve it?
Well, it depends what your standard is. Is it playoff success? Is it regular season numbers? Is it community involvement? Is it some kind of x-factor? In my mind, if the standard is Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden, then Naslund deserves it. He’s the franchise leader in points and goals, and was putting up near 50 goal seasons in the dead puck era. I believe his 48 goal season should be thought of in the same light as Bure’s 60 goal seasons. Scoring 60 in 1993 was easier than in 2003. Naslund was also a class act and did a lot for the community. If he was born in Western Canada like Linden and Smyl, he’d be a slam dunk pick to have his jersey retired. Instead, he’s a stoic Swede, which rubs people the wrong way.
Naslund’s detractors mainly point to the team’s lack of playoff success. He never went past the second round of the playoffs. Smyl went to the Stanley Cup Finals and never made it out of the first round once other than that. Linden went to the Finals, but other than that never made it past the second round. But what allowed those teams to make it to the Finals while Naslund’s teams didn’t? The main difference was goaltending.
If Kirk McLean doesn’t make this save in game 7 of the 1st round in 1994, Linden’s resume looks a lot worse:
Conversely, if Dan Cloutier doesn’t meltdown against Detroit in 2002 and Minnesota in 2003, we probably look at Naslund’s career differently.
What about Pavel?
Another argument making the rounds today is the argument that Pavel Bure deserves to have his jersey retired ahead of Naslund. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. Bure was a great player, no doubt, but the way in which he left Vancouver was inexcusable. A lot of people have glossed over the fact that Bure quit on his team and this city when he decided to sit out an entire season while under contract. He has still never provided the Vancouver fans a reason. I would also argue that Naslund accomplished more at his peak, winning the Pearson Trophy and regularly appearing in the top 10 in scoring. While Bure had better numbers, they were put up in an era where goals were easy to come by. Naslund scored 48 when the top goal scorer had 50. Bure scored 60 when the top goal scorer had 76.
It’s too bad that all of this debate is necessary concerning Naslund’s career in Vancouver because he simply had the best career (minus playoff success) of any player in club history. He was a consistent scorer, leading the team in scoring seven consecutive seasons. He finished second in league scoring in 01-02, 02-03 and fourth in league scoring in 03-04.