Sports

Nazzy deserves respect 0

BARRY MCDONALD

It is one of those debates that doesn't seem to have much middle ground. It is the one concerning a former Vancouver Canuck captain, and whether his accomplishments here should be saluted.

Markus Naslund, you may remember, was a Canuck for 11 seasons. He left here as the club's all-time leading goal scorer and their all-time leading point getter. But what sort of legacy did he leave in the process?

Depends on whom you ask. His detractors - and judging by the response yesterday morning on the Team 1040 he has many - are quick to discuss Naslund's failure to take the Canucks further than the second round of the playoffs. His fault of course, because he was the captain. And because he wasn't cut in the mold of say, Jarome Iginla. It wasn't enough to score goals, and set up goals, he was expected to run people through the end boards. Wasn't his way? It should be.

But how do you ignore the numbers? He scored 346 goals here. More than anybody in the 39-year history of the organization, despite playing in the dead-puck era. He had eight seasons where he scored more than 25 goals, and other than a broken leg, rarely missed much work due to injury. He missed just 28 games in all, which is impressive in a contact sport, given that Naslund spends more time with the puck than most players.

The ultimate salute for any athlete is having their numbers retired. To the rafters.

Stan Smyl's No. 12 will get some company on Dec. 17 when Trevor Linden's No. 16 gets hoisted to the GM Place ceiling. But that's it. Nearly 40 years of hockey, and just two players with their numbers retired. And No. 19 isn't one of them, despite having more goals and points than either No. 16 or 12.

As a Montreal Canadien, Naslund might not warrant consideration. But on a success-starved franchise, he does.

And it is being studied, according to GM Mike Gillis, who happens to be Naslund's former agent. As it should be. Take the emotion out of the equation. Don't factor in his leadership if you didn't think it was good enough. Don't talk about his wrist shot at one time being the best on the planet.

Deal with the tangibles. And the numbers tell the story: No. 19 deserves its place in the rafters.


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