May 03, 2009

Markus Naslund To Retire

Reports out of New York suggest Markus Naslund has decided to retire:
Proud and classy to the apparent end, Markus Naslund has told his Rangers teammates he is retiring despite having one season at $3 million remaining on the two-year, $8 million free agent contract he signed last summer, The Post has learned.

It is believed that the 35-year-old Naslund, who wore down dramatically as the season and then the seven-game series against the Caps progressed, notified GM Glen Sather of his decision at his exit interview on Thursday, though The Post has not been able to confirm that.

This is not a huge surprise. Naslund is almost 36, and has game has been in noticeable decline for a couple of years now. He has been relying on his excellent wrist shot for a while now, and more often than not from the perimeter of the rink. Plus there have been rumblings since 2004 that he wanted to retire or finish his career in Sweden where he wanted to raise his young family.

Naslund's legacy is difficult to determine. He was truly one of the most under-appreciated players around the league. He will always be remembered fondly in Vancouver where he enjoyed his best years.

He joined the team in one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history. Pittsburgh gave up on him and traded him for Alek Stojanov. Stojanov went nowhere fast. Naslund to become the Canucks all time leader in goals and points. Naslund also was named to three NHL all star teams, and won the 2003 Lester Pearson award as best player in the league as voted by the players. The same season he was nominated for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, the first Canuck ever to accomplish that feat.

Canucks fans also always appreciated Naslund, who was one of the classiest and exciting players in team history. He represented the West Coast in perfect grace.

Yet even in Vancouver I believe he was under-appreciated. Naslund was in an unenviable position in this regard. He essentially replaced Pavel Bure, one of the league's most exciting players ever, as the Canucks key offensive player. And he replaced Mr. Canuck Trevor Linden not only eventually as captain but as the face of the franchise.

For all his efforts, he never really could emerge from those legendary shadows. This likely has to do his lack of success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In twelve seasons the Canucks only made the playoffs six times and only twice advanced to the second round twice. He, like his teams, were not able to raise his game in the most important time of year.

A big for reason for that is Naslund was not a player who carry a team on his own. Because he relied on others to play the physical game, Naslund's success was heavily reliant on other players. He needed players to get him the puck.

In the early 2000s Naslund found the right linemates on the famed West Coast Express line. Brendan Morrison provided the defensive plug and quick passes. Todd Bertuzzi provided the muscle and, in his heyday, much of the defensive attraction.

For a period of time early this century, Naslund was the top left winger in the league. He put together five strong years with one elite campaign, in the "dead puck" era nonetheless.

Was he a good player? You bet. Was he a Hall of Famer? No way.

No comments: