Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Markus Naslund Autograph Card

Writing about one Vancouver Canucks captain made me think of another, Markus Näslund.

 You could argue that Pavel Bure was the Canucks' first true offensive superstar, with two 60-goal, 100-point seasons in the high-scoring early-90s, but Näslund's 104 points (on 48 goals) in the Dead Puck Era (2002-03) are quite a feat as well. Plus, Näslund did it as team captain, with additional pressure on him.

Then again, drafted 16th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Näslund was always supposed to be a superstar. He just needed a strong, physical sniper to help him clear the way, and Todd Bertuzzi needed someone who could keep up with him, pass him the puck - and calm him down. Paired with Brendan Morrison, they were the NHL's best line for a couple of years, taking over from the Philadelphia Flyers' ''Legion Of Doom''.

He was no doubt a great talent, but to this day I still doubt him as a leader. When long-time Canucks leader and former captain Trevor Linden came back to the fold, I would have liked Näslund to offer him the captaincy back, as a sign of respect - the same way Brian Leetch did when Mark Messier went back to the New York Rangers. It didn't take anything away from Leetch, who is still considered one of the best defensemen of all time; if anything, it adds to his prestige.

Ironically, from that point on, his production began to dip: 79, 60 and 55 points, respectively, in his last 3 seasons with the Canucks, before a final NHL season with the Rangers in which he garnered 46 points on the strength of 24 goals.

In a bizarre turn of events, he announced his retirement after his lone season with the Rangers, and moved back to Sweden with his family, to serve on the Modo Hockey Club's board, but midway through the 2009-10 season, Peter Forsberg starting practicing with the team, and the pair suited up for the team's second half of the season, with Näslund amassing 29 points in 29 games to Forsberg's 30 points in 23 games.

Näslund is now officially retired, while Forsberg still contemplates a return to the NHL.

The Canucks will retire Näslund's #19 jersey this season, and his jersey will hang in the rafters along with Linden's and Stan Smyl's - the other two longest-serving captains in team history.

This card (#80) was found in a pack of In the Game's 2001-02 Be A Player Signature Series cards, signed in black sharpie directly on the card. It generally sells between $15 and $25, but some can be found online for as little as $5.

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