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6 Things: West Coast Express

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Reunited and it feels so good.

For one night and one night only, Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison – the entirety of the most famous line in Canucks history – will be together again in celebration of the West Coast Express.

From 2002 to 2006 this trio of forwards electrified the NHL, striking fear into opposing defences and goaltenders with ease; their play made for some of the best moments in franchise history.

Here are 6 Things you should know about the West Coast Express.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

November 6, 2001, Canucks @ Blue Jackets. Head coach Marc Crawford, known for tinkering his lines with regularity, puts Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison together on the power play marking one of the first time the three are together. Vancouver won the game 3-2 thanks to six points (2-4-6) from the trio and the rest is history, right? Slowwww your horses.

According to Jim Hughson, January 23, 2002, was the West Coast Express’ official debut. They combined for five points in a 4-2 win over Dallas and were a line for the next three-and-a-half seasons. Naslund was 27, Bertuzzi 25 and Morrison 26, while the Sedins, in their second season, were 21-years-old.

MORRISON BREAKS IT DOWN

“We each brought something different to the line,” he told Hughson in Canucks at Forty. “Markus was the pure goal scorer with under-rated passing skills. Todd was the premier power forward at the time with his physicality and finesse, and I brought speed and skill making.

“We all had a hunger and desire to perform at our best each night. We were extremely competitive and we pushed each other to become better players.

“It was a tremendous time in my career. As an offensive player it was an amazing feeling knowing that our line could score any time we were on the ice.”

HOW GOOD WAS GOOD?

In their first season together, Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison accounted for 45 per cent of the Canucks total offence in helping the team set a franchise record for points with 104 (later surpassed). The following season the trio amassed 119 goals and 272 points; Naslund and Bertuzzi were first team all-starts as they finished second and fifth in NHL scoring. All three peaked for points in their careers that year, led by Naslund’s 48 goals, 56 assists and 104 points, not to forget his 24 power play goals and let’s doubly not overlook that Bertuzzi had 25 goals on the man advantage.

These were the glory days for the West Coast express, which they have all looked back on and will continue to view as the highlights of their great careers.

NASLUND SAYS IT BEST

“All three of us had different personalities,” explained Naslund in Canucks at Forty. “We had a lot of fun, on and off the ice, when we were together. That’s part of why we had success. We liked being around each other. There’s definitely a lot of fond memories when I look back.

“We had a great response from the Vancouver fans and it was important because it came at a time when there as a bit of a transition for the Canucks. We came together at the right time and the team became much more competitive. It seemed the three of us matured all at the same time. I’ll never forget those years with the Canucks.”

THE END/THE REUNION

In the final game the West Coast Express ever played together was on April 15, 2006, and Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison each scored in a 4-3 OT win over Colorado. Ultimately the Canucks missed the playoffs and Vancouver made a lot of summer changes as Marc Crawford was fired and Bertuzzi was traded to Florida (for some Roberto Luongo guy). The following off-season both Naslund and Morrison departed Vancouver, thus ending the West Coast Express for good good.

When they reunite Monday, the trio will be together for the first time since the 2005-06 season wrapped up. It’ll be a special night at Rogers Arena to say the least, hope you can join in.

BERTUZZI WEIGHS IN

“It was something special playing with those two, and I owe a lot to them,” Bertuzzi said during a press conference in 2010. “Obviously I wouldn’t have been the player I was and gotten those points without those two. It was fun hockey back then, we played a pretty exciting brand; the brand we brought to the city and the style of play we had, it was entertaining for everyone and it led to all the sellouts and all that, people wanted to watch. I think overall in the hockey world, we were one of the most watched teams because of our style. It’s all good memories that I remember.”

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