THE VANCOUVER SUN
Naslund comes full circle: Canucks star hits milestone
Iain MacIntyre said Markus Naslund should enter his 1,000 NHL game with pride.
“Markus Naslund's career is speeding past. Tonight, against the Detroit Red Wings, the Vancouver Canuck captain plays his 1,000th National Hockey League game,” said MacIntyre.
“Is it really 12 years since Pat Quinn made the greatest trade in Canuck history BL -- before Luongo -- by sending career two-goal scorer Alek Stojanov to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Naslund?”
"It amazes me how quickly the seasons fly by and how quickly you can forget the things that happened along the way," Naslund said Wednesday. "Playing 1,000 games, you've got to have luck."
“The K-note of games is about 850 more than Naslund expected to play after he arrived in Pittsburgh from Sweden in 1993 as a 20-year-old and felt in over his head at the NHL level,” said MacIntyre.
"I kind of felt: 'Okay, I'll just play my first contract out, then head back," Naslund recalled. "But I remember Ulf Samuelsson -- or maybe it was Ulf Dahlen -- saying 'No, you're going to be playing here a long time.' It sounded weird.
"I've gone places I'd have never gone, met people I'd have never met."
"It's neat to see what a little hobby, playing hockey, could lead to."
“The twilight of Naslund's career is much like the dawn of it, marked by flashes of brilliance and self-doubt and uncertainty about the future,” said MacIntyre.
“It's like this with many players, but the orbit of Naslund's career path is broader and more quickly traveled than most.”
“Only three seasons ago, when he was 30, Naslund was voted the best left-winger in hockey for the third straight year,” said MacIntyre.
“In 2002-03, the season his peers voted him the NHL's best player, Naslund scored 48 times.”
"I've done a lot of thinking, obviously, because I've had a difficult time getting back to the game I was successful with," he said. "I'm trying to find the answers what to do when you are going through these stretches. Everything came natural before. You knew who you were playing with, knew what was expected from you.”
"There has always been a lot of expectations on me. I know it comes with the territory and the contract and having success in the past. Right now, I'm just trying to do what I can to be part of a team that's going to have a chance to win. I know I haven't put up the numbers I wanted to, but it hasn't been a lack of trying."
"I haven't thought about playing somewhere else. You should never say never, but to me, Vancouver is my team.”
Naslund will celebrate his 1,000 game as the all-time leading scorer in the Vancouver Canuck organization with 737 point in 848 games.
Everybody loves Raymond again: Need for speed, so it's goodbye energy line
Jason Botchford said recalling Mason Raymond
injects speed, energy and skill into the Vancouver line-up.
“For once, offence won out when the Canucks sent Mike Brown and Rick Rypien -- two-thirds of the "energy line" -- back to Manitoba on Wednesday. Mason Raymond
was recalled,” said Botchford.
“He got the call from the Canucks at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and made it to Detroit by 3 p.m. He played three games with the Moose.”
"I was hoping I'd get the call back quickly but I didn't know when it would be," he said. "This is all new for me, going back and forth all the time. But I'm ... having a blast. I just want to spend more time [with the Canucks]."
“Why he hasn't already done so remains somewhat of a mystery. His presence gives Vancouver speed and, alongside Markus Naslund, a second scoring line. He hasn't been the strongest player in the corners, but Raymond hasn't been a defensive liability,” said Botchford.”
“Some contend he's not ready for an everyday role. Comparison to Sam Gagner suggests otherwise. It wasn't a surprise to see the Oilers' hype-smothered forward make the Western Conference's YoungStars' team. He has 16 points in 44 games, and is a minus-12 while averaging 14:03 a game in ice time. Raymond has 10 points in 23 games, 11:31 of average ice time, a plus-5 rating and a mention on CBS's How I Met Your Mother.”
“Canucks assistant Rick Bowness suggested "rookie mistakes" are part of the reason Raymond hasn't found a permanent home,” said Botchford.
"We want him to play as much as he can," Bowness said. "If that means a week here, then a week there, that's what we'll do. We love his speed, obviously, and he's put some points on the board. But there are times he's made some rookie mistakes. We don't blow too many teams out of the water offensively. Every game is a tight game. That's the way we play. It's tough to put kids in those tight situations game after game."
“Indication is Raymond will play on a line with Taylor Pyatt or most likely Naslund. He'll join the No. 2 power play unit to start today,” said Botchford.
Wings are a test with a capital 'T': Out-of-sorts Canucks are Detroit target
Jason Botchford said Thursday night’s game against the Wings will test the resiliency of Vancouver.
“The Canucks have a reputation in Vancouver as a team that rises to the challenge, a team that conquers when faced with adversity,” said Botchford.
“Based on several examples this season, it's been earned. But they haven't faced many challenges like this.”
“Limping and looking a little lost so far in 2008, the Canucks will walk into a wounded beast's den today when they play the Red Wings, a buzz saw of a team that has made a living this season out of exploiting their opponents' smallest weaknesses,” said Botchford.
“The Wings will be an ornery bunch, to be sure, having not won a game in their past three.”
"We haven't been sharp and that makes this game a really, really big one for us," said Canucks defenceman Sami Salo
"Those guys find your problems. This team will pick you apart if you make mistakes, if you miss assignments. They break you down if you're having any problems, especially when you're having problems in your own zone. We have to figure out things and we have to figure things fast."
"Everyone knows we haven't been playing our best hockey for a couple of weeks now," Salo said. "It's been since the New Year. We beat the Rangers, for example, but weren't playing well,” said Salo.
"How many games have we been sharp since then? Maybe the Islanders game we were really strong in the beginning. But other than that, it's been 40-minute efforts, maybe 45.”
"Against the Wings you can't expect to win with anything other than a 60-minute effort. That team plays hard all game. If you're not sharp every shift you don't have a chance to win," said Salo.
“If the Canucks can fix just a couple of problem areas they could get back on a winning track,” said Botchford.
With Luongo, Canucks' time is now: Add up all the variables and the best chance to win is with this team
Ed Willes said Vancouver’s chance for a Stanley Cup lies within the next two years.
“With Luongo, there is a belief that, if management surrounds the goalie with the right personnel, a Stanley Cup is possible,” said Willes.
“There is, in fact, the overwhelming belief that the current edition of the Canucks has a window of opportunity which is open only as long as Luongo is wearing the whale-thingy on his chest.”
“The next question is how long does GM Dave Nonis have before that window closes shut, and that's where things get very interesting for all concerned,” said Willes. Consider the following:
“The Sedin twins have one more year left on deals which pay them $3.575 million US per, a figure which makes them woefully underpaid for front-line NHLers. As things transpire, they are both unrestricted at the end of those contracts and it will cost the Canucks, minimally, another two million each to extend them for any length of time.”
“Mattias Ohlund has one more year left at $3.5 million before he heads into unrestricted free agency.”
represents a huge bargain at $1.75 million for two more seasons. It's doubtful whether he'll ever score enough to command the big dollars but you just have to look around the NHL to see where the market has gone for Group II's in both compensation and term.”
“Taylor Pyatt is another great buy at $1.575 mil through next season before he becomes unrestricted.”
“And, finally, Luongo has two more years left at $6.75 million, a reasonable number for a player of his ilk. But he won't come as cheaply -- if that's the right term -- in the next deal and the prospect of what he might fetch in the open market is more than a little scary.”
“That gives the Canucks this season and, maybe, next with this team and if that seems harsh, that's also the reality of the new NHL,” said Willes.
“Now, admittedly, some of the cap pressure will be alleviated by the expiration of contracts to Markus Naslund ($6 million) and Brendan Morrison ($3.2 million) at the end of this season.”
“But if Nonis is going to sign the Sedins and Ohlund this offseason -- to say nothing of trying to lock up Kesler -- that $9.2 million isn't going to last very long and he's already spent some of it extending Kevin Bieksa
“The Canucks will also have to replace Naslund and/or Morrison on the ice and it figures whoever they bring in won't be playing for free,” said Willes.
“There's also Luongo to consider, whose next deal will be massive for the organization's future.”
“It would help, of course, if some of the Canucks' youngsters were ready to take on an expanded role with the big club,” said Willes.
“But, beyond Alex Edler, there are significant question marks there. Mason Raymond
is the most NHL-ready of the forwards but he's yet to prove he can produce over the 82-game NHL grind.”
“Add it all up and it's clear the Canucks' best chance is to win with this team.”
“It's almost impossible, in fact, to envision this set of circumstances recurring while Luongo is here. Virtually every player is at or near his peak. Half a dozen of them are underpaid by NHL standards. And there is even room to grab an impact player at the trade deadline,” said Willes.
“No, for the Canucks, the future is now because, when you take a close look, that window is just open a crack.”