Friday, May 8, 2009

I Say: Thank You Markus

So this past week an announcement was made that left wing and former Vancouver Canucks Captain Markus Naslund has decided to retire. Most analysts and beat writers agree that Naslund was inevitably going to be bought out by the NY Rangers this summer, as it's clear that his game has continued to diminish and that he surely would not survive the rigorous, 'go go go' system that will be put forth by John Tortorella at the start of training camp next season.

I will not deny that the extra four million dollars in cap space that will get freed up on a team that has just over $32 million invested into five players (who are worth about a combined sixteen million by the way) will be a big help. When General Manager and anti-Christ Glen Sather opens up the phone lines on July 1 trying to find the elite forward this team so sorely lacks, it may be a difference maker.

However, the part that bothers me is that there are a fair amount of fans that didn't feel that Naslund was much of a Ranger in his short stint here and are thrilled to be rid of him. So I'm going to set the record straight for a moment.

I say be grateful for Naslund's time here. Not only was he one of the classiest players in the NHL since he broke into the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1993-1994 season, but he gave this team every ounce that was left in the tank in what would be the final season of his career. He managed to stay healthy while doing it as well.

Rangers followers, allow me to ask this question: How many 30-plus-year-old free agent signees have you been able to say that about?

Look, it's no secret that Naslund hasn't been able to perform at the elite level that he played at prior to the lockout a few years ago, but in no way was he a disappointment. When the announcement was made that he signed with the Rangers it should have been obvious what they had obtained. Most should have figured that he’d be a twenty-to twenty-five goal scorer who could play a bunch of minutes and have a secondary role on the team, while maybe scoring the occasional clutch goal every now and again. And that's exactly what he turned out to be. The only difference was that the organization failed to bring in a first line winger for him to play that secondary role for.

Having played in all 82 games and registering 24 goals while occasionally coming up big in the clutch during the regular season, Naslund should not have been considered a flop- especially after putting up a pretty respectable postseason in which far too many of his teammates just weren’t good enough to get past the Washington Capitals.

Naslund delivered exactly what should have been expected of him by fans as well as the organization. Did he have a few bad games? I won’t deny that. Was he invisible just a little too often at important times of the year? Yes, he was. But should he have had the pressure of a first line winger on him at this stage of his career? No he shouldn’t have.

The bottom line is this: Naslund was a good leader and a stand-up player over his entire career, and continued to be once he became a Ranger. In my books he gets an "A" for effort. He should not be categorized with names like Theo Fleury and Valeri Kamensky. This was a guy who could have been an unsung hero on many of nights much as Marty Straka was during his tenure here while playing the role of Jaromir Jagr's right hand man. Unfortunately, there just wasn't a go to guy on this team for Naslund to be slotted behind on the depth chart and so it played out the way it did.

With that said, I just want to say thank you to Markus Naslund. Not because I thought he was overly impressive in his time here or because he exceeded expectations- just for bringing it the best he could at an advanced age, on a team that was far too under-skilled up front, and for doing it with class
As a result of that effort this die hard fan was proud to have been able to call him a NY Ranger for a year.I wish him luck with life post hockey. He'll be leaving behind a pretty impressive NHL career.

Naslund has always been a family man and it’s probably a safe assumption that he’ll enjoy having more time to spend with his wife Lotta and daughters Rebecca and Isabella. I'm sure they'll be happy to have him around as well. I know I was.

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