The Debate – Retiring Naslund’s Jersey


I do not think that Markus Naslund’s jersey should be retired.

Statistically, he is one of the best Canucks ever. I do not and cannot argue that. However, his lack of both playoff success as the team captain and unwillingness to be a truly visible and engaging sports figure in this town leave many to feel that he has not earned the right to have his #19 hanging in the rafters of GM Place. I am a die-hard Canucks fan, but never in his tenure did I get the sense that Naslund bled Canuck blue (or green or yellow/red/orange or …). He did not wear his heart on his sleeve like Linden or Smyl, and in that way, he never did own the hearts of Canucks Nation.

When my team retires a jersey, I want to feel and believe that player embodied what it meant to be a Vancouver Canuck. I never once got that feeling from Markus Naslund. I know that is a sentimental argument, and it’s impossible to argue “feelings”, so I’ll switch to stats and try to argue this from a purely quantitative view.

I start by asking this question: Today, right now, would you retire Luongo’s #1? Most, if not all, Canucks fans would quickly say “No!”, and I would agree wholeheartedly with that. But the fact is that, if you compare their stats, Roberto Luongo has already done as much at his position for the Vancouver Canucks, as Naslund did at his position.

Don’t agree? Let me show you.

  • Naslund holds two of the three main scoring records for the Canucks and is tied for third on the other.
  • He leads the all-time list for points and goals, and is third in assists.
  • Roberto Luongo holds two of the three main goaltending records and is third on the other.
  • Luongo is first all-time in GAA, tied for first in all-time shutouts, and is third in wins.

Naslund tops the records for LW in a single season. However, he does not own ONE out-right single-season record for forwards. Luongo holds six of the seven single-season goaltending records.

Now, let’s talk playoffs.

Roberto Luongo and Markus Naslund have won exactly the same number of playoff rounds as members of the Vancouver Canucks. Both have one a grand total of two rounds in the playoffs as Canucks. The difference here is that Luongo did that in only three seasons in Vancouver, while Naslund was here for twelve.

Naslund’s individual playoff stats are quite poor compared to his regular season projections. In 52 GP as a Canuck, Naslund has 14G 22A for 36Pts and is -7. Luongo also hasn’t yet hit his peak in the playoffs, although his individual stats are better than Naslund’s. In 22 GP, Luongo has 11W 11L with 51 GA, 1 SO, 2.09 GAA and .930 SV%.

It is tough to argue that the stats and accomplishments between Luongo and Naslund don’t mirror each other. I wouldn’t hang Luongo’s jersey today and I wouldn’t hang Naslund’s either.

Why not?

I put together a list of criteria that I would use, if I was in charge of deciding who’s jersey is retired.

  1. Played 80% or more of his playing career with the Canucks. I want to see players that are life-long Canucks. I understand that trades happen and people move around, which is why I didn’t put this at 100%.
  2. Played 800 games or more as a Canuck, or 450 as a goaltender. I want to see longevity from my Canuck players.
  3. Played more than half of his Canuck games as a Captain. I believe that only a select few should be retired, and that should be reserved for your team leaders. We now have a grey area for goalies since they aren’t allowed to act as captains on-ice, but Luongo is captain, etc etc. TO make it fair, goalies are exempt from this criterion.
  4. Finish your career as a Canuck. I want to see a player take his final bow wearing a Canuck jersey.
  5. Statistical leader with the team at the time of his retirement in more than one category. I want my players to be leaders on the scoresheet and in the dressing room. I want only the best of the best Canucks to have their number hanging.
  6. A product of growth through the organization (ie. draft). I don’t want players flown in. I want my honoured players to grow up through the organization. Admittedly this would be last on my list for qualification, since players can join a team quite early in their careers without being drafted by that team and still have a lengthy career.
  7. At least one Stanley Cup Final appearance. Given that this is the Canucks, and there are no Cups yet, I need to set the bar somewhere. I think an appearance in the Final is an appropriate level. If the Canucks had won a Cup, I would make that the mandate.

I did not pick these criteria simply to ensure that they suited Linden’s and Smyl’s qualification. In fact, I developed the list, then I went back and checked to ensure that they both would have qualified, which they both did.

Quantitatively, Naslund does not make the grade under these seven rules. He only managed 4 out of 7. And Luongo obviously isn’t even close yet, and never will be.

I’m hoping that Cody Hodgson or maybe even Cory Schneider will cause us to have this argument in 10 years. Wouldn’t that be great for the Canucks?

Go Canucks!

-Cam Davie

  • lj

    But isn't the point of retiring a jersey the very reason you state at the beginning of your article "he is one of the best Canucks ever."

    It's hard to measure spirit, but he did good things for the team. just no playoffs, but the same could be said for many other canucks.

  • lj

    @ Argle Bargle:

    Statistically, he was one of the best Canucks ever.

    But my point was that you cannot use statistics alone as a measurement for retiring a jersey.
    If that was true, then you could argue Luongo's #1 jersey right now.

  • lj

    I got lost here whilst leaving FlamesNation.

    Before you Canuck fans start retiring Naslund's number there is the small matter of Pavel Bure.

    If anyone gets retired its #10