Love him or hate him, Brian Burke has done plenty of good for the Vancouver Canucks.
The former NHL GM is currently an analyst for Sportsnet and told an interesting story about Markus Naslund in his first year as GM of the Canucks.
Burke became Vancouver’s GM in 1998 and made several key moves that aided the franchise, including the drafting of the Sedin twins. Burke watched the Swedish twins at the World Juniors in Winnipeg ahead of the 1999 NHL Draft and was impressed. Through a series of trades with the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Atlanta Thrashers, Burke drafted both Sedin twins at second and third overall that year in Boston.
Burke joined Sportsnet 650 the Fan this week to detail an additional move he made that significantly helped the franchise.
Brian Burke prevented Markus Naslund from asking for a trade out of Vancouver.
The situation occurred when Mike Keenan was head coach of the team. Keenan began serving as Vancouver’s bench boss in 1997 but only lasted 14 months before he was replaced by Marc Crawford at the All-Star Break in 1999.
Naslund had scored 22 goals in his first full season in Vancouver, but struggled to produce the following year. Naslund finished with just 14 goals in a struggling 1997-98 season for Vancouver. He did rebound with 36 goals the following year, but the Canucks continued to struggle, finishing last in the Western Conference with 58 points.
Burke details how Naslund was going to ask for a trade out of Vancouver that season and how he stopped him from even getting to that point.
“I had a tough situation with Markus Naslund. Once a player asks for a trade, in my mind, once he says he doesn’t wanna put on the uniform anymore, I get rid of him. But I did have Markus Naslund come in my office. He was gonna ask for a trade. I said ‘Don’t say it. Do not say what you’re about to say. Because you’re about to ask for a trade and then I will trade you. What I’d like you to do is shut your mouth and lets’ talk about this.’ And that’s what we did.”
Burke further explained how he handled the situation and got Naslund back on track.
“Mike Keenan was the coach and he was there until the All-Star break. He didn’t like Markus, Markus didn’t like him. Markus was playing very poorly and I said to Markus, ‘Look, this coach is gonna be gone long before you are.’ But I said ‘You’re stealing money right now. You’re not working hard enough, you’re not scoring goals, you’re not making anything happen – you’re just stealing money, so you’re just as guilty as the coaches, so don’t ask me for a trade. You gotta put your game together here.’ And he did. Straightened everything out and turned into a great player.”
Quite an interesting tidbit from the former GM, who spent six years as GM of the Canucks. Naslund became a 40-goal-scorer just two years later and concluded his NHL career with six 30-plus goal seasons in Vancouver.
Burke certainly made some mistakes during his reign in Vancouver, but it’s hard not to appreciate what he did to prevent the club from trading away one of their all-time greats early in his career.