Thursday, April 06, 2006

Markus The Man

Only hours after Ed Willes and Elliot Pap questioned his leadership, Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund, in an honesty that has been typical of his tenure in Vancouver, faced the media and accepted responsibility for the team's struggles:
"When a team is not performing as well as everyone hoped, you have to look at all the ingredients," Naslund said softly. "Being the captain, I have a big responsibility. It hasn't been a year I was hoping for and I think I speak for Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi, too.

"It's frustrating. We just haven't been able to click. I haven't done anything different this year and we're all trying to get things going but, so far, we haven't had much success."

"All you can do is give your best effort," said the Swede. "I mean, it's a team game. I obviously want to help out as much as I can and do my share, but the bottom line is we have to play well as a team. I think it's fair for everyone to have questions. I also think a lot of times you hear comments where you know people don't have a clue what's going on inside this locker-room, so that can sometimes be frustrating."

"I think we have a lot of character in this room," he stated. "It seems like everyone has given up on us, but the team hasn't given up and that's the most important thing. I don't think it's a lack of effort. I don't find that guys aren't working hard enough. Obviously the timing is off and we have a lot of guys squeezing their sticks, but all we can ask for is the effort."
What we're asking for are wins.


I think it's important in this case to differentiate how I feel about Markus' performance and Markus the man. Markus' struggles this season aren't a secret and no one is happy about. It's obvious that Markus isn't happy about it himself. But for him to face the media after they ripped him apart says a lot about his character.


To be fair, the Vancouver Province also charted out the "Captain's Log" (subscription req'd.) next to the Willes article. Now, just before you jump off the bandwagon, know that Markus and the Canucks have been in this position before and came out of them with some success. Here is a summary:
Broken Leg, broken team

In 2000-01, a season not unlike this one, the Canucks were near the top of the Western Conference until a second-half team downward spiral. The team lost four straight January games by a 16-6 margin.

Naslund responded by scoring four points in the next two games - both Canucks wins. But the ship was not righted. The Canucks won just two games in March and three of their final 19. Naslund was forced to miss 10 of those games after his season was ended when he suffered a broken leg against Buffalo on March 16.

New baby sparks revival

The 2001-02 Canucks hit the skids in February. Vancouver managed just one win in eight games from Feb. 9 to March 10. At that point, Naslund left the team to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple's third child. When he came back he was on fire. He scored 13 goals in the final 15 games. The Canucks went 8-1-1 to end the season and just barely made their way into the playoffs.

The 'choke' season

The end of 2002-03 season will be forever remembered as "The Choke". That's the term Naslund used when he addressed the public after the Canucks lost 2-0 to the Kings to end the season. The Canucks then opened the playoffs with a 6-0 loss against the Blues. When just about everyone had given up on the team, Naslund played a big role in turning things around. In the final three games, he had three goals and two assists to help lead Vancouver to an improbable come-from-behind playoff series win.

Rebounding for the title

There have been fewer lower points for the Canucks than March 8, 2004. The Canucks won just once in the seven games following the infamous Todd Bertuzzi hit.

But on March 24, Marc Crawford lined Matt Cooke with Naslund and Brendan Morrison. In all, the trio combined for eight goals and 19 points in the final six games, all wins. Naslund was able to break out of a 14-game goal-scoring slump to get three goals in the final four, all wins, which helped the Canucks win their first division in a decade.
Understandably, different factors are in play this season. But different factors were also in play in each of those situations. And in each of those situations, the Canucks made the post-season dance. You just gotta believe that they will this season as well.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 7:39 AM


At April 07, 2006 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a Canucks fan right now is so frustrating...we all know the guys have the stuff to win. And we all know they aren't winning.

daily (for comedic relief) read:

At April 09, 2006 6:37 PM, Blogger hoopsjunky said...

That's hilarious! Thanks for the pointer, Laurie.


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