Life

Trade Naslund

And other tough prescriptions for the finished Canucks.

By Steve Burgess, 14 Apr 2006, TheTyee.ca

naslund

Well, they've stolen another year of our lives. But thanks to the Canucks spectacular regular season fold, at least we got out of Hell early this year. We have a lovely, hockey-less spring to look forward to. Go Oilers.

Now begins the true season of the Canucks fan-tinkering season. What manner of surgery should be performed on this frustrating outfit? With scalpel, fire axe, or chain saw?

I vote for the guillotine. Lop off the head, nice and neat. Trade Markus Naslund, now.

It's a standard feature of sports call-in shows that some genius will suggest some variation of the following trades: Kevin Bieksa and a bag of wet socks for Sidney Crosby, or Dan Cloutier and a box of spare knee cartilage for Roberto Luongo, etc. Trade Bertuzzi for some superstar. Trade uniforms with Detroit. It's simple.

Thing is, you have to give to get. And the Canucks need to get, desperately. A Bertuzzi trade has always been a dubious proposition; damaged action figure that he is. Now the trade issue is no longer relevant to Bertuzzi. Number 44 is gone if they can possibly get rid of him, simply to free up the crushing burden of his salary and clear the locker room air of his choking perfume.

What about Crawford?

Getting rid of Coach Marc Crawford is a defensible option. After a debacle like this, anything is defensible. But if Bertuzzi is unloaded, Crawford will likely stay. One of the opposing camps must carry the blame, and if Bertuzzi is at fault, then Crawford gets a pass.

The Canucks' defence was decimated by injuries, but they deserve to be kept together, possibly augmented. With Ed Jovanoski up for renewal, that will take money. Keeping the Sedin-Sedin-Carter line, Vancouver's best, will take more big bucks.

Getting rid of Bertuzzi won't be enough. A wholesale makeover is needed. When it comes to Canucks assets, none has more value than Markus Naslund.

Markus Naslund has been a great player and a great citizen, a stand-up guy who never dodges responsibility. He is also the acknowledged leader of the Vancouver Canucks, possibly the most dysfunctional group since Oasis. Trade him and you accomplish two important things-you open the possibility of real returns and you drastically change the culture of a failed team.

We punters cannot truly know what happens inside that toxic locker room. But if Markus Naslund is the team leader, he's got to be part of the problem. Certainly his stretch-drive slump does not speak well for his leadership (and may affect his trade value). Perhaps he lacks the natural fire and charisma of a Joe Sakic or Joe Thornton. Watching Thornton single-handedly destroy the Canucks' playoff hopes was almost awe-inspiring. We're not likely to get a guy like that via the trade route. But at least we can start fresh.

Super swap?

A guy like Trevor Linden ought to be providing heart to this team. But he is past the point where he can really lead the team on the ice. That role must fall to the team's superstars, Naslund and Bertuzzi. So-how's that working out for us?

With their massive salaries, Naslund and Bertuzzi would be difficult to trade as a package. Not many teams could swallow that financial lump, even if they wanted to. But it's at least an intriguing possibility, considering their friendship. Perhaps the Canucks could take some major contracts in return, in some sort of troubled-superstar swap.

More likely is a Bertuzzi fire sale, followed by other moves. Here's a vote to call the movers for the team captain. He's done a lot for the Canucks and fans will remember him fondly. Naslund's talent will be tough to replace. But things have to change. And when you review the 2005-2006 season, you have to agree that it can't get much worse.

Steve Burgess is the The Tyee's at large culture critic and sports opinionator.  [Tyee]

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