<table width=80% align=center border=0><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/henderson_headshot.jpg align=left hspace=4>This may be my last chance, so I’d like to give my own shout out to my beloved skilled guy. <br><br>
I never really understand why people spend so much time insulting Markus Naslund for what he is not, instead of celebrating what he is and has been to this city and this team. Big guys who waste their natural assets and play small annoy me, but I love a guy who has to work like a demon to succeed. Markus is smaller and slighter in person that you would expect – he manages to seem bigger on the ice. He always jokes that he developed his killer wrist shot because his slap shot was so lousy. If he had spent his whole career digging along the boards and planting himself in front of the net, he would have been forced to retire ages ago with a permanent concussion, but to his credit, he tried to play that way the last couple of years because he was asked to. He was willing to abandon the style that was his bread and butter and had made him a star, in an effort to fit in and help the team. And it ain’t easy when you’re a 34 year old dog learning a new trick. <br><br>
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/mar2508_flames07_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>On the night of April 5th, the fans and media focused all their energy heaping love and respect on Trevor Linden, while basically ignoring what may have been the last game of the current captain and holder of many all-time Canuck records, as if he were so much soggy chopped liver. Now, I love Trevor - loved watching him all these years, raged furiously when he was mistreated and traded, then rejoiced at his return. But frankly, the organization will hold a spectacular Trevor Linden night in the not-too-distant future. They will rightly raise his number 16 banner to the rafters to reside forever alongside that of Stan Smyl. It will be a lovely, nostalgic evening of cheers, tears, fond memories and I will be weeping along with everyone else. <br><br>
But my fear is that no such night will ever be held for Markus, that he will leave the city for good this week in a departure slightly reminiscent of that of Pavel Bure. Of course there won’t be the animosity that Pavel’s unpleasant exit engendered. But like Markus, Pavel dazzled the crap out of me, dropped my jaw and made my heart sing. The first time I saw footage of the Russian Rocket I was so amazed, I got out of my chair without even thinking and moved closer to the television. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “My God”, I thought “we have ourselves a superstar”. When I first watched him live, I was even more agog. When he was gone though, there were no tears, tributes and carefully preserved memories. Such a stunning player, the face of the franchise, and he just faded from memory. <br><br>
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/05/may1508_naslund03_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>I hope that doesn’t happen with number 19. In recent weeks there seems to have been a change of heart and the prevailing feeling around town has shifted a little, from dump him to keep him. It’s worth remembering that, for most players, 25 goals and 55 points does not actually add up to a poor year. I hope Markus signs on for another season if the new GM can find him a couple of appropriately skilled and sized linemates, and that we are truly once again treated to that illusive “up-tempo” style of play. I won’t stop following Nazzy, even if he is playing somewhere else. I will continue to hope he gets a chance to win. I hope he’s back but if not, I just want to take the opportunity to say “Thank you so much Markus, for your dedication on and off the ice in Vancouver. It has been a joy and a privilege to watch you play”.<br><br>
I’m cheering for Pittsburgh now, if only to see the crazed grin on the face of my favourite Finnish flake, Jarkko Ruutu, as he raises the Cup over his head. I will always have a fondness for the guy.<br><br>
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2008/05/RickNash_Canada_120x90.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>You have to laugh. In every other endeavour, Canadians would be positively ecstatic to win a silver medal, or to finish in the top three at all. It is only in hockey that we demand gold every time, even as we gaze around the NHL and notice that many of the very best players are not from here. I hope our sad lads go home, especially those who will again don the Team Canada jersey in 2010, and hang their tarnished trophies from the bathroom mirror. That way, they will have to look themselves in the eye each morning, and remember how painfully it stings to come in second on home ice. That might give them extra motivation for the upcoming Olympics. <br><br>
One thing about those darn Russians though, they do love and value their skilled offensive players, even those with only a passing knowledge of the defensive end of the ice.