Monday, January 29, 2007


Markus Naslund: No Longer on Target

by Gőlbez

"Yes, I make $6mil more than YOU do!"

When you think of the today's best players, I'm sure the name Markus Naslund isn't near the top of your list. Sure, he's paid like a superstar, but 15 goals and 23 assists in 50 games is far from superstar production.

It wasn't so long ago that Naslund was one of the very best snipers in the NHL. Goalies wet their jock straps when Naslund curled around on the side boards and snapped off a quick wrister before they could blink.

While Naslund has certainly had a pretty decent month, complete with a 6-game point scoring streak, most fans in this city are wondering "What the hell is wrong with this guy?"

  • He misses Todd Bertuzzi - How much does he miss him? We're not quite sure, but we do know that Grumpy Bear did open up some ice for Markus to operate. Those two were also very 'special' friends, and Markus might just be a tad lonely without his teddy bear around. Naslund just doesn't show much enthusiasm at all. Yes, Markus was never the excitable type, but you can tell he looks like a dog who lost his master.

  • He's not skating - This much is obvious to everyone. Both Naslund and Brendan Morrison have both been guilty of not moving their legs as much as they should. The old Naslund was always flying around the ice. This year's Naslund has him cruising far too often. Is he getting slower in his old age, is he tired, or is he just not trying?

  • He's not shooting - Seeing a patented Markus Naslund laser wrist-shot has been a rarity this season. The speculation seems to be that his shoulder is hurt, and that is why he is passing the puck more and shooting less. Without his most deadly weapon in his arsenal, he's been downgraded to just another decent offensive player.

  • Looking at Naslund's splits from this season, we can see some trends...

    October 13 6 5 11 4 10 3 1 37 2.85
    November 13 6 2 8 0 10 1 1 54 4.15
    December 13 0 8 8 -2 12 0 4 21 1.62
    January 11 3 8 11 1 6 1 5 20 1.82

    The most glaring statistic, besides the awful Power Play numbers, is the proof that Markus Naslund just isn't getting shots on goal. He started off the year OK, getting 3-4 shots per game. In the last two months? Not even two shots per game. For your team's #1 sniper, this isn't nearly good enough.

    In the prior 6 seasons, Markus averaged 3.58 shots per game. This season, he's at 2.64 and dropping with each game. It's obvious that Naslund is doing more playmaking, and less shooting. This might be fine if the Canucks had other goal scorers to play with him, but they don't. Morrison is a playmaker, Jan Bulis is useless, Matt Cooke has hands of stone, and the Sedinbots have their own chemistry together.

    So, is Markus Naslund in a real decline, or can we ever expect him to be a bit more like the old Markus we knew and loved?

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    I do think Bertuzzi has a lot to do with it. Naslund's easy to play man to man because he's not huge and no one on the team (unless we force feed Pyatt some roids) can play with him and buy him as much space as Bert could. That said though, I wouldn't write him off just yet. He's shown he can still be clutch in some games when necessary (like against the Sabres) and he's still a great passer. If Nonis can leverage Kesler's money and move Bulis, maybe he can find someone. Or not, it's silly to have faith like that.
    While his scoring is waaaaaaaay down, he is doing some of the little things right, like blocking shots, checking more and improving that +/-. I guess I am hoping its just a bad shoulder and he`ll get back his laser wrister.
    I saw him block a few shots last night. But really, that doesn't overly-excite me. He is lackluster this season and he's wasting cap space.
    Even when he does shoot the puck, it's either blocked or misses the net. I am getting really tired of watching him cut into the slot and try one of his signature wristers from there. Defencemen know it's coming and stand in the way. Where did the creative Naslund go?
    Nazzy is ineffective and it's time for him to move on.
    I think Bert has a lot to do with his play, there likely just isnt' the same amount of ice for him to take advantage of as there was before. But that's not all.

    He wanted to show his leadership to the team by buying into Vigneaults new approach and style for the team. It's affected his offence. I think he still struggles with how he can balance it all offensively and defensively.

    I disagree with your comment on him not skating though. It was the one thing, especially in the first 3 months that you could count on from him. He was frequently (and still is) the only one backchecking. It takes hustle to do that, which means he's skating hard.

    About the comment from Zanstorm and being tired of Naslund cutting into the slot... first, he's really not doing it a lot this year, which is why his shots are down, second, he doesnt' have as much space with Bert no longer on his line.

    Jes, nice stat on the shots on goal. I enjoyed that.
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