Not as a player, although this year’s offensively-challenged team could probably use him.
The last time Steven Stamkos was in town with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the superstar forward was overshadowed by Markus Naslund, who saw his number retired by the Canucks in a ceremony before the Lightning’s 5-4 shootout victory.
With the Canucks visiting Stamkos’s Lightning on Monday, the people of Vancouver once again have Markus Naslund on the brain, as rumours swirl that Naslund could be joining the Canucks’ front-office.
Emphasis on could. Regardless of whether Naslund has had any contact with the Canucks or not, this rumour is based mostly on the fact that Naslund doesn’t currently have anything else going on. Naslund recently stepped down as GM of MODO in the Swedish league, a position he’d held since December of 2012.
That, and Mike Gillis’s innocuous radio comment that Naslund would be welcome back in Vancouver, which makes sense, since he’s a former Gillis client and he’s beloved here, was more than enough for fans needed to start speculating that, perhaps, Naslund was leaving Modo to return to Canada and take a job with the Canucks.
If that seems thin, remind yourself that there’s not much else to get excited about this season in Vancouver.
For what it’s worth, Naslund shot the rumours down, saying there was nothing to them. “This has nothing to do with anything in North America,” he said of stepping down from MODO. “This is a decision made here a little over a month ago, that I was not going to sign another deal. I’m ready to do something different.”
But that doesn’t exactly extinguish the fires, especially since working for the Canucks would be something different, and the fact that he “wouldn’t rule out” a return to North America, according to Elliotte Friedman, was enough for there to be even more hope. Naslund stressed “this is nothing I am pushing for”, but he also mentioned “other opportunities” he was considering, which a Naslund believer might read as a bargaining tactic.
In any case, one gets the sense that Naslund is somewhat open to the idea, and if the Canucks are smart, so are they. The fans have lost confidence in everyone from the coach to the GM to the owner this season. The team needs to make some kind of change to the front office, even if it’s cosmetic, and it’s tough to be against a procedure that transforms Mike Gillis into the agelessly handsome Markus Naslund. Really, the only superior option I can think of is convincing Trevor Linden to descend from the mountain, bathed in light like Moses. But he seems happy repping glasses and gyms.
What’s more, the Canucks could do this without really removing anyone from a position of power. As Friedman suggested in Monday’s 30 Thoughts, installing Naslund as a figurehead now and allowing him to grow into the role with the current braintrust around him is an option. From CBC:
If Canucks GM Mike Gillis wants Naslund and Naslund wants to commit full-time, here’s a way to do it: Naslund becomes GM and the face of the franchise; Gillis and his braintrust (Laurence Gilman, Lorne Henning, Stan Smyl) teach him how to do the job; Naslund’s role evolves as he gains experience. It could work.
Considering this would likely satiate the fans’ need for change in the front-office without rolling any heads, it’s worth considering.
Mike Gillis would presumably drop the “GM” portion of his dual title, “GM and President of Hockey Operations”, and Naslund would step in under his and Laurence Gilman’s direction, in much the same way Craig MacTavish took over in Edmonton. He’s not operating free of accountability, but it becomes his team, with a strong collection of hockey minds behind him.
We’re seeing management structures like this more and more in hockey, and with the uncertainty in Vancouver’s front-office, this strikes me as a good time for the Canucks to try it on for themselves.