Could Markus Naslund return to the Canucks?

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.

12 comments

  1. akidd
    March 17, 2014

    i’m a big naslund fan. great shot and a very nice, smart guy who knows about hockey. it would be great to have him back with the canucks but…gm? even just in title, not sure how that translates. aren’t there homely guys out there with poor shots who might possess other skills that would make them better suited for the job? guys whose names we don’t know? really, really smart guys who are excellent managers? out there? aren’t they?

    it’s a pretty sophisticated market(kinda.) not sure if cosmetics are what is called for. substance otoh….

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    • Adam Nowek
      March 18, 2014

      Why couldn’t he? Naslund has already served as a General Manager of a professional hockey club before.

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      Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  2. Liam
    March 17, 2014

    Could we pull a Colorado and institute Naslund as GM and Linden as Head Coach?

    One can dream…

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    • ikillchicken
      March 17, 2014

      If we’re dreaming, can we also hire Bertuzzi to “take care of” the current management?

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  3. Mb13
    March 17, 2014

    Didn’t Naslund move back to Sweden so his kids can be raised there? Didn’t he consider retiring from the NHL during the first lockout so he could get back to Sweden in time for his kids to be schooled there? Now 3 years later (his kids still in school), he’s going to move back to Vancouver to GM the team?

    Must be a slow day at the office that people are even talking about this for more than a 1/2 second.

    Or am I missing something?

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  4. Robby
    March 17, 2014

    I think the question whether or not this would be a good idea starts and ends with your premise that Naslund would have “a strong collection of hockey minds behind him.”

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    • CoolerHeads
      March 18, 2014

      Maybe his kids miss their friends in Van? I think Naslund being the face of the franchise would be a step in the right direction. Gillis does not do well under the spot light…literally, he sweats bullets like it is going out of style.

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  5. BBoone
    March 18, 2014

    Naslund would not have traded for either Ballard , Booth, Roy , Paulsen and I would imagine
    he wouldn’t have dreamed of hiring Larforgorella and ,if forced to by the owner ,he would have had the integrity to resign. The idea of him as GM with Gillis behind the scenes doing president of team stuff is a good one in my opinion.

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  6. Chrìs
    March 18, 2014

    I would rather see sweeping changes in the Canucks front office, maybe a seasoned pro like pat Quinn could be brought into the front office in the same capacity that Scotty bowman has in Chicago. It would help legitimize the new staff in the Vancouver market and give credibly to their changes. Great owners make great organizations, hopefully aquilini gets this right

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  7. Ratatat
    March 18, 2014

    Of course Gillis likes this – it takes the spotlight off him and puts it onto a red hearing issue. Canucks’ fans are like cats bedazzled by sparkling christmas ornaments – “look ! it’s shiny – what’s that? !!!”. Duh.
    Fire the inept – that’s the issue. This is not.

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    • BBoone
      March 18, 2014

      Well of course they have to fire “Torts” but Gillis has done a lot of good things that are part of managing an NHL franchise. What he is not so good at it seems to me is a) being a good trader
      and b) keeping a perspective about his players. Exactly what another good NHL mind with some power in the Canuck front office would provide.

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  8. PD
    March 20, 2014

    Harrison I have another, more specific, sandwich for you.

    You called Mike Gillis ugly on the sly and that is awesome.
    This sentence is missing a toe: “Regardless of whether Naslund has had any contact with the Canucks or not, this rumour is based mostly on the fact that Naslund currently have anything else going on.”
    PITB continues to shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.

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