VANCOUVER – Markus Naslund’s day began Wednesday like so many others.
He turned on his computer to check the previous night’s NHL summaries, starting of course, with the Vancouver Canucks.
“That’s nothing unusual,” Naslund said in a phone interview from his home in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. “I have followed the Canucks every morning, basically, since I came back here. I like to keep up with what is going on and how things are going for people that you know.”
People like Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
Naslund was pleased to see the Canucks won Tuesday night’s game, but a tad disappointed that Henrik was held off the scoresheet and remains two points shy of surpassing Naslund’s franchise mark of 756 points. When he left Vancouver after the 2007-08 season, Naslund knew it was only a matter of time until both of the twins passed him. The only question was which was one was going to be first. Time lost to injury has left Daniel needing 29 points to pass Naslund.
“It’s nothing that you really think about too much after you have left that scene,” Naslund said of his franchise scoring mark. “I’m very impressed with the years that both Daniel and Henrik have had recently. They have really established themselves as world-class players and have been able to do it game-in and game-out.”
He’s even more impressed with the Sedins as people.
“In general, most hockey players are good people,” Naslund said. “But then there’s another level and that’s where I put these guys.”
PLAYOFF RACE: Naslund’s real focus these days is on Modo, the Swedish Elite League team that he manages. Modo currently sits sixth in the 14-team SEL and has already locked up one of eight playoff spots.
Modo is five points out of fourth place, which would give it home-ice advantage in the first round. Eight regular-season games remain before the playoffs begin on March 12.
“We are progressing and taking steps here,” Naslund said. “We have a junior program where we are No. 1 in Sweden in both the (under) 18 and (under) 20 standings and that’s huge because we need to produce our own senior players. “We have quite a few prospects coming through our system now which hasn’t been the case for a few years. There are a lot of good things that are happening. But it is a battle, too, because it is tough to do everything with a fairly small budget and in a small market.”
FIN-TASTIC: Naslund was pleased to hear about Wednesday’s appointment of Finnish native Jarmo Kekalainen as the new general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Kekalainen becomes the first European GM of a NHL team.
“It’s a global game and if you are a good hockey mind and prepared to put in the work that it takes I think nationality shouldn’t stop you from becoming a general manager in the NHL,” Naslund said. “I think it’s good for the sport. It opens up another door.”
QUARTER-POLE: And just like that, the Vancouver Canucks’ regular season is one-quarter over.
Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild improved Vancouver’s record to 8-2-2 and that matches Vancouver’s best start through 12 games in franchise history. The Canucks also started the season 8-2-2 in 2003-04 and 2005-06.
“I think defensively we have been really good, our goaltending has been outstanding and we are getting contributions from a lot of different guys,” general manger Mike Gillis said in an appearance Wednesday on Team 1040. “I think some guys are starting to find their games and get back to a level that we expect. We are moving in the right direction and hopefully we’ll get some injured guys back shortly and see what we really have.”
Heading into Wednesday night’s schedule, the Canucks were tied for third in goals-against, giving up just 1.92 per game. The Canucks, who had the day off Wednesday, were 11th in goals for, averaging 2.75 per game.