Bertuzzi incident shook up Naslund

 

Markus Naslund has rented a house in Greenwich, Conn. His family is somewhat settled and his young son is registered for hockey.

 
 
 
 
 

Markus Naslund has rented a house in Greenwich, Conn. His family is somewhat settled and his young son is registered for hockey.

Naslund is ready for what he hopes will be the more wide-open Eastern Conference, playing on a line with either Scott Gomez or Chris Drury with the New York Rangers.

It's quite a change from his many years in Vancouver as captain of the Canucks.

Naslund seems heartened by the move -- although not overly happy when asked to recall some of his time in Vancouver, a time that was really outstanding, but coloured by the poor 2007-08 season as the team finished out of the National Hockey League playoffs.

As he looked back Thursday, Naslund admitted he wasn't overly happy in Vancouver last season and that the Todd Bertuzzi incident weighed heavily on him, given he and his former linemate are close and it was he who was, in a small way, part of the reason the whole thing took place.

After all, it was Naslund who was originally nailed by Steve Moore in Denver, which started the chain reaction of events in 2004.

But first he talked about his time with the team when everyone swarmed his stall after every Canucks home game.

"Everyone coming to you after the game was part of being captain of a Canadian team, and I didn't mind it that much, but I don't miss it now," said Naslund with an understated laugh. "There were times it wasn't fun and it was tough, of course, because I didn't have the answers. But that was part of the job and I accepted it and it didn't really bother me.

"Maybe I didn't have as much fun playing last year as I used to and that was always the reason I played and the reason I play now. There were a number of reasons for that. Personally, I wasn't playing as well as I should have been and had in the past and that bothered me and the style we played wasn't something I enjoyed particularly."

"Here it tends to be a little more open, where you have centres who are looking for you, and everyone is looking to get the other guy the puck," he said. "I've always enjoyed a style where you're getting the scoring opportunities and that seems to be happening more here playing with Scott or Chris. I've been getting scoring chances, but I seem to be a little rusty and I'm just not putting them away yet. I never really knew what kind of team they had here, but we've got great goaltending, a pretty solid D and three good offensive centres. There are lots of NHL-caliber forwards who aren't going to make the team. There's a lot of depth here. It should be fun."

Many insiders within the Canucks organization felt the club's all-time leading scorer was never quite the same after the Bertuzzi-Moore incident because he was the fellow his good friend was sticking up for when the tragic event happened. The stats both support and dispute that premise. While he had a solid playoff the year it happened, with nine points in seven games -- and the points only slipped slightly the year after the lockout -- they began a significant tail-off in 2006-07 after Bertuzzi changed cities.

Now, Naslund admits there may be some truth in the theory, in that the tragic incident has never left him.

"It still bothers me what Todd has had to go through over this and the way it's dragged on and on over the years," said Naslund. "I still keep in close contact with him and it's been tough on him. It's taken its toll. There's no question he was standing up for me and for his teammates when it happened and it all went too far. All of the circumstances around it went the wrong way and got out of hand. It's been a long road and he's been through a lot. I feel bad for him and the way it's worked out for everyone involved."

Time will tell whether the change of scenery will work out for Naslund, although the situation is being complicated by having to start the season in Europe. The Rangers are the first NHL team in 17 years to play a Russian team when they take on Metallurg Magnitogorsk next Wednesday in Bern, Switzerland.

"Right now I feel good physically and I'm excited about coming here," says Naslund. "I'm about 20 minutes from the practice rink and it takes me about 45 minutes to get into town (for games at Madison Square Garden), so it seems to be working fine. It's an exciting place and, as I said, they have a solid team here and it should be fun."

 
 
 
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