Vancouver Canucks icon Markus Naslund wishes Sedin twins could rise to the rescue of Modo
‘That would be a dream to have them in the lineup,’ says former captain
VANCOUVER — Markus Naslund could really use Henrik Sedin right about now. Daniel, too, for that matter.
But centres are what Naslund desperately needs for his Modo team that is not only winless in its first three games of the Swedish Elite League regular season, but has lost its top two centres to injury.
First team captain Samuel Pahlsson, who finished last season as a Vancouver Canuck, ruptured his Achilles tendon. Then fellow centre Mattias Ritola went down with a broken collarbone.
“We have had a little bit of a rocky start,” Naslund, the former Canuck captain who is now Modo’s general manager, said in a phone interview before his team lost a 7-6 overtime decision Thursday night to Frolunda. “We lost two of our top centremen even before the season started. That was a tough break for us.”
In an ideal world, the Sedins would ride to the rescue during the current NHL lockout and all would be well again in Ornskoldsvik.
“That would be a dream to have them in the lineup,” Naslund said.
But Naslund knows that isn’t going to happen. Not now anyway, for a couple of reasons.
For starters, the Swedish Elite League has taken the rather controversial stand that locked-out NHLers can not play in the league as rental players and must instead sign for the entire season.
The Sedins both think that rule could soon be changed, but the fact remains that Daniel and Henrik aren’t interested in joining Modo until they are convinced the NHL season is lost.
“Yeah, it would be fun to be able to help, but we talked this summer and told Markus we’d have to wait and see,” Henrik said after skating Thursday at UBC. “If it’s going to be a long lockout then we’ll make a decision.”
The Sedins are extremely passionate about Modo, the team they grew up watching as kids and later played for. They’re well aware of the team’s early struggles and injury problems.
“But they are leading today 5-3 so I am happy,” Daniel said Thursday before Frolunda mounted its comeback. “I am following it. They could be my teammates.”
The rule that prevents locked out NHLers from playing in the Elite League has stirred considerable debate in Sweden. Naslund did not want to comment on it directly, but would clearly like the option of at some point adding the Sedin twins to his roster if the NHL lockout is not settled.
“Yeah, for sure, if it ends up being a situation where the league opens things up, I’d be a fool not to accept them,” he said. “Knowing the character of those two, you know you are going to get 100 per cent every game they are playing in. Both at home and on the road, they would be a big draw.”
The Sedins both think the Elite League will change the import rule, if only because first division teams in Sweden are being allowed to sign NHL players to short-term deals. And that could create problems during the end-of-season relegation tournament when the bottom two teams in the Elite League meet the top four in the first division.
“I think they have to,” Daniel said. “The big issue is when the relegation starts to happen and the Division 1 teams have NHL players and the ones coming from the Elite League don’t have NHL players. That is going to be a big thing. I think they have to change it, but we’ll see what happens.”
“I think they are going to change their minds, that’s my personal opinion,” added Henrik. “I think they will come up with a rule allowing two (NHL) players per team, something like that.”
Relegation is not a word Naslund or anyone in Ornskoldsvik, a northern city of about 60,000 residents, likes to hear. Modo has only been relegated once in the nearly 40-year history of the Swedish Elite League and Naslund doesn’t want to be known as the guy who was driving the bus for No. 2.
“With the history and tradition of Modo and only being relegated once in the history of the league there’s definitely a lot of pressure both playing and working here,” Naslund said. “It wouldn’t be fair to compare it to Vancouver, but by Swedish standards it would probably be a similar thing.”
With just two points in its opening three games, Modo sits dead last in the 12-team league. With just 2,200 season-ticket holders and about 7,800 seats to fill, Naslund relies on a big walk-up crowd. Winning helps.
“We had about 7,000 for our season-opener,” he said. “The last few years we have averaged maybe 6,100 or 6,200.”
Naslund seems to have settled in nicely as GM, a job that most certainly was not on his mind when he retired from the NHL in 2009 and returned home to Sweden.
He played 29 games for Modo in 2009-10 and then left the game. But he soon missed it and began helping out on the business side of the operation. Before Naslund knew it, he was GM.
“The more I was away from the game the more I missed being a part of it,” he said. “It was a little bit of an eye-opener after retiring how much you still want to be a part of some kind of a team. It’s not the same as being in the locker-room, but it’s still a little bit of that competition that you are looking for. I am enjoying it.”
And he’ll probably enjoy it even more should Daniel and Henrik Sedin be able to join him later this season.
On Twitter: Twitter.com/bradziemer
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