Can Nazzy step it up?

BARRY MACDONALD -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Markus Naslund knows what goes with the territory.

He is a six-million-dollar man, playing in a Canadian market, with a "C" on his chest. He could have scored 60 goals a year since Pat Quinn fleeced the Penguins all those years ago, and it still wouldn't have been enough. Naslund, like other Canucks both past and present, has been saddled with the weight of expectations, and it has been both a blessing and a burden.

Trevor Linden might be the most popular Canuck ever, but the knock on Trevor has been that he didn't fight, or take his physical game to the nasty level.

Pavel Bure? Off the charts on the excitement meter, but mercurial, moody and ultimately a malcontent.

Dale Tallon? The club's first ever draft pick? He was supposed to be the next Bobby Orr, and when he turned out to be a mere mortal, he was never forgiven.

Naslund has never been fully embraced as the right captain for this city. If you are interested in soliciting opinion on a sports talk show one morning, fire up a poll question that combines the elements Naslund and leadership, and you will have standing room only at the Phone Board Inn. The tiresome, yet consistent knock on Naslund is that he is not a leader, never will be a leader, doesn't know how to be a leader.

I am of the mind that the days of the captain who threatens to take his stick and pierce the manhood of any player for any perceived slight to the team have come and gone. Any player who doesn't or won't or can't motivate himself in this era, has a "best before" date of a week ago.

If you are a professional athlete with a seven-figure, two-comma contract, you shouldn't need a captain reminding you of your role within the group.

That said, I am of the mind that the captain needs to lead by example. See Joe Sakic. Just do it. And in that area, Naslund has been deficient, and admitted as much during training camp.

Is he capable of scoring more than 25 goals in a season? Yes. Even with a revolving door of linemates? Yes. Great players should be productive no matter who is alongside them. Good players need more help.

Certainly it came easier for Naslund when he had Messrs. Bertuzzi and Morrison alongside him, but the Canuck captain should be able to flourish alongside Libor Polasek and Roman Oksiuta. He is that good. He has to want to be that good again.

This season will reveal a lot about Naslund. His contract is up. If he is motivated by the millions, expect more than the 60 points he posted last season.

But I have never thought it was about the almighty buck with Markus. I think there is much more jam, much more pride, much more character to the man. He knows what is on the line. Another 60-point season won't cut it .... not from a guy who once put up 104.

There is gas in the tank .... he has resolved to do more .... there is a will to follow up his words with actions.

He could retire today and be in any discussion about the greatest Canucks ever. Just how prominent he is on that list, when all is said and done, remains to be seen.

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Barry Macdonald is co-host of BS in the Morning on the Team 1040 from 6-9 a.m.


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