Naitanui's prowess in the ruck and ability to win his own clearances have been sorely missed by West Coast this season.
But it's the flow-on effect of his absence that is also hurting the club.
Dean Cox is a premier ruckman, with his six All-Australian guernseys a testament to that, but with Naitanui not there to ease his workload, Cox has been forced to compete in 80 ruck contests a game compared to his usual 50, leaving the 31-year-old more fatigued than usual near the end of matches.
Naitanui's presence also allowed Cox to spend large chunks of games up forward, with the 253-game veteran booting a career-high 28 goals last season.
Scott Lycett struggled badly as Cox's back-up in the round-one loss to Fremantle, while rookie Callum Sinclair was solid but hardly spectacular in the role during Sunday's 50-point defeat to Hawthorn.
A few eyebrows were raised when Naitanui made it into the All-Australian team last season but it's important to note how Naitanui's impact on a game simply can't be measured by hit-outs, goals or possessions.
He's the kind of player that can be best on ground with 12 disposals.
Cox doesn't subscribe to the theory of 'No Naitanui - No West Coast', but the 203cm veteran said Naitanui was clearly a crucial cog in the machine.
"What he can bring around centre bounces, around stoppages, is what no other ruckman can bring in a game of football," Cox said.
"His hit-out to advantage percentage is really high. He can put opposition sides on the back foot from the start.
"With Nic, if he was getting over blokes you could be a lot more attacking.
"His ability to win centre-bounce hit-outs and then follow it up is his greatest strength."
Naitanui is at least a month away from playing again after a slower-than-expected recovery from off-season groin surgery.
The 22-year-old experienced groin problems at the tail-end of last season, and could miss most of this year if he suffers a recurrence of the injury.
West Coast started the season as a strong flag fancy, but find themselves with a 0-2 record ahead of Saturday's clash with struggling Melbourne at the MCG.
In the absence of Naitanui and star midfielder Daniel Kerr, West Coast have lost the inside-50m count 123-75 in their two games this season.
Kerr is a chance to return for the Demons match after making it through a WAFL hit-out unscathed, while defender Eric Mackenzie (hamstring) should also be available for selection.
Cox said the club wasn't giving up hope of a top-four finish despite the sluggish start.