Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Veteran Void

I started writing a post regarding the Avs fans' reaction to the team's signing of Brad May, but I see that Tom Benjamin has already written one. So I thought I'd switch directions slightly and focus not on what Brad May specifically brought to the Canucks, but the role veteran players like Brad May has played in the past.

As Mr. Benjamin also notes, Brad May is a player whose contributions to the team is more extensive off-ice than on-ice. He is an average hockey player, but off the ice was one of the most valuable members of the team. Not only is he very active in the community - remember the Brad May Charity Challenge for Canucks Place and other charities during the lockout - but he plays a key leadership role on a team whose core players are only reaching the prime of their careers.

Other players who filled this role in the past season include veterans Mike Keane, Trevor Linden and to a lesser extent Marc Bergevin. Don't think for a second that the Canucks would have went on to win the Northwest Division title without them.

These guys may not have scored a lot of points but they brought a lot of veteran leadership to a locker room surrounded by a media backlash, the magnitude of which no one on the team has ever witnessed. Their leadership - not the least of which was their willingness to field tough questions from the media - shielded star players like Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Ed Jovanovski from the negative spotlight, and allowed them to focus on the on-ice game rather than the off-ice circus.

In fact, even before last year, the Canucks have relied on veteran players to take some leadership pressure off the team's star players. In 2002/2003, it was Trent Klatt; the year before that, it was Andrew Cassels and Murray Baron. Trevor Linden was brought back to the team, in large part, for his leadership. By the veterans taking some of the leadership pressure, the likes of Naslund, Morrison, Bertuzzi and Jovanovski were able to play and simply be the team's star players.

Now as the team tries to re-focus for the upcoming season, there is a noticeable lack of veteran presence on the roster. The Canucks have not re-signed Keane and Bergevin and let Brad May leave through free agency, and with the salary cap limiting the team's ability to sign other players, it seems like more of the leadership burden will fall on the team's star players. On the ice, there was never any question that they are able to carry this burden. Off the ice however - and especially given the expected focus on Bertuzzi and his reinstatement - it remains to be seen if they can also fill the veteran void.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:28 PM


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