Thursday, March 16, 2006

It Starts From The Top

Mark Spector has an interesting piece in today's National Post:
You don't get as messed up as the Vancouver Canucks are overnight, or by accident. It takes patience, and years of commitment to tie and re-tie the kinds of knots that have formed in the collective stomach of what was once a Stanley Cup contender, yet now seems far more likely for a major overhaul this summer.


The dressing room is bad, those close to the team will tell you. Partially because of the clique that Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund have become -- team leaders who, after eight years in Vancouver, haven't led the Canucks anywhere to speak of.
The same sentiments have been expressed previously this season. However, it is even more magnified now that there is a real prospect of the team missing the playoffs.

When the Canucks started becoming a team - close to the end of the Keenan era - the players would do everything together. The players, to a man, considered the team the closest group of players they've ever played with. In fact, part of Canucks lore now is how Marc Crawford put a special emphasis on the team's off-ice activities, specifically the outdoor practice in Ottawa and a Thanksgiving dinner in Boston. Before every game, the players passed a soccer ball and most of the team participated in this ritual. This sort of team bonding doesn't seem to exist now (or not a lot of it anyway).
Those who watch the Canucks daily say that Bertuzzi sits on the end of the bench between shifts, regardless of where his linemates are. No chatter, no planning for the next shift or learning from the last one. They also tell the story of how, after a 5 p.m. game in St. Paul, Minn., on New Year's Eve, the team flew into St. Louis for a Jan. 2 game, arriving at the hotel well before midnight. Rather than a joining a team function, however, Naslund, Bertuzzi and another player went their separate way for dinner, as if it were just another night.
Is the team struggling because of a lack of leadership? It sure seems to be part of it, doesn't it?

On paper, the Canucks, even with all their injuries, have the talent to win. But if you look at the score sheet, on most nights, their best players are not their best players; on most nights, their best players are Sedin, Sedin, Carter and Auld. The Keslers and the Burrows of the team lead in effort.

Maybe that's because Naslund and Bertuzzi are on one page and the rest of the team is on another.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 5:50 PM


At March 16, 2006 7:09 PM, Anonymous the Cunning Linguist said...

Thanks for sharing those thoughts, J.J. We've been debating this on offthepost.net and I for one am convinced the problem has gone to far to be rectified easily. It's sad, and all too frustrating to watch.

Keep up the good work, J.J.


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