Saturday, September 16, 2006

A New Canucks Culture

Last weekend, Todd Bertuzzi offered his candid thoughts on what went wrong inside the Canucks' dressing room last season.

While at Canucks training camp this week in Vernon, Iain MacIntytre (Vancouver Sun) broached the subject with some of the remaining players from last year's roster.

Vigneault, hired in June by general manager Dave Nonis after Crawford was fired, has repeated like a mantra that he approaches this season with a "clean slate." He is referring to the competition for roles and playing time, the lack of hierarchy on a team that for years began nearly every power play with Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison.

But that is only half of it. The clean slate also applies to the dressing room dynamic and an environment that many players knew was foul but didn't realize was dangerously polluted until they arrived in Vernon, pulled on jerseys and finally felt what it was like to breathe clean air.

What's that smell?


"I have to say," veteran Trevor Linden began, "I found myself on the ice today and just kind of stopped and noticed, it just kind of clicked, like: 'Boy, what a difference one year makes.' It's a totally different dynamic."

Another Canuck said: "It's like a huge weight has been lifted off everyone, even from guys who didn't realize there was a weight on them."

The weight is the Bertuzzi-Crawford relationship that each -- Crawford when he was fired, Bertuzzi last week -- has indicated wasn't as bad as people think, but nearly everyone inside the organization knows was a catalyst of the Canucks' crash last season.

One example: After the Canucks failed to compete in a heartless 5-0 loss last March to the Nashville Predators, Canuck coaches scheduled one-on-one meetings with players the next day. Crawford did not show up for his meeting with Bertuzzi, apparently having relinquished hope of ever getting through to an influential star who seemed to any reasonable, long-time observer to be uncoachable.

"They wouldn't even look at each other, didn't even want to be in the same room," one player said. "Young guys would see that and go, 'What is going on?'"


"Obviously, it's been documented that certain relationships on our team were not completely amicable," Morrison said. "And in the room, that became apparent. I'm not saying it drove a wedge through our team, but it just wasn't healthy for our team as a whole.

"To be successful in this league and this game, you need to have everybody buying in. I don't think we can say we had 100 per-cent buy-in."

Linden added: "I always found Marc to be a very good coach, but the situation last year was not good. That's not a secret. There were many things that caused us to perform below expectations. That wasn't the only one, but it was significant. It was pretty clear after the season that something had to give."
Perhaps the most telling quote from Iain's piece comes courtesy of no other than Markus Naslund, whose friendship with Todd was intensely scrutinized for much of last season:

"It was difficult at times," Naslund said. "I look at Marc as the best coach I ever had, and I saw Todd say that, too. I think there is a need for us to have new blood in here. A lot of things are going to be different."
Different, in this case, is not a bad thing.

It's all part of a new Canucks culture, Alain Vigneault says:

"Players might get upset with me sometimes, but they know where they stand," Vigneault said. "And when you know where you stand, all you have to do is go out and do something about it. Our job here is to get them to do things they don't think they can do.

"Not everybody is treated the same, but everyone is treated fairly. I really believe if a team is going to have success, your top players have to lead the way. They're put to a higher standard as far as work ethic, as far as conditioning. If our younger players see these guys giving their 100 per cent every time, they know that's the standard we want. That's the foundation they're trying to lay. I want the younger players that come here to have a good role model and understand what it takes to be a Canuck and make a Canuck."
More from Vigneault courtesy of Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun:

It did not take long for Alain Vigneault to begin putting his personal stamp on the Canucks. It started Friday morning with the way he divided his 50-man roster into two groups for the team's first day of training camp at the Vernon Multiplex.

In past years, one of the groups was top-heavy with veteran players, while the second was mainly comprised of the younger, less-experienced players in camp. Vigneault has opted to make the groups more equitable, with a mix of NHL veterans and youngsters in each.

Vigneault says it's all about trying to establish a new Canucks culture.

"I have all the veteran guys mixed up with the younger guys," Vigneault said. "I want that to be part of our culture. I want the younger guys who come here to have good role models, to understand what it takes to make a Canuck and be a Canuck and I think we have the veterans who are going to show the way."
It all sounds so simple, doesn't it? So simple this new culture just might work.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:23 AM


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