Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bickering Canucks can’t keep it in the dressing room

Alain Vigneault isn’t very happy, last week he blasted a number of his forwards for their under performing ways. Calling their play too soft, timid and ineffective he impressed upon them the need to become more engaged in the play, more willing to suffer the costs of straying to close to the net and to start scoring some goals.

It was a rare display of frustration for the Canucks coach, but one that fell upon deaf ears for the most part as the Canucks continue to struggle in the early days of the NHL season.

Team captain Markus Naslund countered that talking point by asking out loud if the dump and chase strategy was really where the Canucks should be heading in this era of free wheeling hockey. By making his thoughts known in rebuttal, the captain and the coach appear to be on different pages, not a good omen for a long and successful run towards the Stanley Cup in April and May.

Sunday night Vigneault turned his attention to defencemen Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa, suggesting that they have not been playing up to their own standards, and that the time to step up their game was at hand.

Mitchell, took his turn at the speaker’s corner, deflecting Vigneaults criticisms by claiming that on two on ones, “you're not going to get them all.” Bieksa, for his part didn’t have much to say other than he’s been playing hurt and is still not feeling 100 per cent, a situation that has been supported by his play of late, where he’s been far more tentative than in his more robust periods.

Clearly the losing is getting to the entire team; Vancouver struggling early on, has a record of 5 and 7 over twelve games. Making them closer to last place Phoenix, than they are to first place Detroit in the Western Conference. They have 32 goals for, 37 against and are having their trouble getting untracked at key moments of play.

More disturbing though is the simmering trouble from their leaders, when the Naslund’s and Mitchell’s begin to spend more time questioning the intentions of the most recent coach of the year, then the dressing room must be a very interesting place to be hanging around.

A few wins in a row and all of that anxiety will dissipate, but until they can improve on the ice there will most likely be more short tempers and tension off the ice. All great fodder for the newspapers, radio and television types who make sure that every move by this team is under the spotlight.

While they’ve been good for a quote or two over the last few weeks, Canuck fans most likely would prefer it if the team would do less talking and more scoring, and soon.

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