What a glorious job to be an NHL coach for a day. All the good that can be done, and all the changes that can happen. It's a little dream of mine to get to be the boss of the ailing Vancouver Canucks for just a day. Don't get me wrong; I have no real illusions about the state of the team. No one new coach for a single day could fix all that ails this team. All the same, just to have the chance to coach would make me the happiest of men. After another listless loss to the Minnesota Wild, on a night that was supposed to be Luongo's coming out party after the birth of his first child, he gets pulled. No emotion for the newborn saved this sad team from itself.
It's just another long list of stinkers this team seems to be putting out. Now after watching this team for the better part of my life I've developed a few opinions on the matter that are the Canucks. So here it is. What is the problem with the Canucks?
Though that may not sound like the answer to their problems, I believe it's the major issue facing this team. Now as a fan, I haven't had much of a problem with this current roster's team strengths: defence. All in all it's pretty good compared to the rest of the league. I think any Canuck fan could tell you the problem lies with the offence, or the glaring lack of it. So this is my point: Selfishness.
The forwards that are supposed to score are not nearly selfish enough with the puck. We have a team of passers and pacifiers. Players that are willing to setup the "perfect" play instead of shooting and driving hard. Look around the league and you will find that the people who score consistently are the ones who try to score. On most nights the Canucks don't look to score, they look to pass. When entering the zone, they pass. When leaving the zone, they pass. I'm not saying passing is bad. I'm saying the Canucks don't move the puck forward enough. That is a fundamental problem with this team.
For a lack of offence we do have some very creative forwards. Naslund and the Sedins are very creative players. On most nights you can find the Sedins knitting themselves into a sweater in the corner, only to not get the puck to the front of the net. Naslund finds himself being chased with the puck around the offensive zone until at last he just skates out of it.
For the other side of the offensive coin, we can take the Avalanche as an example: Much has been made of the Avs' ability to work the puck down low. That's fantastic, and they are successful because there is someone there in front of the net willing to put it in the net. The Canucks look to make a pretty mess in the corners rather then take it out front and score. Out of all the years the NHL has been around, no one has managed to score from behind the net. All the veterans of this team must decide selfishly that they want to put the puck behind the goalie, or there will never been any goals scored.
Every team watches tape of other teams play. They all have Vancouver's number on this one. They know a few things: 1)the Canucks will cough up the puck when pressured in our defensive zone, and 2)keep the Canucks to the corners because nobody can score from there. For most of the Canucks, they seem to be satisfied hanging out in very safe areas of the rink. They must go to the dirty areas and they must want to score.
I believe coaching is a problem here. I need to say though that I do like Alain Vigneault. His record with the team is encouraging despite the disappointments. I think the coach has been told by the media, himself, and others that he just doesn't have any offensive talent to work with. This is obviously why he has chosen a defensive route for this team. I don't disagree with this philosophy of team play, but it's created an adverse side-effect.
All the Canucks' "plays" they work on in practice all start from a defensive mind set. They all start from behind the Vancouver net. They look to make more then one pass out of their own zone. All the good teams (Detroit, Montreal, Minnesota) get the puck out of the zone in the shortest amount of passes creating forward momentum. The Canucks never accomplish that. This year I can't even remember a time when one player took the puck end to end, or even tried. Maybe the Canucks don't have the offensive power they used to, but to shut down the chance of a rush to the net before it's even tried will surely kill any offensive push. The Canucks instead use the tried, and very well known by all the other teams, "dump and chase."
Well my friends, we have goalies that can stop pucks behind the net, we have Canuck players that get the puck and keep it in the corner, and my personal favorite is the Canucks' own brand of "dump and chase"... the "dump and no chase." Always an offensive winner.
I could go on about the specifics, but here it is again. The Canucks need to get more selfish, not as a team, but as individuals. Leaders on the team must forget the perfect passing plays, and the "here you take it" attitudes. They must drive for the net and get to the dirty areas. That is where goals are scored.
Alain Vigneault is partly to blame for this. Just because he feels there isn't any offensive prowess on this team doesn't mean he cannot give his players the plays to make it happen. They still have a few players with some soft hands that can put the puck in the net. They must be allowed to be selfish to be successful, or they can continue to let the other teams steamroll them by only needing one goal a night.