The press conference at GM place yesterday didn't reveal anything new. The things that were expected to be said, were said. Dave Nonis and Alain Vigneault tried putting as much positive spin on the season that is now over. Dave Nonis has said he will make changes. He has to. He knows it, and his job security is depending on those off season decisions. With the Canucks landing 10th in this year's fairly deep draft, there is a good chance at a prospect for the Canucks, but that is clearly not enough to change this team alone.
After listen for a while I was ready to start writing a fairly benign comment on the Canucks final presser, until a comment from Alain Vigneault that caught my ear. He was asked about the players commitment to working hard, and he seemed upset that anyone would question the commitment of the players. He repeated what that he felt more proud of this group, then the group last year with two weeks before the end of the season, being one point out of first place in the division was something to be proud of, and to sit here now and question the players effort and commitment to the team is wrong.
I like Alain Vigneault. He seems like a generally jolly character. But he's wrong. I think with two weeks left and the season on the line and the team implodes, you have to question the commitment and effort. When the result of the down slide ends the teams season, now is the exact time to question these things. No one cares how they did before the collapse they want to know why they didn't get into the play offs with the division lead so close at hand. Vancouver is a hockey town. People will not be satisfied with a middle-of-the-road team.
A lot is made of what is said in the dressing rooms of the NHL. The hallowed ground of secrecy within a hockey organization. It is true we don't know what is said inside these rooms, and how players truly feel about how the season is going. We don't know these intimate detail, but we do know the answers to the questions when the players hit the ice. How the team performs in front of the cameras and fans is all we know as the general sports audience. And that is ALL that matters. What is written on the ice through a succession of 60 minutes is the testament to the fears, lack of effort, and commitment of the players. There is nothing else.
Don't tell me I should feel bad for questioning a professional athlete wearing the uniform of my city. I pay to go to the games, I pay for the jerseys, and I help pay for their salaries. Myself as well as many, many others make up the paying customers that keep the Canucks and an thriving NHL team alive. It's the fan's right to question anything they want about their team. It's the coaching staff and the management to do something about the inefficiencies of the team.
I can understand why Alain Vigneault is frustrated. He clearly doesn't have the answer to the questions. I hope he and Dave Nonis do take the next few days as they mentioned and figure out what the problems were. We know there will be changes on the team, and well there should be. I believe there is a serious lack of commitment from the team. A lack of on ice leadership, and a will to win. As much as Vigneault would like to believe it's not about commitment and effort. It is. The team couldn't even muster enough commitment and effort to win a game for Trevor Linden, and doing it in such pitiful style, getting drubbed 7-1. If there was any game that summed up the Canucks this season it was the last one. It was barely a game at all. Not the kind of tribute the greatest Canuck of all time should have to be a willing participant of. Trevor should come back and play another year just to get the taste of that rotten meal out of his throat.
I think there was a strange lack of commitment by Vigneault with a few games left to do whatever it took to win. Sometimes the coach has to do more then just mix-up his lines. Why not do something radical? Make the lazy players stay out on the ice for a 5 minute shift? Pull the goalie with 4 minutes left and make the players work for it? Anything! I know these are crazy suggestions, but at least it would maybe have sparked any desperation from the Canucks. A glaring problem at the moment when the games mattered. And apparently in the last game of the season, when they didn't matter any longer.
So Alain, I am questioning the commitment of the players. Players if you are getting paid to play the game you love, then act like you love it, and refuse to lose. Body language speaks louder then words, and there were many times the Canucks just look defeated, and there wasn't a soul on the team that new how to rally the troops. I know Naslund will be gone next year, and I'm already feeling happy about knowing we might have a Captain that smiles after scoring. A Captain that knows how to get a team excited about winning. That's a little joy of mine as the thought of next year comes into focus.
I think you're wrong Alain. The Canucks have nothing this season to be particularly happy with. What happens before doesn't count. It's what happens when it counts, that really matters. And the players seemed to not care when it mattered the most.