Attitude determines latitude; it’s quite simple really.
Canucks forward Steve Bernier could have spent this past off-season feeling sorry for himself, but he didn’t.
Anyone who watched the 24-year-old in action last year can recall quite a few missed scoring chances around the net, some at vital points in contests where a goal could have tipped the scales in Vancouver’s favour.
Bernier can recall each and every one of them and weeks after the 2008-09 season went up in flames for Vancouver, they still tormented him.
“Last year would have been a completely different season if I was able to score on more chances,” said Bernier.
“I know every player in the NHL can say that, but I had a lot of scoring chances that I missed.”
Live and let die was the soundtrack to Bernier’s summer as he finally realized that dwelling on the past would only make his hands quiver and second guess themselves in the clutch this season.
So he moved on and last year’s misses were tucked away. They now reside with the Jonas Brothers hairdo he was sporting in San Jose.
“I don’t think about them any more because they’re in the past, the only thing I’m able to do right now to make sure I’m ready mentally is to practice it. I’ll just keep practicing every day and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
As Kristin Reid reported earlier this week on Canucks.com, Bernier won the Biggest Loser contest over the summer by dropping close to 15 pounds in an effort to improve his overall game.
He spent the summer in his hometown of Quebec City, QC, training under Raymond Veillette, a strength and conditioning coach with Laval University’s Rouge et Or football team, alongside the stiff competition of other NHLers, including Patrice Bergeron, Antoine Vermette and Mathieu Garon.
Version 2.0 of the Canucks robust right-winger has since been skating alongside a few teammates at UBC and so far he’s gotten nothing but positive reviews.
Confidence can play tricks on the best of players but Bernier finally feels like he’s in the zone that he needs to be. His newfound speed and strength are a big reason why, so is the coaching he received a few weeks ago from Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner.
The pair met in Montreal for a brief one-day session where Gagner worked with Bernier on the ice during two separate workouts. Gagner’s goal was simple: to work on the fundamentals. Sharpen them up and Bernier would be better prepared to get pucks over the goal line more frequently in the future.
“We worked on his hands and where to position them, his ability to handle passes in his feet and still get hard accurate shots away and some different dekes to help set up shooting lanes because he has a very quick release already,” said Gagner.
“It’s just a matter of confidence for Steve. The more he works on his basic fundamentals the more confident he will get.”
As if being taught how to lace his skates for the first time, Bernier absorbed all the information Gagner had to offer and he's now putting it to use.
“There are so many things that I thought I was doing properly, but after looking at what he does on the ice, there’s things to improve,” he admitted.
“I’ve starting doing it and it feels a little different and you can notice little differences when you shoot the puck. Like how quick the puck goes from your stick towards the goalie and stuff. It’s a work in progress.”
It’s too soon to tell if Gagner’s teachings will be the piece needed to complete Bernier’s puzzle, yet with each puck the second-year Canuck flings into the net, he gets a step closer to being able to do it in a game.
Each score also increases his confidence, which should be sky-high by training camp at the rate he’s practicing.
“Right now it’s just mental for me. I know what to do mentally so I need to practice it and get it going in a game. It’s a way different in a game than in a practice so it’s going to take a long time, but if I keep practicing, maybe I’ll be able to get a couple more goals. All I know is I’m trying to get better at it.”