The theme of practice on day one? Offence.
“It’s about getting the whole group on the same page as far as what we’re trying to do with systems,” said Alain Vigneualt. “Today we worked a little bit on offensive rushes and attacking the net.”
The highlight - or lowlights, depending on your view – was Jeff Cowan driving the net and losing an edge on just the second drill of the morning. The 6’2”, 210-pound winger drove Roberto Luongo
back into the net and two feet behind the red line.
“I thought he took a playbook from the Anaheim Ducks,” said Luongo. “I was sort of wondering what was going on.”
Thankfully Luongo clambored back to his feet, and the murmur in the Bear Mountain Arena died down.
The brush didn’t dissuade the Vigneault and company from continually prodding players to end every drill at the top of the goaltender’s crease.
“I think the best way to generate offensive chances is to go to the net, and go to the net hard,” said Vigneualt. “That’s what we focused on this morning.”LOOKING INSIDE
With the addition of Aaron Miller, and the young defenders a year older and wiser, the Canucks will ice one of the league’s top blue lines this season. The big question is, how they’ll up their goal totals in 2007-08.
Vigneault pointed to a trio of new Canucks in Ryan Shannon, Byron Ritchie, and Brad Isbister as speedy players who will help create more chances, though there are a handful of other intriguing options.
Jason Jaffray likely tops that list. The Rimbey, Alberat native scored 35 goals and put up 81 points in 77 games with the Moose last season, and scored a pair of pretty goals on teammate Drew MacIntyre in morning drills.
Jaffray’s gaudy stats had fans squirming in their seats as the Canucks hit an offensive wall late in the year, but the club couldn’t give him a shot as he wasn’t under contract.
He’s now officially Canucks property and looking at following the path of former teammate Alex Burrows, who made the leap to full-time NHLer last season.
“[Burrows] is a penalty-killing, checking, grinding-type of guy now, and he changed his game completely from what he was doing in the AHL,” said Jaffray. “He was playing the point on the power play in the AHL, and then he came up here and was a grinder penalty killer. That’s what you have to do when you jump leagues - you just have to fill the spot that’s available.”
Versatility is useful, and Jaffray insists he’s able to play wear a variety of different hats, but the Canucks are most interested is seeing just one: the scoring one. The question is: will it fit in the NHL.
“That’s what training camp and the games are going to answer,” said Vigneault. “Jason has been on a consistent progression since he started with me in Manitoba. He had a really good year last year and has come to camp in great shape. He’s going to get a chance to play some games, and we’ll see from there.”
“He had a great season last year and now he wants to see if he can do it at this level. A lot of guys can do it at the American League level, but can’t do it in the NHL.”RYPIEN IT UP
Rick Rypien isn’t exactly the type media flock to for the money quote, so it came as bit of a surprise when the kid from Coleman, Alberta had two cameras and three beat reporters hanging on his every word after practice while Canuck luminaries like Wille Mitchell and Matt Cooke breezed by.
It’s just hard to pass up a good story. After missing almost all of last season with a broken hand and a torn groin, Rypien’s aiming to be the comeback kid of the year, or at least the first half.
“It was frustrating and unfortunate to have that injury, and then the other one after that,” he said. “But it’s a new year and a new start, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Rypien skated in the first group at 9 am and showed no lingering signs of a groin tear that required surgery.
While Vigneault’s been complimentay, and at times, downright effusive about Rypien’s game in the past, this year’s team is deep in gritty forwards with the likes of Isbister and Ritchie on the scene.
Rypien knows as much as anyone that professional sports is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of business.
“I think you’ve got to get noticed and you have to stand out,” he said. “You have to do something every day to catch [the coach’s] eye. There are a lot of great players and those guys [Ritchie and Isbister] play a similar role, so it’s going to come down to who’s working hard and who has a good camp.”
“He’s got a simple game in that he’s intense, very competitive on the ice, and skates hard all the time,” said Vigneault. “He’s going to play to his strength, the other guys are going to play to their strengths, and whoever helps us win the most games is going to stay. He’s no different than anybody else.”NOTESCory Schneider
’s training camp debut was a memorable. The college grad drew cheers from the morning crowd for his save of Matt Cooke, who had a rebound jump onto his tape with half a net watching from a foot away. Schneider stretched across to quash Cookie’s good fortune… It took Jannik Hansen
all of one shift to score his first goal of main camp, and it was on Luongo. Mind you, it was converting a 3-on-1 rush, but it still looked nice.