MAIN CAMP BEGINS
By Elizabeth Moffat, Canucks.com
The Canucks main camp started today at Rogers Arena with medical evaluations and talks with the media. Head coach Alain Vigneault and several players spoke about team leadership, dealing with high expectations and the possible return of former Canuck and fan favorite Brendan Morrison.
Expectations are sky high going into this season, not only for the team, but also for individuals to perform at the same level they did last year. No one knows more about these high expectations than the Sedin brothers. Henrik achieved a league high 112 points last season, and Daniel, despite missing 19 games recorded 85 points for himself. Dan has the added pressure of not only performing his best, but also living up to his brother’s stellar performance. Both brothers, however, are more focused on the team as a whole rather than individual performance.
“This year’s got to be about winning,” said Henrik, “that’s the bottom line, that’s what been missing for this team. We had a good team and this summer it’s gotten even better. If we’re winning our division this year and I’ve got 75 points I’ll be happy. I know there will be a lot of pressure from outside if I’m not producing at a high level like last year, but I’ve dealt with it before, so it’s not going to be a big problem.”
Daniel shared this view, looking at a new season as a new start, and remaining unfazed about living up to his brothers points total.
“We’re coming to this year fresh,” said Daniel, “and we’re going to have to work as hard as we did last year to have a good season and help this team. We would like to have as good a season as last year, but if we’re in the playoffs I’ll be happy.”
Both brothers believe that they have a good team this year, but stress the importance of focusing on the game and not letting outside influences effect their game.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been here that there’s been this kind of buzz around this team, and we’re going to have to talk about it,” said Henrik. “There is going to be a lot of pressure from outside. Our division is really tough. We’ve lived in this city a long time, we know the pressure from the fans and the media, and we’ve learnt to deal with it.”
Daniel agrees, and looks forward to playing, choosing to look at the high expectations placed on the team as a good thing.
“Everyone knows when they play us they’re playing a good team,” said Dan, “so you need to be ready for that, but it was the same last year. We should look at it as positive, if teams are afraid to play us it’s a good thing”
Coach V also believes that the team cannot let expectations placed on them affect their game, he does however believe that if they want to be playing for the championship in June then they need to start doing the right things now.
“It doesn’t really matter what’s happening externally,” he said, “it’s what’s happening internally, what’s happening in our dressing room, what our guys believe, the efforts our guys are putting out. I’ve been watching a group of players that are highly focused and highly motivated right now.”
Maybe former captain Roberto Luongo put it best, telling reporters that right now the goal is to win game one, and said, quite simply:
“It takes more than talent to win a cup.”
TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER
When Roberto Luongo gave up the captaincy Monday in order to focus solely on his job as a goaltender he did not put forward any specific name to fill the vacant spot. The player that will wear the ‘C’ next year is still a mystery, but with a strong leadership group in place in the locker room in may not matter. Many names have been put forward, Sedin or Kesler are the ones heard most often, but everyone from Burrows to a new guy have come up at some point. According to everyone we spoke with today however, as clichéd as it sounds, the ‘C’ really is just a letter.
Dan and Hank both acknowledged that it would be nice to be considered for the captaincy, but did not hold it up as a main priority for themselves or for the team.
“You’re going to have to put letters on some guys,” said Henrik, “but we have a core group of guys who are all leaders in different ways, it’s not going to be about who has the C’s and who has the A’s, and that hasn’t changed from last year.”
New comer to the team, defensemen Keith Ballard came to Vancouver not used to the media frenzy he found, having previously played for the Pheonix Coyotes and the Flordia Panthers, where he has recorded 149 points in 397 games and has a +/- record of -11 in 5 years with the NHL. Ballard held his own against the throng of reporters however, and even gave his own perspective on how he views team captains and leadership.
“I think everybody leads in their own way,” he said, “whether there a quiet personality and do it through their play, or they’re motivating in the locker room, and say the right things.”
Assistant captain Ryan Kesler, who recorded 75 points last season demonstrated why he appears to be a top contender for captain when he demonstrated his own style of confidence when he answered simply:
“I’m a firm believer that you don’t need a letter on your chest to lead in the locker room.”
WEST COAST EXPRESS STEAMS INTO TOWN
As every hockey fan In Vancouver as most likely heard by now, former Canuck turned unrestricted free agent Brendan Morrison is back in town and trying out for a spot on the Canucks roster. Morrison left the Canucks in 2008 after nine years on the team to fly south with the Anaheim Ducks. Since then however, he has played on three teams in as many years.
Hindered by injuries to his wrist, hip and knee, Brendan never achieved the same success he had with Vancouver, where he is best remembered as part of the famed West Coast Express line with Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund. Last season in Washington, however, his health improved and he recorded 42 points, his highest total since racking up 51 points in the 2006-2007 season.
Morrison was a fan favorite and a leader in the locker room while he was here, and his team mates seem genuinely enthusiastic for the prospect of the former assistant captain to return, but the 35-year-old veteran will still need to prove himself if he wants to finish his career in his hometown.
““It’s nice to come into a situation you’re familiar with, the guys on the team have been great, but at the end of the day you have to perform.” said the centre, “If I go out there and can’t perform then this is all a moot point.”
Former team mates had nothing but nice things to say about the Pitt Meadows native :
“He had a great year last year, we’ve been watching him. I’m happy to have him here on the tryout, and I hope he does well. He was extremely important to me and Daniel when we came over, he was one of the guys who really stepped up and took care of us. We really appreciate him.”
“From day one he was one of the bigger leaders in the dressing room, and that was 10 years ago, he’s got a lot more experience now. He’s one of those guys that can step up and people will listen to him.”
“He’s a great guy first of all, and a great player too. It wasn’t long ago he was here and playing really well. He’ll bring a lot to this team. He can play anywhere. He’s good. In the locker room he’s a calm guys and he says the right things.”
“I’m a big Brendan Morrison fan. He was here when I came up, he’s the ultimate professional, and a great guy in the locker room. He’s still a great player that can contribute in a lot of ways, very versatile. I’m pulling for him.”
Perhaps most telling is the optimistic view held by head coach Alain Vigneault:
“He’s got a real good chance.” He said, “We know him real well, we like him and what he brings to the table. He’s an experienced player, who wants to win. We’ll have to wait and see how he plays, he knows the NHL, and he knows the standard of play needed to help your team win.”
If Brendan hopes to make the team he is going to have a tough few weeks in front of him, the Canucks roster is arguably the best it’s been in years, which means making the team will be that much harder, and he is going to be competing against some much younger prospects. This may not be the position he hoped to find himself in at this point in his career, but Brendan is grateful for the opportunity to return to his old team.
“When things are all said and done when I look back at my career I’ll always consider myself a Canuck.”
And as for the pressure entering training camp without a contract?
“My kids told me they can’t wait to pull out their little Canucks uniforms,” said Morrison, “so that’s pressure.”
Canucks Main camp continues at the South Okanagan Events Centre beginning on Saturday, September 18th. Preseason begins on September 2st vs. The Calgary Flames. Listen for Alex Burrows commentating on September 21, 22 and 26. According to the injured Canuck, “It’s going to be fun and entertaining, you never know what could happen”