GROANS, GRUNTS AND SWEAT
The Vancouver Canucks officially started their march to the 2009-10 season with the first day of training camp in the books from UBC Thunderbird Arena.
Although Vancouver’s trainers were busy sharpening skates and prepping equipment, players didn’t hit the ice instead taking part in medicals and physical testing before spending some time with the media.
Skinfolds, V02 max, wingate, grip strength, vertical jump and bench press - players did it all and judging by the grunts, groans and sweaty t-shirts, it wasn’t easy.
WELLWOOD BREATHING EASY
One player who wasn’t wincing as much this year compared to last was Kyle Wellwood. You can officially cross all the nicknames you have for this once overweight forward off your list as he weighed in at 181 pounds this year and said he’s in the best shape of his life.
“I didn’t have any injuries at the end of the season so it was easy to start working out and training full out,” Wellwood explained. “That’s a big advantage coming into the season when you’ve had a full summer of training.”
Despite having dropped a few lbs, Wellwood is far from a lock to make the Canucks roster. There is a lot of competition going on at each position and he’s ready for it. Wellwood’s game-plan is to remain consistent from game to game.
“I just want to be a contributor to this team and show that I can be one of the core players that they want on the team season in and season out.”
O'BRIEN THE SCORING MACHINE?
Another player not quite damaging scales like he used to is Shane O’Brien. The outspoken defenceman said he put in a lot of work over the summer and as a result he’s a little lighter – “I’m 223 pounds, legit, but I didn’t eat much yesterday so let’s call it 225,” - and a little quicker.
He’s excited about hitting the ice for the first time so Vancouver’s defence can start to take shape. There are 19 d-men going for seven or eight spots meaning things are going to get very, very interesting. There could be a lot of turnover or hardly any at all, it will all play out before the start of the regular season on October 1.
“I thought last year our backend was solid, we had some depth and we’re well-rounded, we could all move the puck fairly well and were physical, so I think we have a good group back there,” said O’Brien.
If O’Brien has an advantage over his competition, and this is a bit of stretch, it comes in that he’s on a one-game goal scoring streak dating back to his first goal of the season in Vancouver’s 7-5 loss to Chicago in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
“I’m hot right now,” laughed OB. “I’m telling the boys to get the puck to me as much as they can because I don’t know how much it’ll last.”
PERSEVERANCE, STRENGTH AND RESPECT FOR GRABNER
Change was in the air this off-season for budding forward Michael Grabner, but it didn't involve losing any weight.
The 21-year-old Austrian forward got some new ink to go with the hockey based tattoo on this back. His right forearm now features eight Chinese characters meaning perseverance, strength and respect.
COACH VIGNEAULT SPEAKS
Nearly every player met with the local media before Canucks coach Alain Vigneault spoke about everything but his rumored contract negotiations.
“As you know, we don’t discuss contract negotiations, but at the end of the day, if I can continue my time here with the Vancouver Canucks and ownership and management, I would certainly consider it,” said Vigneault.
Here’s a rundown of the important topics Vigneault actually discussed:
-On the excitement of training camp starting:
“I think everybody is real excited about this new season, I think everyone is real anxious to get on the ice tomorrow and get ready for this season. Coaches are looking forward to it, management is looking forward to it and I’m sure the players are also.”
-On all the tryout opportunities that players have been given this training camp:
“At the end of the day, if we invited these people it’s because we want to see what they can do. Anybody that deserves to play on this team and makes this team is going to be here. I think we’ve proven in the past that management is not afraid to send people that are on one way tickets to the minors. It’s about keeping the best possible players and that’s why you have training camp and that’s what we’re going to do.”
-On veteran Keith Carney opting to retire:
“He called Lorne (Henning) four or five days ago to let us know that he won’t be taking part in camp.”
-On what off-season moves he’s most excited about:
“I love the fact that we signed two guys that have won the Stanley Cup in Samuelsson and Schneider. I think that experience and maturity added to our group will definitely help this team. We’ve got a lot of young players that are in the developing process and when you add elements that have won and know what it takes to handle the moments and the pressures of those situations, it should help our group and hopefully those guys will be able to do that for us.”
-On Cody Hodgson’s status for training camp:
“I haven’t talked to our medical staff yet. Everybody right now is getting tested physically and medically and I’ll know a little bit later on today.”
-On what the lines might be and who could skate with the Sedin twins:
“Training camp is also an opportunity for us to try different experiences with different players and it’s also when we as coaches put roles to certain players and we make sure that these players that make our team are going to help us to win.
"We’ve got nine games right now plus eight practices to put all this together and we’re going to use this time the best we can.”
-On the mash up of players vying for spots on defence:
“All that is going to work itself out during camp depending on how certain players play. At the end of the day, people think that we the coaches or management cut players, we don’t really do that, players cut themselves or they play themselves on the team depending on how well they do during training camp.
"We’re going in this with a really open mind, we think that we’ve got a much better depth at all positions than we’ve had in the past and we’re looking forward to seeing that good internal competition that there is usually during training camp and we’ll let the players decide.”
The on-ice portion of training camp kicks off Sunday morning at 10 am at UBC. Follow VanCanucks on Twitter for insider updates from Canucks.com reporters Derek Jory and Kristin Reid throughout the day.