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John Garrett: Winners, not superstars

by John Garrett / Vancouver Canucks
It’s January 2nd, 2009 and the Canucks are six games over five hundred.

Not only that, but they’re in fifth place in the Western Conference and their goaltenders are Jason LaBarbera and Cory Schneider. Who would have believed that at the beginning of the season?

Roberto Luongo has missed 19 games and the Canucks are hanging in. They are playing as a team. They have been since the start of the year.

When they face adversity, they face it together. When Sami Salo has been hurt, Rob Davison or Lawrence Nycholat has filled in admirably. When Pavol Demitra was out, Kyle Wellwood was able to score the key goals. When the forwards have been unable to score, the defence has chipped in (they have combined for 77 points). This is all before the arrival of Mats Sundin.

John Garrett is a former Canuck and currently the colour commentator for Sportsnet.

Martin Brodeur has played only ten games this year for New Jersey. Everybody thought the Devils would go into the tank when their top player went down, yet the Devils are nine games over five hundred and Scott Clemmensen has played 21 games. He has a 2.33 goals against average and a very respectable .923 save percentage.

Did he get that much better after toiling for the Toronto Marlies in the American League?

The Devils, like the Canucks, are a good team. They’re well coached, they pay attention to detail, and they play as a team.

Detroit's goaltending ranks twenty first in the league. Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin have a combined goals against of 2.87. They are just in front of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Red Wings have 55 points, the Lightning have 30. The Red Wings play as a team not as individuals. If they have to score six to win, they will. If they have to shut another team down, they will. They do it as a team.

The Lightning changed coaches and still do not play as a team. They have some unbelievable talent but play as individuals. It is hard to believe that this organization won a Cup just a few years ago.

The Boston Bruins lead the league. They get contributions from almost every line. They have used both their goalies and both have been very successful. That tells you the team is consistently good. They have only lost one game at home and only four on the road. Do they have any real superstars? Maybe Zdeno Chara but who else? Marc Savard or Phil Kessel?

What the Bruins have is a cemented team concept. They all pull on the same rope, in the same direction. There’s no magic here. They have six guys with ten or more goals. They have only one regular who is a minus player and that is P.J. Axelsson (he is minus 2).

Chicago has played very well. They have only two minus players. The Avalanche have twelve. Ottawa has twelve. The Islanders have fifteen. St.Louis has fourteen.

The Canucks have two. Taylor Pyatt at minus three and Shane O'Brien is a minus one.

So what does all this mean? Good teams find a way to hang in every game and find a way to come out on top in most of those. They do it as a group, just like the Canucks did Thursday night in Nashville.

Each player knows their role and does their part in each and every game. You don’t need a stable of superstars to win, you just need winners.
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