Back in January of 2012, then Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault was asked for his thoughts on the offensive struggles of star Canucks center Ryan Kesler, who had tallied just three points in his last eight games.
Here’s what Vigneault had to say: “I think he has to use the players around him a little bit more so that he can get into open space and create the type of offensive chances and be the type of defensive player that he can be.”
Translation: pass the puck more.
Vancouver being Vancouver, Vigneault’s response did not go unnoticed. And not just by fans and media — by Kesler himself.
“Me utilize my players?” Kesler said the next day. “Obviously, I don’t know what he means by that and if he wants to say that he can come to me and talk to me about it.
“I am going to play my game, the things that have made me successful. I know what that is and if he wants to come talk to me he is more than welcome.”
What followed was no shortage of speculation about Kesler’s relationship with Vigneault. Some blamed the player for being so prickly; others criticized the coach for sending messages through the media and not in private.
Fast forward to the present and the Canucks have a new head coach in John Tortorella — a guy with a long and celebrated history of ripping his players, both in private and public. (Just ask Carl Hagelin.)
Today, Kesler was asked about his new bench boss.
“I think Torts and I are a great fit. We both want to win and we both hate losing,” Kesler said.
Then: “I want to be told what I’m doing right and wrong.”
Possible translation: the last guy didn’t tell me what I was doing right and wrong.
How Kesler and the rest of his teammates — from the Sedins to Kevin Bieksa to Alex Edler to Zack Kassian to Roberto Luongo — respond to Tortorella’s methods will be interesting to watch.
Of course, it’s not just a new coach that should serve as motivation for the Canucks, who were swept in the first round of the 2013 playoffs by the San Jose Sharks.
“Last year was straight-up embarrassing,” said Bieksa.