The big criticism that’s been lobbed at the Vancouver Canucks has concerned the team’s focus. Does it want to win now? Or does it want to develop the kids with an eye toward the future?
While management has maintained that it can do both things at the same time — the phrase “learn how to play in a winning environment” has been used — the head coach seems to have a slightly different take.
“The stage our team is in … it’s a touchy subject,” Willie Desjardins told The Province newspaper on Tuesday. “Whenever you get into that discussion between development and winning, those are such polarizing subjects for everybody. I think the key to winning is having a vision and having a straight line. Knowing exactly where you want to go, it’s much easier to get there for everybody. It’s when (the line) goes back and forth, that’s where you can lose your way a little bit.”
The Canucks very much lost their way last season. Yes, injuries hurt. But injuries weren’t entirely to blame for the 28th overall finish.
From The Province:
Desjardins said he thought his players’ passion waned late last season as losses mounted. But after exit interviews with players, he realized it was the vision that had been the problem. Too many players just couldn’t see where the organization was going.
Desjardins now believes that that problem has been solved. The Canucks’ goal is to win. That’s it. They signed Loui Eriksson, and they got Erik Gudbranson in a trade. And if the youngsters (like Jake Virtanen, for example) aren’t ready to play at an NHL level, they’ll learn how to play elsewhere.
“This year, it’s a different story,” said Desjardins. “Our vision now is in a line and all the players, all of us, are accountable to that vision.”
Remember that quote, because there could be consequences if the Canucks do as badly as many predict they will. According to online sportsbook Bovada, no team in the entire NHL is a longer shot to win the Stanley Cup than Vancouver.