Jason Brough

Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alex Burrows
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Desjardins: There’s one ‘vision’ in Vancouver this season, and that’s winning

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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.

Related: Sedin calls being ‘happy with losing’ a ‘dangerous road to go down,’ and he’s clearly talking about the Oilers

Lupul to start season on injured reserve, still aims to play again

Joffrey Lupul
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Toronto Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul will, indeed, start the season on injured reserve.

“It is with deep regret that I will be unable to attend training camp and start the season with the Leafs due to injury,” he said Thursday in a written statement. “I pledge to work hard with a view to return to playing this season. Hockey is the only life I have known. This is an extremely emotional time for me. Accordingly, I will not be making any further comment at this time.”

Lupul appeared in just 46 games last season, scoring 11 goals with three assists. He had sports hernia surgery in February, and with that he was shut down for the remainder of the season.

The 32-year-old has two years left on his contract, with a cap hit of $5.25 million.

Related: Lupul just ‘trying to get healthy’

After going through ‘some stuff’ last year, Johansen professes: ‘I’m in the best shape of my life’

Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen, second from left, celebrates a goal by teammate James Neal, not shown, against Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, of Denmark, lower right, in the second period of Game 6 in an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Monday, April 25, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Ryan Johansen, after his conditioning was brought into question last season in Columbus, is feeling a lot better about his fitness today, as he prepares for his first full year with the Nashville Predators.

“I went through some stuff, just with my body last year, that I had to figure out and do some adjusting to,” Johansen told Sports Illustrated in an interview. “It took a lot more time than I thought. It’s something I was able to focus on this summer. Now being able to come and look at you and say I’m in the best shape of my life.”

He was asked to expand on the “stuff” he went through, but preferred to keep that to himself. “Just stuff with the body.”

There are high expectations in Nashville for the 24-year-old center, a former fourth overall draft pick of the Blue Jackets. The Preds gave up Seth Jones to get him, with GM David Poile calling his big acquisition a true “No. 1 center, something we have been coveting for a long, long time. We have been looking for a No. 1 center forever.”

Poile told SI what he’s expecting from Johansen: “To be our leading scorer. To have really good numbers offensively. To be a player who can be used in more situations than last year.”

Basically, he’s expecting Johansen to reach his potential and prove that he actually is a No. 1 center, the kind that Stanley Cup champions always possess, from Sidney Crosby to Jonathan Toews to Anze Kopitar and the list goes on and on.

 

Team USA takes issue with Kessel’s tweet

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19:  Zach Parise #9 (C) of the United States celebrates with teammates Phil Kessel #81 of the United States and Ryan Suter #20 of the United States after scoring his team's fourth goal in the second period against Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Czech Republic during the Men's Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, Phil Kessel‘s tweet did not sit well with members of Team USA.

“Didn’t Phil have surgery?” Zach Parise said today, per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press. “I don’t think he could even play, anyway. His tweet didn’t really make sense.”

David Backes added that certain tweets (Bobby Ryan had one as well) “have been read and I think will be remembered.”

In case you somehow missed it, Kessel tweeted after Team USA’s 4-2 loss to Canada last night: “Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”

The tweet has since been retweeted over 64,000 times.

Kessel, of course, was not chosen to represent the United States at the World Cup, despite being named the best forward at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

He wasn’t the only USA Hockey alumnus to use social media to express displeasure with the Americans’ performance:

“Fact is we were constructed this way,” Backes argued, per Yahoo Sports. “We didn’t go out and play the right way and the players didn’t execute on the ice and I don’t know – criticism is going to be spread out. I’ll take my fair share, but we didn’t get the job done. Open season maybe for a little while here. We’re going to need to take the criticism. Listen to some, maybe block out others but in the end we didn’t get the job done and it didn’t fold out the way we wanted to. I still believe this is the way we needed to be built. We didn’t go out there and do it.”

Related: Tortorella defends Team USA’s roster, blames loss to Canada on ‘self-inflicted’ mistakes

Clarkson fails physical, won’t be ready for Jackets training camp

David Clarkson
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David Clarkson has failed his physical and will not be with the Blue Jackets when they start training camp, reports Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.

The 32-year-old winger has a lower-back injury, according to Jackets president of hockey ops John Davidson.

Injuries limited Clarkson, whose contract is insured, to just 23 games (2G, 2A) for the Jackets last season. He was traded to Columbus from Toronto in February of last year, in return for injured winger Nathan Horton (whose contract is not insured and who hasn’t played an NHL game in over two years).

Clarkson is signed through 2019-20 for a cap hit of $5.25 million, and the way his contract is structured makes it practically buyout-proof.  But if cap relief is required, the Jackets may now be able to place him on long-term injured reserve.

When, or if, he’ll be able to play again remains to be seen.