We don’t need someone to crack the whip: Bieksa
Whomever the Canucks hire as coach, blueliner says they’re inheriting a veteran, internally accountable, team
Vancouver Canucks players talk to the media at Rogers Arena on May 9, 2013 after their season ended in their loss to San Jose Sharks Tuesday. “I don’t think we need somebody to come in and crack the whip,” defenceman Kevin Bieksa said Thursday. “We can work together toward a common goal. I still believe in this team and that the core can win and that we’re young enough to win. We’re more mature and even-keeled, and maybe (coach’s rants) is appropriate on rare occasions, but every coach has his own strategy and opinions on how they should act.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
It’s always been about the room.
There’s the Mind Room, the Star-Trek like locker-room and the room they turned into a posh players’ lounge complete with chef service.
The Vancouver Canucks often reference the room — that place where they take refuge from the coaching staff and media to hold each other accountable — and the veterans who set that performance bar are left alone by Alain Vigneault. It created urgency from within and also a comfort zone.
How the successor to Vigneault sells the buy-in will be more important than finding that third-line centre or improving a pitiful power play.
Being swept aside in the playoffs should provide all the incentive, but the Canucks said the same thing a year ago when they bowed out of the postseason in five games. They believed in the core. They believed in the coaches. The refrain echoed again after the San Jose Sharks series, and you wonder if the new coach may have to be as visible in the room as behind the bench.
Constricted by salary-cap concerns and forced to fast-track prospects, the core will have to do more than talk a good game among themselves.
“I don’t think we need somebody to come in and crack the whip,” defenceman Kevin Bieksa said Thursday.
“We can work together toward a common goal. I still believe in this team and that the core can win and that we’re young enough to win. We’re more mature and even-keeled, and maybe (coach’s rants) is appropriate on rare occasions, but every coach has his own strategy and opinions on how they should act.
“We’ve grown up a lot together and we’re accountable. I think we can handle that stuff internally with the players.”
How the Canucks handled prepping for the postseason is open to interpretation. They won seven of their last 12 games — including inspiring wins over Detroit and Chicago — and then forgot to show up against Anaheim and Edmonton.
They played the Sharks tough all season but never beat them, and never had an answer for a depth mismatch down the middle. Their adjustments were odd and it took until Game 4 to realize the chemistry of Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins and Derek Roy should be exploited in an attempt to extend the season and blowing the zone to score off the rush wasn’t a bad idea.
But flip-flopping goalies and eight goals in four games simply weren’t going to cut it, and the coaching axe was going to finally fall.
“We had a team in the first round that we felt we should have beat,” said Bieksa. “A lot of people can bear the responsibility for that. I don’t want to get into details of the system we played, but we didn’t execute. I’m not going to sit here and blame one thing or the other. Last year, we weren’t sure what was going to happen with a first-round exit, and this year just solidified things.”
The Canucks had reason to question officiating in their Western Conference quarterfinal. Bieksa’s off-day rant before Game 4 that cited Logan Couture and Joe Thornton as embellishers to draw penalties shifted the focus of how much the Canucks were struggling in every aspect of the series.
It also shifted attention from how much Bieksa was struggling to compete. The blueliner missed seven games with a groin strain during the regular season and never fully recovered. Loathe to lean on the injury crutch or even discuss his own health challenges, Bieksa learned rest and recovery when you’re playing every other night sounds great, but was seldom achieved.
The NHL lockout followed by brief training camps saw a number of players beset by groin ailments. Some morphed into other concerns.
“It was a grind,” admitted Bieksa. “The first few months of the season, I felt great. There were some injury problems and whether you can attribute that to the lockout, I don’t think you can. Once you get injured or sustain some sort of setback, it’s really tough to get healthy because of how many games there are in a short time. That’s worked against me for sure. But everybody was in the same position. I don’t need excuses.”
Asked if he needs an offseason procedure after the Canucks revealed that Jordan Schroeder had shoulder surgery, Bieksa added: “I don’t think so.”
Bieksa turns 32 next month and is under contract for three more seasons at a $4.6 million US annual cap hit. He made the most of the lockout by organizing the highly successful Bieksa’s Buddies charity game as the Canucks pushed to support several local charities. He also organized ice time at UBC to push his peers in those informal skates that were great in theory, but not long on being the ultimate preparation. But in consideration of his family and those of his teammates, it was the best he could do under the circumstances.
“We could have changed a view things, but Vancouver is my home,” said Bieksa. “We set up shop like we normally do. I don’t think I would have done a whole lot differently — I was pretty happy.”
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