Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Time to Show Up

I was off enjoying Grey Cup festivities, so fortunately I was not subjected to yet another blowout loss to the Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks have now lost two in a row and not surprisingly, call-in shows and message boards are full of people bitching about the state of affairs in Canuck land. If you had just awoke from a coma and looked at the standings you'd wonder what the fuss was about. 15-8-2, leading the division and people are complaining? This is the same franchise that has finished at .500 or above in only 11 of 34 seasons?

It seems strange complaining about a 15-8-3 team, doesn't it?

Let's face it, there is nothing wrong with the record of this hockey club, but something is not right in Canuck land.

They have continually been out-played in the first period, one of their best players shows up once a week, they have been abysmal on the road and yet nearly perfect at home, and most perplexing of all, they have repeatedly come out flat against their biggest rival.

Tonight they are playing the Avalanche for the sixth time this season. Vancouver has lossed each of the last four meetings while being out-scored 21-10. How many times will they need to be embarrassed before they show up to play? Will tonight be the night?

Vancouver is 5-5 in their last ten games and have seen their division lead dissappear. If they don't get their act together they could easily find themselves in 4th place behind the Avalanche, Flames and Oilers. Clearly the players have taken notice of their precarious position, yesterday they called a players only meeting. Pehaps it was long overdue.

Of course, while there is plenty to be concerned with, the sky isn't falling. The team is still 7 games over .500 despite not finding consistency in their game. They have been nearly unbeatable on home ice. Their special teams have steadily improved since a slow start. They've even managed to "win ugly," something which they have been unable to do in years past.

So then what's wrong with this Canucks team?

While there are many things which need improvement it all comes down to one simple concept. Hard work.

It really is that simple. On their bad nights this team is still good enough to beat most teams based on talent alone. They can beat teams in 5 minutes while most opponents need to play 60 just to be in it. They can coast for the rest of this season and still finish in the middle of the conference.

However that is not going to cut it if they hope to have any playoff success. Teams like Calgary and Minnesota will out work them and it will be another early exit for this core of players.

Speaking of the core, this is it for them. Rightly or wrongly Dave Nonis has given this core another opportunity. There is no cap-room to make significant changes without weakening another area of the team. The coaching staff isn't going to take the fall for the players' lack of effort. What you see is what you get and the sooner the players realize this the better.

The success of this team is squarely on their shoulders and it is completely up to them to show up and play like they mean it.

Tonight is a critical juncture in this season. Another slow start and weak effort would be very disturbing.

It's time to show up.

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