This weekend 45 players will take to the ice at Meadow Park Sports Centre in Whistler, for official Training Camp before jumping into pre-season games starting on September 22nd in Edmonton. The players are looking forward to the new season and a fresh start.
“There are a lot new faces on the team, so the next 48 hours will be entirely dedicated to getting a good feel for my new teammates and making sure we develop a good chemistry,” said Roberto Luongo.
Head coach Alain Vigneault and the coaching staff will use the camp to give players an opportunity to assume new roles on the team and get them ready to play.
“Obviously there have been some changes to our group and we lost three key components to our dressing room, three guys that have had a definite influence; Trevor, Markus and Brendan,” Vigneault said. “But, I think that the fact that those three guys are gone is going to give an opportunity to some of our other players to impact the culture of our dressing room. Those guys were very good leaders, but I do think that we still have quite a few guys that can impact the culture, and can have a really positive effect on our group.”
While the players concentrate their energy on preparing for camp and the forthcoming season, the rest of Vancouver seems eager to know who will emerge as the Canucks new captain. The team however, is focusing on being the best they can be and winning games.
“I think anybody would take a lot of pride in wearing the ‘C’ on this team,” said Kevin Bieksa. “But, that’s something we’re not really going to think about too much. We’ve got training camp to think about and to get ready for the season.”
It will be up to the coaching staff to appoint the Canucks new captain.
“Some of our players are going to have the opportunity to express themselves in a bigger role, have an opportunity to impact the culture, like I mentioned before, of our organization,” he said. “And we’ll see how that unfolds. I mean, we’ve got to give this group, these players, an opportunity to express themselves not just a chance on the ice, but off the ice with great leadership.”
In regards to the style of hockey that this new Canucks team will play, Vigneault expressed that his focus will remain the same as the past two seasons - to be a winning hockey club.
“My job as the coach, the head coach, is to maximize the players potential that I have in front of me,” he said. “We really believe that if we can find that better balance between those three elements; grit, offence, defence, that we’ll be able to score more goals. And if we score more goals in theory we should be able to win more games.”
Pavol Demitra, who many are expecting to bring some of the offensive balance, is looking forward to playing with a determined squad and one of the league’s most talented goalies.
“I would like to play with Pyatt. I like to play with the big guys, he reminds me of Keith Tkachuk, and I had my best years with a guy like that. I like it when guys drive to the net, and he opens up ice for me.”
Many fans are also predicting that Steve Bernier will play with the Sedins. While the young winger is not sure who he will be playing with he plans to be ready for whatever the new season brings.
On a side note, while Luongo’s haircut has generated a large amount of media coverage, he was not the only player to show up to GM Place Friday morning with freshly trimmed locks. Mike Brown and Curtis Sanford also sported new cuts, Sanford opting for a Mohawk to head into the 2008-09 season.