Kevin Bieksa takes stock of the Canucks’ future, culture, and leadership
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
If anyone knows what it takes to establish a winning culture in Vancouver, it’s Kevin Bieksa.
The legendary defender appeared on Donnie and Dhali Monday morning to talk about the Canucks end to the season, and the importance of setting up a strong winning culture ahead of next season.
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Despite being as competitive as NHL players come — and having coworkers that love to pester like the Hockey Night in Canada crew — the former Canuck turned analyst isn’t losing any sleep over the 2011 Stanley Cup Final these days.
“I always tell everyone, Amber and Elliotte and Ron, you can’t hurt my feelings. So they try to throw digs at me and the 2011 thing always comes back like, ‘Couldn’t just win one more game, eh Kev?’ and all those chirps come back. And honestly, it doesn’t bug me,” Bieksa said.
“Yeah, would I’ve wanted to win that Game 7? 100 percent. Do I sit up at night crying about it and having nightmares? No, I don’t because winning that game would have been obviously summiting Everest, but the climb to the top was amazing. Like the whole playoff run, the season, the fans, all of our games that we had on home ice during the playoffs was such an amazing experience. So I wouldn’t have traded that for anything.”
Bieksa likened the team’s late-season surge to ones made by a less-than-ideal comparable: the pre-Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers.
“We watched the Oilers for years that were out of the playoffs by Christmas, and they’d have a good second half when they had young Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall and those kinds of teams that they had,” Bieksa said, before offering a more positive outlook on the work the coaching staff has put in.
“It starts all over fresh in the offseason, but I think Tocchet’s been really good for them and [so have] Adam Foote and Gonchar. These guys have been really good for them because they’re all ex-players, and they’re all tough, gritty, ‘take no shortcuts’ kind of guys.”
Bieksa went on to talk about the team’s habits and what the work the team put in at the end of the season can accomplish. But he also made sure to remind people that the wins the Canucks picked up at the end of the year aren’t a guarantee of success next season.
“I’m all about habits, obviously. I just like the habits and the way that guys competed down the stretch,” Bieksa said. “The wins and everything were nice and, let’s be honest, having Demko healthy was pretty nice as well for the team and having him back at his game. But they’ll have to start all over fresh.”
“The games at the beginning of next season will be a lot harder to win than the games were down the stretch for the Canucks.”
Bieksa’s understanding of the current Canucks locker room might not be as in-depth as it was when he was on the team, but he has seen it firsthand. On the night of his official retirement as a Canuck in December, Bieksa gave the team a memorable pregame speech about his time in Vancouver and what it meant.
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But he knows for this new core to have anywhere close to the same success that his teams had, they’ll have to forge their own path.
“My culture speech, that worked for my group and for the people and the personalities in my dressing room. That’s not necessarily going to be exactly the way this team’s culture is gonna be moving forward. It’s going to be like a general kind of similarity, but they have to kind of develop their own because their leaders are different,” the former Canucks assistant captain said, before picking out two names in particular he sees leading that charge.
“Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are a lot different than me and Ryan Kesler. Like let’s be honest, those are different personalities. So they’re going to form their own leadership style, and then they’re going to hopefully run with that.”
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