What a feeling, what a rush

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

I'm not convinced this week's all-star break falls into the "exactly what the doctor ordered" category for the Vancouver Canucks.

Oh, it's refreshing, I'm sure, for the players . . . an opportunity to escape the grind that is the NHL's regular season and recharge the batteries. You may have noticed, however, as astute observers of the locals' recent play, that a little "R and R" wasn't desperately needed.

Alain Vigneault's hopes of his group picking up where it left off is easier said than done. Professional athletes are creatures of habit, and a sudden deviation from that routine can be somewhat disruptive.

The habit for the Canucks lately of course, has been winning hockey games. Since Christmas, Vancouver has been the NHL's best team. You heard right. Out of a possible 24 points, they have picked up 21. A roll like that doesn't happen very often, and when it does you don't like it to end because of the schedule.

And so Vigneault faces his latest challenge, and there is no reason to think he won't answer this one just as he has the myriad of others so far this season. A five-day break between the last game and today's practice might not seem like much, but there are factors to consider. The team had spent the previous 106 days together in some form, be it travelling, practicing or playing. Suddenly they scatter their separate ways oaround the continent, and the chance to forget about their day jobs, and the pressure that goes with them, is hard to resist.

Which is where the head coach comes in. Today's practice will likely have some pace to it. Last Friday's game in Buffalo will feel like a distant memory. Unfortunately, the feeling this team had captured might seem a little far off as well. Vigneault needs to reach into his bag of motivational tricks and remind his group where it was, and what it had established before the break. He needs to stress that the blood, sweat and toil of 48 games should not be compromised by a league- mandated vacation. Don't let tomorrow's game against the lowly Kings be one of those "two points we let slip away" specials.

Vigneault knows what he is doing. And based on the not-so-early returns of his players, they seem to have a grip on their priorities as well. As an organization you expect a level of professionalism from your most important employees. There is nothing wrong with the players unwinding a little over the past five days. There would be something terribly wrong if it interrupts what has been a terrific roll.

---

Barry Macdonald is co-host of BS in the Morning on the Team 1040 from 6-9 a.m. E-mail Barry at: barry.macdonald@24hrs.ca


Photos