Keep it behind closed doors

BARRY MACDONALD -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Now is not exactly the time for a subtle little disagreement for Canucks' head coach Alain Vigneault and any of his players.

Not in the throes of a slump that has seen Vancouver glean seven of a possible 24 points from its last 12 games. Not when the defensive corps has been ravaged by a spate of injuries that is almost laughable. Not when the subtle little disagreement involves one of your best defencemen, and not when it implies said defencemen could maybe "suck it up" a little.

It was just over a week ago, that Willie Mitchell was diagnosed with a fractured vertebra in his back. Uncomfortable for a computer programmer for certain, but a defenceman in the NHL? Mitchell said there was no timeline for his recovery, and that he wanted to be smart with the healing process. He also said that he played nine games with the injury, and that it progressively got worse.

Vigneault's take was a little different. He said it was a stress fracture and "all the doctors that have checked him out have all come to the same conclusion ... that with this type of stress fracture, if you can endure the pain, there's no way that he can aggravate it, that it could be season-ending or career-threatening. It's just a matter of handling the pain, and managing it." Vigneault went on to suggest that Mitchell is the type of player who could endure the pain, and keeping playing. Interesting.

Vigneault is walking a fine line here. Coaches are paid to push and prod, not pamper. But his quotes force you to draw one conclusion ... that with his initial comments at least, he is questioning the pain threshold of one of his top defencemen. It is a dangerous line to be walking.

Mitchell wears the "A" for a reason. He is respected for his commitment to the game, and to his teammates. Over the past five seasons, he has averaged 70 games per. He plays a physical style, dealing with the best forwards the opposition has to offer on a nightly basis.

Hockey players don't particularly like having their "playing with pain" meters questioned. They understand that playing hurt goes with the territory at times, but only Willie Mitchell knows the pain he is going through, and given his resume, I think his judgment should be trusted.

It is one of those issues that shouldn't be made public. I have no problem with Vigneault's blunt assessment of what happens on the ice, given that on any night there are thousands of witnesses who can attest to what he offers up. But the subtle nudging of an injured player shouldn't be played out publicly. The partnership between the club and its fans shouldn't extend that far.

It's closed door business ... and opening that door can only fracture the partnership between the head coach and his team.


Videos

Photos