It's time to get tough

GUTS MCTAVISH, FOR SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

On Oct. 10, 2007 the Philadelphia Flyers waltzed into GM Place and handed the Canucks an 8-2 drubbing. To kill time during goals the Flyers decided to pillage anything in blue, green and white.

The truly inexcusable part was that the Canuck leadership did absolutely nothing about it. Most noticeably absent: Captain Markus Naslund.

When a team gets bullied on home ice, news like that travels fast in the NHL. Suddenly teams fly into Vancouver a lot more optimistic. Goal scorers who wouldn't dare screen Kiprusoff the night before have no problem backing into Luongo. An effort like the one vs. the Flyers plants a dangerous seed that can destroy a team's overall chemistry. What it did for the Flyers was give them a sense that whatever rink they went into, they had already won the mental battle.

The Flyers' turnaround from 56 points in 06/07 to 95 points in 07/08 should provide Canuck GM Mike Gillis with some optimism. That type of turnaround usually takes years to happen if at all. And to think it all started with team toughness.

This year's Canuck squad does not promise more goals, nor does it promise more wins. What it does promise however, is the end of being pushed around in their own building.

With the acquisition of Darcy Hordichuk and Rob Davison, Canuck players can rest assured someone finally has their back. Add that to a nasty-to-play-against captain (Mitchell, Bieksa or Kesler), and the Canucks' days of passive leadership will be a distant memory.

Of course the real test of the Canucks' team toughness will come on Dec. 30 when the notorious Flyers make a return visit to GM Place. I promise you we will know within 30 seconds of the puck drop just what kind of character team Gillis has amassed.


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