Canuck leaders show way

HOSEA CHEUNG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Leaders following leaders.

That's been Ryan Walter's simple, yet important, message to this Canucks team ever since he was hired as assistant coach this past offseason.

"The more leadership you can develop on your team, the more successful you are," said Walter, who holds a Master's degree in leadership. "Everything rises and falls on leadership."

That's exactly the way this season has gone for Vancouver.

When captain Roberto Luongo was in fine form earlier this year, the rest of the squad produced impressive team numbers as the Canucks took the lead in the Northwest Division.

But since his injury in late November, the Canucks have slowly fallen, going 2-5-4 in the past eleven games.

So after their leader put forth a spectacular showing against the San Jose Sharks last Tuesday prior to the all-star break, is it time for the Canucks to rebound?

If the rest of the team needed a perfect example of hard work and determination to follow, they got it from the man with the 'C'.

And there's no better player to lead the charge than their all-star captain.

Ever since they lost former captain Markus Naslund to free agency and veteran Trevor Linden to retirement in the off-season, the leadership group in the locker room needed a facelift.

So GM Mike Gillis named the most tireless, most intense and most committed player on his team - a goaltender - the captain.

And it's been hard to criticize his choice since, even though Vancouver had plenty of options to choose from, notably Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, and Ryan Kesler, who were all named alternate captains.

As if there weren't enough leadership candidates, enter Mats Sundin, an 11-year captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"He came in ears opened, mouth closed, just sort of making sure that he wasn't taking over or anything," said Walter. "Over the last weeks, he's starting to integrate himself as part of the team."

So it's no surprise that Vancouver's newest leader is beginning to offer words of wisdom to try and help his team turn their recent woes around.

"Every team goes through tough times and this team is facing adversity right now," said Sundin. "But it's how you deal with it that's going to be the difference."

Whatever the case, it's going to take more then just one player to lead by example if Vancouver wants to start posting the Ws.

"Leaders are important," said forward Alex Burrows. "They know when to speak, when to talk, when it's a tough time and when it's a good time."

Right now, they need to know that it's time to step up. They need to know that it's time to win again. 


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