Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wellwood's World, Chapter 10: Welly's Not Right, But He's Not Wrong

When we last left Kyle Wellwood, he was happy. Why wouldn't he be? Things are going swell for Welly. He's expecting his first child; his experience in Russia taught him a newfound respect for his home continent, as he no longer has to contend with dogs for the best links of sausage; he's fitting in beautifully in San Jose.

In 25 games, he's got 4 goals and 2 assists. Welly's also a +6, having only been a minus player once (two days ago). He remains an oft-kilter defensive stalwart. The Sharks are 18-4-3 since he joined the team. After Moscow, any NHL team would have sufficed, but Welly appears to have ridden the waiver wire to a mighty fine situation.

However, if Moscow has been happily banished to the past, his time in Vancouver remains a fresh memory. Interest in the Windsor native continues here, even though he now plays for one of the Canucks' stiffest rivals, and perhaps their most daunting potential postseason opponent.

That said, if he was hoping to put out some of the fires still burning for him in the Lower Mainland he certainly poured some water on them when he suggested the Canucks, season-long Stanley Cup favourites, didn't have the mettle to win it all this year. It was last week's most adorable heel turn.

Kyle Wellwood may be happy, but Canuck fans were not happy with him, when he predicted the Sharks were going to be the better team come playoff time. From Jason Botchford:

"I just feel feel Vancouver has a few more lessons to learn and I'm glad I'm in San Jose," Wellwood said. "I just feel [the Sharks] are more mature because they've lost a few more times.
"They're not so scared of losing. I think come playoff time [San Jose] is going to be better.

Instant reaction from a Canucks fanbase that's become a bit smug, a bit big for its britches, vacillated between something akin to screw 'im and instant hand-wringing, but Wellwood's thoughts deserve a longer look. He isn't wrong. He's just living in the past.

Kyle Wellwood hasn't been in this year's Canuck dressing room, so he's simply not qualified to comment. However, he was there last year, and he's rightly critical of what he saw: a roomful of tense, immature players -- a deleterious mindset. It's the mindset Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault saw and addressed when they called their players to a cooler, more zen-like attitude. It's the mindset that weighed heavily on Roberto Luongo as captain, a weight that shifted and dissipated when Henrik Sedin took up the mantle. It's the mindset that earned Ryan Kesler a reputation as overserious, now so far in the past some are questioning, Kesler included, whether it was ever there (it was).

The reality is that the Canucks of last season were exactly what Kyle Wellwood described, and that's why they lost. They lost their composure, they lost their confidence, they lost their way, and then they just lost. But while Welly was in Russia, the Canucks changed their entire mindset. Many of the players in the room remain the same, but it's not the same room.

In short, Welly was right--in 2010. He's wrong about this year.

Kyle Wellwood on The Wellwoods

As I said, in BC, Welly retains a faithful group of fans (such as ourselves), who have been following him since he left Vancouver last summer. One such subgroup is the Vancouver Wellwoods, a women's street hockey team named in his honour and the runner-up at this year's nationals. We're big fans of the Wellwoods here at PITB, and rumour has it Welly doesn't mind them either:

“It’s nice,” Wellwood said. “To be recognized as a person they can identify with is fun. It’s funny. I’m not embarrassed by it.”

Kyle Wellwood always seems so pleasant, doesn't he? No word on whether or not this gentle response came after Welly found out about the team's motto ("training is cheating") or 3 principles ("Soft hands, sharp minds, overall adorableness").


  1. Welly, a man possessed. By demons of the past.

  2. Welly also overlooked the stylized 'W' on our crest, which, according to some conspiracy nuts, bears a resemblance to an unnamed fast-food chain's McLogo ;)

    He was shown a few pictures from nationals and our Camalleri video, and according to the SJ rep, he "got a kick out of them."

  3. Timely, this post. Just this morning I was re-reading a Malcolm Gladwell essay called "The Art of Failure", which looks at the very significant differences between choking and panicking. It's well(wood) worth a read:

  4. When I read stories about how a team "chokes" after taking a series to a game 6 or 7 I think, "maybe they didn't choke....maybe they just lost". You know...they just didn't put as many pucks in the back of the net. Do we really need excuses? I seem to recall Pass it to Bulis declared the Blackhawks to be immature and unprepared after game 1 last year. They weren't wrong...but the Blackhawks still played better than every team they faced and this year...even with the added maturity and experience...they are unlikely to repeat. Why? Not lack of maturity. Talent level.

    That being said, the Vancouver team is obviously better because they are less likely to take penalties and have addressed leadership concerns. But more importantly...they've addressed the real glaring need: losing Willie Mitchell.

    Intangible can be guessed about until the end of time....but a healthy shut down defenseman or two and a more talented lower 6 forwards seem like a better answer to past woes.

  5. Well Woody, how's that for intelligence?
    Sleepy Lewis seems wide awake to me!
    Can't wait for the playoffs to commence
    To see which one foresaw what we will see.

    clay pigeon

  6. Imitation is the highest form of fattery.

  7. @Sleepy Lewis

    Yup. And in regards to my article: ironically, in hindsight, it was the Canucks that wound up being the immature ones. The Blackhawks were, but rather than rising above it, the Canucks sunk to their level and shot themselves in the foot.

    They were the less talented team, too, but any chance they had at an upset (because you're right, sometimes teams just lose) was out the window the moment they lost their cool.

  8. We have an excellent shot this year - arguably the best ever. But please, Please, PLEASE, let's not forget that that there is a fundamental element of luck that makes the entire venture exceedingly difficult. Particularly this year with so many teams so evenly matched in the west.

    I can't recall who said it, perhaps someone on the wings. They said, "you knock on the door and keep knocking on the door, and eventually it opens." We've been knocking for 4 years and another door should open for us but luck will have a hand as it always does - hopefully in our favour.

    Go Nucks Go!

  9. I love your use of the word deleterious. Now to be obscure for most people:

    When first it appears, the dressing room seems deleterious, but when explained, it's nothing serious.


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