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Vancouver Canucks

Kyle Wellwood – Proving 29 GM’s Wrong

After a disappointing training camp and only one game for Vancouver in the current season, Kyle Wellwood cleared waivers and was sent to the club’s minor league affiliate in Manitoba. Two days later, after the Canucks suffered a string of injuries, Wellwood again cleared waivers on his way back to the big team. Since then the 25 year old native of Windsor Ontario has played centre on the 2nd line in 19 straight games. During that period he’s scored 10 goals, which is good enough for second on the team and ties him for 30th in the league with such well known players as Evgeni Malkin, Mike Richards and Vincent Lecavalier

On clearing waivers twice in two days, 29 general managers decided that Wellwood could not improve their teams. This decision speaks volumes to the supposed brains’ trust that resides in the executive suites of the 14 teams playing at the bottom of their respective conferences. Maybe it was the $997,500 salary or the mistaken belief that Wellwood was out of shape and lazy, but whatever the reason, Canuck fans and management are happy that Wellwood made it back to Vancouver.

The question a lot of people have asked is how Kyle managed to turn his career around so dramatically. Wellwood was drafted in the 5th round and picked 134th overall in 2001. Just four years later he played 81 games as a 22 year old rookie with the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring 11 goals and adding 45 assists. His point output tailed off in the next two seasons and while he was always a bright prospect, it was said that he had a poor training regimen. After suffering a broken foot playing soccer in the spring, the Maple Leafs decided he was expendable and the Canucks claimed him on waivers June 25, 2008.

Kyle was out of shape coming in and had a poor training camp which quickly got him into the dog house with Canuck coach Alain Vigneault. Wellwood has always been popular enough with his teammates, but a poor performance in an early season game against Washington led to Vigneault benching him and eventually sending him down to the minors. Some say it was the two or three days riding the bus and eating fast food, compared to first class travel and a team chef in the big leagues, that woke Wellwood up to the opportunity presented when he was recalled so quickly. Others say that he just needed extra time to recover from his foot injury and round himself into better shape. Whatever the reason, he has been a changed player since his return.

The Canucks are close to being the most penalized team in the NHL this season and that has contributed greatly to their recent losing streak. Wellwood, on the other hand, has not had a penalty in his last 127 games. Heading into Detroit tomorrow, the Canucks are going to have to dramatically improve their special team performance if they are to halt their current slide. Fans are hoping that some of Wellwood’s scoring prowess and discipline will rub off on other members of the team or the month of December will be a long slide down the Western Conference standings.

The Old Timer
December 3, 2008

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