Sports

All's not well in Wellwood's world 0

BARRY MACDONALD

It was one of the first significant moves made by new Canucks general manager Mike Gillis.

It was the signing of Toronto castoff Kyle Wellwood, who as a member of a sorry Maple Leaf bunch last season, managed 21 points in 59 games. You know your career is headed in the wrong direction when the Leafs give you your walking papers.

So it certainly raised a few eyebrows in the offseason when Gillis committed one year and one million dollars to Wellwood, who has been more suspect than prospect in his three-year NHL career. In 189 games with Toronto, Wellwood managed 31 goals, and 108 points. Darryl Sittler he wasn't. The frustrating part for the Leafs was the sense that Wellwood was capable of much more.

Which is what Gillis is banking on; but the leash Wellwood is on became a little shorter earlier this week. He broke his foot playing soccer last spring, and Alain Vigneault made it pretty clear at the Canucks' camp in Whistler that his conditioning was not at an NHL level.

Certainly, a busted foot would impede his off-season conditioning to a degree, but it raised alarm bells, given that former Leafs' coach Paul Maurice questioned Wellwood's commitment to his rehabilitation after groin surgery following the 2006-07 season. Wellwood it should be noted, did not disagree with his former coach's assertion.

Which brings us to now, and how it impacts the Canucks. If Wellwood isn't dedicated enough to his craft, that does not reflect well on him, and it does not reflect well on the man who brought him here. That would be Gillis. You don't want one of your initial moves to be an unmitigated disaster, like having to eat a one-million-dollar contract. It's not the way to curry favour with the paying customers, who are in the process of trying to figure out whether they are going to jump on the bandwagon or not.

It also puts Vigneault in a tough spot, and could be an early test for the coach-GM relationship. Wellwood might not be in shape, but Gillis might "suggest" to Vigneault that he get every shot to play himself into shape .... the type of shot, some other "lesser lights" might not get.

Pure speculation on my part, but Wellwood has put a number of people, most notably himself, in a tough spot.\


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