Kevin Bieksa’s game-day speech in the Vancouver Canucks dressing room on November 3 had fans nodding along, if not standing and applauding.
After starting the season with a woeful 2-6-2 record, Bieksa was asked to speak to players on the day of his retirement celebration. What came next was an epic speech about culture — something was so clearly a problem for the 2022-23 Canucks.
Speaking this morning with Don Taylor and Rick Dhaliwal on CHEK TV, Bieksa expanded on what sees happening going forward for the Canucks, as the team tries to change the culture.
“I didn’t know it was going to be videotaped… and go viral,” Bieksa said of the viral November video on Donnie and Dhali. “That was honestly meant for just the team. That was meant just for their ears, and just to help them at the time of the season they were at.”
The speech appeared to help for one night only, as the Canucks beat the Anaheim Ducks 8-5 on Bieksa’s retirement night. But the season went off the rails.
Bruce Boudreau has since been fired as head coach, and captain Bo Horvat was traded.
The Canucks finished the season strong with a 17-7-3 record, good for seventh-best points percentage (.685) in the league after February 18. It has many people wondering if it’ll translate to success next season.
Bieksa says wins will be harder to come by in October.
“They ended the season amazing, obviously,” said Bieksa. “It starts all over fresh in the offseason, but I think Tocchet’s been really good for them, and Adam Foote and Gonchar. These guys have been really good for them. They’re all ex-players and they’re all like tough, gritty, take-no-shortcuts kind of guys. Certainly they were when they played.
“I’m all about habits. I just like the habits, and the way that guys competed down the stretch. The wins were nice, and let’s be honest, having Demko healthy was pretty nice as well.”
“They’ll have to start all over fresh. The games at the beginning of next season will be a lot harder to win than the games were down the stretch for the Canucks.”
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The Canucks have yet to name a new captain, with the organization seemingly saving the C for Elias Pettersson or Quinn Hughes. Both players have stepped up their leadership efforts according to head coach Rick Tocchet, but they aren’t exactly the loudest people in the room.
“The culture’s got to change,” Bieksa said. “My culture speech — that worked for my group and the people and the personalities in my dressing room. That’s not necessarily going to be exactly the way this team’s culture is going to be moving forward. It’s going to be like a general kind of similarity. They have to kind of develop their own, because their leaders are different.
“Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are a lot different than me and Ryan Kesler. Let’s be honest. Those are different personalities. They’re going to form their own leadership style, and then they’re going to hopefully run with that.”