Good teams find a way to win; they are often adaptable, can change playing styles, often figure out tactics on the fly, and keep mistakes to a minimum. Championship teams at some point have to deal with a rough-house opponent. Two courses of action exist - play them head-to-head or diffuse the heavy hitting with slick play and speed.
Teams with a reputation for not handling a rampaging opponent become a target, forced to swallow every sort of indignity. Ottawa couldn`t defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup play-offs for the simple reason no Senator had the faintest idea how to neutralize Gary Roberts.
General managers and coaches bluster on about `team toughness` when their star players are being pummeled night after night. Who knows what the term means but I`m pretty sure `team toughness` has never won a Stanley Cup. Which brings us to the Vancouver Canucks.
GM Brian Burke and coach Marc Crawford have been croaking nonsense about the `TT` thing for weeks now. If winger Trent Klatt was still on the roster, well they might have a point. But man-mountain mush-mush Todd Bertuzzi hasn`t hit anyone this season and likely won`t. A bright bunny figured out if the Sedin brothers were firmly planted on their rear ends they had a difficult time cycling the puck. Others around the league noticed the only guy who would fight when a team mate was pounded into mincemeat was Brad May. He`s not very good at it but he tries.
Finally, admitting nothing, Burke bought himself a goon by the name of Wade Brookbank. Mr Brookbank wasn`t drafted out of junior; he laboured for a team no-one has heard of in Anchorage; in six previous seasons he`s played 345 games, none in the NHL; he has one goal in five years of play-off action. Not much to recommend him except he has a mammoth penalty total - 1821 minutes - and his heavyweight size.
Brookbank was brought to Vancouver back in December, then lost on waivers to Ottawa. Canucks wanted to send him to the minors most likely for conditioning. He hasn`t played much this year and his hands might be stiff. Ottawa then traded him to Florida and the Panthers, being no smarter than the Canucks, tried to dump him back into the minors but once again those pesky waivers. With a second chance, Vancouver put him on the NHL roster and he played Saturday night in Calgary. For a while there he was changing teams faster than Brent Ashton.
Against the Flames Brookbank had 14 seconds of ice-time, but put those three shifts to maximum use - he flattened Calgary`s goon, Krzysztzoff Oliwa, with a punch then wrestled Oliwa to the ice in a re-match.
The Canucks won but more importantly in the long run the Sedins and winger Jason King had plenty of jump while defenceman Ed Jovanovski played his best game in weeks.
Well done, Mr Goon, all Vancouver hopes you rise to the level of legendary hard man Gino Odjick. As you climb, kindly take the faint-hearted Bert with you.