Well, that didn’t take long, did it (Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun)?
Kyle Wellwood is an easy guy to ridicule. He is slow, pudgy and played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Insert punchlines here.
However, the Vancouver Canucks didn’t waive Wellwood on Friday for any of those reasons. He was waived because the National Hockey League team found younger, better players at his position and needed to protect its depth on defence.
In the preseason, Wellwood showed exactly why the Canucks picked him up from waivers. He put up 4 points in 5 exhibition games and demonstrated his soft hands and good playmaking abilities; however, in the one real game he played (against Washington), he was invisible and it was obvious that his lack of conditioning finally caught up to him.
To be fair, Wellwood is well aware of how and where he screwed up (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province).
Maligned this preseason for his struggles with conditioning, Wellwood admitted that during his time with Vancouver he never looked ready to be a top-six forward.
“In my career so far I’ve had a couple months in the NHL where I was a good player,” Wellwood said. “That carried me through the injuries and gave me another shot in Vancouver. I didn’t feel that comfortable on the ice this year.
“I played well in exhibition but I didn’t feel like it was obvious I was a top-six player and that has to do with my fitness, my confidence and just getting into the rhythm of things. I just need some more seasoning and more training. Hopefully, I’ll end up looking like a good player again and I’ll be able to play in this league.”
Whether or not Wellwood gets that other shot remains to be seen. And whether or not it is with the Canucks organization is another thing. He is a restricted free agent after this season so the Canucks still obviously retain his rights, but even assuming that he gets in shape and the team re-signs him, I’m not sure there is a spot for him on the roster. He needs to play in an offensive role. This early season, he didn’t outplay Mason Raymond or even Jannik Hansen. Next season, he’ll need to outplay Michael Grabner and probably Cody Hodgson as well. With the Canucks’ lack of offensive weapons, this season was quite possibly Wellwood’s best chance at a comeback. I’m not sure he’ll get another one.
(edit: October 20, 2008, 5:29 AM)
Apparently, the hockey gods are more forgiving than I am. Injuries to Pavol Demitra, Darcy Hordichuk and Rick Rypien may force the Canucks to recall Wellwood already (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province).