I spent some time studying Kyle Wellwood during last nights 4-3 SO game against the Oilers, and came to the conclusion that it doesn't matter whether he is in 'hockey shape' or not.
He was never once out of breath when he came back to the bench at the end of his shifts. Heck, I couldn't even detect a single bead of sweat on his brow thoughout the contest (and he played 1st line minutes!).
So how does he do it? How does this (allegedly) weak, out of shape pseudo athlete play that many minutes without getting his heartbeat above 80?
Well, I thought you'd never ask....
He is a graduate of the Wayne Gretzky School of Defense. Good old WGSD!
Of course, in the offensive zone he is creative in finding open ice, makes sublime passes, and even goes to(ward) the net. But it is in the neutral zone that his WGSD training kicks in.
If his man has a couple of steps on him between the blue lines, he doesn't kick it into another gear and try to catch up like the rest of the meat in the NHL. No no no. He lets him go. That's what defensmen are for. He knows his guy is not going to beat both D-men by himself, so he peels off and glides around in a big lazy semi-circle using his vision to anticipate the play.
As the defenceman holds the blue line against the attacking player he analizes possible outcomes, and insinuates himself into the most likely passing lane.
Even if he doesn't intercept the pass and steal the puck, his forward momentum always seems to have him gliding toward the player on the receiving end of the pass.Then he simply gets in the way to slow him up a bit, until he can either pick his pocket or force another pass. Either way, the opposing team's momentum is stymied.
Kyle plays an incredibly efficient game; that is, if you define 'efficient' as getting the best result for the least amount of energy expenditure. He never has to sweat, because he never seems to skate hard for more then 2 or 3 strides. He glides more than any player I've seen in years.
This has got to be driving Coach crazy. I can just imagine AV screaming 'SPEED! SPEED!' as is his wont, and Wellwood just gliding around and around in lazy circles.
I really think that Kyle's future with the Canucks depends soley on whether or not Alain Vigneault has the flexibility to adapt to Wellwood's style, because Kyle Wellwood is never going to be an AV type of player.
Good luck with that Kyle.