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Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault directs his players during team practice in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday April 14, 2009. The Canucks open their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series against the St. Louis Blues Wednesday in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

DARRYL DYCK

Human nature v. coaching instincts.

That battle was on display Monday at Vancouver Canucks practice, when head coach Alain Vigneault stopped the proceedings. He wasn't pleased with the casual effort or attention level, and had a brief meeting with the players before resuming the Rogers Arena session.

"If a coach only has to stop practice one time during the year because he's not happy with execution or total involvement, it's been a pretty good year," Vigneault later explained.

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Indeed.

The Canucks have already clinched the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the NHL playoffs, and are playing out the regular-season string with four meaningless games. They sure played as if nothing was at stake Saturday in a 4-1 loss to the cellar-dwelling Edmonton Oilers.

And it carried over through a Sunday off day, and into a Monday morning practice.

But you can understand why this happens. It's almost unavoidable.

After 70-plus games of intensity, the players know full well that these final four games are not important, and that getting through them without injury is paramount. They've got as many as four rounds and 28 playoff games to prepare for, so it's no surprise that Game 80 against the Oilers doesn't get their juices flowing.

And you can understand why Vigneault is irked.

It's his job to keep the players sharp, and coaches hate it when they're not the most important voice in the room. Every game, every practice, and every shift can be used to make a coaching point, and Vigneault made his Monday.

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The only surprise is that this didn't happen sooner.

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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