A new era is about to begin in Vancouver.
For better or for worse, the identity of this team is changing. With both Sedins retiring, the Canucks will be drastically different by subtraction.
Losing the Sedins means that a whopping $14 million in cap space has been freed up. Jim Benning undoubtedly faces pressure to turn this team around, but will he cave under the expectations and spend like he has in previous seasons?
Trevor Linden may not be the GM, but he certainly seemed comfortable with squashing those notions during the Canucks end of the season media availability.
“We’re going to be very young next year,” he said.
It was one of the first quotes from Canucks management during the press conference. He also mentioned Gaudette, Virtanen, Goldobin, Lepisic, and “possibly Pettersson” as replacements on the power play. That sure doesn’t sound like a guy who seems all for chasing free agents.
He also mentions that ownership is on board with employing a young team.
“This is unique territory, having the unique flexibility we have moving forward,” Linden said. [Ownership has been] incredibly supportive of where we are with these young players moving forward.”
While Linden was eager about the young core, Jim Benning and Travis Green were more collected in their comments.
“To sit here and say that some of the young guys are gonna fill those holes...we don’t know yet,” Green said. We need Bo Horvat to keep improving, we need Adam Gaudette to have a great summer. Brock Boeser, can he get better?”
“We need to get better,” he said. Our organization needs to take steps forward. These young guys, they have to come back in four or five months as better hockey players if they want to make this team.”
It makes sense that Green seems more cautious about proclaiming the Canucks will have a team full of youngsters, and Benning seemed to echo those sentiments.
“It’s going to be up to the young guys to come to prove to green and the coaching staff that they deserve to be here next year,” said Benning.
When it came to talking about all of that free cap space, Linden once again bred caution about signing free agents.
“Rushing out and trying to do that, I think we have to be very careful with how we approach that,” he said.
“I think it’s very likely that we could be several million below the cap.”
Benning also bred caution, but wasn’t as forthcoming in his comments to tred lightly during free agency as Linden was. These were his comments when asked about how he could improve the defence.
“If we can make improvements through trades or free agency, we’ll look to do that but its too early to comment at this time,” said Benning.
On Some of the Younger Guys...
Speaking of some of the younger guys the Canucks are excited about, Green was please with the five-game sample from Adam Gaudette.
“I was excited with his five-game sample,” he said. He’s one of our young centerman that we need to take a step.”
Nevermind his lack of points, Gaudette proved in his five-game audition that he has the awareness and hockey sense to play in the NHL. He made plays and passes that fringe NHLers like Reid Boucher have never made in this league. His best game of the season might have been his last against the Oilers, where he was all over the net and did everything but score.
Green was also asked about Nikolay Goldobin’s play as the season went on.
“I think Goldy put a lot of effort into playing a quicker, harder game,” said Green. The young Russian was more noticeable with seven points in his final 11 games, but with seven more in his previous 27, he didn’t exactly blow Green’s socks off.
Still, Linden seemed to mention Goldobin as a guy who could be on the Canucks power play next year. His improvements do give a glimmer of hope, but there’s no guarantee for him to make this team next year.
Goldobin is an RFA, and Benning mentioned during the press conference that despite arying degrees of success, he wants to have all RFA’s back next year. That includes the likes of Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Jake Virtanen, Goldobin, Boucher, Troy Stecher, and Derrick Pouliot.
On the Defence...
One of the most interesting parts of the press conference was when Green was asked about Ben Hutton’s season. He certainly didn’t have many positive things to say, but he did end on a good note.
“I know analytics says that Ben does some good things,” said Green. At the end of the day he had 6 assists in 61 games.”
“I think he needs to improve on his skating. His conditioning needs to be better.”
“We need to get more production from our back end. Our defense needs to have more offence in it. I think Hutton can get back to 20, maybe 25-30 points in a season.
Whether Hutton gets a chance to compete for a spot on the Canucks next season waits to be seen, but Green is sure putting the emphasis on the player to improve.
He wasn’t as critical about Pouliot, but didn’t shower him with glowing praise either.
“[He was] up and down. I want to see Derrick Pouliot come back a better player,” Green said.