How confident are you in the Canucks improving again next season?
Despite missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season, the Canucks finished with 81 points, their best result since making the playoffs in 2014-15. Much of that was thanks to the performances of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Jacob Markstrom, however it’s clear that this team still needs a ton of work to compete for a Stanley Cup.
Travis Green and Jim Benning gave their thoughts on the season during media availability on Monday morning. At times, they said the rights things and at others, they didn’t inspire as much confidence.
Here are some headlines based on comments from Travis Green and Jim Benning.
“Improvements” will be made
The Canucks weren’t a very good team this season, finishing in the bottom ten of the NHL for the fourth year in a row. Here’s Benning’s take why the Canucks missed the playoffs and what the plan is for the offseason.
“From that 60th to 80th game, teams start dialing in for the playoffs and it gets harder to score,” said Benning.
That turned out to be true for the Canucks. Those 50 goals they scored between games 60 and 80 was fifth-worst in the NHL.
Here’s what Benning said about his offseason plans for grading the roster.
“We’re going to sit down as a management team and go through all the players,” he said. “I have an idea of what we’re going to do [with our roster]. We had some injuries, Antoine Roussel, he wont be available at the start of the season so we have to consider that. We’re going to talk about it as a group and move forward from there.”
Not much there from Benning, although during the same media availability last season, it was Trevor Linden providing the juicy quotes, rather than Benning or Green.
As per usual, Green was more blunt in his assessment of the team.
“As a group, we want to improve in a lot of places,” Green said. “Adding Tanner Pearson was a big add for our group. but, when you’re a team that doesn’t make the playoffs, you have to make improvements throughout your lineup.”
Right you are, Mr. Green.
Benning on what those improvements could look like
“It would be nice to add another top-six player in the scoring department. Tanner Pearson, we’re excited about him. We also want to look at our defence. If we could make some upgrades to our defence, we will look at doing that.”
Dear God, just don’t let those upgrades on defence come in the form of Tyler Myers.
Of course, Benning should gun hard for either Artemi Panarin or Erik Karlsson, although the odds of convincing them to come to Vancouver is slim. However, the biggest victory for the Canucks could be avoiding the big mistake. Signing Tyler Myers, Wayne Simmonds, or any other mediocre free agent to a long-term contract could be death for this team.
Benning still has confidence in Utica
Maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it should cause pause for thought at the very least.
Benning wasn’t overly critical in his assessment of Utica, citing confidence in the team of Trent Cull and Ryan Johnson
“Our young players, we have a plan for each one of them,” Benning said. “Kole Lind got hurt and missed two months. It’s a struggle to get back up to speed after that but he showed strides in the last month before getting hurt again.”
Everyone develops on their own path,” said Benning. “Some players can just jump into the NHL right away and some need more time. We still like a lot of these guys as prospects and we think the can be players.”
At this point, it was time for Benning to cite the injury excuse.
“Part of what happened is we got a bunch of injuries up here and [Utica] started bringing in East Coast [hockey league] players that maybe didn’t help out as much. When I talked to [Ryan Johnson] and Trent a couple of weeks ago, I think those guys have done a real good job down there and were going to do what we can to support them.”
Is anyone else tired of the old injury excuse? Sure, injuries hampered the Comets this year, but were the likes of Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Lucas Jasek and other really put into a position to succeed? Perhaps next year will be more telling, but this comment felt like Benning giving the Comets’ brass the ol’ pat on the back despite all the shortcomings in Utica.
The Canucks hypotheses to constant injuries
So we learned today (or at least I did) that the Canucks have done some internal research on why this team is injured so often, although the rationale isn’t rocket science.
“Injuries happen with the compressed schedule where we play so many games in a short period of time,” Benning said. “Also, as our team gets to be more of an offensive team, we’re going to block less shots, spend less time in our own zone and hopefully that will mean less injuries.”
“We did a study for three weeks and looked at a lot of different things,” Benning said. “Those are the two things that make the most sense.”
So, I guess good on Benning and the Canucks for doing their own research, although I’d like to hear their action plans for promoting schedule changes and create more offence...
Benning on when teams win
“We took a big step this year,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of hope for our team. The year Petey had, the year Boes had, Bo had a big year. These are young kids. When teams get good and win they win with 26-35 year old players.
“I’m excited about the future, I’m excited about next year. We have a lot of work to do this summer to add to this group.”
There’s little doubt that Benning’s thinking is jaded by the past. Teams in the last 10-12 years have won the Cup with younger cores. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks won their first Cups of the 21st century with younger cores.
Benning should have his sights set on trying to win sooner. Teams in the past have done it, and Canucks management shouldn’t be waiting on five more years of Elias Pettersson before competing for a Cup.
On Canucks’ Free Agent signings “changing the culture”
Here’s one of the most maddening quotes from Benning.
“Jay beagle was a leader for our group this year. Sometimes, when things weren’t going good, he was still positive with the young players. Same with Roussel. He was a guy that brought energy to our group and he led our group into the battle every night. It was a good year for Rous. Schaller had a tough time finding his footing but in the last month, he’s found a spot for us going forward.”
“Those three changed the culture of our group. At times, we weren’t competitive and were overwhelmed. It might not show on the scoresheet, but they were all big parts of changing the culture of our group.”
This was Benning coming to the defence of three guys that he signed on July 1st. In reality, only Antoine Roussel exceeded expectations. It’s hard to argue that Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller weren’t disappointing, especially Schaller. Apparently, according to Benning, Schaller did enough in the last month of the season to earn a spot on this team moving forward. Do you agree?
On Olli Juolevi’s potential impact
“We’ve been trying to look at our D for the last 3-4 years, that’s why we drafted Juolevi at 5th overall,” Benning said. “We think he can be a real good puck moving defenceman. He’s run into some bad luck with injuries. I talked to him a couple weeks ago and he’s on the path to recovery. We hope he can repeat the whole year without being hurt. He was playing power play, penalty kill, playing 22-25 minutes per night in Utica. If he wasn’t hurt, we would have seen him up year in the last half of the year, and we look forward to him being a big part of our team moving forward.”
One of the most telling quotes is that Benning and the Canucks have been looking at dixing this defence for 3-4 years, and the job is still far from complete. Having Juolevi and Quinn Hughes reach their potential would certainly help, but it feels like the Canucks are still an impact right-shot defenceman away from being competitive.
That’s a big hole to fill, so let’s just start with Hughes and Juolevi as full-time NHLers first.