It’s time for another edition of the Nucks Misconduct Roundtable. Each week we get our writers together and ask them a number of questions about the state of this team we’ve been cursed to follow. Sometimes they play it straight, sometimes it’s Westy and Jimmi, but you’ll always get the unvarnished opinions on the Canucks here.
1- Let’s start off this edition by talking about whether or not this is “too early” for people to be calling for anyone’s head. Is it, though?
Westy - Some Canuck fans were calling for Benning’s head from the second he was hired. I am not going to re-hash all of his moves, but needless to say, if you hand out enough $6 million/yr contracts to players who suck, people may not like you. As for Green, I think his time is up. He has taken this team as far as it can go with his system. I have openly called for him to go. I am not backing down from that stance.
Rob - It’s never too early but it may be unwise.
The Canucks’ fan base is very impatient. The last time they called for the heads of Benning and Green was after the team’s two and five start to the season. Eight games ago. Then the club went on to win three decisive games over Ottawa and an impressive road victory over Winnipeg to win four straight games and the parade route discussion was back on.
Even in a shortened season there is still time for Travis Green to get his team back on track and into a playoff position.
At the end of the day, whether intentional or not, Jim Benning made off season decisions that were in the best long term interests of the franchise moving forward. No one I’ve seen has tried to argue that the Canucks should have matched the Flames’ mega contract offers to Markstrom and Tanev. In reality those are the two gaping holes in the line-up right now. But Demko and Schmidt are both capable of upping their play considerably yet...I hope.
When all is said and done, it is up to Pettersson and Hughes as to how the rest of the Canucks’ season unfolds. Will they be more focused on their upcoming unified contract battle in the summer or will they refocus on their unified battle to make the playoffs in the spring?
Markus - Nope, and frankly it’s too late! Jim should have been gone years ago and while it won’t have any short-term impacts, ownership needs to send a message and let him go. I’m not quite there on Green yet, but a few more poor games and I’ll be close.
jimmi - Fix it in the next 5 games or... they ALL must go. Benning (Bahston sleeper agent), Green and most importantly, Franny. The latter cheapskated this season - sure every NHL team will lose $32+M this year, so what is a few extra million on the t-writeoff.
Instead, Franny wouldn’t let JB atone for his history of overpays by buying out bad contracts. Also JB needs to go because of letting Tofolli walk... because... they ran out of time. Either JB forgot that pro hockey is a time sensitive activity or wanted to make a statement to Franny. Whatever.
Green seems unable to make the team transition from a free-wheeling fun-to-play-against group of millionaires to a hard-to-play-against team that loves the Left Wing Lock.
Strang - No it’s not too early. People are not complaining because of a few bad games. Their concerns are not new, this run has just been the culmination of seven years of poor decisions.
Benning has made some good moves and many bad moves and now the Canucks are left with a promising core and a bunch of overpaid veterans. Time to find someone else that can help this team take the next step.
Kent- August 16th, 2019. That is when Francesco Aqualini should have fired Jim Benning after the Canucks missed the playoffs for a 4th straight season. Instead, he gave him a multi-year extension, citing Benning’s “experience, relationships and hockey knowledge”, which we can all see now is quite literally a laughable statement. The Canucks have been one of the worst teams in the NHL during his tenure, any move in the positive that he’s done is overshadowed by countless others, and the team is so laden with unworkable, untradable contracts that it may be years before this team can actually be competitive again. To say they’re not is intellectually dishonest. We want them to win. It pains me greatly to see how this team has deteriorated in the last decade. Jim Benning should have been fired years ago, but it is never too late to start undoing the damage. Every day they wait adds weeks to the length of the recovery period.
Beggsy - Benning has hamstrung this team with a barrage of bad contracts. They overperformed last year but this season, the management group is being rightly rewarded (punished?) for their lackluster work.
2- Has this team quit on Travis Green? Or have they quit on Jim Benning?
Westy - Realistically, they haven’t quit on anyone, but they definitely have a hard time gaining confidence and lose it rather quickly. People want to blame Benning for putting these players together, but Green is the one responsible for how they play.
Rob - This is a difficult question to answer.
A group of professional hockey players playing as poor defensively as the blue-and-green have played so far this season certainly feels like the “Bill Laforge-ing” of Travis Green. But Green is a players’ coach and unless something happened in the dressing room that we don’t know about it is hard to believe they’ve quit on him.
I remember seeing off-season interviews of Pettersson and Hughes and I think they both truly believed that their big brothers Markstrom and Tanev would both be re-signed by the Canucks. So I think Benning at the very least gave them that impression. But if the business side of hockey has led them both to play at a lesser clip deliberately then that would cause me to think less about their actual wills to win.
I don’t think the team has quit on Green or Benning...yet.
Markus - Maybe, but I don’t think so. I think the problem is this team isn’t very good. I find it hard to believe anything has substantially changed in how they view management. This summer wasn’t the first time they made crappy choices so they’re probably used to it.
jimmi - Quit on Green? Benning? I’m still waiting for them to buy-in, then quit. It was a terrible start that went downhill to now.
Feel that maybe something bad happened in the pre-season with some players and some other players’ partners. Eerie parallel to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, the SoCal trade and the red-headed minder Jersey trade. The latter which we won... but still.
Strang - I don’t think the team has quit on anyone. There have clearly been some effort issues but I think those are the product of this losing streak instead of the team quitting on Green or Benning. Morale is low right now but it will come back around and when that does happen it will get rid of some of those effort issues.
Beggsy - No quit...they’re just being outplayed.
I honestly think they were ”lucky” in some of their losses this team, judging by their high team shooting percentage. We’re seeing that luck even out a bit now during their past couple of games, where they’ve played better but still end up losing.
C’est la vie baby.
Kent- Out played, out classed, out smarted, out hustled. In every aspect and element of the game, the rest of this division (save for the Sens, and remember, it’s still early) have figured them out. And without the guys who were actually pulling their weight defensively, and the goaltender who did nothing but steal games for the them over the past couple seasons. the Canucks are no longer the team that was a game away from the Conference Finals a few months earlier.
3- Is there anything you see from this team that suggests to you they’re capable of playing at the level we saw from them last season?
Westy - They are playing at the level of last year...regular season. The playoffs were an aberration as they were given a play-in spot and were able to get hot at the right time, while other teams struggle to get back to form. Both teams were bubble teams.
Rob - “Bubble” Demko needs to come out of retirement and start every game except back-to-backs for the rest of the season. Holtby’s duties need to be reduced to tossing his cap onto the ice for hat tricks.
I believe the current roster is more talented on paper than the “bubble” team. But the “bubble” team had chemistry in the dressing room whereas the current group doesn’t appear to have bonded yet. Perhaps the adversity they all now face together will become that bonding agent and they become a band of brothers.
The short answer is Petey and Huggy Bear are still on the team and they both hate losing with a passion. They are still the keys that start the engines.
This move by Pettersson on Lucic pic.twitter.com/0AYJ5LQtYc— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) February 12, 2021
Markus - I mean sort of. If EP and Hughes and Miller return to form, they’ll be back to being a bubble team. But like Westy said, they weren’t very good outside last year outside of a few weeks in Edmonton! So the question shouldn’t be will they become a playoff team, but will they even get close.
jimmi - Last season was in a previous era. Then there was the bubble era. And now there’s the Great Northern bubble era. As much as the marketing department at NHL Desperate Hockey Ops wants us to believe it’s business as normal, it’s not.
Maybe for some teams... However, the Nucks have regressed to their expansion era to get a fresh start. 1st team to concede 5 or more goals in 9 of their first 15 games of a season since the ‘93-’94 Sens - an expansion team - that’s still expanding.
Strang - I agree with Westy here. The team is a bubble team and a couple beat downs from legitimate contenders doesn’t change that fact. The playoff run helped hide a lot of the team’s regular season issues and now that the team is bleeding even more defensively the problems have been magnified.
I think the Canucks could regroup and finish 4th in the division.
Beggsy - Well...Petey looks good again? So that’s good.
I tend just to believe that last year was a mirage. Do I believe in mirages reoccurring? Only if I believe that we’re currently in a mirage....wouldn’t that be nice.
Kent- Brock Boeser has been fantastic. Nils Hoglander is everything we hoped he could be. Elias Pettersson is starting to get it together. And that’s great, but this team does not have the horses to make a run for fourth place. They are so easily dismantled defensively, and so fragile after giving up goals that I do not believe they can move from the spot in the standings they currently occupy, unless it’s downward.
4- So let’s look at the three options available: making a trade to shake things up, firing the coach, and firing the GM. Are any of these enough to salvage this season?
Westy - No. The season isn’t done, but if I am Francesco, I would keep everything as is and just clean house at the end of the year. Don’t offer a contract to Green and get rid of GMJB. Start fresh.
Rob - A couple of minor trades to get the players’ attention might be in order (e.g. Jake Virtanen for Sam Bennett or Jake Debrusk have been both rumoured).
Unless the losing really gets out of hand you should ride out the season with the same coach and general manager. Keep in mind that a week or so from now the Canucks’ may have righted the ship with another four-game winning streak. Hockey is unpredictable which is why I quit gambling.
Markus - A trade would help, but I doubt they have the cap space to pull off anything that would help. I’m not sure firing the coach changes the structural issues facing the team and firing the GM, while warranted, won’t change the on-ice product in a meaningful way.
jimmi - Season isn’t over until we pick 1st at the draft. Then post-season - fire them all - including Franny. And see if there’s a deal to bring back the ‘93 Sens to Vancouver, including maybe Spezza?
Seems like it’s Benning who gets fired first. Then Green. Yet the best firings would be several players. But that contract law thing. Box half the team? Can the pressbox hold over a dozen players?
Strang - I think out of those options the one that I would be most receptive to would be making a small trade. I like the idea of dealing Gaudette or Virtanen, especially if they’re going to sit in the press box, but I’m not sure if they have any value at all.
Firing Green would be a mistake, I think he’s a good coach, and it seems tough considering the current circumstances to replace Benning.
Beggsy - Momentum is a funny thing, so there’s a chance that a trade shakes things up. Hey, the Toffoli trade looks pretty damn good last year...
It feels like something is rotten in the room right now though. Obviously just a hunch but if there's something to that, then it’s hard to see one trade making much of a difference.
Kent- Jake Virtanen was drafted 6th overall, and probably can’t even get a 2nd round pick in return. Nashville reportedly has interest in Adam Gaudette, but what kind of return would we see there? Honestly, unless the defence was completely retooled, nothing they do would change their situation.
5- How concerned are you about the immediate future of this team?
Westy - How immediate is immediate? Losing games by large amounts is not a good thing for a team’s confidence. But these young guys need to find a win to get things back on track. They need to re-learn how to win.
Rob - Whatever happens this season the future is bright. Hoglander has landed. Podkolzin is on the way. Rathbone is getting ready. Lind is close. Gaudette and MacEwen will get through their growing pains. Lots of other young guys are looking for an opportunity now or will be soon.
Green and/or Benning might no longer be in Vancouver to enjoy it though if this season stays in the dumper. What worries me is that the hockey people willing to work for the Aquilini family is rumoured to be a small group comprised of people that are no longer hot commodities.
I am scared that if the Dale Tallons and Mike Milburys of the hockey world are given the keys to the executive bathroom they will scorch earth the current group of youngsters Keenan-like before they have a reasonable opportunity to sink or swim.
Markus - Quite, because the season is short and they could find themselves out of it very, very soon. The cap situation doesn’t promise to fix itself anytime soon with Hughes and Petey up for extensions. Looking even further, Podkolzin and maybe Rathbone will help but I‘m not convinced they have many other impact players in the system. Lind and Gaudette and Gadjovich and whoever else are probably bottom-six guys at best. I’m skeptical things will get a ton better without big changes.
jimmi - In this compressed season I can only take it hour by hour. 60 minutes or in Nucking playing time, 12 minutes. So yes, I’m worried about the immediate future. At least until the ‘21 Sens return to the ROG hoping to secure the 1st overall.
However, as Rob alludes, no real good GMs/coaches want to work for the current owners. First order of business is fire.. the Aquilinis. Then we can work our way down the org chart as the Nucks ‘work’ their way down the standings.
Let’s re-convene in 2023 when the Nucks win their next game.
Strang - Looking at it from a big-picture point of view, I’m not too worried about the future and direction of the team. There are many good young players on the roster who are experiencing growing pains but will figure it out.
While they need to turn it around soon if they want to contend soon, I’m not concerned about the way this franchise is moving.
Beggsy - I’m concerned. I think too many people get starstruck by what Hughes and Pettersson bring, but this team is still bloated with terrible contracts. I’m not convinced that Benning is the guy to build a Stanley Cup contender. Recent successes like the JT Miller and Tanner Pearson trade are clouded by losing Toffoli and signing Myers.
The next two years are huge with a number of contracts expiring, coupled with the Pettersson and Hughes extensions. The immediate future is very troubling based on Benning’s mixed track record in building a hockey team.
Kent- Let’s fast forward to the end of the season. Even with whatever contracts are coming off the books, the Canucks need to lock down Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes with long term, big money deals. It would be insane not to pay these two what they are worth. After that, the issues with this team are STILL unaddressed, as they have been for the entire reign of Jim Benning. They still won’t have enough money to fix everything they need to, and are likely going to lose a player they’d rather not to Seattle in the expansion draft. I do not trust Jim, John Weisbrod and the rest of this management team, who have jettisoned anyone who dared to try and assert any kind of influence on this club, to be able to fix the situation they created.