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Why the immediate future of Travis Green and Jim Benning can affect the long-term future of the Vancouver Canucks

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The coach and general manager are both in tough situations that could have longterm ramifications

NHL: FEB 28 Red Wings at Canucks Photo by Bob Frid/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to lame duck season.

We have discussed on the Power Of The Towel podcast before about the “lame duck season” the Vancouver Canucks are currently going through.

You have a head coach in Travis Green who is not under contract after this season, and as each day passes it looks ever more likely that he will test the market.

You also have a general manager in Jim Benning who has an ax hanging over his neck, with ownership having to approve nearly every move and (in my opinion) better than 50/50 chance he will not be here next season.

So the question is, how will that affect the Vancouver Canucks this season and in the long term? What decisions will these two people, who aren’t tied to the organization long-term, actually affect the trajectory of this organization?

Ottawa Senators v Vancouver Canucks
Head coach Travis Green of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena on January 27, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Travis Green

At this point in the season — nearly halfway done with a slim to none chance of making the playoffs — most teams would look towards the future. Which players can fill a need going forward? Can any players from our AHL team be contributors next season and beyond?

With Green not under contract for next season and Benning hinting in his disastrous press conference that there won’t be a deal done before seasons end, what incentive does Green now have to play the kids? We saw Marc Michaelis come in Thursday against the Leafs, but that was because of an injury, not a personal choice. Olli Juolevi has been out of the lineup in recent games as well.

From now until the end of the season, Travis Green’s priority will likely be grinding out as many “good results” as he can in order to make himself a top free-agent coaching candidate. If that means riding the veterans in favour of young players, then so be it. Although a player like Jack Rathbone is having a good start to his AHL season, it’s unlikely he will get any playing time in the NHL because of the coaching situation.

2017 NHL Draft - Round One
Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning meets with Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jim Benning

Jim Benning does not have a contract that runs out after the season like Green.

But if you listened to the press conference on Thursday, Benning has “daily” conversations with owner Francesco Aquilini. The heat is on Benning, and the fact that ownership has to check up on him daily says to me that they do not have much trust in him.

Comments about wanting to re-sign Tanner Pearson (which should not be read as posturing but an earnest statement) reaffirms the fact to me that Benning has no plans to look towards the future. No plans to trade expiring contracts for assets. No plans to build pieces for a contending team in the near future. Jim Benning likely sees the writing on the wall, and if he isn’t going to be here next why should he put in the extra work to set this team up for the future?

But to quote Jim Benning, “we live day to day.” It’s likely how Travis Green and Jim Benning view their jobs with this city’s hockey team.

If you believe that management and coaches will treat this season as a springboard towards the future, then you are sorely mistaken. It’s an unfortunate situation for Canucks fans to see themselves in, but ownership must correct this with a management team with a long-term plan going forward.