The Vancouver Canucks are off to another tough start, and it might be time for the team to move on from head coach Travis Green. The club suffered a 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, giving them a 5-7-2 record on the 2021-22 season.
General manager Jim Benning attempted to improve the team after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign by making a few big trades. Canucks added Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes for a package that included the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, two other draft picks and three players with high cap hits. They also added Jason Dickinson through a trade with the Dallas Stars and signed Tucker Poolman and Luke Schenn.
With their poor start to the season, Canucks ownership and management may look to make a quick change in order to save the team’s season.
Previous Canucks’ Coaches Fired
Since the Canucks have been under the ownership of the Aquilini Investment Group, the organization has had five different head coaches, including Green. The first head coach under current ownership was Marc Crawford, who spent seven seasons in Vancouver but only one under the Aquilinis. The franchise fired him after the 2005-06 season when the club missed the playoffs for the first since 1999-00.
The team hired Alain Vigneault next, and he spent seven years with the club. The Canucks fired the winningest head coach in franchise history after the San Jose Sharks swept the team in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team missed the playoffs once under Vigneault. The organization hired John Tortorella next but fired him right after the 2013-14 season as the team missed the postseason.
As the team switched management from Mike Gillis to Trevor Linden and Jim Benning, they hired Willie Desjardins as the franchise’s 18th head coach. He spent three seasons as the team’s head coach, reaching the playoffs in his first season but posted two losing seasons before being fired.
Green’s Time With the Canucks
Since Green took over as head coach in 2017-18, the Canucks have posted a 130-139-34 record. Additionally, through his four full seasons as head coach, the club has posted a winning record once, which was in 2019-20, the season the club made the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Green has a .485 points percentage (PTS%) as the head coach of the Canucks, which is the worst PTS% among all five coaches during the Aqualini era. The Canucks fired Desjardins after back-to-back losing seasons, which Green is on the verge of doing for the second time in his five-year tenure if he stays with the team. The franchise fired all four of the previous coaches quicker than Green for underperforming, while the current head coach has a longer leash. Part of this could be because the team has been rebuilding, but the team has attempted to be competitive over the last three seasons. The 2019-20 season showed promise but the 2020-21 season destroyed most of the hope fans had for the team. Another losing season should call for big changes to the team.
Canucks Have Been Flat
After upgrading the roster from last season, the Canucks have been outplayed in a majority of their first 14 games this season. The team has struggled at 5-on-5, scoring 20 goals while giving up 21. Although the team started playing better at 5-on-5 until the loss to the Avalanche, the club has been terrible on special teams. The club’s power play has had a tough time converting, posting a 16.7 power-play percentage, 21st in the league. Meanwhile, their penalty kill has been the worst part about the team, as the Canucks are posting a league-worst 62.8 penalty kill percentage.
Although players such as Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser haven’t been playing as well as they usually are, the team’s struggles at even strength and on special teams have been the biggest issue. The club can’t rely on its top players to carry the team to a victory every game and need to improve their coaching system.
Chances Canucks Fire Green
The chances of the team firing Green may not be likely. The Canucks extended the head coach to a two-year deal this past offseason. Benning stated he plans on having Green mentor the young players on the club over the next two seasons.
“We are excited to have Travis Green continue to lead the Canucks as head coach and move forward from a challenging year to focus on future seasons,” Benning said. “Our plan has always been to draft and develop a young core and surround them with supporting players who can help us win. We have some of the best young players in the NHL and I believe Travis is the right coach to help us achieve team success and a return to the playoffs.”
Benning’s comments show the Canucks may not be ready to fire Green despite the poor start. The head coach has done a good job developing young talent, including Pettersson, Boeser and Quinn Hughes. The team has young players in Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander and Jack Rathbone, who they want to develop into reliable players.
Still, the Canucks will have to make a change if they continue to perform poorly. Firing Green seems to be the only major move the club can make, as trading for another player may be tough. If the Canucks don’t make any changes during the season and the team posts another losing season, there may be more changes than just Green being fired, including the team moving on from Benning.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.