The Vancouver Canucks’ blueline, without a doubt, has lacked an intimidation factor in seasons past. When guys like Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell and Matthias Öhlund depart from your team, you can feel the physicality level falter a bit. Your young stars might pay the price, and if you don’t have the muscle to keep the crease clear for your star netminder, you’ll feel it there too. New Canucks Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn should make for a huge improvement on that front.
Let’s go back to October 13 of 2018. Canucks fans watched in disbelief as Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Canucks’ rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice behind the Florida goal.
That disbelief turned into complete dismay as fans realized that nobody was going to take exception to the hit that kept Pettersson out of the lineup for several games with a concussion. Matheson was suspended two games for the WWE-style move.
Former Rocket Flies Home
Fast forward to July 1st of 2019. The expectation leading up to Canada Day was that general manager Jim Benning was prepared to ink former Winnipeg Jets behemoth defender Myers to a contract in the neighbourhood of $50 million over seven years. While the excitement of such a physical presence back in Vancouver was very real, it was overshadowed by the idea of “gross overpayment” that is all too common during the first day of NHL Free Agency. As Benning did with the Alex Edler signing a week prior, he surprised us all by signing the 6-foot-8 Houston, Texas native to a five year, $30 million deal.
That means Canucks fans who got all bent out of shape over a signing that had not yet happened could calm down a bit. Realistically speaking, the term on Myers’ deal is fantastic. By the end of the deal, Myers will be 34 years old and the Canucks can reevaluate at that point and decide whether or not they wish to re-sign the 2008 Calder Trophy winner. The former Buffalo Sabres’ 12th-overall pick has the potential to replicate his past offensive performances, reaching 30 points multiple times in his career.
All things considered, the price tag on Myers isn’t amazing, but it’s good. His arrival could not have come at a better time as Canucks’ 2018 first round selection, defenseman Quinn Hughes, is set to embark on his first full NHL season. This signing is only made even sweeter when it is taken into account that Myers is a former Kelowna Rocket. His wife has family in Kelowna, which was a huge reason why he chose to accept Vancouver’s offer. Happy wife, happy life, right guys? In some way, the hulking blueliner is coming home.
A Familiar Face in Blue and Green
Benn is a Canuck.
No, not that Benn. The defenseman. The one with the beard. The one who plays either the left side or the right side. The one who was a plus-15 for the Montreal Canadiens during the 2018-19 season.
There are a few reasons to be excited about Benn. For starters, he is a reliable third-pairing defenseman who can play up on the second pairing if need be. That doesn’t mean he is a top-four guy for the Canucks, but when injuries struck Montreal last season, Benn played harder minutes and earned the respect of Canadiens fans everywhere.
Then there is the matter of his hometown. The former Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens blueliner was born in Victoria, British Columbia in 1987. Benn is 31 now, but as some Canucks fans may recall, he attended training camp in Vancouver back in 2008. An undrafted defender out of the BCHL, the 6-foot-1, 204-pound player couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play for his childhood team, so when Benning called him up, everything fell into place. Benn agreed to a reasonable two-year deal worth $4 million.
While Benn isn’t as offensively gifted as his younger brother and Stars’ captain Jamie Benn, he is no slug in the defensive zone. A tenacious and hardworking defender, he fits the bill and offers some grit to the Canucks’ back end. In 473 career games, Benn has accumulated 22 goals and 88 assists for 110 points, split between Dallas and Montreal.
The new Canuck should be a lock for the team’s third defensive pairing with a partner like Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher, but depending on who head coach Travis Green slots into the top-four, Benn could be partnered with any one of five Canucks defensemen. One thing we do know, however, is that this bearded beast is coming home.
Shane Wilson is a staff writer from Richmond, British Columbia. The former executive editor for Australia-based news outlet Rock Nation covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers and hosts a monthly comedy show in Steveston, B.C.