The Vancouver Canucks had another eventful week. From rumours about Jim Benning’s potential firing to the team’s owner, Francesco Aquilini responding to those rumours. Additionally. the Canucks faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames.
The Canucks played the Maple Leafs for the third time on Monday, losing 3-1. After being blown out in their first two contests, they attempted to pick up a win. The Maple Leafs were outshot 27-7 through the first 40 minutes, but the two teams remained tied at one goal apiece. The Canucks lost the game in the third period, as they allowed two goals.
After a much needed two day break, the Canucks took on the Flames in the first of four games. On Thursday night, the Canucks once again outshot the opposition in the first two periods at 24-14. Although they outshot the Flames, they were down 2-1 heading into the final frame. Johnny Gaudreau scored a third-period goal, which iced the game with a final score of 3-1.
The two teams faced off Saturday night, and the Canucks once again outshot their opposition. The only difference was they won this time. The score was the same as their previous two games as they received goals from Quinn Hughes, Tyler Myers and Brandon Sutter. They also outshot the Flames 46-19.
Canucks Give Benning the Vote of Confidence
After the Canucks lost four games straight, there was speculation on if the club would fire general manager (GM), Jim Benning. After the team lost two more games last week, extending their losing streak to six games, Aquilini tweeted out a thread, which essentially showed the franchise’s confidence in the GM.
The owner stated although he is disappointed with the club’s slow start, he will not panic and fire the GM after the six-game losing streak. He noted the 2020-21 season is a unique one as there was no training camp or preseason, limited practice schedule and a lot of roster changes. Aquilini pointed towards the Canucks’ young core and noted progress is not linear, but they have been impressive.
Aquilini’s Twitter thread does not necessarily mean Benning’s job is safe. The owner has given the GM his vote of confidence for now after their poor start. If the team misses the playoffs, Canucks’ fans should not be surprised if the club moves on from Benning.
Also, the owner has tweeted something similar out before. In Feb. 2018, Aquilini tweeted Benning, and Trevor Linden had his full support after extending the GM. Five months later, Linden stepped down from his role as president of hockey operations. Therefore, there is no guarantee Benning will be the club’s GM after the season ends.
Canucks Improved Last Week
Although they lost two of their three games last week, the Canucks played a lot better. In the first four games of their six-game losing streak, the Canucks suffered blowout losses, and they were outplayed by the opposition in each game. They turned things around in Monday’s loss to the Maple Leafs, as they outshot the opposition in the first two periods. Although the Leafs did step it up in the third period to win the game, it was a step forward for the club.
The next two games against the Flames saw the team improve once again. Although they lost to the Flames on Thursday, they still managed to outshoot them and outplay them at five-on-five. On Saturday, they had their best game of the season as they dominated their division rivals for a full 60 minutes. If it wasn’t for former Canucks Jacob Markstrom, Saturday night’s game would have been a blowout win.
In all three games, the Canucks recorded a Corsi For % (CF%) above 50 %, something the club has only accomplished six times this season. Against the Maple Leafs, they recorded a 55.41 CF%, and on Thursday, they recorded a 53.45 CF% against the Flames. In Saturday’s win, they recorded a season-best 67.65 CF%. Their efforts in all three games was an improvement, and the Canucks will need to play at the same level for the remainder of the season if they want to make it to the postseason.
Canucks’ Young Defensemen
The Canucks have a few young defensemen in their lineup who have been impressive. Olli Juolevi had been out of the lineup since the Jan. 25th game against the Ottawa Senators but stepped back into the lineup against the Maple Leafs on Monday. He played in all three games last week, impressing in the game against Toronto and in the win over the Flames. He recorded a 67.11 CF% on Monday, but in the win against the Flames, Juolevi played his best game this season. The rookie defenseman had a 70.59 CF% in 15 minutes. Although he made a few nice passes, the play that stood out was his hit on Matthew Tkachuk.
The other impressive young defenseman for the Canucks has been Quinn Hughes. Although the 2019-20 Calder Trophy runner hasn’t been great in the defensive zone (like most of the team), he’s had a great start to the season statistically. Through 18 games, Hughes has the most points by a d-man with 18 and is in fifth for the league lead.
The two young blueliners will play an important role in the Canucks’ future. Hughes is a cornerstone player for the team, while Juolevi will be a depth d-man with the potential to be a top-four defenseman. It was especially great to see Juolevi playing as he did last week after all the injuries and criticism he’s endured over the years.
Canucks Hope to Turn Their Season Around Next Week
The Canucks will hope to build off their win on Saturday night. They play the Flames two more times next week, and after their dominant win, the club should be playing with some confidence. The Canucks will finish their week with two games against the Winnipeg Jets, a team they beat in their only meeting this season.
Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser & Elias Pettersson – one goal, one assist.
- February 15th – vs Calgary Flames
- February 17th – at Calgary Flames
- February 19th – vs Winnipeg Jets
- February 21st – vs Winnipeg Jets
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.