The Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of a disappointing 2020-21 season. After a second-round appearance in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Canucks opened the season with a 10-15-2 record through 27 games. They stand in sixth place in the North Division.
With the way the team’s season has been trending, the club has a lot of questions that have to be answered. General manager Jim Benning hadn’t talked to the Vancouver media since the first day of training camp. Benning answered multiple questions about the team’s direction and future on Friday morning in a mid-season press conference.
Benning Believes in the Playoffs
Despite the Canucks ranking low in their division, Benning believes the playoffs are not out of reach for the club. When asked if he believes whether the team will make the playoffs this year, the GM responded by saying they live day-to-day. Since the Canucks have been somewhat competitive in the past few weeks, the GM believes they still have an opportunity to make it to the post-season.
It is hard to agree with Benning here. The Canucks are four points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the fourth playoff spot but have played five more games. The playoffs are a long shot for the Canucks, especially in a shortened season. With the GM still believing the club can make the playoffs, the team will likely wait weeks before trading any pieces.
Canucks Will Attempt to Re-sign Pearson
Tanner Pearson is the Canucks’ best trade asset. He can produce offensively and has experience as a Stanley Cup winner to help a team in the playoffs. The forward can help the Canucks acquire a draft pick or a prospect before this year’s trade deadline.
It was shocking to hear Benning say the club intends on trying to re-sign Pearson. Re-signing Pearson does not make any sense since trading him is an opportunity to acquire future assets for a player who will turn 29 this summer. Additionally, the Canucks have multiple players they will need to re-sign, including Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko.
Additionally, the Canucks have multiple young players ready to take up a spot in the middle six lines. Nils Hoglander is already a player who has played well on the team’s second line, while Vasily Podkolzin could join the team as soon as next month. Lastly, Kole Lind looks to be ready for the NHL as he has scored five goals and posted eight points in eight games with the Utica Comets. With young players ready for a main roster spot, the Canucks can afford to trade Pearson.
Benning on Contract Talks with Hughes and Pettersson
Pettersson and Hughes are the future of the franchise moving forward. Both are restricted free agents this offseason, and the Canucks have $23.786 million in projected cap space next season. Benning commented on exactly when the club will start to work on their contract extensions.
Benning said the Canucks have time after the trade deadline to start talks with their two superstars, which worried a lot of fans after the GM said the team ran out of time when attempting to re-sign Tyler Toffoli. With the amount of cap space the Canucks will have this offseason, Benning should start talks with Pettersson and Hughes as soon as possible instead of waiting until later. Extending both should be priority number one for the GM.
Benning is Confident in Green
Two teams have fired their head coach in the North Division so far in the 2020-21 season. The Canadiens fired Claude Julien, while the Calgary Flames fired Geoff Ward and hired Darryl Sutter as his replacement. Despite the team’s poor start, Benning is being patient with head coach Travis Green and believes he’s done a good job.
Green’s contract is set to expire this offseason, and if Benning is around for the offseason, the two sides will likely get a deal done. Green’s future with the Canucks is only in question if the GM is fired by the club and the organization decides to move in a different direction. Most of the team’s failures this season are due to poor roster construction, and the coach has done a decent job with what he has to work with.
Benning’s Press Conference was Filled With Excuses
Benning’s media press conference made matters worse for the fanbase than improve them. Benning didn’t take any real responsibility for the team’s shortcomings this season. Instead, the GM blamed most of the team’s issues this season on COVID-19. He blamed the team’s schedule of playing 16 games in 25 nights and the fact the team lacked practice time.
Also, Benning stated the team will be competitive in two years, which his ninth season as GM. That statement is disappointing for fans after the Canucks’ achievements in the 2020 playoffs. All in all, the press conference didn’t boost confidence in the team’s front office at all.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.