Canucks ‘a team we can turn around in a hurry,’ says new GM Benning


On Friday, new Canucks general manager Jim Benning conducted a Q&A with fans and ticketholders — essentially his first duty as GM — and made it clear he thinks the pieces are in place for a fast turnaround following last year’s disappointing campaign.

“I like the team, I like the core players,” Benning explained. “The Sedins are excellent people and great players, so I think this is a team we can turn around in a hurry.”

Benning, the 11th GM in franchise history, will have plenty to do to right the ship. The next 4-5 weeks promise to be a whirlwind as he has to prepare for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, figure out what the Canucks plan to do in free agency and work with president of hockey ops Trevor Linden in the search for a new head coach.

Benning essentially deferred to Linden on the topic of who would replace John Tortorella, and Linden replied by saying that process was still in its infancy.

“I’ll go through the same process [as hiring a GM] — building a profile of what type of vision and characteristics we want from our head coach, and then we’ll start the interview process,” Linden explained. “The great thing about having Jim on board as quickly as we have him is we can work together in that process.”

Head coach isn’t the only personnel decision Benning will have to address. There’s also the issue of Ryan Kesler, who has been a hot trade target since the March deadline.

Benning wasn’t offering many hints as to what his plans were for the former Selke winner, saying that he “loves the way Ryan Kesler plays” and that “if it was up to me, we would like try and keep him.”

But later, Benning addressed the core group of veteran players in Vancouver with no-trade clauses — which includes Kesler (according to The Province, he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for six teams: Anaheim, Colorado, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh) — and said those NMCs and NTCs wouldn’t keep him from trying to improve the club.

“We’re going to do what we feel is the best thing to do for the organization,” Benning explained. “I know we have a lot of no-trade contracts, but if we feel we can make the team better, we won’t be afraid of approaching players and asking them to waive a no-trade.”

Overall, Benning sounded like someone inheriting a team with pieces he felt he could work with, and ultimately fix. Vancouver missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year, and the new GM said he can help return to the club to a successful level.

“It’s a passionate fan base — the team and the fans really want to win here,” Benning explained. “We want to build a team with the right types of players that has a chance to win every year.”

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)