Tag: Ryan Miller

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Under Pressure: Jim Benning


For the last four months or so, it’s hard to find a Jim Benning move that wasn’t met with criticism.

It started in April when the Canucks signed Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett to hefty contract extensions and didn’t let up as the likes of Eddie Lack, Zack Kassian and Kevin Bieksa were traded.

Benning was even booed at an event for season ticket-holders when it was revealed that starting goalie Ryan Miller could’ve been traded instead of Lack, a fan favorite who’s not only younger and less expensive but had a higher save percentage than Miller last season.

Most recently, Benning’s claim that Brandon Sutter, acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh, would be a “foundation piece” for the Canucks was mocked by many. The five-year extension that Sutter proceeded to sign got the same treatment.

Suffice to say, the honeymoon is over for Vancouver’s general manager, who’s only been on the job since May of last year.

Benning, throughout it all, has not wavered.

“Sitting in my shoes, and when I talk to my management team, we have to make the decision that’s best for the organization going forward,” he said at the draft when asked about trading a fan favorite like Lack.

“I know if that’s the way we decide to go, I could get criticized. But that’s part of the job. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

Hired in large part for his experience as a scout, it won’t be entirely fair to judge Benning until his draft picks pan out, or don’t.

But there’s no doubt his recent moves have put him under increasing pressure. If Vancouver takes a step back next season — and many expect that to happen — that pressure will only build.

It’s Vancouver Canucks Day at PHT

Radim Vrbata

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Vancouver Canucks.

After a rough season under bench boss John Tortorella, the Vancouver Canucks went into the 2014-15 campaign hoping that new coach Willie Desjardins would prove to be a better fit for their organization.

He certainly got more out of their offense as the Canucks went from averaging 2.33 goals per game under Tortorella to 2.88 last season, which was good for eighth in the league. Their resurgence was thanks in no small part to the Sedin twins as their point totals jumped by more than 20 points each, bringing them up to 73 (Henrik) and 76 (Daniel) points in 2014-15. Newcomer Radim Vrbata also meshed well in Vancouver, recording 63 points including a team-leading 31 goals.

Fellow 2014 free agent signing Ryan Miller didn’t enjoy quite as smooth of a transition. While he did have a 15-3-0 record through Nov. 28, he was more of a mixed bag after that. Complicating matters, Miller suffered an knee injury in late February that kept him out of the lineup for most of the stretch run. That led to Eddie Lack opening the playoffs as Vancouver’s starting goaltender and while he was actually statistically superior to Miller in the regular season, the 27-year-old netminder ran into problems as the first round series against Calgary progressed.

Lack was replaced by Miller in Game 4, but it wasn’t enough as the Flames went on to eliminated Vancouver six games.

Off-season recap

Vancouver entered the summer with something of a goaltending logjam as in addition to Lack and Miller, Jacob Markstrom seemed deserving of a roster spot after a dominant season with the AHL’s Utica Comets. However, Canucks GM Jim Benning made the controversial decision to move Lack for a 2015 third-round pick (Guillaume Brisebois) and a 2016 seventh-round selection rather than trading the 35-year-old Miller.

In addition to that trade, Vancouver also sent defenseman Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a 2016 second-round pick and acquired Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third-rounder from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Nick Bonino, Alex Clendening, and a 2016 second-round selection.

Vancouver sees Sutter as a “foundation piece” and cemented its commitment to him by agreeing to a five-year, $21.875 million contract extension.

Owner Pegula: Sabres have gone through ‘two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had’

Terry Pegula

Statistically speaking, the last two seasons have been among the worst in Buffalo’s history, but Sabres owner Terry Pegula sees great value in those painful years. In fact, he would list them as “two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had,” per the Associated Press.

Obviously, those losing records allowed the Sabres to draft second overall in back-to-back years (having lost the draft lottery both times). They used those picks to select Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, but general manager Tim Murray was also able to get plenty of other pieces for the rebuild over that span. He also acquired the likes of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Robin Lehner in trades while moving other players like Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek to get future assets, including first round picks.

A couple rough seasons in the service of a long-term goal can make sense, but the success of the Sabres’ rebuilding effort will be measured by how they do going forward. They don’t have to look any further than the Edmonton Oilers to know how hard it can be to transition from a rebuilding phase to a competitive one. Having a generational talent like Eichel on the roster certainly helps, but he and the Sabres have a lot to prove.

Given that, we can’t call the last two seasons successful for Buffalo in terms of on-ice accomplishments, we’ll have to let history judge if the off-ice moves are as beneficial as Sabres fans hope.

Related: Gionta: Sabres’ offseason ‘excites guys in the locker room’

Despite rumors, Linden says Canucks haven’t tried to trade Higgins

Chris Higgins

On Monday, Canucks president Trevor Linden addressed trade rumblings surrounding one of his team’s most veteran skaters, Chris Higgins.

“Chris Higgins is an important player on our team,” Linden said in a statement, per The Province. “We have not talked to any clubs about trading him.

“We value Chris both for his on-ice abilities and his leadership in the locker-room.”

That Linden responded to the Higgins rumors was telling… because, um, Linden’s kinda the reason they’re out there.

Last week, he and Vancouver GM Jim Benning caught heat during a ticketholder event, as fans voiced their displeasure over the club’s offseason moves. Benning was actually booed after revealing he could’ve traded veteran goalie Ryan Miller rather than fan favorite Eddie Lack.

After the event, Linden reportedly pulled aside some of the more vocal attendees for a mini-hotstove.

From The Province:

It was not an easy night for Linden or Benning.

“When you’re sitting in this chair, it’s not as easy as you think,” Linden said.

What he did do, when it was over, was call over the biggest critics of the night for a 10-minute session.

It was a nice gesture, but may have been ill-advised.

In it, Linden revealed several tidbits, including his pitch that the Canucks have been trying to trade Chris Higgins but have found they cannot move his contract.

In short order, the comments were all over social media, and then on the radio. The Higgins trade horse is officially out of the barn.

Maybe they’re hoping something will change in August — unlikely — or people will forget to ask Higgins when he comes back to town in two months. Again, unlikely.

(Take this for what it’s worth, but one attendee apparently recapped meeting Linden on HF Boards.)

It’s hard to know where this leaves Higgins, 32, who’s heading into the third of a four-year, $10 million deal with a pretty affordable $2.5M average annual cap hit. It’s not a Benning contract; Higgins was extended by Benning’s predecessor, Mike Gillis, and the deal includes a Gillis staple — a no-trade clause (granted, it’s a limited NTC.)

As such, it wasn’t surprising to hear rumors of the Canucks trying to move Higgins. Benning’s already shipped out Gllis-era holdovers like Lack, Kevin Bieksa, Zack Kassian, Jason Garrison, Ryan Kesler and Tom Sestito in his attempt to reshape the club — in that light, it would make sense that Higgins, who had 12 goals and 36 points last year, was dangled in potential trade talks.

Unless, of course, he wasn’t.

Benning takes heat after admitting he could’ve traded Miller

Ryan Miller

A curious thing happened Thursday night during a town hall for Canucks ticketholders:

The GM got booed.

Jim Benning, who’s already come under fire this offseason, took some serious heat after admitting that — rather than dealing popular backup goalie Eddie Lack — he could’ve traded away veteran starter Ryan Miller.

More, from The Province:

Up to now, most believed the Canucks didn’t have many options when it came to their goalies.

Turns out, they had all the options.

“We could have moved Ryan Miller,” Benning revealed matter-of-factly. “There were teams calling on Ryan Miller.”

Benning was cut off by boos. Something that happened a couple of times.

He did not waver. He double downed in his belief in Miller, pointing out his high win total this year and reiterated that he wants a veteran as his No. 1 and a young goalie as his backup.

The Lack trade — Benning sent the 27-year-old to Carolina at the draft in exchange for a third round pick this year and a seventh-rounder next year — was widely critiqued by Canucks fans, who liked the personable Swede and didn’t like the middling return.

There was also widespread belief that, after backstopping the Canucks to the playoffs last year while Miller was injured, Lack would’ve been a capable and less expensive ($1.15M to Miller’s $6M) starter for a Vancouver team that appears to be in a transitional phase anyway.

Some saw Lack as the better goalie than Miller, period.

Benning, though, never saw it that way. The Province notes that a Lack-Jacob Markstrom tandem “was never going to be a thing” under this regime, and Benning essentially said the ‘Canes brought Lack in to be Cam Ward’s backup.

Which now makes the Carolina situation one worth monitoring. Should Lack wrestle the gig away from Ward and have success in a different market, it’ll only further stoke the flames under Benning’s chair.


Linden defends Lack trade, thinks Canucks will have ‘real good goaltending next year’

Benning knows he ‘could get criticized’ for trading fan favorite Eddie Lack