Trevor Linden

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Canucks confident in GM Jim Benning’s ‘team-building mindset’


You know, it wasn’t that long ago that the Vancouver Canucks were sitting nicely in a Pacific Division playoff spot. A month ago they were seven points behind the Los Angeles Kings after a three-game winning streak. Then it all began to fall apart.

The Canucks ended December losing nine of 11 games, gaining just five points over that stretch to leave them currently tied with the Edmonton Oilers for 13th in the Western Conference. This puts general manager Jim Benning and Trevor Linden, the team’s president of hockey operations, in an interesting situation with 52 days until the NHL trade deadline.

Benning is one a few GMs around the league who does not have a contract beyond this season.  Injuries and poor goaltending have brought their pursuit of a playoff spot off the rails and put a spotlight on the pending unrestricted free agents on the roster that could net future assets for the continued youth movement.

Forward Thomas Vanek and defenseman Erik Gudbranson likely won’t be with the Canucks beyond Feb. 26. Linden said on Wednesday there haven’t been discussions about extending Gudbranson, instead waiting to see how the next 6-8 weeks shape up.

All this means that Linden is fine with Benning handling the trade deadline despite an uncertain future with the franchise.

“He came into a challenging situation and I think we’re trending in the right direction,” said Linden. “I like the job Jim’s done, but beyond that I think we’re focused on the next couple months and the deadline.”

It all sounds encouraging for Benning, whose teams have made the playoffs once in four seasons as GM, a 101-point year in 2015-16. Since then, it’s been a downhill slide as more youth has been injected into the roster. The futures of Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen are exciting as the Sedin twins enter their final years in the NHL.

The Gudbranson acquisition in 2016 was one of Benning’s biggest moves as GM. He gave up Jared McCann and a second- and fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft. It hasn’t worked out as injuries and poor play have seen him bumped down the depth chart to the third pairing. With the direction of the team right now, it’d be wise to move him and let the kids play rather than re-sign him and cement a roster spot with an anchor.

If Linden is confident in Benning handling the trade deadline and continuing to shape the future of the franchise, there should be no concern about who the GM will be next season, right?

“Jim has always been of the mind that, at heart, he’s a guy that has a team-building mindset,” Linden added. “He’s going to continue to have his eye on the future, and that’ll be no different as we head into deadline.”


Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Demand for Canucks tickets plummeting according to broker


The Vancouver Canucks have missed the playoffs just once in the past five seasons, but apparently the fashion in which they failed to qualify for the postseason in 2013-14 was enough for the fan base to send a message.

According to ticket broker Kingsley Bailey of Vancouver Ticket, demand for Canucks tickets has fallen about 40 percent compared to September 2013.

Speaking with CKWX News 1130 in Vancouver, Bailey said, “Right now there is no demand for Vancouver Canucks tickets.”

According to the radio station, the team announced earlier in the week that ticket prices would not be reduced.

“If they want to drop prices, they can. But if they don’t feel they have to and the demand is there — that’s their call. But as far as what I know — and I’m on the front lines when it comes to dealing with Vancouver Canucks tickets — the demand is definitely lower and if they really want to get an increase in fans, even the average fan that wants to go to the odd game, they’re going to have to lower prices,” said Bailey.

The Canucks are of course in transition period after cleaning out their front office and dealing veteran center Ryan Kesler at the NHL Draft.

“For the last couple of years, we have been taking hits and we’ve adjusted accordingly,” Bailey said. “We definitely don’t see demand for tickets for the Vancouver Canucks for two to three years — minimum.”

The Canucks open the 2014-15 season on the road in Calgary Oct. 8 before hosting Edmonton in their home opener Oct. 11.

Getting bounce-back season from Edler would go a long way


Three seasons ago, Alexander Edler appeared to be a revelation on the Vancouver Canucks blue line. His 11 goal and 49 point season showed him to be a threat to score both at even strength and on the power play.

Since then, his production has slipped and they could use that version of him more than ever now.

Last season, Edler battled injury and poor play as he had 22 points, the same as he had in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, but checked in with a minus-39 plus-minus rating – worst in the NHL. Say what you will about that statistic, but if you’re a defenseman you never want to have a negative number, especially not the league’s worst.

For Edler, he’s never been much of a possession-dominant blue liner but instead has relied on his physical play and offensively-gifted skill set to get him by. As Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden told Ben Kuzma of The Province back in June, he and Edler both know he has the skills to get his game back.

“He’s got all the tools to be a dominant No. 1 defenseman,” Linden said. “He’d be the first to admit he didn’t have a good year, and part of our job is to recapture the Alex Edler that we all know he can be. He has the skill-set that every team wants and we just have to get him back where he should be.”

Getting him back there may have a lot to do with keeping the Sedins healthy and perhaps getting back to playing more of a skill-style game as opposed to what John Tortorella was doing last season.

New coach Willie Desjardins brings an upbeat style of hockey and while he’ll work to implement that, making sure Edler can get back to the brand of game he knows best how to play will be vital. His skill set is unlike what other defensemen have in Vancouver and if he can’t get it going, the offense may stagnate.

Fanspeak: Pavel Bure voted greatest Canuck in franchise history


This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Vancouver Canucks

1. Pavel Bure — 836 votes

2. Trevor Linden — 332 votes

3. Markus Naslund — 159 votes

4. Mark Messier — 97 votes

When you think of the Canucks, often times memories go straight to 1994 and their run to the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers. While they lost that series in seven games, one of the most memorable players during their playoff run that season was Pavel Bure.

The “Russian Rocket” led all playoff goal scorers in those playoffs with 16 and had 31 points overall. Had things gone differently in that Game 7 in Madison Square Garden, it’s possible he would’ve won the Conn Smythe Trophy and canonized as the patron saint of Vancouver.

Instead, all he did was score 254 of his 437 career goals for the Canucks in a career marred by injuries. For the NHL, he was the human highlight reel using his blazing speed to get behind defenses and make goaltenders quake as he came roaring in to score. His back-to-back 60-goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94 stand out as his best work in Vancouver and reasons why they retired his No. 10 last season and led to his election to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.

While he doesn’t have the all-time standing in goals or points the way Naslund and Linden do, Bure’s breathtaking play helped make him the fans’ choice as the greatest player in franchise history.

By the way, congrats to the fans who attempted to swing the vote for Messier. You cracked the leader board.

Poll: Will the Canucks make the playoffs?


Look up ‘fall from grace’ in the dictionary and the Vancouver Canucks logo has to be taking up some space under the definition.

It’s hard to believe just three seasons ago the Canucks were back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy winners heading into the playoffs as a favorite to get back to the big dance for a second consecutive year.

Fast-forward to the 2014-15 season and the obvious question has to be asked, will the Canucks even make the playoffs?

They’ve done an all-important clean out of the front office. Mike Gillis and John Tortorella are gone. In is arguably the most popular figure in franchise history, Trevor Linden, and his hand picked soldiers Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins.

But now comes the tall task for a trio in-experienced as the lead man in their respective roles.

Linden and Co. have to find a way to get Vancouver, which missed the postseason for the first time since 2008, from the 28th-ranked offense back to the second season.

Other teams that missed the playoffs last season –  like the Nashville Predators, who added James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen, have certainly bolstered their chances.

The upstart Colorado Avalanche, who surprised many by qualifying for the playoffs in Year 1 under Patrick Roy, added savvy veterans Jarome Iginla and Daniel Briere to help their young stars along.

Benning’s new cast members to help jump-start the Canucks offense includes Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino and Linden Vey, they’ll have to help the likes of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows bounce back from off years.

Vrbata and Bonino are both capable of contributing 20-plus goals at the NHL level and have done so previously. Vey meanwhile has five assists in 18 career NHL games.

Then there’s room for young kids, but who can make the leap? Is Nicklas Jensen ready, and able, to contribute regularly at the NHL level? He had three goals and six helpers in 17 games with the Canucks last season.

Can one of their prospects jump from the Canadian Hockey League right to the NHL?  Bo Horvat, 19, had  74 points in 54 games in his third OHL season with the London Knights last season.

With more questions than answers heading into the 2014-15 season, we ask you Canucks fans, will Vancouver qualify for the playoffs this season?

Related: For Desjardins, responsibilities include both winning and entertaining

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