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

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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.”

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

The Buzzer: Marleau continues to turn back the clock; Vegas continues to rewrite record book

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Players of the Night: 

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs: Marleau scored two more goals, his 13th and 14th goals of the season. It was the 67th multi-goal game of his long career. It’s been a great season for the former Sharks forward. The man is timeless, everyone. Timeless.

James Reimer, Florida Panthers: Reimer stopped 29 of 31 shots for his fourth consecutive win. Reimer has put up a .935 save percentage or better in each of those four games.

Sam Gagner and Thomas Vanek, Vancouver Canucks: Each player had a pair of goals to their respective names in a 5-2 win for the Canucks over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Highlights of the Night: 

Marleau’s second goal of the game came off a pretty slick deke after getting the puck alone in front:

Derek MacKenzie goal finished off this slick cross-ice pass. It was a short-handed goal to boot.

Nikita Kucherov‘s no-look pass found Steven Stamkos for some Sedin-like magic:

Joonas Donskoi in a short film that needs no explanation:

Factoids of the Night: 

James Reimer is doing things in Florida:

Brock Boeser is re-writing the Canucks’ rookie record book:

MISC: 

Scores:

Lightning 3, Canadiens 1

Capitals 4, Bruins 3 (SO)

Panthers 3, Flyers 2

Maple Leafs 7, Coyotes 4

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

Golden Knights 3, Kings 2 (OT)

Sharks 3, Flames 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Merry Christmas Edition

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Players of the Night:

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Barzal recorded his first career NHL hat trick against the Winnipeg Jets and took over the rookie scoring lead with 35 points. Not a bad day.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks, James Reimer, Florida Panthers, Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, and Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Each of these goaltenders recorded shutouts on Saturday night. Vasilevskiy got his fourth of the season, stopping 22 shots to tie Sergei Bobrovsky for the NHL lead in shutouts; Gibson made 29 saves, including one you will see below on Sidney Crosby; Reimer stopped all 38 shots sent his way by the Ottawa Senators; Fleury kept the Capitals in check, stopping 26 shots for his first shutout of the season; and Jones dethroned the Kings, stopping all 28 shots he faced.

Dallas Stars penalty killers: The Stars appeared dead in the water after Jamie Benn and Dan Hamhuis took penalties in overtime against the Nashville Predators, but Ben Bishop and Co. weathered the storm, which included 31 seconds of 5-on-3 time, and ended up taking the game in a shootout on Tyler Seguin‘s winner.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: Kane became the fifth player in Blackhawks history to record his 300th NHL goal on Saturday.

Highlights of the Night:

John Gibson did this to Sidney Crosby tonight:

Barzal’s hatty deserves its spot here:

Taylor Hall scored on this ridiculous deke. Poor Anton Forsberg:

Alexander Radulov‘s shootout goal was pretty filthy:

Factoids of the Night: 

More Barzal:

Vegas keeps, well, Vegasing.

Brock Boeser smashes Pavel Bure’s record by 15 games:

“Merry Christmas to me,” Brock Boeser said, probably.

MISC: 

Scores: 

Bruins 3, Red Wings 1

Islanders 5, Jets 2

Oilers 4, Canadiens 1

Lightning 3, Wild 0

Panthers 1, Senators 0

Devils 4, Blackhawks 1

Ducks 4, Penguins 0

Hurricanes 4, Sabres 2

Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 1 (SO)

Golden Knights 3, Capitals 0

Avalanche 6, Coyotes 2

Stars 4, Predators 3 (SO)

Sharks 2, Kings 0

Blues 3, Canucks 1

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Seven overtimes, four shootouts and a shutout

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Players of the Night:

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars: Bishop made 24 saves en route to his second shutout of the season. Bishop had lost his previous four starts, so it was a nice bounce-back from the veteran netminder. He can also say he backstopped Ken Hitchcock’s 800th win as a head coach now.

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks: Thornton scored twice in Thursday’s 5-4 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks. His second goal was his 1,415th point of his NHL career, moving him into sole possession of 18th spot all-time, one point ahead of Doug Gilmour.

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings: Talk about embracing the moment. Brown, playing in his 1,000th NHL game, scored the overtime winner for the Kings as they squeaked out a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche.

Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins: It was the dude’s birthday, and much like Brown did, he took hold of the moment, scoring the shootout winner in a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets.

Coach of the Night: 

Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars: These don’t make regular appearances in The Buzzer, but then again, coaches don’t often record their 800th career NHL win. In fact, only three have even done it and Hitchcock is now one of them. Can you guess the other two? The answer is below.

Highlights of the Night:

Thornton’s second of the night was a pretty nice clap bomb:

Jake Virtanen went coast-to-coast on this fine effort:

Cam Talbot nearly gave up a goal and then he gave us this save:

This dog dropped a puck. It was cute because dog:

Factoid of the Night:

Ken Hitchcock joined some pretty elite company on Thursday:

MISC:

Scores:

Bruins 2, Jets 1 (SO)

Devils 4, Rangers 3 (SO)

Ducks 5, Islanders 4 (OT)

Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 2 (SO)

Lightning 4, Senators 3 (SO)

Hurricanes 4, Predators 1

Stars 4, Blackhawks 0

Oilers 3, Blues 2

Sharks 5, Canucks 4 (

Kings 2, Avalanche 1 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Canucks’ Brock Boeser suffers foot injury after blocking shot (Video)

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As the Vancouver Canucks transition their roster and let the kids take over, Brock Boeser has been a real bright spot this season. Well, right now fans are holding their collective breaths hoping that the Calder Trophy candidate isn’t too seriously hurt after blocking a Mark Giordano shot early in the second period Sunday night.

Did you catch that Jim Benning reaction?

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Yup, us too, Jim.

Boeser, who leads the Canucks and all NHL rookies in scoring with 17 goals and 30 points, was ruled out for the rest of the night a short while later with a foot injury.

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s all three members of the Canucks’ BBB line that are currently injured. Bo Horvat is out until January with a foot injury and Sven Baertschi has a similar timeline after fracturing his jaw.

Depending on the severity of the injury could also impact some of Boeser’s potential bonuses in his rookie season. Ryan Biech of The Athletic had a great breakdown on Friday about how much the Vancouver stands to earn this season should he hit certain totals in specific categories. Hopefully this doesn’t keep him out long. The Calder race is better with him a part of it.

UPDATE: Canucks head coach didn’t have an update on Boeser after the game.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.