The Vancouver Canucks held their annual summer summit on Tuesday night, which consisted of a Q&A between the team’s season ticket holders and the three main guys that have been brought in this offseason to turn things around.
If you either weren’t there or haven’t gotten around to tuning in to it yet, you can watch the 80 or so minute session on the team’s Youtube channel right here. We transcribed the event last year and in hindsight it turned out to be a rather interesting thing to look back on, so we’ve done a similar sort of thing this time around.
As you’d expect from such a thing there was a whole lot of pandering, back-patting and gratuitous remarks, but in picking through the bunch there were also a few specific talking points that stood out from the pack. The transcript – sans the awkward 10+ minutes devoted to discussing the hospitality component of Canucks games (acknowledging that poutine is the best) – is just past the jump.
Note: I’ve sorted the responses based on the individual that was answering the specific questions rather than going in the order they were asked.
On the goal since he took over:
When I took the job, I talked to Trevor – and we wanted to create depth. So we have competition for jobs from within, competition for ice time. As soon as I took the job we went to work. I was on the phone for a month–..
.. This is where Trevor Linden interrupted to hammer home the point that Benning was “on the phone all through the draft” from the very moment he took over, concluding his anecdote with a remark of “yeah he put it down!” which seemed to embarrass Benning at least a little bit. But Benning persevered:
“We got some good young kids in this year’s draft, and some others from last year’s draft and in our system. We want to develop these kids in a winning environment. We wanted to get younger, and get players that play with energy, that play fast, that play hard. And I think we were able to accomplish that.”
On feeling the need to bring Ryan Miller in:
“We feel goaltending is the most important position on the team. A goaltender has the ability to give your team confidence and also take confidence away from the team. We felt with getting Ryan – a veteran guy who has played a lot of games – he can act as a mentor to Eddie Lack as he develops. We did this formula with my other teams, and it worked out well.”
On who will score goals for the team this year:
“When Ryan Kesler came to us and asked to be traded.. one of the first things we wanted to get back when we moved him was a 2nd line center that could score. And Nick Bonino scored 22 goals last year and ended up getting more points than Ryan did *applause from the crowd*.. getting him was an important piece back. Getting Radim Vrbata — he’s good on the power play. He’s a good two-way player, he’s good around the net. I think he’s 4th all-time in shootout goals so he’ll help us there. I think he also scored 10 power play goals last year so he’ll help us there as well. I’ve watched Linden Vey the last 3 years in Manchester; he played on a line there with Toffoli and Pearson and was a very good AHL player, so he’s going to get an opportunity here with us now to see what he can do at the NHL level. We’ve also added depth, and I think we’re going to count on getting goals from all 4 of our lines this year. That’s what we tried to do to improve the scoring.”
On potentially tanking/blowing things up fully:
“The fans here are too passionate to let that happen (get in on the Connor McDavid sweepstakes). What our plan is going to be is we’re going to draft well. I come from a scouting background. It started a couple of years ago and this year we had a real good draft. That’s what we’re going to do, that’s why we hired Willie; he’s good at working with younger players. This is a market where we’re going to be competitive. We want to win here.”
On the likelihood we see one or more of the young prospects make the team:
“These guys are at our development camp this week. Bo Horvat and Shinkaruk look really good. They’re going to come to training camp and if they have a good camp, and if they deserve a spot on the team then we’ll try to make room for them. But it’s a long process, they have to learn the pro game.”
On the core that’s still kicking around in Vancouver:
“I think what we’re trying to do this year is to bring in guys to support our core. You look at Radim Vrbata, he’s going to support the Sedins and help take the load off of them on the scoring side of things. We tried to add depth to our forward group, so we’re going to play 4 lines so that we don’t have to play our core guys as much as they did last year. It’s all up to Willie now!”
Editor’s note: Linden was, unsurprisingly, his exceptionally gregarious self. While he let either Benning or Desjardins handle most of the questions initially, he picked his spots in jumping in to neatly put a bow on an answered where it was needed. And of course, his eyes lit up like never before when he got a chance to talk (brag?) about his prowess in completing the Grouse Grind at a faster time than most of the prospects.
On a fan’s plea to have Gino Odjick’s jersey hung up in the rafters next season:
“Obviously everyone knows the impact Gino has had on this organization. He’s certainly one of those guys that captured people’s hopes, and imaginations, and beliefs. He’s a guy I played with and he was such a character. That continues to-date. So that’s something we’ll have to consider for sure.”
On developing prospects:
“When you look at, for example, what Detroit does. They play a year in the AHL, they have success at that level, which helps build their game. Physically, they’re more mature. They’re better pros because of it. The last thing we want to do is push guys into the lineup when they’re not ready. Having good depth at the forward position allows these guys to play at the level they need to play at for best development.”
Following up on Benning’s answer as to who will score goals this coming season:
“We also lost some guys last year.. we’ve got to get those guys back. I think in the type of system that Willie’s going to bring in we’re not going to count on just one guy to carry the load. We’re going to become a 4-line team. That’s our main mandate moving forward. We’ve got to look to get guys back to the potential that they can be at.”
On where Mike Santorelli is:
“I think he’s in Toronto?.. but, and what I noticed very early with Jim is that he’s not only a talent evaluator but he’s a team builder. When you construct a team you need certain pieces in certain places. Watching him work through the Ryan Kesler situation, which then led to adding whether it be Derek Dorsett, or Linden Vey, or Luca Sbisa it changed what happened to our forward group. It’s a decision we had to make. It wasn’t an indictment, it’s just kind of the way it flowed through the summer.”
On signing Ryan Miller:
“When we signed Ryan Miller the first guy I called was Eddie, and I spoke to him. He’s got such a great attitude, he’s a real professional. I talked to him about how thrilled we were with his development last year and how this now gives us two goaltenders that on any given night we can win with. You can’t go out and not have great goaltending every night. Eddie was thrilled, he looked at it as an opportunity to learn from one of the best. Continued his growth as a goaltender. One thing people forget is that it takes time for goaltenders; you look at Cory Schneider and the number of years it took him. We drafted young Thatcher Demko who’s 18 years old and he’s going to spend 3-4 years in college, and then a couple of years in the AHL. It’s a really difficult position. It’s an opportunity for Eddie to continue on his path and not be pushed into a situation he doesn’t have enough support in. We’re trying to guard against that this year.”
On what his plan is:
“The key for any coach is to get the players to get work. I know the players aren’t happy with what happened last year, that they want to have a good year, that they’ll be motivated. We’ll play high-paced, fast hockey.”
On what style the team should play:
“I think your style depends on the personnel in the room. I think we’ve got great personnel to play high tempo hockey and be on the attack. If you play good defense you turn pucks over and then you can go on the attack. We’re a hungry hockey team, we want to be aggressive, we want to go after teams, and we think we have the personnel to do that.”
On Doug Lidster:
“I worked with Doug for a little bit on the national team, then he coached with me in Medicine Hat for a year. When I went to Austin I took him with me. I’ve never seen him mad at a player, and yet he still gets the best out of his players. He’ll be a great attribute to our organization and the players will like him.”
On the goaltending situation:
“I think if you look at his history he certainly has what it takes to play. We’re blessed with two good goaltenders. I don’t think there’s a controversy.. you go into the season, and the guys that play well will play. I think things will fall into place that way.”
That was it in terms of relevant things from the coach. It was most certainly a change of pace in terms of what we saw from his predecessor at this event last year, but as we painfully learned, putting your money where your mouth is will always be far more important than talking a big game in July.
And finally, the top 4 picks from this past draft got to speak towards the end of the show. To quickly sum things up:
- Jake Virtanen is a local kid who grew up watching the Canucks.
- Jared McCann models his game after Ryan Kesler (he’s quickly proving to have so, so much jerk puck potential which has really raising his ceiling by leaps and bounds).
- Thatcher Demko got into hockey because his dad loved the Kings, which he quickly amended to saying that his dad now loves the Canucks and actually threw his Kings apparel out as a show of solidarity
- Nikita Tryamkin is an animal, and that point was beaten home with the vast number of times someone referred to him as the “Russian bear“. He looks up to Zdeno Chara, and I assume this is because that’s one of the only other players he doesn’t have to literally look down at.