Linden, Benning, and Desjardins answer questions from the masses in annual summer summit

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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.

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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.

Jim Benning

On the goal since he took over:

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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:

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“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:

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“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!”

Trevor Linden

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:

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“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:

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“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.”

Willie Desjardins

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:

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“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. 

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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.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Do you find the Canuck fan base to be any more or less delusional than any other? It’s always had a reputation for being relatively fair weather and with the recent string of success (as opposed to the dark years of pretty much everything else) it’s seemed to stay somewhat stable, but I’m not sure it stands out as that different than most other Canadian city’s. American fan bases might be as rabid or more in select cities but then they usually have a lot more to choose from in other sports. No matter how successful the Bruins are it’s hard to imagine them being anything but fourth in that market behind the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics.

      I wish we’d stop talking about “the Core” and just say the Sedins. We’ve got a team of two aging superstars and a whole bunch of secondary players, not exactly a core. Reading between the lines it does feel like Benning is committed to a rebuild which I’m more than happy about.

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        I’m sure if you go to a city like Toronto their fans are at least as delusional.

        Heck, maybe more considering it’s a larger fan base and they have been a big market laughing stock in the salary cap era.

        I agree that the core is the Sedins though I’d personally add Hamhuis.

        This team needs a high ceiling young centre and winger ASAP or, as one of the few logical fans suggested, we’re going to be Calgary in a hurry.

        Submit your fantasy Evander Kane trade proposal below…

          • Mantastic


            Hey we want your star forward, here are two older third liners making 7 million bucks between them.

            Try Tanev and our 2015 first, that’s probably the price. I like Kane, but wouldn’t pay it.

          • Mantastic

            E Kane & 2015 1st rounder for Burrows, Hansen & Lack.

            That’s shipping out one malcontent (plus lottery ticket) for three people who WANT to play in Manitoba.

            Or, at the least, three people who have experience playing in Manitoba.

            Kevin Cheveldayoff wants people who want to be there, RIGHT!?!

          • Mantastic

            I think Chevy should just request Tanev for Trouba and call it a day.

            FOUR players who have experience playing in Manitoba!

            You can’t put a price on that…

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Are we allowed to talk about how Kesler banged Schneider’s wife yet? It’s been fairly well known in NHL circles for quite a while now.

    I’m sure most Canucks fans would be interested to know why their talented young goaltender left town, and there’s no time like the present for digging up dirt on Kes. Classy guy eh?

    Let’s get this going fellas, someone else here must have heard this by now…

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          OK, first, unless your source is willing to identify themself and their credentials publicly, there’s no more credibility there than me saying I swam to the moon on my vacation and I have my dog as a witness. This is the internet, where the screen names are made up and the facts don’t matter. That being said, here’s MY thing on why Kesler didn’t stuff HIS thing into Jill Connors (Schneider’s?) thing.

          Have you noticed how there are about 71 billion articles all over the internet right now about the rumor of Markstrom asking for a trade, a lot of them from industry insiders at all levels?

          Alright, well he’s not an amazing goalie, probably AHL caliber and age (though admittedly on the older side of it) playing above his level. So, whether or not it’s true, who cares if he wants out? No one, that’s who. Yet the 71 billion articles exsist anyway.

          Ifsofacto, if one of your team’s (or whole league’s, in Kesler’s case) star players is rumored to be playing hide the sausage with another player’s wife, mathematically speaking, we can expect about 973 trillion articles to be written about it. However, those articles simply don’t exsist in that number. Not to mention the old “He pounded on his wife so they traded him” story is almost as old as professional athletics itself.

          In short: Huh huh, shut up, Beavis.

          • Mantastic

            Skepticism is the chastity of intellect; I don’t fault you for being skeptical.

            I have also wondered why this hasn’t made its way to the media, with a couple possibilities coming to mind:

            • There are really only three sorces that could confirm or deny this: Schneid, Jill and Kes. I can’t see this happening.

            • Cory is highly regarded around the league and anyone in the media breaking such news would be pulling a major dick move.

            • Botchford hasn’t overheard it in the dressing room yet.

            Seriously though, you don’t know what you don’t know. What if I’m right, Butthead?

  • andyg

    I was supposed to go to this, but forgot to RSVP. Probably didn’t miss much, though. Thanks for transcribing it!

    A few notes on stuff said…

    * Eddie Lack is the same age Cory Schneider was when he was essentially being used as the Canucks #1. I think we’re all in agreement here that regardless of what spin the org wants to put on it, he doesn’t need a mentor: he just needs a backup who can be relied on for 30 or so games a season so that he can be deployed on a sane schedule.

    * Further confirmation here that the team views Bonino as a bonafide second-line center, which has definitely shaped their offseason moves, such as not going after, say, Grabovski, or re-signing Santorelli. This is one of the major sticking points I have with the organization’s overall strategy this off-season, but honestly, we can’t really say who is right here until the season starts. Maybe Bonino will catch fire. Maybe he will *literally* catch fire and we’ll need to find a replacement and contact a burn ward. Who knows.

    * With regards to the above point, the Dan Murphy interview also suggested that Santorelli went to Toronto because they offered him a little more cash than Vancouver was willing to. Fair point. I wish him good luck over there, and hell, it’s definitely been shown recently that one of the best career moves a guy on the outskirts of the NHL can make is being released from Vancouver and signed by the Leafs. 🙂

    * Finally, @PB: I think it’s unfair to leave Hamhuis, Bieksa and Edler off of that “Core” list. Regardless of how you feel about the recent performance of the latter two, they were drafted by the organization, damn it! 🙂 Honestly, the “Core” list probably also includes Burrows and Hansen, but they likely fit under the “secondary players” category you were decrying.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I think all team’s season ticket holders are about the same kind of people. That is, just average Joe’s and not better or worse than any other so called “fan”.

    I watched the summit and it seemed to be a nice display. Of course people who attended just wanted a nice evening with free food and drinks. I know I would. So most of the questions where just for fun. They didn’t try to play journalists. Nuff said about that.

    I enjoyed laughing together with Jared and Thatcher. They seemed to be some funny young prospects. 🙂 And I hope the russian bear will try to learn english soon 😉

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      I wouldn’t personally put too much stock into that statement (at least not the specifics of the years he said). It came at the end of a long-winded response.

      • andyg

        When all you have is 1 or 2 decent prospects in your system then it is hard to leave them to develop properly. We have more quality young players than I have seen in over 30 years.

        I doubt anyone comes straight from the minors to the nhl.

        Maybe Horvat. He will need to really impress them in pre season.

  • Mantastic


    I think Mantastic was being ironic, mimicking the supposed “delusional” fans.

    It’s an interesting question though, what would be fair value for Kane. I recently saw an interesting table prepared by Adam Gretz, on twitter:

    It’s got players that got traded since 2000 and had a .3 G/g avg at age 22. Really rare kind of trade, and Kane would be in a class with Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin.

    Maybe something like Horvat, Tanev, Hansen, and some kind of pick? Or another established player.

    Can’t imagine Winnipeg wanting to trade Kane though.

    • Mantastic

      That is an interesting table.

      If for no other reason that it’s hard to find a true comparable.

      Kessel was in a contract dispute at the time.

      Seguin is a centre which I figure would make him more valuable.

      Though Chiarelli clearly sold very low on him.

      There’s also Richards & Carter (2).

      Although they were/are on very long contracts.

      Unless Winnipeg is in the mood to sell (very) low, it would start with Horvat or Virtanen.

      Probably Horvat since I doubt this management team would swap out a hometown prospect even for a hometown proven NHLer.

      What would be the point!

      But if a team like Philly started with B Schenn for example, the Canucks wouldn’t be able to compete…

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey


    Yeah, I don’t think Vancouver has the pieces to pull off the trade. You gotta imagine that if E Kane gets traded, it’s only because he’s forcing it.

    I agree that Chiarelli sold Seguin pretty cheap, and gave up on him way too soon! Just wish that Benning had seen the future and suggested trading Seguin to Vancouver!!

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Regarding this Kes vs Schneids affair…

    Don’t think it’s proper to discuss rumours of this sort without any evidence at all.

    Even though it might explain a lot;
    * Why Gillis suddenly traded Schneider (cause he wanted to leave ASAP!)
    * Why Gillis didn’t get anything of value back (due to the emergency of wanting out!)
    * Why Kesler was stripped of his A (His team mates didn’t approve)
    * Why Kesler wanted out (He might have been pushed out from his team mates)

    However, as long as it’s just a rumour, we should put a lid on it and move on. It’s not our problem anymore.