Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA Today Sports
Although the Canucks went on a roll and won six straight games, the stories have not stopped. The Canucks claimed Reid Boucher on waivers with the hopes of scoring goals, while Anton Rodin has ample time to rest his knee sitting in the press box. Two points out of a wild-card spot, and the team is arguably exceeding the low expectations once placed at the beginning of the season, and some fans worry about management potentially sacrificing more of the future to push for a playoff spot.
Earlier today, Jim Benning made his first radio appearance of 2017 to discuss these topics and more.
First and foremost, one of the biggest recent headlines surrounding the Canucks has been Willie Desjardins’
deployment lack of deployment of Rodin and the recently acquired Boucher. Canucks fans eagerly anticipated Rodin’s arrival after his tour in Sweden. He quietly left North America for his homeland, where he was later named MVP of the Swedish Elite League after putting up some pretty decent numbers with Brynas. Management voiced their optimism and excitement in bringing Rodin back to North America, but the opportunities have not yet been there for him to display the Swedish MVP-worthy skill-set he possesses.
Benning on Rodin: “Willie is always looking at ways he thinks can make the line-up better. The players that are playing right now have been part of our group for the past two or three months and he feels comfortable with them. It’s been a tough situation with Anton with the injury and then having to rehab and get to where he needed to be, physically. Now he’s ready to play and show what he can do, but we’re three months into the season. I’ve told Anton and his agent, ‘Let’s be patient, he’s going to get a chance.’ In the Friday night game, he fell on his knee and got a bruise. It’s swelled up the last couple days, I think he’s going to be available to play Thursday so that’ll be coach’s decision whether he gets in the line-up or not.”
Since the controversial 00:00 ice-time on Saturday night, Desjardins has fielded countless questions regarding Rodin and when his opportunity will come. The coach has been firm in stating he, as well as Boucher, will get their chances, but the question is when. Desjardins has outright said, “I like Anton Rodin. I think he’s got good skill,” but maintains the idea that he must play in offensive situations for maximum benefit. Rodin’s opportunity in the line-up will obviously come at the expense of another player, but it appears Desjardins is reluctant to disrupt the current line-up with whom he is content and comfortable. His knee injury, without a doubt, has been a setback throughout the off-season and even to present day, so that the entire situation may be more than just Desjardins scratching a healthy player.
Draftists will be happy to know that there are a mere 162 days left until the 2017 NHL Draft. The bad news is this draft is weaker than the past two seasons, and the Canucks have just five picks total (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th-round). So far, the Canucks’ ever-changing draft position has ranged from the bottom to the middle of the pack. Navigate here for Craig Button’s mid-season draft rankings list.
Benning on preparing for the draft: “We have all our [scouts] in here this week and we’ve gone through the different leagues and rated the players the way we liked in each league. The Western league, the OHL, the Quebec league, the US region, and the European region. We’re doing an overall list of 60 players. I think some of the players we did see in the World Juniors will be high picks in this year’s draft. It would be exciting if we could get one of those players.”
Benning on the strength of the 2017 draft: “I don’t think it has the high-end superstar that we’ve seen in other years. I still think it’s going to be a good draft, 40-deep. The top 20 guys, we feel, could be good NHL players. There’s 10 guys we feel could be 20-goal scorers in the NHL. The overall strength of the draft is good and the depth from 4th-round, 5th-round on isn’t as strong in past years. I think in the top 3 or 4 rounds, we can still get players that can play and contribute.”
Another anticipated event is the NHL Trade Deadline, which is on February 28th at 12:00 PM Pacific. Last season, the public knew that Jim Benning had opportunities to trade pending UFAs in Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata. The Canucks stood pat, and had nothing to show for as the two players left the organization that summer for free. With management’s goal to capture a playoff spot, some fans worry that a similar situation would happen this year with the pending free agents.
Benning on planning for the future: “We’ve traded away some draft picks in the past for young players. I’m happy with the progress of our young players and where we’re at. We’re not trading any more picks going forward, so from that perspective, we’re going to stay pat. But, if there’s an opportunity to improve our team and it’s a player we feel strong about going forward, we’re going to look at it. I like the development and the growth of our young players, we have a good group of young players coming. We’re going to stay the course, but like I said, if something comes up and it makes sense, we’re going to look at it. We’re going to continue to monitor where we’re at going into the trade deadline. Like I’ve said all along this year, we’re happy with the development of our kids. Unless the players with no-trade contracts approach me, we’re going to hold the fort and go from there.”
If it wasn’t clear enough, It’s evident that Benning is satisfied with the young players he’s brought in during his tenure. He won’t trade the veterans, and he’s happy with the youth, so it appears this team has found the “next core” of Canucks. In previous seasons, Benning had frequently expressed his desire to revitalize and bring youth to the roster. Contradictory to those statements, Jim Benning says they will not be buyers nor sellers at the upcoming. They have reached a middle ground, and they are content with it.
The Canucks have 13 expiring contracts come July 1st: Burrows, Rodin, Horvat, Gaunce, Boucher, Skille, Megna, Chaput, Gudbranson, Larsen, Tryamkin, Pedan, Miller
Benning on Gudbranson: “He’s an important guy in our group moving forward. We’ll figure out a contract with him going forward, I don’t see that as being a problem. He’s a character player, and his intangibles are real good. We’ll get the contract figured out.”
Benning on Tryamkin: “I’ve been really excited about his development. [We see] some of the things we’ve seen when we drafted him – his size and mobility. He’s getting the confidence to carry the puck up ice and make plays. We want him to be a part of our group for a long time.”
Ben Hutton: “Week-to-week. He wasn’t able to hold his stick like he wanted to. We did some more x-rays and stuff. No surgery. I don’t want to comment right now; it’s more than a bruise. It’s at least week-to-week, and it could be longer.”
Hansen: “2 to 3 weeks.”
Gudbranson: “Erik went back to New York this past week to see the surgeon. We don’t have a timeline, but it’s going to be months.”
Source: TSN 1040