There has been a lot of discussion and dissection about Jake Virtanen over the past few weeks. After a respectable rookie season in the NHL last year, Virtanen was looking to take the next step forward an become a mainstay on the Canucks roster this year.
Unfortunately things didn’t go as hoped, and he is currently plying his trade in the AHL.
It has since been revealed that Virtanen thought he had to bulk up a bit to become a more effective power forward. That appeared to backfire when Virtanen showed up to training camp weighing in at 228 lbs, and alarm bells went off within the organization.
The added bulk reduced his speed, which was one of his strengths.
Ed Willies at the Province had an interview with Canucks GM Jim Benning about Virtanen yesterday, that reveals some more of the details on what happened.
The question was, how could this happen?
Virtanen was regularly in the gym at Rogers Arena and appeared to be working out under the supervision of the Canucks.
Well, the CBA gives us information on how the off-season training programs function and how the Canucks had some control, and then the rest was out of their hands. We are limited to what is publicly available, and it appears that some information is not accessible. So we will work with what we got.
Let’s start with what the Canucks could’ve done.
Every year, NHL organizations hold development camps for their prospects. These usually occur shortly after the NHL Entry Draft, and include a variety of draft picks, players on entry level contracts and invites. Article 15.10 of the NHL/NHLPA CBA explains the ‘conditioning camp’:
This is included because Virtanen could’ve attended the Canucks 2016 Prospect Development Camp this past summer. Participants are limited to players who are listed under 15.10b in the above image. Virtanen would be covered by (ii) as he was on his ELC and had only appeared in 55 games for the Canucks last season.
Article 15.10d applies for Virtanen as well, as the 2016 development camp would’ve been his third camp after attending the 2014 and 2015 camps.
This means that the Canucks would’ve opted to not include the development camp from July 4-7 in Shawnigan Lake, B.C.
Which brings us to article 15.11 within the CBA:
Since Virtanen did not attend the Development Camp in July, article 15.11 clearly states that the Canucks cannot organize or hold any other camp during the off-season for any players.
They are allowed to open their facilities to the players, and they can use those areas to work out – which is exactly what Virtanen did. But they wouldn’t be able to monitor what the players are doing within those workouts or what happens outside of the rink.
Unless I am missing something, the length of season/off-season is outlined loosely throughout the CBA. With a few references that apply. Under Article 1, Definitions:
Then Training Camp timeframes are outlined within Article 15.3:
The length of season is referenced in Article 16.3 of the CBA, mentioning that “Without the NHLPA’s advance written consent, the Regular Season will be
scheduled over a period of not less than 184 days.”
The NHL By-Laws are not made publicly available, and are referenced under Article 1 when talking about Playoff Games
That section may provide more information about the Regular Season length and the exact moment the off-season begins.
There may also be more information including on what the club can provide to the player before they leave at the conclusion of the season. Unfortunately, as it’s not available, we cannot use it to confirm the information outlined above by the CBA.
Based on all the information above, we can conclude that the Canucks are able to ‘control’ Virtanen’s workouts more within the season. However, once it is not within the ‘Regular Season’ or ‘Training Camp’ then it’s up to the player to control their workout and nutrition plans.
The Canucks would’ve been able to provide suggestions, workout options and nutrition ideas for the player prior to closing the season out. So, if they said ‘bulk up’ and sent them on their way, it’s up to the player to follow what was given to him in April.
They could’ve invited Virtanen to the prospect development camp and then be able to see where he as in terms of conditioning, then make adjustments from there. You can understand the reasoning why they didn’t invite him, as he had just concluded his first NHL season which included a WJHC appearance. But it would’ve allowed a look into where the former 6th overall was in terms of physical development.
NHL and NHLPA CBA can be found here.
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