Fun with the CBA! Off-Season Training

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’:

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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:

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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:

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Then Training Camp timeframes are outlined within Article 15.3:

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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

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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.


Andrey Pedan’s waivers are expiring (From Jeremy Davis)

Bo Horvat Goes to the All-Star Game 

Roster Sizes, Contract Limits, and Multiple Waiver Claims (from Jeremy Davis)

On the Conclusion of the CBA 

Waiver Priority Order 

On Emerson Etem, and Reclaiming the Claimed (from Jeremy Davis)

  • TheRealRusty

    I would imagine that any well runned organization would provide their players with clear and concise off-season workout plans during the exit interviews. It is astonishing that Canucks training staff failed to properly communicate these plans to both Virtanen and Tryamkin.

    • JuiceBox

      How do you know with 100% certainty that they failed to provide Virtanen and Tryamkin with a clear plan? Maybe those two players just didn’t listen by either going to far or not far enough.

      • TheRealRusty

        Working on the assumption that GMJBTL has prioritized drafting players with “good character” and work ethic. If character flaws are ruled out of the equation, then the breakdown should be somewhere in the process… I can understand if one player misunderstands the off-season instructions, but 2 of our young (and impressionable) players….?

        • JuiceBox

          A young guy trying to be a difference maker doing everything he can to be the player the team needs him to be and ends up taking it too far.

          A young guy coming from Russia and a league which has a completely different culture. Maybe he underestimated the importance of off-season training or he underestimated how serious NHL teams are about health and training.

          One goes too far, the other not far enough. Both easily corrected. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

          • TheRealPB

            I’m sure that neither are the first young players to need to learn how to be a pro in the off-season (though frankly it sounds like that’s why they have all these extra development camps these days).

            However, I do think there might be some reconsideration of the messaging that the Canucks gave their young players in their off-season. I don’t think it’s coincidental that BOTH Virtanen and McCann left this off-season with a mission to become “heavier” and did so to the detriment of their speed and dexterity. Perhaps it’s not just that they screwed up; perhaps they misunderstood a message of what kind of training they had to do in the off-season.

            I think while a lot of the younger players took a good step forward this year (Baertschi, Horvat, Stecher, Granlund), it bears looking at more closely why it took Tryamkin longer and Gaunce, Virtanen, Hutton and McCann (though not here) all took significant steps backwards.

          • Braindead Benning

            I think while a lot of the younger players took a good step forward this year (Baertschi, Horvat, Stecher, Granlund), it bears looking at more closely why it took Tryamkin longer and Gaunce, Virtanen, Hutton and McCann (though not here) all took significant steps backwards.

            Agreed on many points PB,

            However, IMO both McCann & Virtanen did not take a step backwards by their own doing.

            They were rushed into the line-up based on what management at that time thought would be the best solution by injecting the team with youth.

            Perhaps had they just spent another year in Junior by developing and maturing accordingly, maybe both would be have benefited?

            This is not a shot at the current management its more of an overview of how they have accessed and developed their 1st round draft picks at this point

      • Buula

        I think it’s fair to assume that professional sports teams are given the resources to make up a tailor made plan for each player.

        Playing varsity volleyball we had a group workout routine and then specific things each of us needed to improve on, pretty sure the Canucks have much more than that at their disposal.

        I’m of the opinion with Rob that it’s more likely they didn’t follow the nutrition plan or overdid it on the working out..

        An early interview with Virtanen in the off season I remember thinking he looked chubby…

  • Fred-65

    It was my understanding that teams are not permitted to “plan” a summer work out for players. That was not always the case and if memory serves me correctly this was one of the changes under the new CBA. Players must be left to attend to their own summer work routine. At one time there was a strict plan made for each individual player that went home with him. The NHLPA made an issue of this

  • Freud

    Two questions then.

    Why does Benning go on radio multiple times during the summer to announce Virtanen is working out at Rogers Arena and he’s looking good? Why not announce he didn’t know what was going on due to the CBA?

    Why did McCann also announce Vancouver told him to bulk up as well, only to have Florida tell him to lean out once he reported to their camp?

    • Dirty30

      Benning keeps trying to do the right thing rather than doing the right thing.

      It ends up providing mixed and contradictory messages to fans and media.

      Benning should do himself a favour and not comment on anything ever.

      “Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

      From ‘Foundational player’ to ‘he’s in great shape and looking good’ Benning simply creates unrealistic expectations out of these comments and opinions.

      They need to hire a media relations person for JB.

      • Fred-65

        NHL teams can make the gym available but cannot instruct players. McCann certainly needed more strength and in good time more weight he’s simply flat out skinny and gets pushed around on the boards.

      • Freud

        Thanks Ryan, but these were hypothetical.

        A further hypothetical.

        How can Benning see Virtanen multiple times and not figure out he was 15 lbs overweight? How could he not see Virtanen and discuss how close he was to his training goals, maybe ask what he was weighing at the time?

  • Brent

    “It has since been revealed that Virtanen thought he had to bulk up a bit to become a more effective power forward. ”

    So is this code for, go out and get some steroids and bulk up?

    I have always wondered how prevalent steroid use is in the NHL based on the emphasis on size and strength. But do not know what the testing regime is. I suspect players do not get tested over the summer? But can be tested during the season? Or is there the possibility of random tests over the summer as well?