I cannot pinpoint the particular individual – though I’m almost certain that it was a member of TSN 1040 – who explained the reason as to why interviews with Canucks management have been few and far between.
At the recent NHL Draft in Chicago, the media relations departments of Canadian NHL teams expressed their awe by the frequency of radio appearances that Canucks general manager Jim Benning and President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden made. Accordingly, the Canucks cut back. Wednesday during practice, Trevor Linden addressed the media in a ‘state of the union’-like availability.
It was going well for the Canucks to start the season. Shocking other teams with their ability to provide no time and space, the team shot up the standings and surpassed all reasonable expectations. One may say the team has fallen back to earth as of late. Contrary to past seasons, goaltending has become one of the team’s weaknesses as opposed to a strength. Both Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson have struggled as of late, and it seems as if a ‘softy’ lands in the net every game. With all the concerns and question marks surrounding the two towering Swedes, some have pondered the idea of this being an opportunity for Thatcher Demko to come up and gain some NHL experience.
Linden on Thatcher Demko getting NHL games: “Absolutely not. Thatcher has taken a huge step this year from where he was last year – being the secondary guy to taking the ball and running with it. He’s been good every night in a situation that’s been challenging for that group. Thatcher’s been relied on on an everyday basis and played really well. [Dan Cloutier] is really impressed with where he’s at and he’s on track.”
With seven weeks until the NHL trade deadline, much has been made about the status of Thomas Vanek, Erik Gudbranson, and even Alex Edler. The first two are unrestricted free agents in July and Edler is in the second-last year of his contract. When the Canucks were trending upwards, and the playoffs were within arms reach, some worried whether the Canucks would make transactions for a post-season push. Times have changed and, should the current struggles continue, it seems almost inevitable that the team will not make the playoffs this season.
Bear in mind, however, that many injured players are set to return relatively soon. Brandon Sutter is expected to join the team on their road trip, Sven Baertschi has been skating, and Bo Horvat recently had a scan done on the progression of his foot fracture. With a healthy line-up in the foreseeable future, the Canucks’ woes may just turn around.
Linden on the trade deadline: “When you talk about the deadline and plans moving forward, a lot can happen. There’s a lot of hockey between now and then. We understand that our eye is on the future. If there’s an opportunity to make this team better, we’ll do that, but it will be with our eye firmly focused on the future.”
Linden on Vanek: “I’m not going to talk about individual players. We’re focused on where we need to get to. Part of Travis’ mandate is to come in and make our group better, and also develop our young players. At this point, I don’t think it serves anyone to talk about individual players.”
Linden on pending UFAs: “We’re going to do what’s right for our organization. We’ve done that in the past and we’ll continue to do that. We’ve got some good future pieces and we’ll continue to keep our eye on that.”
When both Chris Tanev and Gudbranson were out with respective injuries, it paved the way for the likes of Derrick Pouliot and Alex Biega to create a name for themselves. Both played periods of excellent hockey, and it created the problem of who to draw out of the line-up as the back-end. Ben Hutton is a victim of the healthy scratch, and Troy Stecher’s name has been tossed out there as well. What goes unsaid is that the Canucks are doing themselves no favours by having one of their younger defensemen sitting out.
Linden on moving a defenseman: “We’ve finally gotten healthy on the back end and it’s created a logjam. The play of Derrick Pouliot has been good and even Alex Biega has pushed hard at a spot. Those are good problems to have. We’re not in a rush to do anything. We’re not looking to move anyone out, but we understand that situation could change on this road trip pretty quickly.”
Linden on Gudbranson: “We haven’t really had a discussion on re-signing him yet. We’ve been in contact with his agent throughout the year. We’re in a situation right now where we’ll see how the next 7 weeks unfold.”
Benning’s future with the organization is in the hands of Francesco Aquilini and Linden. Both have openly spoken about their satisfaction with the early parts of the season, although it’s safe to assume those thoughts have likely faded in recent weeks.
Linden on Benning’s contract: “I don’t want to get too into that. It doesn’t serve anyone in purpose. We’re focused on having a good second half. He came into a challenging situation and we’re trending in the right direction. I like the job Jim has done. At heart, he’s a guy with a team building mindset and he’s going to continue to have his eye on the future. It’ll be no different as we head into the (trade) deadline.”
The World Junior Hockey Championships come to a close today as Canucks prospects Elias Pettersson and Jonah Gadjovich battle for the gold medal. Olli Juolevi and Team Finland lost in the quarterfinals and a Will Lockwood-less USA squad will play for the bronze medal. Overall, their prospects fared well in the tournament. Both Gadjovich and Lockwood played more of a support role on their respective teams, with Gadjovich pitching in some offense in the early games. Juolevi was named Player of the Game in the quarterfinals, as well as a top 3 player on Team Finland for the tournament. As for Elias Pettersson, he’s been dominant. More often than not, he’s an offensive threat when he and his linemates are on the ice. His elite hockey sense is obvious, and he also managed to pull off a few dangles each game. He currently has seven points (five goals, two assists) in six games going into the gold medal game.
Linden on the WJHC: “It’s a big part of the positivity around the group. At the end of the day, our fans can see the building blocks – Elias (Pettersson), Jonah (Gadjovich) has played well, I thought Olli (Juolevi) was good, Will (Lockwood) had an injury there. Even in Utica with those kids, and Gaudette has been good and Dahlen has been good. All those kids are going to turn pro. Kole Lind has had an outstanding year as well. I’m really impressed with where his game has gotten to. There are good things happening and it’s been a long time since our organization has been able to say that with our prospects.
Linden on Lockwood’s injury: “He’s getting some tests on his shoulder. We’ll learn more in the next little bit. It’s disappointing for Will. He’s a heart and soul kind of kid and only knows how to play the game one way. We’ll learn more in the next week or so.”