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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Linden speaks: on the trade deadline, defensemen, and Jim Benning

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.”

  • NeverWas

    Thanks for the recap!

    The prospect pool does look pretty promising. Hopefully they sell and can make some magic happen at the trade deadline and have a strong draft. Next year or 2 could be pretty interesting… if done right the canucks could have a pretty strong squad for the following 5 years. Hopefully all goes well!!

  • In other words, Trevor said nothing.

    I understand it’s best for him to keep his cards close to his chest, but come on. His comment on Gudbranson is especially so. Anyways, Trevor is doing the political correct thing. Lets hope management has a plan, and a plan B, just in case.

    I get the feeling Jim Benning won’t be back, at least not in the same form as now. I also find it odd that nothing appears to be going on with Henrik and Daniel. The time has come to move on and leaving it up in the air is not a plan.
    I thing change is coming, but Trevor is not telling.

    • Holly Wood

      Management can not spill their guts at press conferences during the season, telling the media that they are trading player x,y or z does nothing for the player and it certainly lowers the trade value. Imagine playing poker but showing your cards to everyone. So until then don’t expect to much from those type of press conferences. If I owned a team and my GM or president was spilling the beans to the media I would can his ass.

      • Rodeobill

        Yep. If anything, I’m happy they didn’t say something off the cuff. It doesn’t give the media anything to blow out of proportion and turn into a real issue. A conservative press conference that hits all the marks. Doesn’t alienate anyone or hang anyone out to dry, confirms direction of management (rebuild). Doesn’t frame the dialogue in a “blame sense” rather than reiterating intentions to compete while flying with a broken wing. I especially like that they do not want to rush up Demko to be a part of the shht show and have him fail and take the blame for not being the saving grace.

  • apr

    I can only imagine how pissed the owners are right now, and I can’t imagine that Linden is willing to throw Jim Benning under the bus, or deal with an owner who thinks the team should be a playoff team. As much as I like the drafting, and excited about Boeser, Petterson, etc – that Gudbrandson trade and Erickson contract may be too much. Like Nonis sigbing Clarkson, and trading up in the draft to pick Tyler Biggs instead of keeping picks for Rackell and Gibson (gawd that trade is awesome). I would not be surprised if Linden walks away if he is forced to leave, and Holland takes president role with Dubas as GM.

    • Killer Marmot

      Some of the Canucks’ current woes can be blamed on injury. If they bounce back when Horvat, Sutter, and Baertschi return then the owners might be understanding. If, however, the Canucks continue their downward spiral to the end of the season then senior management should feel nervous.

          • Rodeobill

            agreed. maybe all goalies slump at times, and this was my only point of real contention. keeping a good starter is the biggest piece of the puzzle for remaining competitive, but instead they gambled on one of two back ups playing like starters. Oh well. At least we draft well again as long as we stick to the rebuild, and I dont believe Boeser and Horvat have been “spoiled” (as in the oiler system) until reinforcements come in next year. Patience. Half a season. Then we start to see some rewards. Take the time, do it right. Hang in there fans, hang in there ownership!

      • apr

        I agree, but I just can’t see Aquilini hiring someone without name recognition if Benning and Linden go. My preference is that Linden stays and Benning gets an extension, but I don’t begrudge an owner who consistently pays up to the cap and expects more immediate bang for his buck. If we had the Ottawa owners, who expects a cup while paying minimum cap wages, then we should revolt – but Aquilini spends $$’s. Again, I hope Benning/Linden stay, but I would not be surprised if they don’t. And whoever comes in will have some serious assets (both prospects and cap space (if Sedins leave) to build upon.

    • Bud Poile

      I would hope that 2.5 years of a tear down and rebuild -while having competitive teams-isn’t freaking out a billionaire like some here.
      Eriksson is not a problem on or off the ice and his contract isn’t hurting the club.
      Future prospects wasn’t Gillis’ strength,to put it lightly.
      In 3.5 years Benning has built a consistent stream of prospects.
      He hasn’t been perfect and isn’t blessed with the hindsight of his detractors.
      Canucks fans has never seen a GM amass prospects at this rate.
      Linden is Aqua’s figurehead and Jim has been left to rebuild on his own.

    • Burnabybob

      It’s much too soon to judge Linden and Benning. They were practically starting from scratch with the rebuild. The team is headed in the right direction- that’s the important thing right now.

  • Puck Viking

    Linden wasted years trying to be competitive. They should have gone with the rebuild sooner. The start of the JB era is still costing us with all those 2nd rounders and forsling dealt to fill the age group which is the stupidest comment ever.

    He seems to be doing better this last year but how much of that is the owner not getting involved with all the rumors you have no idea who is at fault in this mess.

    • argoleas

      Not persuaded that the first couple of seasons was Lined’s to waste. The choice to attempt to stay competitive was most likely ownership’s, for Sedin’s sake. It is entirely possible that ownership and Linden/Benning agreed to try this route while trying to restock, and ownership only relented last TD to commence a fuller rebuild.

      • Puck Viking

        Who cares about down 2 picks? Its a legit defensemen in forsling and three 2nd rounders traded away with only sven left to show for it. Thats 4 defensemen that could be added to the group. All the players he was looking to acquire could have been replaced via free agency on 1 year deals.

        • beers after

          “The start of the JB era is still costing us with all those 2nd rounders.
          ..three 2nd rounders traded away…
          Who cares about down 2 picks?”

          Vancouver Canucks acquire:
          June 27, 2014
          2014 2nd round pick
          June 27,2014
          2014 1st round pick
          2014 3rd round pick
          June 27,2015
          2015 3rd round pick
          2015 7th round pick
          June 27, 2015
          2015 7th round pick
          June 30, 2015
          2016 2nd round pick
          July 28, 2015
          2016 condtional 3rd round pick

      • Puck Viking

        I dont doubt it was ownership. But Linden made dumb comments about doing it for the sedins. Last time I checked the fans pay the salaries. Fans like me did not renew season tickets due to the direction of the team. The way the NHL is now you have a small window to win. There have been many wasted years on trying to make the playoffs when a rebuild should have been in place years ago.

      • Puck Viking

        Who cares about down 2 picks? Its a legit defensemen in forsling and three 2nd rounders traded away with only sven left to show for it. Thats 4 defensemen that could be added to the group. All the players he was looking to acquire could have been replaced via free agency on 1 year deals.

        • truthseeker

          It’s not only Sven. It’s Sven, Gudbranson, Sutter, and Will Lockwood. He’s only “lost” one second round pick and that’s the one for Vey.

          Stop cherry picking to try to make your point look stronger.

  • Dirty30

    Emerson Etem was just rleased after clearing waivers. He never found his game here first time out, but if he signed for the minimum he would be a cheap option at this point, and maybe has some incentive to resurrect his game/career.

  • Ser Jaime Lannister

    The “re-tool” quick fix failed miserably, as a result we are stuck with bad contracts for years to come….I doubt there will be any accountability, just hope they fully commit to a “REBUILD” and do it proper.

  • bushdog

    i’m all for the picks we have coming along but i’m more than a bit miffed at the players we missed out on. but I can’t blame anyone until I know WHO to blame. who made the final decision on every pick? owner, pres, mgr? how much was put on all the crazy data that’s around these days and how much on the eye-test? if nobody will talk, we’re just blowing smoke. some teams make it obvious who the boss is. in van, it ain’t so clear. good press but it’s pointless to speculate when nobody knows Anything!!

        • Bud Poile

          1st season was a 101 point success.
          The next season was a winning one until injuries took them out in February.
          That’s two years.
          The Canucks perormed well up unti January last year and were highly competitive until one month ago this year.
          Now it’s 1.5 down years.
          Nobody rebuilds an organisation in that timeframe.

          • Bud Poile

            Following that 101 point season Benning drafted Boeser at 23.
            Statistically,he is the best scorer taken in that draft behind McSaviour.
            The kid’s an NHL All-Star in his rookie year.
            Gaudette and Brisebois were drafted for good measure.

    • Killer Marmot

      What specifically would you like to know?

      Keep in mind that management can not be completely frank about their plans for specific players. They can’t say “We’re definitely going to trade Vanek before the deadline” because that’s too disruptive to Vanek.

      • Whackanuck

        He’s not asking about specific players, just who actually makes the final hockey decision amongst the various levels of Canucks management. It’s a fair question.

        • Killer Marmot

          The only real question is how much say do the owners have concerning player trades and acquisitions. Apart from that, it’s safe to say that Benning has the final say on all player moves.

  • wojohowitz

    I put it this way: If a team can`t make the playoffs over 2-3 years – it`s the players. 4-5 years – it`s management and 6+ years then it`s ownership. Benning is on the bubble.

    • Puck Viking

      The playoffs should not have been in the plan for 4 to 5 years. The rebuild should have been. The trying to make the playoffs is what has left us with this current mess.

      • beers after

        The twins signed identical 4 year,$28m NTC contracts just before Benning arrived.
        Commiting $28m to two players tells the story.
        It’s not your money so you get to play Captain Hindsight with Dud, a beer and pretzels.