Jim Benning isn’t going to sacrifice the future just so his team can make the playoffs this season.
The Canucks’ GM was on Sportsnet 650 prior to Wednesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes to talk about the future of the club.
Benning went on The Program with Scott Rintoul and Andrew Walker with the Feb. 25th NHL Trade Deadline approaching. The Canucks sport a 23-22-6 record and are contending for playoff position as they head into the All-Star Break.
“I’m not going to mortgage the future just to try to make a run and make the playoffs”, Benning told the station.
Benning highlighted the significance of Vancouver contending for playoff position and the impact it will have on the young players.
“It important to be playing meaningful games in February for the development of our young players. I’m happy with the team and I’m happy with where we’re at and the players.”
Benning reiterated that the plan has always been to have the young players be the skilled players this season and help the Canucks compete. He gave praise to Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat and their ability to drive the team offensively.
“We set a plan in place at the start of the year. It’s about the long-term growth of our group. Our young players have developed over the course of the year. We traded Nilsson to make room for Thatcher Demko. We want to get a good look at him and get him experience in the second part of the year. We traded Michael Del Zotto. We got some young defensemen here.”
The Canucks boast several top prospects including blueliners Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi, forwards Tyler Madden and Jonathan Dahlen and goaltenders Thatcher Demko and Michael DiPietro.
20-year-old Pettersson leads the team in scoring, while 21-year-old Brock Boeser and 23-year-old Bo Horvat are the only other two players on the club with 30-plus points.
“We’re contending for a playoff spot right now because of our young players. These players are going to be our core players moving forward. I’m confident if we can continue to play like this, I think we can make the playoffs this year.”
Even if the Canucks fall short of getting into the postseason, the experience the players will gain from playing these meaningful and tight games should go a long way. It’s been four years since the Canucks last made the postseason.
“I think that would be good experience for our young players to play playoff games and it would be great for their development. Just to be in the race is valuable experience.”
Benning went on to say he’s impressed with the players available in the 2019 NHL Draft and believes the Canucks will land a key player even if they end up making the playoffs.
“We’re going to get a good player in the first round again. If we’re lucky enough to make the playoffs, we’re still going to get a good player at 16,17, 18…”
The Canucks are right in the thick of the postseason race, but don’t expect Benning to deal away the future just to ensure they lock down a playoff spot.