The Canucks had their season come to an end over the weekend with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blues. Despite missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, the team was occupying a playoff spot on Feb.2 and improved by eight points overall in the standings.
As is tradition, the Canucks held their end-of-the-season press conferences earlier in the week where they discussed the 2018-19 season and plans for the future.
These are some of the key points and quotes from the day.
Jim Benning and Travis Green
On 2018-19 and the future
Green and Benning believe the Canucks took a step forward this year and are excited for the future. At the same time, they both know that there will be lots of work to do this summer.
Benning was happy with where the team was at coming out of the All-Star Break, but after the game in Colorado, things started to go downhill. Benning pointed out injuries to Alex Edler and Chris Tanev as costly. He mentioned the team will be looking to add to their depth this summer.
Green: “As a group we have to improve in a lot of places. We’ve got Bo, Petey, and Brock up front having solid years and I think getting Pearson was big plus our group as well. I liked the chemistry he developed with Bo, but when you’re a team that doesn’t make the playoffs, you’re going to look to make improvements throughout the lineup. Our young players also improving through the summer.”
Benning: “It would be nice to add another top-6 player to help us in the scoring department. We’re excited about Tanner Pearson, he had good chemistry with Bo when they played together. We want to look at our defense. If we can make upgrades on defense, we’ll do that.
Benning: “We took a big step this year. There’s a lot of hope for our team. You see our young players. The year Petey had. The year Boeser had. Bo I think took another step. These are 20-21 year old kids. Quinn is 19. And you look at when teams get good and when they win, they win with 26-35 year-old players. And these are our best players. I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about what happened this year and the growth of those young players. We have lots of work to to this summer to add to this group and get to the next step.”
On free agency
Benning will be exploring all avenues this summer to improve the team. Whether it’s a trade or a free agent signing, if a move makes sense, the Canucks will consider it.
Benning: “We’re going to look at all of our options in free agency. If there are moves we can make to address weaknesses, we’re going to try to be aggressive to address those weaknesses. We’re going to look at all our options.”
Benning has a good relationship with ownership and says they’re both on the same page with the direction the team is heading in.
Benning: “I have a good relationship with Francesco and the ownership group. We talk weekly. They understand our plan. We had a lot of question marks coming in with the Sedins retiring. Who was going to do the scoring? Over the course of the year, we saw Petey and Boes were able to do that for us. I think that’s a step in the right direction. Seeing Quinn Hughes play those five games at the end of the year. Seeing that offensive defenseman that we’ve been lacking in the past and what he can do with the puck and his skating, that’s exciting. They’ve been very supportive of Travis and Me and the direction we’re going and I expect that to continue.”
On expectations for 2019-20
Green noted that the Canucks aren’t just trying to win a Stanley Cup one year — it’s about winning long-term.
Green: “We want to keep improving every year. We took a step last year and neither one of us want to sit here and continue to stay at the same rate. We want to take another step next season. Now two days after the season, what are the steps we need to take? We’ll meet in the next couple weeks and talk about where we can improve. Part of it is with the players on our team coming back. They are a huge part of it. This is about getting better. It’s not just about sneaking into playoffs, it’s about winning long-term and giving yourself a chance to win a Stanley Cup — not just one year, but for a few years”
On Nikolay Goldobin
Green noted that it didn’t really work out for Goldobin this season.
Green: “The season didn’t go exactly how he wanted, and that happens with young players. Not every young player is going to a full-time NHLer. The onus is on us to continue to work with him, and develop him. I’d like to see Goldy makes changes to how he trains and what he does this summer so he comes back a better hockey player.”
On Alex Edler
Benning definitely wants to get Edler re-signed, noting he is a leader in a dressing room and probably the team’s best penalty killer. Edler will be a free agent on July 1st.
Benning: “He’s an important guy in our room. When [coach Travis Green] talks about the leaders in our room, he’s one of the guys our young players look up to. I thought on the ice he had an excellent year for us. He’s big and strong and probably our best penalty killer. He plays on the power play. We’re going to try and get him re-signed.”
You can watch the full press conference here:
Boeser said at the beginning of the season that he didn’t want to discuss his contract until the end of the year. The 22-year-old scored 26 goals and hit the 50-point mark for the second consecutive season. He is one of several RFA’s on the team.
Jim Benning mentioned during his presser that the Canucks will reach out to Boeser’s camp in the next few weeks to talk about an extension. Boeser said he’s heard from both the Canucks and his agents and that they’re confident the process won’t take too long.
Boeser won’t be going to the IIHF Worlds so he can get in a full summer worth of training.
“I’ve learned a lot this year as a player. I personally think I can still take a huge step. I remember when Bo took that huge step going into his third year, I think I can take that step for next year.”
Pettersson was happy with his rookie season and said it’s a learning process when discussing the up-and-downs.
“I started really good and as the season went on, teams started scouting me and started putting more focus on me. The end of the season didn’t really go as well as I wanted.”
Pettersson also talked to Sportsnet 650 about what it meant to play in Vancouver this season:
Pettersson, on the way fans embraced him this season: "I knew there was a lot of excitement about me, but I had no clue it would be this big. I'm just honoured that they like me so much, and I'm just trying to do a favour back & hopefully play my best hockey every game." #Canucks
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) April 3, 2019
Pettersson: "It's been awesome, to be honest. I've always dreamed to play here, to play in Vancouver, for Vancouver, to live in Vancouver… it's amazing. It's a beautiful city. Great fans, passionate fans. I'm really excited for the future"
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) April 6, 2019
Markstrom said he wants to stay in Vancouver and loves the direction the team is heading in. He evolved into a reliable starting netminder this season and chalks up some of that success to new goalie coach Ian Clark.
“I love Vancouver and I want to stay here. “Being part of a team and a group that hasn’t been that successful for the last couple of years, you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and you want to be a part of that. You want to be a playoff team. I want to bring success to this city and the fans of Vancouver. In my mind, I can’t see myself playing anywhere else but here.”
“Playing 60 games last year really helped me and you got new goalie coach Ian Clark coming in. He set really high standards and expects a lot from his goalies.”
Despite a career year offensively, Horvat believes he still has another level to his game and is embracing the leadership role.
“I see it already. We all want to win, we are passionate about the game, we want to succeed. We as young guys try to speak up in the room and try to do whatever it takes to help the team to win, and we’ve got four really good hockey players here (Horvat, Pettersson, Boeser, Stecher) and a stepping stone to build something pretty special here, and I’m excited about it.”
“I don’t think I’ve hit my peak, I don’t think I’ve played my best hockey. I want to keep improving my two-way game, being that guy you can rely on for the big faceoff or in key situations. I want to play against the other teams top lines and be that type of player. I think that is what will help the team win, me being the best best leader and best two-way forward I can be.”
Hughes said he will spend most of the summer in the weight room trying to get stronger. He’s excited to be a part of the future in Vancouver.
“I’m going to try and work on things every summer.”
You can watch the full “Young Stars” press conference here:
Management and players know the Canucks made progress in 2018-19, but they also know there are areas to improve in. The team had their best season statically since 2014-15, but also still finished nine points back of a Wild Card spot.
The team will be looking to re-sign key players such as Boeser and Edler, but they will also be looking to make moves this summer to improve their depth and defense.
The Canucks have some great young talent and are heading in the right direction, but it will be a busy summer for Jim Benning and company to ensure the team improves and takes that next step.