After floundering through his second training camp this season, Jake Virtanen finds himself back in the doghouse with Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green.
There are many things that we can potentially take away from the shocking decision to make the Abbotsford native a healthy scratch but I think Twitter sums it up well.
First, Virtanen really didn’t earn his way into the lineup. Especially for a camp where his job was considered to be on the line despite his 18 goal campaign. It’s a remarkable feat to arrive at camp out of shape twice in a season but to do so when Zack MacEwen and Micheal Ferland are looking to punch tickets into the opening night lineup is a bold kind of negligent.
Coming into camp, everyone knew that there was going to be tough decisions after the top six forward group. With nine players pushing for six spots, it was inevitable. All the more reason to prove to Green why he needed to make the decision to add you into one of those slots.
This is on Jake. Go to camp and make them not even have to question if they should scratch you. Other players want his job.
— Peter (@Peteisneat) July 30, 2020
Virtanen had an okay camp. Ferland and MacEwan came in to take a spot from somebody. Virtanen looks like he is on the bubble of the team and might be the one to lose his spot.
— Brandon van Aalst (@brandonvanaalst) July 30, 2020
Another thing that we can glean from this is simply that Green had other players that he wanted to get an extended look at while Virtanen is a known commodity.
One can reason that — along with MacEwen and Ferland — Brandon Sutter was showcasing himself as well to show that he can fill an important need defensively that would warrant a spot in the lineup. Now obviously Sutter wasn’t exactly thrilling in really any aspect of the game but if Green were to sit him in favour of anyone, it’d likely be for Loui Eriksson rather than Virtanen anyways. MacEwen on the other hand was being used sparingly as a 13th forward, which won’t be an available option for the team come Sunday.
Not surprised, but disappointed. Really thought Green would give him a look over Sutter. I don’t think Sutter was ever going to surprise anyone with his game.
— Terry Guest (@TerryGuest29) July 30, 2020
Not a fan of it, and would prefer to see him in lieu of Sutter, but I get why Green went with that 4th line.
The longer they play, the better the odds he plays.
— Michael Paweska (@mrpaweska) July 30, 2020
Ultimately, Virtanen is a five-year veteran now in the NHL and scratching him is significant. Some will call it a motivator to step his game up, a wake-up call, kick in the pants, or whatever turn of phrase that you choose but I think that argument was best put to rest here:
He made his bed. Almost every year he walks into camp out of shape and shows little motivation. Fans say he gets benched to “light a fire under his ass”. Really? A pro needs a benching every year for 5 years to motivate him to play to his potential? Like a child in “time out”.
— LLN-H (@The4Orr) July 30, 2020
The truth is that all of these factors are good enough reasons to scratch him. So whichever one or ones are actually true, Virtanen needs to earn his spot, show up to camp in shape and ready to play, and learn how to light that fire under himself without having to revisit the doghouse. As the Canucks team continues to get deeper, he will have a harder and harder time coming out of that seat.
One last thing that I found was noteworthy here was the difference in answers given by Travis Green and Jim Benning on the decision.
Hours after Benning said "Jake’s working hard and had a good camp……I wouldn't read much into it", Green says he didn't use Virtanen because he iced the team that gave him the best chance to win..
Those are different answers.
— Blake Price (@BlakePriceTSN) July 30, 2020
Contradictory comments but I’m sure that Virtanen is well aware of the reason and isn’t getting the same mixed messages. With this, it’s a classic “speaking in the best interests of my role” comment from the GM and coach. Green wants to send a message to Virtanen while Benning wants to send a message to everyone else that there is nothing to be concerned about here.
Were both statements successful?