Wait for a very busy and interesting Monday, Vancouver Canucks fans. It’s the mother lode of changes, not including players of course, who are now responsible for playing without any excuses. Tired of the coach an/or his systems? Guess what … new coach and systems coming. Psychologically, it should also help end performance droughts. It’s a new look, a new chance, with “sort of” new eyeballs watching.
We’ll be able to discover relatively soon if there are any chemistry or cancer problems in this Canucks dressing room by watching the behaviour of the players in a new environment and obviously by the decisions of interim management, made up of some familiar faces who know more about any internal issues than we do.
The time had come. The 4-1 Saturday night loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins was the last straw from a public relations standpoint, but to be honest the wheels of change were already in motion.
One easily got the feeling this season that the coach and/or GM were not long for their jobs when the losses piled up and the reasons became repetitious or somewhat unexplainable.
Sunday, Travis Green was fired as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, with veteran NHL mentor Bruce Boudreau his replacement. Assistant Coach Nolan Baumgartner was relieved of his duties as well. Scott Walker is a new Canucks assistant coach.
The news of Canucks General Manager Jim Benning being fired came a bit later Sunday and also came as no surprise.
With about seven minutes remaining in Vancouver’s latest defeat, the Rogers Arena natives became restless. Booing began, as did the chants to “fire Benning”. It simply turned out to be prophetic. They got their wish, and Assistant GM John Weisbrod is out the door as well.
It appears a combo-platter of beloved former Canuck and senior advisor Stan Smyl, assistant GM Chris Gear, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Abbotsford Canucks GM Ryan Johnson will attempt to start righting the ship on the management side.
For the most part, pundits believed Benning may have saved his job this summer after he successfully purged dead salary, brought in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from Arizona, picked up goalie Jaroslav Halak, and signed forward Jason Dickinson.
Then the Canucks went through training camp and part of the preseason schedule without deals for restricted free agents Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, the club’s two young stars. Pettersson ended up signing a three-year deal and Hughes a six-year contract as the calendar turned to October. The Canucks felt it was the last piece of the puzzle.
Instead, the 2021-’22 season thus far has fallen well short of expectations.
Benning’s Canucks teams made the playoffs twice since he took over in 2014. On one occasion his team was ousted in the first round, the other time in the second.
Green departs in his fifth season running the Canucks bench. His teams made the playoffs once (2020), and he leaves with a record this season of 8-15-and-2.
Boudreau, a.k.a. “Gabby”, comes in a season-and-a-quarter after being relieved of his duties by the Minnesota Wild after the 2019-’20 season. He collected money on what was a five-year deal until this past spring. He previously coached the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks.
He played 140 games in the NHL in the 1970’s and ’80’s as an undersized centre and has coached in the big show since 2007. In thirteen years as a head coach his clubs have made the playoffs ten times. His deepest run with an NHL team came with Anaheim in 2015 when the Ducks made the Western Conference Final.
Oddly coincidental, Friday in a pregame interview, two-time Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, a close friend of Green’s, talked about the ups and downs of coaching in the NHL, being held responsible for things out of your control, and learning along the way.
His team’s victory officially ended his buddy’s run.