Canucks week ahead: Jobs on the line as struggles continue


Most of the chatter around the Vancouver Canucks has shifted off the ice, but they’re still playing games and there are still things to watch for.

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The Vancouver Canucks’ record is almost immaterial at this point.

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Through 20 games, they’re off to one of the worst starts in team history.

Where do they go from here? Their chances of making the playoffs are nearly non-existent. They’re on the road for four more games and there are a couple winnable games in there but even if they were to find wins in those games, they’re only going to keep losing ground in the playoff chase.

This is truly a crucial week ahead for the Canucks, but barely for playing reasons.

The story

Off the ice, there are all kinds of questions swirling about the futures of GM Jim Benning, coach Travis Green and the players.

Ownership might have been stunned at one point about the team having had a terrible start, but it’s clear they’re now displeased. The assumption is that change is in the offing, maybe on the bench, maybe upstairs, maybe both.

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And perhaps even on the roster. The players aren’t as bad as they’ve been.

In what sequence might these changes happen? The team’s mood is dour. The players acknowledge this. They’re trying to be upbeat, but they know how bad things are.

The week ahead is a crucial one for everyone involved.


The opponents

The Canucks play Friday in Columbus against a rebuilding but feisty Blue Jackets squad. They score goals in buckets. The Canucks don’t. Can they bounce back from Wednesday’s ugly performance against the Penguins? Do they have any spirit left?

Sunday it’s off to Beantown to face the Boston Bruins . The last time the Canucks were in Massachusetts, Elias Pettersson took an ugly hit and missed the next game. The Canucks were also badly outplayed by one of the league’s powerhouse teams. Game Eight feels like a long time ago. You can’t help but contrast the paths the two 2011 Stanley Cup Final opponents have taken, either.

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On Monday, the Canucks are in Ottawa to face the Senators for the second game of a back-to-back. Ottawa is not good. Normally the travelling team playing two nights in a row is at a real disadvantage, but given the Sens have just four wins in 17 games heading into Friday’s game against Anaheim, the Canucks really should be in this one with a chance.

The road trip concludes next Wednesday in Montreal against the Canadiens, who are possibly reeling even worse than the Canucks. They have just five wins in 21 games, a stunning collapse in form from making the Stanley Cup Final last season. They were surely over-performing last spring when they went on their magical playoff run and they’ve suffered some big losses to their lineup, but few expected them to be this bad. How will the road-weary Canucks fare on the final game of this road trip? Will they have any spunk at all?

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J.T. Miller has played with passion all season.
J.T. Miller has played with passion all season. Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports

Stock rising

J.T. Miller:  It’s not even a knock against Bo Horvat’s captaincy to say this, but the Canucks need all the leaders they can find. A successful team is one where every player plays some sort of leadership role. Leadership isn’t just about the rah rah, it’s about setting a tone. All players look to set a winning tone at the right time. That’s how a quiet player on the fourth line can still lead, by reflecting back the presence of those above them. There’s little doubt about Miller’s passion. The Canucks need more players with passion right now.


Elias Pettersson is struggling to find his game, playing just over 12 minutes on Wednesday against Pittsburgh.
Elias Pettersson is struggling to find his game, playing just over 12 minutes on Wednesday against Pittsburgh. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /PNG

Stock falling

Elias Pettersson : A couple weeks ago we said his stock was up. What happened? He spent time on a line with Juho Lammikko on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh and was essentially benched in the late going, playing just a dozen minutes all night. The confidence in his game was barely fluttering to begin with, but now he’s totally disappeared again.

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Question of the week

“What sort of defenceman would be available in trade for Miller or Horvat?” — Brian H., Vancouver

It’s more than a simple trade here. Both are key players. You hardly ever get an equivalent player back. It’s a change in direction to move one of those guys and there’s no obvious replacement for either of their roles waiting in the wings.

It would feel like shifting deck chairs.

The real question here is what would trading either player represent. Such a move really couldn’t be done in isolation. It must be done as the beginning of an overhaul.

A total rebuild, which done right is actually done quickly, would be in the offing.

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