Canucks: Benning reveals team's direction this summer

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Image: Ben Nelms

The Canucks need to get faster and more physical so they can dictate play. While it may seem obvious, Jim Benning has been saying this since Vancouver’s season ended, and he repeated it again on TSN 1040 Friday morning.

“I’m mad that we (the Canucks) lost in the first round… I guess one of these days I have to get over that, but it won’t be today.”

Generally, making business decisions based on emotions ins’t the best idea, especially in hockey, but if Benning can use his anger to make the Canucks a better team, most fans won’t argue (unless he trades their favorite player of course).

The Canucks’ GM added that young players are on their way and said he’s going to “keep working the phones.”

Goaltending

The position that’ll likely eat up most of his family plan’s minutes will be goaltending.

It’s no secret the Canucks have two NHL-ready starters in Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack, and they have an AHL star in Jacob Markstrom.

“I think it’s a good problem to have (the glut of goaltending). We’ll be able to recover draft picks or get other young players in our system.”

The good news: clearly the Canucks will be trading a goalie and they’ll get something in return.

The bad news: while Lack was the best of the three this season, and despite being the most popular player on the team, he’s the most likely to be traded.

Why?

First, other teams will be calling about Lack. He is only getting better, and he could be an elite NHL goalie for the next 5-10 years.

Second, the offers for Lack will be the most substantial because no one knows what Markstrom can do at the NHL level yet.

Third, because of Miller’s cap hit and limited no-trade clause, Lack will be the easiest to move.

So while trading the best goalie may not be the smartest move for Vancouver (taco restaurants need his business, fans want the best goaltender going forward), it would be the easiest.

Defencemen

Aside from solving the goaltending situation, most see Vancouver’s defence as the area that needs the most improvement. Makes sense – all great NHL teams are built on a solid, mobile, puck-moving defensive core.

Benning on the Canucks defensive prospects in Utica:

“Frankie (Corrado) and Adam (Clendening) have played real good. Adam especially in these last four games… he’s a skilled guy and his puck movement out of his own end is excellent.”

Vancouver’s GM added both Corrado and Clendening will “come in and challenge for spots next year.”

Benning also explained that Ben Hutton is not with Utica because the team’s defensive lineup was set and they felt Hutton could use the time more effectively – working out rather than watching.

With Benning’s stated goal of getting faster, you have to wonder which defencemen he’ll be looking to move in order to make space for the youngsters.

Might they be looking to add another high-end defensemen like Christian Ehrhoff?

“We haven’t got to that point (talking about free agents) yet.”

Fine then.

Forwards

With the contracts of Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson expiring and no one expecting them to be renewed, there will be at least a couple of job openings up front.

After watching the Comets closely for a couple of weeks, Benning appears to be most impressed Sven Baertschi, Alex Grenier and Jake Virtanen.

Benning raved about Baertschi’s skill on TSN 1040, saying he’ll bring playmaking to whatever line he’s put on next year. On Grenier, Benning said he’s always had good skills, but this year he put in a lot of work on his skating.

“(Grenier’s) got the hands and the size to be an NHL player.”

With the NHL Draft less than a month away, the next few weeks could provide tons of news for Canucks fans as Benning tries to answer these questions.

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Omar A has worked for 24 hours, the Canadian Press and TSN. He graduated from the Journalism program at the University of King's College
@omarcanuck

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