Years from now we’ll hear tales of the 2015 Canucks Summer Summit – the one where ticket holders grilled Trevor Linden and Jim Benning making it the last time they allowed questions from fans at these events.
Or they might leave them in, allowing the same thing to happen year after year.
Having attended the Canucks Summer Summit since the days Dave Nonis was in charge (and when it was called the State of the Franchise Address), I’ve never seen it as adversarial as it was this year.
Season ticket holders haven’t always been happy about the team’s moves, or they’ve been skeptical, but they’ve always been willing to listen. They’ve had an open mind on hearing management’s direction and plans.
And there’s always a level of respect given to the men in charge.
Listening to the crowd at last week’s Summit, you’d have to say at least half the crowd was lacking that respect. And while they were asking pointed questions, you got the feeling the responses didn’t matter too much.
1. Shorty started it
Twitter had some vocal responses to the way the fans went on the offensive, such as this from Average Sized Ryan:
Have only heard the last clip @BakesTakes84 played but hearing fans cheer other people talking down to Linden & Benning is gross.
— Ryan Henderson (@RJHenderson7) July 10, 2015
Funny thing is John Shorthouse, voice of the Canucks, was at the bottom of the dogpile when he said this right after his intro:
“My 11 year old, who doesn’t ask for a lot, said ‘Dad, all I want is an Eddie Lack jersey,’ and Trevor, I told him I’d get it signed in September!”
With that, the audience began it’s first “Eddie Eddie!” chant of the evening. Props to Shorty for getting it started.
Linden attempted to laugh it off with a “Thanks Shorty,” and “Hi Will (Shorthouse’s son). Sorry about that.” – a glib response from a guy who you’d think would understand a deep emotional attachment to a city’s favourite player.
2. Quinn found out Miller could’ve been traded
The biggest news coming out of the Summit, by far, came out of Benning’s answer to a man named Quinn.
Quinn asked whether the possibility of trading Ryan Miller ever came up, because Lack was “a younger player and cheaper obviously. Some would say he had similar if not better numbers.”
“We could’ve moved Ryan Miller. There were teams calling on Ryan Miller.”
Benning explained that the way he saw it, he had his experienced number one in Miller, who will mentor the younger Jacob Markstrom.
He also said this:
“The problem you have when you don’t know if a backup goalie can handle that number one job is it sucks all the confidence out of your team. Maybe going forward, Eddie can do that. I just didn’t feel comfortable in this market not having a proven number one goalie to give our team a chance to win every night.”
Given the way the Canucks played in front of Lack down the stretch, cementing a playoff spot and helping eliminate teams such as the Kings and Sharks along the way, that explanation sure looks like a bad attempt at PR.
But who knows. I do have one nutty Twitter follower who comes up with similar theories from time to time.
3. Is that condescension in Linden’s voice?
At another point during the night, Linden had these kind words about Vancouver fans’ reaction to the Lack trade:
“We’re all homeowners, we’ve put it up for sale and we love that house because it’s ours and our kids grew up there. We’re so attached to that house – we put it up for sale, we put a value on it, but nobody thinks it’s worth that.
Everybody wants the house over there, or the house beside it. They say you’ve got it listed for X but I only want to pay Y for it. That’s kinda how it works.”
That’s a hot take – Canucks fans are pretty dumb for overvaluing Eddie Lack. He’s worth next to nothing, so move on. That’s kinda how it works.
Another take – the Province’s Jason Botchford had some revealing information on the Lack trade over the weekend:
“Western Conference sources involved in the negotiations say the Canucks turned down three offers that were better than the one they accepted from Carolina…
The four teams showing the most interest in Lack in the weeks leading into the draft were all in the Western Conference. Three of them were in the same division.
The Canucks were in talks with Dallas, Edmonton, San Jose and Calgary and, no, they did not all see him as a backup. The Flames were out after they made the Dougie Hamilton move. The other three all acquired goalies and all paid steep prices after Lack was moved early on June 27.”
Wait, so they took Y despite offered not X but Z, which is somewhere in between X and Y? If Linden was trying to confuse me with all this algebra talk, it worked.
4. Tanbir wants a Cup
While “we could’ve traded Ryan Miller” was the money quote of the night, the best moment was when “Tanbir from Surrey” went on one of his TSN 1040-style rants in person.
Added note: most people watching the feed thought Tanbir had given the false name “Kyle” to disguise his identity, but in his podcast, Tanbir says the name of the man who handed him the mic was Kyle. So when Shorty called to the audience looking for Kyle, he was talking to the mic runner, not Tanbir.
Here’s what he said:
“I got a couple questions for you guys. The first question is why are you guys spending so much on a fourth line with Dorsett and Prust. That’s $5 million on both those guys and that’s a fourth line, not a second line, not a third line, but a fourth line.
My second question is I keep hearing playoffs playoffs playoffs, but I’m not hearing Cup. The Sedins have maybe three years left. They were top-10 scorers in the league last year, they proved to us they can still play at a high level, and we’re still going for the playoffs and one and done. I want to win a Cup, and I don’t know if you guys want to win a Cup. I want to win a Cup!”
Whether you agreed with him or not, you had to tip your hat to the guy for looking Benning and Linden in the eyes and saying what was on his mind.
Linden almost mocked him with his response:
“We want to win a Cup too. Jimmy?”
“Like, I love the passion of our fans and the emotion. If we could take this energy and this emotion and transport it to our team, we’ll be closer to winning the Stanley Cup.”
Jimmy did answer the question on fourth liners:
“…to analyze where we came up short in the playoffs – Calgary played with more emotion than we did. It was that Michael Ferland running around. We need to be able to rise to that occasion in the playoffs and play with emotion… with Dorsett and Prust in our lineup, they’re going to create a safe environment for our players.”
Old-school hockey, here we come.
5. Benning delves into advanced stats
Talking about the team’s direction, Benning revealed Vancouver’s new secret weapon.
“We analyzed what happened (in the first round of the playoffs), where we came up a bit short, and one of the things we wanted to do this year was we wanted to get faster, and we wanted to acquire players that play with emotion.”
That’s it: emotion.
“I think with making some room now for Sven Baertschi to be on our team, and if Jake Virtanen shows that he can come in and earn a spot on our team, we’re going to be faster. Getting Brandon Prust – he’s an emotional player.”
Listening to a city’s hockey fans break down the Canucks’ first-round series against the Flames for months, I must say I never heard that what they were lacking was emotion.
Skill, speed, youth, goaltending, defence – we all heard those reasonable explanations, but emotion… who knew?
But Benning could see that the players weren’t emotional enough. They didn’t care, I guess.
Anyways, more on the direction, Benning mentioned newly acquired Matt Bartkowski’s transition game and the signings of Frank Corrado and Adam Clendening.
“We’re going to be able to get back in our own end, we’re going to be able to transition the puck up the ice faster, and with our speed, and with Prust’s emotion, I think we got better this summer.”
In conclusion: while Toronto looks at metrics such as shot quality, possession numbers, chances on net, Vancover’s measuring emotion.
6. Linden is sleeping well
Following Tanbir’s rant, Chris, AKA “the guy in the red shirt” decided he needed to speak his mind. Here’s his rant:
“How are we going to get younger, because when I look at this roster now, it’s actually statistically older than the one we had last year and I really don’t see any spots for Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen, and both Baertchi and Kenins to make the team when you look at all our one-way contracts?
We’re trading away guys like Eddie Lack to keep an older veteran goaltender. Lack was the same age as Tuuka Rask, Jim, who you had in Boston. We’re also trading away a young 24 year old power forward for a 31 year old pending unrestricted free agent, so we’re getting older in this regard.
My second question is more with the management team. Recently we let go of some really good hockey people in Laurence Gilman, Lorne Henning, Eric Crawford and Mike Burnstein, who really surprised me. What was the point behind these moves, because Trevor, as you said in your interview, it wasn’t based on performance good or bad, so let’s say their performance was good – why are we letting good hockey people go?
And one thing that really does concern me is the potential for John Weisbrod to be getting a bigger role in the organization, especially with the mismanagement that we saw from him in Calgary pertaining to the Ryan O’Reilly contract.”
“I think we’d all agree that Calgary’s done a pretty good job there? They’ve got a lot of good young players? I think John was a big part of that, and I think Brian Burke’s admitted that.”
“I work for you and I want to win a Stanley Cup. I think some of these decisions are hard and we can sit up here and take the criticism, but at the end of the day we have to put our heads on the pillows at night and sleep well, and I do because I think we’re in a better place today and we’re going to be a stronger organization and I’m very confident in that.”
In case any of you were worried about Linden losing any sleep over making some controversial, seemingly tough decisions, the answer is nope.
Added note: On his podcast, Tanbir says Linden commented that Gilman and Benning were “going in opposite directions.” Tanbir added that Chris asked why Ron Delorme wasn’t let go, to which Linden said he didn’t want to pin it all on one guy.
Bonus: After Hours content
Following the formal Q&A session, Linden asked to speak with Tanbir and Chris.
The biggest thing to come out of their face-to-face meeting (according to them): the Canucks have tried to trade Chris Higgins and there’s no interest in him around the league.
“On possibly moving Higgins: appears nobody wants him. People don’t want the contract” – Linden to Tanbir and the other guy who was mad.
— Arpan (@Arpannnnn) July 10, 2015
Added note/clarification: Tanbir clarified exactly what Linden said regarding Higgins on his podcast. Linden told him “nobody wants that contract.”
Nice tidbit for Linden to release – now Higgins, a player on his roster, knows his team has no interest in him either.
Always good motivation.