Canucks have different look, approach in Year 2 with Benning
The Vancouver Canucks for years were a team built on speed and skill.
Entering their second year under general manager Jim Benning, the Canucks are emphasizing hard work and a pack mentality as they try to return to the playoffs.
”Our culture is that we’re a hard-working team that (sticks) up for one another,” he said. ”I think that was evident last year with the way we played, that’s the way Willie (Desjardins) coaches, when you look at our culture it’s about hard work and competitiveness.
Vancouver piled up 101 points last season, but lost to Calgary in the Western Conference quarterfinals. They finished 48-29-5 in Desjardins’ first season, and in the offseason added forwards Brandon Sutter and Brandon Prust, among others. They lost defenseman Kevin Bieksa and center Nick Bonino.
There are questions in goal, too. Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom are the top choices.
Along with the new faces, some things to watch for from Vancouver:
IDENTITY CRISIS?: On the eve of the season, Benning was still uncertain as to what the 2015-16 Canucks are.
”That’s hard to tell right now,” Benning said. ”I’ve liked our training camp so far, the guys have worked hard but (until) we get the full lineup together I can’t really tell where we’re at.”
PUNCHING UP: What to get the team that was tied for fifth overall in fighting majors last season? The individual player whose 16 fights were third-most in the NHL. On July 1, Benning traded Zack Kassian to Montreal for Prust and a fifth-round draft pick. Why?
”I just felt like last year other teams took liberties with some of our guys,” Benning said. ”Brandon Prust, he fits our culture of hard work and he’s a competitive guy.”
POWER SURGE FOR SUTTER?: Benning traded Bonino, Adam Clendening and a 2016 second-round pick to Pittsburgh for Sutter. A bottom-six center in Pittsburgh, Sutter tallied 21 goals and 33 points in 80 games. In Vancouver, he will have an opportunity on the power play and improve his numbers significantly.
RIFLIN’ RADIM: One of the positives for the Canucks last season was Radim Vrbata’s offensive production. The 33-year old set a career high in points with 63 and his 31 goals led the team. More of the same will be expected in 2015-16 if the Canucks have playoff aspirations.
SENIOR SEDINS: The identical faces of the franchise each just turned 35. At an age when many players begin to see a precipitous drop in production, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin are coming off 70-point seasons. Is Benning worried about the twins and production?
”Being around these guys on a day-to-day basis last year, seeing how hard they work off the ice with their conditioning and stuff, they’ve both come in in excellent shape again,” he said. ”I expect them to have another good year, like they did for us last year.”