Canucks take risks with Green despite turbulent year
VANCOUVER – The elephant in the room has turned into a circus.
Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green, stuck on an expiring contract without an extension for next season, broke his silence Tuesday on his employment status, but only to explain that he is a better coach now than when he joined the National Hockey League four years ago. .
âI think every year has its own challenges,â Green told reporters before the Canucks, fresh out of the playoffs, crashed 5-0 against the Winnipeg Jets. âWe have entered the season and you are still hoping for good things. It did not go the way we wanted. But you learn from everything. I think every year you train, you have the opportunity to improve as a coach, and I know over the years in Vancouver I got better every year and became a better coach every season. . And this year is no different.
âWhen you go through challenges and you go through adversity, sometimes you grow even more in these situations than when you are successful. And when I look back on the season … I know I’ll be able to look back and say, ‘You know I’m a much better coach today than I was this season.’ “
And yet, here we are.
After inheriting a 29th-place, 69-point team in 2017 and taking them three years later into the playoff bubble last summer where the Canucks enjoyed their first post-season success since 2011 , Green and his entire team of assistants are about to become coaches. free agents.
There are many ways to judge a coach besides wins and losses, and Green’s teams have opened it up to criticism even as they’ve improved so far this season.
Since Green replaced Willie Desjardins, the Canucks have been porous defensively. The special teams were, on the whole, poor. With everything, including the global health crisis against the Canucks this year, it’s hard to know how to judge them beyond the obvious conclusion that Vancouver has retreated for the first time since Green’s arrival.
But ask yourself: Did the head coach take all he could from the players given to him for four seasons? The answer is categorically and systematically “yes”.
Green still does, striving to keep the players engaged and to fight. In their three games before Tuesday, the Canucks beat the Edmonton Jets and Edmonton Oilers under Connor McDavid.
The massive COVID-19 outbreak, a debilitating schedule and injuries to a roster that wasn’t good enough to begin with have kept the Canucks from doing anything other than trying to survive until the end of the season. But none of the players left their coach.
The grim financial landscape that has prevented Green and his staff from receiving contract extensions beyond this season has never made sense and looks worrisome now that the coach is potentially in his last five games.
Although his contract expires in June, Green’s last contract game is May 19.
GM Jim Benning has said on several occasions since the end of last season that he enjoys the job Green has done, that he believes he is the right coach for the Canucks and that he wants to recruit him.
Benning in March: â(Travis) kind of, you know, these young players for three years here, four years, and he’s pushed them to where they’re at. I’m not looking to make a coaching change. My feeling about Travis is that we really like him (and) he did a great job with this band. I’m not going to comment on the coaching negotiations, but it’s something we would like to move forward. “
But Green and his staff, including Jedi goaltender master Ian Clark, are still without a contract for next season due to what Benning has repeatedly described as the financial “sustaining model” in which the players find themselves. Canucks during coronavirus-induced depression in NHL.
The prospect of losing several million this year and possibly the next has led to widespread downsizing within the organization during the pandemic season. Managing partner Francesco Aquilini’s determination to defer as much spending as possible is reflected in overdue player contracts which CapFriendly.com says will see the Canucks pay nearly $ 12 million less in actual wages this season than the $ 81.5 million salary cap limit. .
In this dire financial climate, firing homeowners is understandable. The Canucks aren’t the only team to have downsized. Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour reportedly resolved his impasse with ownership, but only by agreeing to an average salary of $ 1.8 million on his three-year extension, at least $ 1 million less than what a lot of people thought he would get.
SportsnetElliotte Friedman and others have reported that some NHL teams are trying to lower head coach salaries after the period of inflation that followed the mind-blowing Toronto Maple Leafs presentation of a $ 50 million contract. dollars to Mike Babcock in 2015.
But the Canucks are risking a lot in the long run by not signing Green again.
The pay rise Green earned from his roughly $ 1 million entry-level head coach salary barely counts as an expense at a billion-dollar company like the Canucks. Obviously, it doesn’t cost anything against the ceiling either.
Step up to the cost of assistant coaches whose salary is only a small fraction of that of the head coach, and the Canucks’ potential “savings” are infinitesimal. Benning just pledged $ 25 million over the next five years for starting goaltender Thatcher Demko. Isn’t it worth increasing Clark’s salary, say, about an extra $ 100,000 a year – about 2% of Demko’s salary – to keep the goaltender coach who helped him build him? ? In other words, what do you think Clark would be worth as a free agent for the Calgary Flames, who signed a $ 36 million contract with former Canucks starter Jacob Markstrom last fall to find out who he is not the same guardian without his guardian?
As with good players, the closer good coaches get to free will, the less likely they are to return. The best coaches are worth significantly more than their funded cap salary indicates.
Given that the cap-related roster upheaval the Canucks suffered last fall was one of the first contributing factors to what turned into a disastrous season in Vancouver, it seems a a certain continuity with the staff and a head coach whom even the general manager agrees is the right man for the job, is very valuable.
It would certainly be of value to players who mostly love Green, respect him universally, and continue to play hard for him. Green built relationships with these players, established trust while overseeing the development of young Cornerstones Demko, Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser.
The situation with the coaches is bad for the Canucks, and a lot of people around the NHL can see it.
And how good will it look if Green ends up coaching the Seattle Kraken, while the Canucks search the trash for someone who is supposed to bring Pettersson and Hughes to stardom?
Probably worse than it looks seeing ex-Canuck Tyler Toffoli, the popular forward who wanted to stay in Vancouver but sort of ran away in free agency in October, sitting on 28 goals and the point to start the playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens.