Vancouver Canucks pledge improvement after dismal season, re-sign head coach

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Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green, left, and general manager Jim Benning are pictured speaking to reporters on Friday.  (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green, left, and general manager Jim Benning are pictured speaking to reporters on Friday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

On the heels of a dismal season that saw the Vancouver Canucks miss the playoffs, suffer the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the NHL and finish last in the all-Canadian North Division, the team's general manager says changes are coming.

"Ownership has given us the resources to do whatever we need to do to get back to where we want to be next season and that's a playoff team," said Jim Benning. "Buyouts are going to be a strategy this summer. We're going to be aggressive."

Benning was addressing the media after announcing a two-year contract extension for head coach Travis Green.

Green's future with the organization was the subject of speculation for months, with his previous contract set to expire at the end of this season.

The 50-year-old became the 19th head coach in Canucks history in April 2017, and has compiled a record of 125 wins, 132 losses and 32 overtime losses during his tenure.

Benning's end-of-season address coincided with a letter posted by team owner and chairman Franceso Aquilini. Both spoke of the need for the Canucks to become a playoff team, something that has happened once in the past six seasons.

And both seemed to indirectly address the growing sense of fan discontent surrounding the team.

Unhappy Vancouver Canucks fans donated money to fly a #FIREBENNING banner over the city on April 21, 2021.
Unhappy Vancouver Canucks fans donated money to fly a #FIREBENNING banner over the city on April 21, 2021.(@UncleLaleet)

"We're all working hard to repay your loyalty and we're grateful for your ongoing passion and support," wrote Aquilini.

"It's an important off-season, we need to make changes," said Benning.

In April, a "#FireBenning" banner was flown over the city, paid for by disgruntled fans.

The man behind the campaign, who goes by the Twitter handle @UncleLaleet, is planning another display of disaffection Saturday, inviting people to rally outside the Canucks arena while an "#AquiliniOut" banner is flown overhead.

"The team has gone downhill," said the man, who declined to give his real name to CBC. "They've made blunder after blunder and we want to voice our dissatisfaction ... Seems like under this ownership and management we have no hope for a Stanley Cup."

Benning said no players have asked for a trade and that his first order of business is to re-sign young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.

Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson reaches for the puck in a game against Winnipeg.
Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson reaches for the puck in a game against Winnipeg. (Daryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

"We also will be exploring trade options, free agency and buyouts to help strengthen our group as a means to have more balanced scoring next season," he said.

He said talks with Daniel and Henrik Sedin about rejoining the club in a front office role are still in the exploratory stage.

And Benning said he could not comment on the status of forward Jake Virtanen, who is on a leave of absence facing an allegation of sexual assault in a civil suit.

"The girl filed a police report so then it became police business," he said. "Police are doing an investigation now."

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