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Green eager for first Canucks training camp

Coach's familiarity with organization, personnel should help transition to NHL

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

PENTICTON, British Columbia -- Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green is in uncharted territory with his first NHL job but isn't going in cold.

The 46-year-old former center, who played 970 NHL games for the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, has been coach of Vancouver's American Hockey League affiliate in Utica the past four seasons.

Green has a strong feel for and familiarity with the organization and its personnel.

"That will help," Green said at the 2017 Young Stars Classic tournament that ran Friday to Monday. "I've watched all these guys play for four years.

"I talked to [Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan, a former Vancouver assistant], here at the tournament about the differences. When he went to Calgary, he said he didn't know all his players probably the way I know our players. That takes time as a coach, to get to know them, so that's the one good thing here, that I have a pretty good read on even the veteran guys on the team that I've watched."

Green, hired April 26, said he has reached out to several NHL coaches in the offseason to try to learn about transitioning to a new job.

 

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"Other NHL coaches … when they've been with the same team four or five years, training camp runs a lot smoother and their summers are different," he said. "Us, we've done a lot of work this summer, a lot of preparation to get ready. I've touched base with a lot of players this summer. I'm anxious to get going."

Green, who takes over after the Canucks had 69 points and finished last in the Pacific Division last season, outlined several goals for training camp, which begins Tuesday.

"The structure part of your game will be part of it," he said. "And working on conditioning. We'll use camp to get guys up and running. Most guys come into camp in pretty good shape now but then there's the actual conditioning part of playing hockey and being on the ice and battling.

"I'm anxious to see who's ready to play for the team. We've talked about having internal competition and I think we've got a lot of it. Our team needs to get better. We need players to play better and we need players to push themselves."

An example of Green's familiarity with personnel, one that should help him considerably, is with 21-year-old right wing Jake Virtanen.

Virtanen, the No. 6 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, played 55 games for the Canucks in 2015-16, scoring 13 points (seven goals, six assists), but spent the majority of last season with Utica.

Playing for Green, he had 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 65 games. Virtanen played 10 games for the Canucks last season and had one assist.

"A lot of people talk about his year last year, that they didn't think it was a good year for him," Green said. "I think it was really good. He went through some tough times, had a little adversity, and that's part of it. He did a lot of learning. Sometimes hard learning is the best learning.

"The AHL is a tough league. What I like is that I think we got to a point with Jake that he really understands what he has to do to be successful."

Green said Virtanen's tough times -- scoring droughts and reduced ice time -- presented an opportunity, possibly a turning point.

"We had a lot of open communication and dialogue with Jake, as we do with other players, but sometimes … well, he didn't hit bottom but he was having a tough go of it," Green said. "It was probably good for him. You need to go through adversity.

"You get to see what they're made of when things are hard and it's going to be hard in the future. It's hard to win in the NHL. And I want players that can go through adversity and can come out on top." When you're in a playoff series, you're going to have adversity. There will be pressure and you want guys who can get through that adversity when things do go well."

Green said that he had plenty of offseason conversation with veteran forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, and likes everything he's heard.

"They're really good people, fantastic for the city of Vancouver," he said. "They've been everything we've hoped and dreamed of. They're Hall of Fame players and they're a big part of our team still. They're leaders on our team and I like what I hear from them that they're hungry to turn things around.

"When you're a good leader and a veteran leader, well, you need those guys to be hungry and they have will to win. I talk about will to win a lot. They've got a high will to win and I'm anxious to see how they look in training camp and I'm confident they're going to have a real good year." 

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