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Canucks not planning coaching change, want to sign Green to extension

GM Benning confident staff in place can make Vancouver better

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

The Vancouver Canucks are not considering a coaching change and would like to sign coach Travis Green to a contract extension, general manager Jim Benning said Friday.

The Canucks (10-15-2) are sixth in the Scotia North Division and have played more games than any other team in the division.

The two teams immediately ahead of them in the standings each made a coaching change this season. The fourth-place Montreal Canadiens (10-6-6) replaced Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme on Feb. 24, and the fifth-place Calgary Flames (11-11-2) replaced Geoff Ward with Darryl Sutter on Thursday.

"I'm not looking to make a coaching change," Benning said.

Green is in the last season of his contract.

"My feeling on Travis is, we really like him," Benning said. "He's done a good job with this group. He's our coach. … Like I don't comment on player negotiations, I'm not going to comment on coaching negotiations. But it's something that we would like to get done moving forward."

Green is 112-118-30 in four seasons with Vancouver. The Canucks made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time since 2014-15, defeating the Minnesota Wild in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in six games in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round. They lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games in the second round.

The Canucks started this season 6-11-0. Benning pointed out they had a short training camp and no preseason games, then played 16 games in 25 nights, with two practices in 19 days, at one point. Green lost time to work on systems after offseason personnel changes.

Vancouver added goalie Braden Holtby and defenseman Nate Schmidt, and lost goalie Jacob Markstrom, defensemen Troy Stecher and Christopher Tanev, and forward Tyler Toffoli.

Benning said with more practice time the Canucks have played with more structure and discipline while going 4-4-2 in their past 10 games, though it is a challenge playing an intradivision schedule due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. They defeated the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 at Rogers Arena on Thursday and play them there again Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SNO, SNP, NHL.TV).

"Travis is doing a good job with our group," Benning said. "I think our coaches, they're doing good work for us. They're understanding the problems we have. That's the one thing about playing the same teams over and over. The weaknesses you have as a team get exposed, and then you have to adjust. I think he's done a good job of that.

"He's kind of, you know, had these young players for the last three years here, four years, and he's grown them to where they're at right now. He's continuing to work with them to make them better, to get better. So I'm not looking to make a coaching change."

Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini tweeted Feb. 13 he had full confidence in Benning and Green, and had no plans to make changes.

"I have a real good relationship with Francesco," Benning said. "He's the guy that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. We had a plan this summer. We have a plan going forward. We update him on that plan constantly. He knows what we're trying to do and what we're trying to achieve, and the nice thing, he's been supportive of us.

"I'm happy that he did that and I feel grateful for the support that he's given us through this season. It hasn't been easy, but to have his support means a lot."

Benning said the Canucks would try to sign forward Tanner Pearson, who can be an unrestricted free agent after the season, but hadn't begun negotiations. He said they would wait until after the NHL Trade Deadline on April 12 to negotiate contracts with defenseman Quinn Hughes and forward Elias Pettersson, each of whom can be a restricted free agent after the season.

"We have lots of time," Benning said. "We're concentrating right now on the team."

Benning said he will wait until closer to the trade deadline to make moves unless the right trade presents itself. Asked about forward Jake Virtanen, he said, "Teams are going to phone and ask about all of our players. Teams have phoned and inquired about Jake. We want to do the right thing for our organization."

Green remains positive on the long-term and short-term possibilities in Vancouver.

"The future's very bright for the Vancouver Canucks," he said. "I don't think anyone doesn't believe that, not just in organization but in the city. When you look at a lot of the young pieces that we have that are on our team now and that are coming, it's an exciting time to be a Canuck.

"And yes, maybe things haven't gone quite perfectly this year, but again, we're only halfway through the season and I like the way our team's been playing as of late. I think Jim and I agree on that as well."

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