Dan Murphy's Canucks Mailbag: Navigating through a challenging time

Elliotte Friedman, Dan Murphy and David Amber discuss the latest news around the Vancouver Canucks as they recover from a COVID-19 outbreak.

Well this certainly has been the toughest mailbag to get filed in all my time writing them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started it only to go back and start it all over again. With the situation surrounding the Canucks and their COVID outbreak and their uncertain schedule it’s been impossible to write anything definitively about what is going to happen going forward.

Right now it’s 12:43pm on Thursday, April 15th and we still don’t know if the Canucks are playing Saturday night versus the Leafs. Friday’s game versus Edmonton has been postponed, and the latest intel I’m getting is that the Canucks could be playing back-to-back against Toronto on Sunday and Monday. With all that subject to change any second, let’s move on to what we do know.

Without J.T. Miller’s candid comments on Wednesday, Miller and his teammates would more than likely be playing Edmonton Friday. So good on Miller if he got people to listen to well-founded concerns about the Canucks' return to play schedule – not to mention their remaining schedule this season. I was told by one player that Friday night’s game was “out of the question” for a lot of the guys. Forget being physically ready to play after such a long hiatus, there are members of the Canucks who are not healthy enough to play. Since we’re not sure how everything is going to play out, I’d like to suggest a few things that should happen regardless of what transpires.

• Give Mike DiPietro some starts. This might be in the works anyway as we really don’t know how Holtby and Demko are doing at this point in their recovery. Losing a whole year of development should be out of the question for one of Vancouver’s top prospects. You must find a way to give DiPietro some minutes.

• Find out what you have in Highmore and Bowey. I know many will say you already know what you have in those two, however it’s important to try to evaluate the trade deadline pickups prior to next season. This goes along the same lines of thinking – but – play Juolevi, MacEwen, Lind and as many “kids” as you can. Depending on player availability, The Canucks might have to do this anyway, but if everyone is healthy there is no reason not to mitigate what is going to be a taxing schedule by playing as many different guys as possible.

• Sit Pettersson and Pearson for the remainder of the season. What is the point of bringing them back? I know that both would rather likely play than just rehab, but how about focus on the start of next season for 40 and 70. Take the decision out of their hands.

Anyway, I’m filing this now. If it’s all out of date when it hits the web, I’m sorry.


I completed this mailbag prior to the Canucks' COVID outbreak pause, so please take that into account with some of the answers. The comments in italics after my answers are my current thoughts.

This is something I believe I’ve addressed in an earlier mailbag. The answer is, absolutely. Why? Because he doesn’t have a contract for next season and we’re already into April! Now I understand that there are still a lot of unknowns about next season and how it’s going to look economically for owners. And when you throw in the fact this team is almost certainly going to miss the playoffs, which might throw the GM in the crosshairs you can perhaps at least see why nothing has been done with Green and his staff yet.

What if ownership wants to make a move away from Jim Benning? It would be foolish to sign the coach to an extension (and you can bet the coach wouldn’t take anything less than three years) if there was a chance the GM that signed him to it was gonzo. What if the new GM didn’t like Green? What if the new GM wanted to move on from the staff after one season? We know this ownership group is sick of having dead money on the books. Anyway, that in a nutshell is why I believe everything is on the table and Green is not on stable ground.

Certainly GMJB has been busy lately with contract extensions, etc., which may mean that ownership is comfortable with him continuing to shape the team. Sportsnet's own Elliotte Friedman has stated that he believes Benning will be back and the final two years of his contract are guaranteed. So with all that information, why hasn't Green been given an extension? Benning has said all along that Green is his guy and they want to work something out. So why the hold up? Especially since ownership is now starting to scratch out some checks for next season and beyond?

I understand why this question needs to be asked because of how this team looked the first month of the season. It was a tire fire, especially defensively at 5-on-5. Travis Green and the players have all pointed to the number of games they had to play out of the gates as well as a lack of practice time as to why things were so pear-shaped early. And I tend to believe those are reasons, not excuses. Here’s why: prior to this season and the weird circumstances, Green’s Canucks teams have always started the season well. In 2017-18 the Canucks were 6-3-1 after 10 games. The next season they were 4-2 after six games and 10-6-1 after 17. Last season Vancouver lost its first two games, but still was 9-3-2 after 14 contests. And let’s not forget the bubble in Edmonton where the Canucks looked pretty good from the get-go until they were overwhelmed by a better team in Vegas. So I do think the schedule and lack of teaching time cost this team. There wasn’t much time to work on the details and the Canucks kept cratering. When they finally got some practices in, the team game improved greatly even if the results did not. So what I’m saying is that while the coaches have to take some ownership in the first four weeks, I don’t believe it was for a lack of preparation.

First off, I’m not sure how active Travis Green is with online poker these days. And if Luongo is playing it’s through a VPN because it’s still illegal in the states. That said, if it was high stakes, both would bully me because I don’t have the money and would play super tight (even three-way) which would make me a sitting duck. Back in the day I would play in a lot of the same tourneys as Lu on the road and we both made some deep runs. He’s obviously a quality player – as in Green – who has had some success in live games as well. So I can’t give you a final answer. I can say that I haven’t played much at all online for the last five years and when I have it’s been sit and go’s. So no doubt I would be rusty in a big multi-table game.

Rathbone certainly seems like a long shot at this point. There are 19 games left in Vancouver’s season, spread over the next 5-6 weeks. Depending on the re-scheduling of postponed games go. Given that he would have to quarantine for a week (at least it’s not two weeks anymore) then you’d have to think the move would need to be made soon for it to make any sense. Lind is an interesting one. He suffered a broken jaw and came to Vancouver from Utica to have it looked at. Well his quarantine ended Thursday and he’s been added to the taxi squad. This might be a product of needed bodies around because of the COVID problems. Regardless, there could be a good chance to have a look at him in some NHL games before the season is done. Perhaps of more concern is trying to get Mike DiPietro a start or four somehow before all of this is done. What a trying year to develop as a goalie if you’re not getting any game reps. Would also like to see Juolevi get some more games before all of this is done. Especially when you consider in one week the Canucks playoff dreams could be completely done.

Obviously things have changed mightily since I typed the above a couple of weeks back. It is currently Wednesday April 14 and the Canucks' first scheduled practice isn't until Thursday. Even so, we have no idea who or how many players will be available to skate with the main group and play in their first game back. All bets are off now. If the remaining 19 games are to be played in about 31 days, then Green will have to map out the safest way to get his group to the finish line. Use as many taxi squad guys as you need to. Get Hughmore and Bowey into the fold as soon as their quarantines are over. Give DiPietro a bunch of starts. Heck, give Arturs Silvos the net if oyu have to. I'm not sure how the Canucks are going to navigate the final month of their season, but the sprint to the finish could be messy.

Cheech says all hockey goalies are in the union. No one gets expelled and you didn’t even need to make it to the NHL.

Jamie’s Elsewhere. A Day to Remember. Really back into RATM. The Amity Affliction. The Swellers. A Skylit Drive.

I don’t think he’s gotten soft in retirement yet. So let’s give this one to Kevin. After all he is a decade younger than me.

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