Vancouver Canucks must prioritize speed over muscle this offseason


The Vancouver Canucks have a failed history when it comes to drafting, signing and trading for tough guys. As such, it’s imperative that the front office prioritizes drafting and signing speed and skill over muscle.

When Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning takes to the podium at the 2018 NHL draft, most fans and pundits will be expecting to hear the name of a defenceman — which would be the right call for fourth-year GM.

Vancouver stands to land a quality blueliner in either Adam Boqvist, Quinton Hughes, Evan Bouchard or Noah Dobson. Given this team’s lack of depth in quality defenceman — both on the roster and in the system — taking one with the seventh pick should be a no-brainer for Mr. Benning.

That will be Benning’s first step in trying to add a speedy/skilled player. Most of the remaining draft selections should be guys who play that style. And if there are any signings or trades that he feels the need to perform, then they better not be tough guys.

Paul Chapman of the Vancouver Province believes the Canucks need to find toughness this offseason, especially to protect prized prospect, Elias Pettersson.

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No doubt the Canucks are a fairly soft team, one can be pushed around easily. But so are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups. Same with the 2013 and ’15 Chicago Blackhawks, who became a dynasty.

With the Canucks, they don’t have a good track record when it comes to acquiring beefy guys.

Where can we start? Giving up a young centre in Cody Hodgson for the troubled Zack Kassian didn’t go anywhere. Flipping Kassian to the Montreal Canadiens for Brandon Prust was an awful mistake.

Signing Erik Gudbranson for three more years just to dish out hits without being very fast at all looks like a very bad decision already.

Wasn’t Loui Eriksson supposed to bring physicality and 20-30 goals a season? $36 million is a high price tag for that, and the Canucks haven’t gotten much of anything out of it.

The game of hockey has changed, with teams now building up rosters full of guys who can skate well and move the puck quickly. No wonder the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings don’t win Cups anymore. No wonder the Boston Bruins haven’t built off their 2011 championship triumph, either.

Benning was Peter Chiarelli’s understudy in Boston, so he was watching his former boss build up a team that tried to hit, intimidate and bully its way on the ice. It worked in 2011, but that was seven years ago ow.

You can’t blame Benning for trying to add more muscle to the Canucks, given how they’ve always lacked the true enforcers that could defend their stars. But the game has changed a lot, and there’s no reason for him to go with goons and fists in the draft or in the trade and free agent markets.

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With Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen, the Canucks are building up a solid foundation of players who use their skates and puck skills to score goals. Those are the players Benning needs to find if he wants to build them up into a perennial contender.