Vancouver Canucks: What fans should expect from a rebuild

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: President of hockey operations of the Vancouver Canucks Trevor Linden hugs Elias Pettersson, fifth overall pick of the Vancouver Canucks, offstage during Round One of the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: President of hockey operations of the Vancouver Canucks Trevor Linden hugs Elias Pettersson, fifth overall pick of the Vancouver Canucks, offstage during Round One of the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks are rebuilding, well at least as close as we are going to get. Although my expectations differ, there are a couple crucial goals the Canucks should accomplish to make this process smoother.

Hockey people in the NHL are a fickle bunch. So resistant to change and set in their ways. In fact, “rebuild” is considered a dirty word in those circles, which is a shame. Their brand of groupthink states that teams can only build themselves in a certain way, and any deviation from that is ridiculed and mocked.

Whether you believe the Vancouver Canucks are rebuilding, retooling, or re-whatevering, the franchise is in a transition phase. A new era begins with the departures of Henrik and Daniel Sedin. I’m of the opinion that this transition could have started as early as four years ago while keeping the Twins on the roster. However, this is not about the past. Instead, I want to look ahead.

Now, my idea of rebuilding expects too much from the Canucks. It’s cold, cruel and not the nicest way in building a team. Jim Benning is a nice guy and you see how the rest of the league takes advantage of him. The good news for Benning is that in the NHL, what goes around, sometimes comes around. Even someone like Benning can take advantage of a desperate GM. That’s how the Canucks got Jonathan Dahlèn.

Currently, the best case scenario is that the Canucks make the playoffs in about 3-4 years from now. Anything can happen of course, but that’s the window for finishing a rebuild that is already four years in the making. If Benning and the Canucks are going to stick to that timeline, I have a couple expectations you should have for this process to be successful.

Draft more than seven times per year

Let’s start with the obvious one. Every single fan should expect the Canucks to pick more often than the average team. All NHL teams have seven selections per year, assuming they have not traded any away.

Do you know who trades picks? Playoff teams. If the Canucks want to prove to their fans that they are committed to rebuilding, load up on draft picks. Trevor Linden wants the to build through the draft, but you need picks if you want to have a hope in achieving that.

Keep in mind, some competitive teams are still good at acquiring picks despite making the playoffs. Those management groups are in a special class and you are asking too much for the Canucks to replicate that.

I know Jim Benning will continue to take shortcuts to the playoffs. It’s happening again with all the Noah Hanifin rumours. Furthermore, I have said that Hanifin is a much better target than previous ones. However, he is still a shortcut. I don’t like this method of team building, but it’s unavoidable with the current people in charge.

So, all I ask is that Benning’s first goal is to have more picks at the draft than he did when the season started. Stop operating at a picks deficit. Quit making excuses, like Derrick Pouliot justifies another lost pick. You can trade for those types of players. Just replace those picks at the trade deadline.

Vancouver needs as many picks as possible to extract a future star player. Those players don’t only reside in the first round. You need picks in multiple rounds. Trust the amateur scouts to get the job done and get more picks!

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Be smart with the money your owner has

So, you’ve heard it before, but I will remind you the Canucks have two things going for them in this area. They have an owner willing to spend and a lot of cap space at their disposal. In the past, this meant that ownership held too much influence on some decision making.

Patience was never a strong suit for Francesco Aquilini, but with the recent extension for Benning, maybe he has changed. Being smart does not mean spending to the cap. If the Canucks are not ready to make the playoffs next season (which they aren’t), then Benning doesn’t have to go crazy this summer.

July 1st should be a quiet day for the Canucks. Don’t let the major sports networks sway your decisions with empty critiques on Canadian teams. Last summer was about bringing players on short-term deals at low cap hits.

The goal should be the same, except this time, target better players. You can always find an undervalued player on the cheap. Just don’t be a sucker for players who played suspiciously well in a contract year. Sign these players with the intention of flipping them for picks. Buyers overpay at the deadline, so take advantage of that. Sadly, it took Benning four years to learn that defencemen have value at the trade deadline. This isn’t anything new.

You can load up on some cheap defencemen and stash them in the minors. Philip Holm got the Canucks Brendan Leipsic. Imagine getting multiple draft picks as well. A bunch of small trades can add up at the draft. No one is asking for a huge splash. Just be smart and meet the first goal. It’s not difficult. Stop asking for hockey trades, stop overpaying for terrible players. Be frugal and reap the benefits.


Now, you may be asking about the veteran support that every team needs. Don’t worry. There is some value in that, but I think it’s grossly overrated. These complimentary pieces don’t need to cost over $4 million per year with no-trade clauses.

They are easily replaceable and are a dime a dozen in the free agent pool. Remember how I said you had to be smart with money? That applies to all aspects of the lineup. Your best players make the most money. Don’t waste it by overpaying for intangibles.

At the end of the day, we will see if the Canucks will make an honest effort to rebuild. The best teams in this league are composed of players they drafted (excluding the incredible outlier Golden Knights). Most stories after July 1st are about the biggest busts. The Canucks have their own.

Free agents are fool’s gold. A lie that often harms more teams than it helps. Trades are a tricky aspect. Generally, you need to offer something good to get something good. GM’s rarely get away with fleecing other teams, but managers in this league aren’t exactly the smartest of people. Although, I wouldn’t depend on this to build your team. They are just shortcuts and nothing more.

Next: Canucks sign Michael DiPietro

The real gold exists at the draft. Teams can’t access the treasure chest without keys. Those draft picks are worth more than anything. More than veteran leadership, more than intangibles and more than the outdated sensibilities of 200 Hockey Men.