Vancouver Canucks: Travis Green’s odd meritocracy

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 20: Head coach Travis Green of the Vancouver Canucks (2nd-left) looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena October 20, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 20: Head coach Travis Green of the Vancouver Canucks (2nd-left) looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena October 20, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Every coach has their group of favourites. Other players end up in their doghouse, and fans are left to wonder why. Vancouver Canucks bench boss Travis Green is no exception and it would be nice to see more consistency.

NHL coaches both fascinate and frustrate hockey fans. It’s not a definitive rule, but most of these bench bosses were not former stars during their NHL playing days; some didn’t even get the chance to play in the world’s best hockey league. They all have their quirks and fixations with certain players, and Vancouver Canucks fans are well aware of that with their coaches.

Travis Green is in an interesting position. It’s no easy task to squeeze what you can out of a rebuilding team. He will be tested since his two best players in Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are injured for the time being.

But what drives me crazy is how Green and his staff approach the lineup. Unlike most coaches, Green has considerable influence on player acquisition. We saw that on full display when it appears his personal opinions dictated who the Canucks would pursue in the summer.

More from The Canuck Way

However, it goes deeper than that. You see, Green is cut from the same cloth of many coaches in hockey. It almost a cliché at this point, but he does not trust younger players and has a bit of an obsession with certain role-specific guys. He has his favourites from teams he used to coach, but this is not just about ice time.

Last season, we saw a coach who let a player’s contract status dictate their treatment. What I mean is that if you were not a rookie or younger player who was questionable defensively, you got a free pass. There was little accountability last year, except for maybe Ben Hutton early on. Although, Green’s management of his defence was rather poor, so take what you will from that.

A new year, some changes, but bad habits return

This year promised to be different. The team made a big statement, cutting  Sam Gagner from the lineup. We saw this take a step further when Michael Del Zotto became a regular healthy scratch. However, MDZ was logging his usual heavy minutes before playing his way out of the lineup. Funny thing is that Del Zotto didn’t change a single thing from last year. It just happens that his play was no longer acceptable this season after a full campaign of free rides and no punishments.

Then we get to a pair of interesting players on the Canucks. You can make arguments for a few other players on the roster, but the focus should really be on these two. First up, is the man who does the “little things” right, Loui Eriksson. I’ve talked enough about his contract and not living up to it. What’s so strange is the amount of praise given by the coach. Vancouver’s mainstream media rarely talk about Eriksson unless they are using him as a miracle to be worked on by Pettersson.

Is Ferraro wrong? Unlike the Canucks’ head coach, at least I can count on Ray to speak consistently.

People mock the little things quote for a good reason. Eriksson looks invisible in so many games, and he thrived in a third line checking role, despite contributing zero stats of any kind. As an aside, that’s an incredible feat in itself. It’s interesting that Eriksson gets so much praise from Green when we saw his ice time plummet outright. The coach’s words don’t line up with his actions.

Speaking of words not lining up with actions, let’s talk about Nikolay Goldobin. Going into the season, people were nervous how Green would handle him. He does not like Goldy, because his play away from the puck left much to be desired. However, Goldy played very well, with and without Pettersson in the lineup. Personally, I thought he was fine on Monday, even if he has shown better this season.

What I don’t get is why Green singles him out in the post game. If he didn’t like Goldy’s game, where was the criticism for the other six or seven forwards who were hot garbage out there? This is what I refer to when talking about consistency. And Green isn’t the only one to blame. It’s just the nature of coaches to draw these arbitrary lines in the sand.

Look, I understand that Green is here to win games and the choices he makes are supposed to give him the best chance of doing that. However, when you lose as many games as you did last year, something tells me continuing to do the same thing won’t work. At the very least, you can hold a consistent standard for every player on this team.

That line determining what is and isn’t acceptable seems to shift with every game and only confirms something that I have felt about the current Canucks head coach and the previous one. If a player is going to succeed here, it will be in spite of coaching and not because of it. I just want consistency from them when a lineup decision is made.

dark. Next. Solving the Loui Eriksson problem

Forget the contracts. Forget the age. Because grinders won’t win Stanley Cups on their own. They are complimentary pieces for the guys who carry the team to the top. There is protecting players, expecting more from them and motivating them. But when you don’t appropriately use these tools at the best time, it reflects on your communicative ability as a coach. That’s how players become too worried about making mistakes or end up coasting since there are no consequences. Both scenarios are bad and the coach plays a big role in preventing either from happening.