In fact, 13 forwards preceded Virtanen for the Canucks’ 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, and eight of them scored less than the 18 goals the 23-year-old has managed this season despite a time of Modest ice cream and little power play duty.
GM Jim Benning’s call for people not to ‘read too much in it’ was shattered by coach Travis Green’s post-game response to the question – the second in his press conference – about why not Virtanen: “I just went with the roster I thought we had the best chance of winning. Clear and simple. ”
So tell us how you really feel, coach.
The fury over Virtanen’s omission is not surprising given the winger’s numbers and the history of the market reacting strongly to decisions at the bottom of the lineup. Aaron Rome on Keith Ballard !?
What is surprising is that Virtanen’s many defenders seemed not to have paid attention to training camp when he was dominated first by Zack MacEwen and then by Micheal Ferland, and therefore was knocked out of the first four. lines by Green. Nothing has changed since, except the Canucks’ window narrowing to prepare for the first game of their Stanley Cup qualifying game against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
“People think it’s negative because Jake isn’t playing and I consider that to be a strength,” Benning said Thursday as the Canucks took a day off in the bubble. “Apart from Josh Leivo, our whole team is healthy now and it is not easy to make the roster. It’s hard. We have depth.
“Loui Eriksson isn’t playing either, and he had a good camp and looked good in the fray if you looked. When it came time to make the roster, (the coaches) just felt these other guys had better camps than Jake. That’s not to say he’s not a good player; he was on track to score 20 goals this season. Who can say he’s not back in the lineup for the next game? ”
Looking just at the level of talent, it would be absurd to argue that Virtanen is not one of the Canucks’ top 12 forwards. Green looks like he’s building a team, not a ranking list, and there has to be the right fit for Virtanen.
With Ferland seemingly recovered from the concussion issues that have limited him to four NHL periods since October, more physical than Virtanen and more accomplished so far in his career, Green has logically gone with the camp’s best player at his partner Antoine Roussel and Adam Gaudette. on the third row of the Canucks.
But why not play Virtanen on the fourth row?
The simple answer is that it doesn’t kill penalties. But is two or three minutes of PK every night enough to justify keeping Brandon Sutter on the fourth row ahead of Virtanen? Green prefers to compartmentalize his special teams, but offensive forwards Bo Horvat and JT Miller can kill penalties as well, and probably Antoine Roussel could, too, if asked.
Virtanen has at times shown that he is a defensive passive and is not as physical as he could be. But he’s a fast and powerful player who supports defenders and needs little help scoring goals. A player like this should improve your low roster, especially in a looming playoff series where one of the Wild’s biggest advantages is their superior forward depth.
The Ferland-Virtanen tornado at camp was overshadowed by the fact that minor league hopes Olli Juolevi, Jalen Chatfield and Brogan Rafferty outclassed more experienced deep defenders Guillaume Brisebois and Ashton Sautner, who were not brought into the Edmonton bubble when Green named his playoff roster.
Juolevi, whose development has been slowed and almost compromised by injuries since Benning caught him with the fifth photo in the 2016 draft, dressed as the seventh defenseman in Wednesday’s playoff rehearsal. Juolevi played because he’s the Canucks’ seventh defenseman with a groin strain to compete in the Stanley Cup tournament.
The 22-year-old had just 6:37 ice time against the Jets, almost all against Winnipeg’s third and fourth row. But Juolevi doesn’t look overwhelmed and will at least have a better idea of what he does if Vancouver is injured in defense ahead of Jordie Benn’s return from baby leave.
“He’s smart with the puck and worked on his mobility,” said Benning. “He’s become stronger, which allows him to compete harder. And he thinks the game is fast, which is why he can handle the speed of the NHL.
“If you had asked me the question at the start of the camp, it would be Brisebois and Sautner (in depth of roles). But these other guys kinda beat them up.
Here is the Canucks’ understanding of the protocol involving Benn’s return from Texas:
The defender could travel to Edmonton this weekend if there are no complications related to the birth of his child in Dallas, but he would be immediately quarantined for four days while being tested daily for COVID-19 . If he tested negative for four days, Benn could then start skating on his own while remaining isolated from his teammates. After three more days of negative results, only then could Benn skate with the Canucks. At this point, since he would likely need at least two full practices, Benn is likely out for their entire first-round series against Minnesota.