By: Brayden Fengler / May 7, 2021
Eight games, a single-digit amount, that’s how many games Travis Green has left behind the Vancouver Canucks’ bench. Unless of course, the Canucks and Green agree to a new contract before his current one expires on July 1st. At the moment though, whether or not this will happen is up for heated speculation.
If the Canucks don’t strike a deal with Green before the team plays their final game this season, then Vancouver management will have between May 19th – July 1st to make an effort to retain their coach. Despite Green’s lame-duck status, the Canucks have still expressed interest in keeping Green beyond this season. The excuse for why the Canucks have not made an attempt to sign him yet, is supposedly a dollars and cents issue, as the club has opted to keep their pocketbook mighty close to their chest throughout this COVID ravaged season.
While COVID is an understandable reason for any business to be money conscious, at a certain point, it becomes questionable. The Canucks exist in a marketplace that is feverish for hockey, with a fan base that is no doubt clamouring to pack back into Rogers Arena as soon as that option becomes safe and available. So with a financial future more secure than your average mom-and-pop corner store, the Canucks keeping their wallet closed, instead of paying for a vital piece of this team’s future, only seems more bizarre by the day.
How Did The Canucks Get Here
The Travis Green contract situation has been in and out of the spotlight since the playoffs ended last summer. As soon as it became apparent that the Canucks weren’t going to be re-signing Green ahead of this current season, the rumour mill started churning in regards to what this means for Green and the club.
The Canucks organization has been no stranger to layoffs and cutbacks during COVID times. The club’s money-conscious mindset has echoed throughout every level of the organization. From the front office layoffs, to penny pinching and feet dragging that led to the much-maligned free agency inaction. Cutting back on front office staff is a harsh but more or less understandable move from a business perspective. However not signing your coach that just took your team to the playoffs, seems a bit more short-sighted and reckless, when considering Green’s potential impact on this team’s future.
Elliot Friedman wrote in a recent 31 Thoughts blog that he expects Vancouver to “get serious” with Green’s contract in the near future. Friedman also remarked that he believes no negotiations have happened up to this point (April 27th, 2021). With this in mind, it seems that the organization is solely focused on getting to the finish line of this current season, and fans shouldn’t expect any change in Green’s future to be announced before May 19th.
The Current Intention of Both Parties
The tone from management surrounding Green’s contract has shifted from outwardly positive, to radio silence, over the past few months. The last time Benning made a statement with specific wording about wanting to re-sign Green, was back during a press conference on January 3rd. During this media availability Benning stated, “Our intention is to sign Travis to an extension”.
Since making these remarks, Benning has been more dismissive of the topic in the few media availability that he has been a part of. Aquilinui himself did of course make a tweet in mid-February, leveling praise towards Travis Green as well as Jim Benning. Again though, that was February, we’re now in May and there have been no actions taken by the Canucks to back up this verbal vote of confidence
The fact of the matter is, that as much as the Canucks would like for this decision to be solely up to them, it’s not. It’s just as equally up to the man himself, Travis Green. The question now becomes, does Green still wish to stay in Vancouver, or has his employer talking the talk, but not walking the walk, rubbed him the wrong way?
In speaking with one industry insider on this topic, their feeling on the matter is that Travis Green’s number one choice is still Vancouver. However, it’s the reciprocation of that feeling from the Canucks organization that is more unclear at this point in time.
Although there may be a lingering fear of abandonment in this market, after so many familiar faces left the organization last year, this probably isn’t as big of a concern with Green’s situation. On the inside, Travis Green may be less concerned than fans in regard to the stagnation of his contract situation. In speaking with the same industry insider, they were confident in stating that a real possibility still remains for a deal to be reached between Travis and the team. They asserted that one phone call between management and Green’s representatives could still be all it takes to get Travis a new contract, even if it happens close to the 11th hour.
What Green Has Endured
Part of the reason why the water continues to boil on fans’ discomfort about the lack of Green’s contract, is the off-ice workload and pressure that has been put on Travis for the duration of this season. Instead of Green being rewarded with a new contract after getting his group to the playoffs last year, the lame-duck coach has seemingly been promoted to resident “Hot Seat Holder”. Travis has been first to the mic during every major Canucks story to come out of this campaign. This is not unusual for a coach, but given the nature of many storylines this season, it feels like the Canucks are leaning too heavily on Green for his media presence.
Green remained the face of the Canucks during their return back from COVID, as much as it looked like he was barely back himself. Most recently Travis Green was also the first member of the organization to face live questions about Jake Virtanen’s sexual assault allegations.
This seems especially unfair to hang on the shoulders of a person whose job it is to focus on the on-ice aspect of the organization. Yes, the Canucks put out a written statement about Virtanen’s situation before Green’s media availability, but when it comes to matters this serious, the coach shouldn’t be the first face in front of the media. That should be ownership or management taking the stage to highlight the gravity of the topics at hand. We live in the zoom age, there is no excuse.
Normally in the NHL lame-duck coaches just don’t make it as far into their last year as Green has, without a new deal. But of course, this is not a normal season for the NHL or the Canucks. However, there is a point to which the market seems to be willing to accept “extenuating circumstances” as an answer for why things are not getting done.
Even though Green’s deal is seemingly still very much on the table, it’s safe to say that from a fan’s perspective whatever the reason may be for why this deal is not yet done, is likely just not good enough. Those same fans should only hope that Travis Green himself does not harbour the same feelings towards the delayed negotiations,
It’s hard to tell which way the wind is blowing when there hasn’t been a significant gust in a long time, but right now the Green situation has an equal opportunity to blow either way. Green deserves to stay in Vancouver, and see what he can do with a healthy team next season. Perhaps for once inside this last year, the stars will align, and fans will get their happy ending with Green signing on the dotted line in Vancouver. However after Green, there is another highly praised expiring coaching figure in Rogers Arena, by the name of Ian Clark… But that is a panic attack for another time.