Canucks fire GM Jim Benning, head coach Travis Green
Stan Smyl named interim GM, ex-Wild coach Bruce Boudreau now behind bench
The struggling Vancouver Canucks have parted ways with head coach Travis Green and replaced him with former Minnesota Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau.
The NHL team has also fired general manager Jim Benning, with Stan Smyl stepping into the role on an interim basis.
Smyl will address reporters Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET along with Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini, while Boudreau addresses the media at 7:15 p.m. ET.
Vancouver, currently last in the Pacific Division with a 8-15-2 record, dropped a 4-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, drawing boos from the home crowd.
Several of Vancouver's stars have struggled offensively and the club's special teams have floundered. The team has the worst penalty kill in the league (64.6 per cent) and has capitalized on 17.4 per cent of its power-play chances.
Green, 50, was in his fifth season behind the bench. He led the team to the playoffs once during his tenure.
Boudreau, 66, previously coached the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild. He won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year in 2007-08 when he was with the Capitals.
Interim management will operate collaboratively. Chris Gear, Ryan Johnson, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Stan Smyl. That's a pretty good group. <a href="https://t.co/RanWaLMEus">https://t.co/RanWaLMEus</a>—@imacSportsnet
Green admitted his team's dismal start was "trying," and said it can be frustrating to not get results when you feel like you're playing well in certain parts of your game.
"You bang your head against the wall, you get up the next day and try to pick your team up a little bit. Also be stern with them in areas where you need to be stern and fix," he said on Nov. 18.
"From a coaching standpoint, you have to make sure you keep your emotions in check and get the right message across to your group."
Difficulties faced amidst 4-year tenure
Green signed a two-year extension in May after Vancouver finished the 2020-21 campaign last in the seven-team all-Canadian North Division with a 23-29-4 record.
The 2020-21 season was a difficult one for Green and the Canucks both on and off the ice. Vancouver won just two games in February and suffered the NHL's worst COVID-19 outbreak at the end of March.
Twenty-one players and four coaches, including Green, tested positive for the virus and the Canucks' games were put on hold for more than two weeks.
The native of Castlegar, B.C., said it had been a difficult year but the experience had come with valuable lessons.
"I know over the years in Vancouver, I've improved every year and become a better coach every season. And this year's no different," he said before the Canucks played the Winnipeg Jets on May 12.
"When you go through challenges and through adversity, sometimes you grow even more from those situations than when you're having success."
Green was hired in April 2017 to replace Willie Desjardins who was fired when the team missed the playoffs two years in a row.
Under his leadership, Vancouver saw slow, steady progress, making the play-in after posting a 36-27-6 record in the 2020 regular season.
The Canucks excelled in the Edmonton playoff bubble, ousting the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in a gritty seven-game series.
High expectations not being met
Expectations for this season were high, with Benning saying the Canucks didn't want to take a step backward.
Benning, 58, was known for some solid draft picks and questionable free-agent signings over his eight seasons as GM.
I'm hearing the Vancouver Canucks are very interested in Marc Bergevin for the now-open GM job—@THNRyanKennedy
The results follow a big off-season where Benning revamped the roster through contract buyouts, free agent signings and a blockbuster trade that saw the Canucks send draft picks and a trio of underperforming forwards to the Arizona Coyotes for feisty winger Conor Garland and veteran defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Benning said he was caught off guard by how his team started the season and called the "fire Benning!" chants at recent home games "upsetting."
"I think as a management team, these seven-plus years we've worked really hard to draft well, develop our players properly. I think it's wearing on all of us. There's not one faction from ownership to the management team to the coaches, it's wearing on us," he told reporters on Nov. 18.
"The fans are frustrated. I get their frustration. We're frustrated. We need to figure this out and get back on track and play like I believe we're capable of."
The Canucks made two playoff appearances during Benning's tenure, including the 2019-20 season when the squad surprised many in the Edmonton bubble. Vancouver beat the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in a gritty seven-game series.
The team couldn't follow up the performance in the pandemic-condensed 2020-21 campaign, though, finishing last in the seven-team all-Canadian North Division with a 23-29-4 record and missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.
A former NHL centre himself, Green said he knew continuing to progress wouldn't be easy.
He played 14 seasons with the New York Islanders, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. He amassed 355 points (193 goals, 262 assists) in 970 NHL games.
"Winning doesn't just happen," Green said in January 2021. "You've got to push, you've got to be prepared, you've got to sacrifice, you've got to create a culture that's about winning. And I think [the Canucks are] on the right path to that. And we're going to continue to push our team in that direction."
With files from CBC Sports