Flames, Canucks to end season amid uncertain futures

NHL Hockey

If Travis Green knows whether Wednesday’s matinee will be his final game behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks, he’s not spilling the beans.

As the Canucks (23-28-4, 50 points) hit the road to face the Calgary Flames (25-27-3, 53 points) to finally close out their seasons — neither made the Stanley Cup playoffs — Green is at the end of a four-year contract with the Canucks.

Even amid Vancouver’s 4-2 win over Flames on Tuesday, the second of three consecutive meetings, much off-ice focus is on the status of general manager Jim Benning — with talk the likes of Henrik and Daniel Sedin may become involved in the organization’s brain trust — and, naturally questions continue about Green’s status going forward.

None of Vancouver’s coaching staff have contracts that run beyond this season.

“As the season winds down, there are lots of things running through your head,” Green said. “You’re always thinking about the last one (home game) and how the season has gone and a lot of players will feel the same way.”

To say it’s been a disappointing season for both clubs would be an understatement. The Canucks had high hopes after they took the front-running Vegas Golden Knights to a Game 7 in their second-round playoff series in 2019-20, but fell way short in making the playoffs this season. Their struggles were certainly exacerbated by a COVID-19 outbreak in late March that affected nearly every player and coach, as well as a horrible rash of injuries.

The Flames made key additions in the likes of goaltender Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Chris Tanev after they were eliminated by the Dallas Stars in the opening round of last year’s playoffs, but were buoyed by the fact that the Stars reached the Stanley Cup Final. However, the Flames floundered through this season in which coach Geoff Ward was replaced by Darryl Sutter midseason but still couldn’t find enough spark to make the playoffs.

Both teams will be happy when the season concludes.

“It’s been a crazy year, definitely the hardest year I’ve had to go through, just unforeseen adversity, having to battle through a bunch of stuff,” said Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko, whose 38-save performance was key to his team victory Tuesday. “I speak for myself and I’m sure some of the other guys in the room, but I feel like I’m a stronger hockey player coming out of it.

“If we can make it through a year like this, we can probably make it through just about anything. Trying to shine a positive light on the situation and learn and grow from it.”

What lineup changes will be made, and whether any more players will make their debut remains to be seen.

“You’re looking at, or giving some players opportunities they normally wouldn’t get to raise their profile a little bit,” Sutter said. “So that’s what you’re still looking for is how they prepare and how they perform.”

Sutter made some candid comments about the performance of two young players in defenseman Juuso Valimaki, who was a scratch on Tuesday, and forward Dillon Dube, among others.

“There’s guys that have been here all year still trying to figure out what they have to do in terms of helping the team win games,” Sutter said.

For his part, Dube — at least publicly — didn’t disagree with his coach’s assessment.

“I haven’t been very good,” said Dube, who set career highs with 10 goals and 20 points and will play for Canada at the upcoming world championships. “You have to play the right way every night. He demands a lot to make us a more consistent group.”

–Field Level Media

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