BRITISH COLUMBIA

Following playoff loss to Flames, Canucks' brass plans on staying the course

04/29/2015 06:01 EDT | Updated 08/06/2015 02:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - After making a return to the playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks don't plan on taking a step backwards.

But the club's brain trust says it's also aware of the need to continue injecting youth into an aging roster as it attempts to negotiate the tricky route of developing players while at the same time staying competitive.

"We're trying to win, we're trying to make the playoffs," said president of hockey operations Trevor Linden. "We're going to do everything we can to do that. Having said that, we have a firm eye on the future.

"We've got to do the right things. We're going to continue to integrate young players into our lineup."

The Canucks missed the post-season last spring for the first time in six years, but bounced back with a surprising 101-point campaign following wholesale changes upstairs and behind the bench that led to the hiring of Linden, general manager Jim Benning and head coach Willie Desjardins.

Vancouver was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Calgary Flames in six games, however the three men said the Canucks will be continue with a retool on the fly, and not go into rebuild mode, when they met the media for an end-of-season debrief on Wednesday.

"Going forward now young players are important," said Benning, who commended the Flames for having impact rookies in their series. "That's what we're looking to do. We know we're getting a little bit older, but we want to bring in young players to supplement the energy and skill level of our whole group."

Making that happen could be easier said than done. The Canucks have a number of veterans with no-trade clauses in contracts that were signed by the previous management regime. Benning asked former defenceman Jason Garrison, who was eventually dealt, to waive his no-trade clause last summer, while disgruntled forward Ryan Kesler was also moved.

Benning said he wouldn't hesitate to make the same call again, but added it's a difficult situation.

"When you go to a player and you approach him to do that then they have all the leverage and they decide which teams they want to go to," said the GM. "Right now we're just digesting what happened in the series and on the season and we'll figure that out going forward."

Decisions also have to be made on unrestricted free agent forwards Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson, as well as restricted free agent defenceman Yannick Weber.

Benning pointed to prospects like Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Hunter Shinkaruk, Frank Corrado and Adam Clendening as players who could make an impact at the NHL level in the near future, but added they will have to make the Canucks better — the way Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins did this season — in order to stick.

"We'll make room," said Benning. "If younger players are ready to come in and help us win, then that will be my job to decide who we need to move out and we'll move those players out to make room for our young players. But we're not going to do that unless they deserve to be here."

A major part of Linden's plan when he was hired last April was to restock the Canucks' barren prospect cupboard. While there is more talent in the minors and in junior than there was 12 months ago, the job is far from done as the team looks to build its foundation for the future.

"We had very few players that were ready. We're getting there," said the club's former captain. "We are going to stick to it. We have to. We have no choice."

___

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter