In his first four months as an NHL head coach, without a puck having yet been dropped, new Vancouver Canucks mentor Travis Green seems to be preparing his employers for what they may be in for the foreseeable future.
“I’m not sitting up here saying, ‘We’re going to win the Stanley Cup next year’, but we’re going to get better. We’re going to start the process of building the right culture,” he said, in his very first press conference as head coach in Vancouver.
Travis Green Saying all the Right Things, but Does He Have Time?
Perhaps it was a brave thing to say, with Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden and general manager Jim Benning either side of him. Their organisation is on the fourth coach in the past five years.
However, Green told the truth. Although the truth apparently sets one free, in professional sports, it can also get one in trouble. At least Green is honest with himself and his employers about the road ahead.
Support from the Organisation
Green seems to have the backing of his bosses. Supposedly, it took them two weeks to make the decision – they knew Green was their man as soon as Willie Desjardins was fired.
“It’s a lot of work with young players, and I know the work Travis put in in Utica, talking to players and teaching them what it takes to succeed,” Linden said, speaking on Green’s time with the Canucks AHL affiliate, the Comets.
“We have a lot of faith in Travis,” he said, supplementing the fact that other teams had inquired into the availability of their AHL head coach before the coaching change was made.
“I’m a big believer in preparation. I’m a big believer in communications. I don’t like players to wonder where they stand,” Green said.
“He has an intense desire to win and build a team identity that is hard working, responsible at both ends of the ice and competitive,” Benning said. Let’s hope he doesn’t expect that overly quickly.
The Tough Road Ahead
Vancouver has, at present, only five players on their roster over the age of 30. Their team is currently in the top-10 youngest in the League – a figure likely skewed by the two oldest on the team, 36-year-old twins Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.
However, despite tradition, the direction hockey is moving in is starting to favour teams like the Canucks. Just a few of the young high points on this team include Bo Horvat, 22, Nikolay Goldobin, 21, and Brock Boeser, 20.
All the organisational and personal confidence in the world though cannot prepare any individual for the NHL; little can. Green will need time, but he will also need support – from the players, the organisation, and his city.
“There’s pressure wherever you coach,” Green said, “I like challenges. I like when our team has a tough game. You learn a lot about your team when you have a challenge.”
Canucks Coaching Carousel
Desjardins was briefed with the operative of leading an experienced and battle-hardened Canucks back to the playoffs in 2014. He took over after John Tortorella was dismissed after just one season.
Before Tortorella, Alain Vigneault wore out his welcome after being swept out of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks in 2013.
Despite organisational shift in recent years; it is a team that, much like its city, has a fire in the belly. The job can get red hot under the collar if failure is perceived.
However, at the end of the day, Vancouverites know their hockey; they’re Canadians, after all. Surely they’ll be well aware of the challenge their new head coach faces; and the process their team is about to embark on.
Green would want to hope so. Traditionally, his bosses – all 600,000 or more of them – have made this assignment an unpleasant one when they want to.