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As Canucks return home, expect pressure on Benning and Green to be supercharged

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VANCOUVER – Seeking answers for the Vancouver Canucks’ alarming road trip and poor start, owner Francesco Aquilini met Tuesday with general manager Jim Benning.

They speak nearly every day, but this meeting was a little more formal and a lot more urgent. Aquilini is also believed to have asked questions of coach Travis Green, and spoken with other senior members of the organization, including special advisors Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

As far as the owners are concerned, it matters less about how the Canucks have collapsed to 5-9-2 when they are supposed to be an improved team capable of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and more about how the beleaguered people in charge are going to get them out of this.

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But, really, the only answers that matter will be delivered by Vancouver players when they open a three-game homestand Wednesday that feels a little like a last-chance final exam for the Benning-Green era.

Either the underperforming team comes together and competes with the Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks, or it stays in the fetal position and gets run over like it did in a three-game road disaster in which the Canucks were outscored 19-6. The Avalanche embarrassed them 7-1 in Denver last Thursday to start Vancouver’s roadkill, and is first up on this homestand.

If these next three games are as bad as the last three, it’s impossible to see how the Aquilini family can leave unchanged the GM-and-coach tandem that has existed the last four-and-a-half years.

“I don’t listen to the noise,” Green said after Tuesday’s practice at Rogers Arena. “I only worry about coaching the team. I don’t worry about the noise. I know there’s a lot of passion in the city and rightfully so. I can understand people not being happy with our record right now (but) there’s no one that’s more unhappy than the people in our room. I do understand when people get upset, but as far as listening to the outside noise. . . it doesn’t have an effect on me one way or the other.”

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Since neither Aquilini nor Benning held a press conference to publicize details about their private meeting on Tuesday, which was first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Green was asked by a reporter about his bosses’ summit.

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“Ownership is always evaluating our team,” Green noted. “That’s not surprising.”

Benning’s longevity has surprised many, considering the Canucks he rebuilt have made the playoffs only twice in his seven seasons. But the team’s progress, although slow and at times undermined by poor decisions in free agency and asset management, had been evident until COVID-19 and the 2021 pandemic season crushed the Canucks’ trajectory last winter.

After Benning prioritized winning now by making a series of bold moves over the summer, shedding his worst free-agent spending mistakes while adding players to improve the lineup, this was expected to be a bounceback year for the Canucks. Benning said they were a playoff team.

Instead, for the first time under Green, the team is badly underperforming its talent level, epitomized by star centre Elias Pettersson’s three even-strength points in Vancouver’s first 16 games.

There is immense pressure on the coach and GM to turn the team around before another season spins down the toilet bowl. And that pressure is going to be supercharged by the Canucks’ homecoming.

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It was only after ticket-buying “home” fans, easily the most important segment of the broad fan base, chanted “Fire Gillis!” inside Rogers Arena was former GM Mike Gillis finally dismissed just before the end of the 2013-14 season.

In the NHL, which relies on ticket revenue far more than the other major professional leagues, a crisis in consumer confidence can be lethal to the people in charge.

But it is the rockstar employees, the players, who have the best chance to quell the current uprising.

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“I’m not on the internet checking to see what the gossip is, so I don’t know,” winger J.T. Miller said when asked about the vulnerability of Green and Benning. “I can focus on what I’m doing to help the team and our team and how we’re playing. I just try to stay focused on that, and whatever happens outside of that is kind of outside my control.

“We have to play. You know, it’s on us. It’s the guys in that room who are going make a difference, not the coaches. They prepare us for the game. . . but we as leaders and as a core group, whatever your role is in the team, you need to buy into winning first and not yourself. I think once we do that on a consistent basis, we’re going to get the results. I have complete faith in our group. Just because it’s going a little crappy right now, I still think that we have a good hockey team.”

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They were trending that way before the road trip, outplaying teams at even-strength but losing close games due to awful special teams including an epically-bad penalty-kill that is terrorizing everyone in the organization. And then the baby steps forward turned into a giant leap backwards, over a cliff, during games in Denver, Las Vegas and Anaheim.

“I think, you know, we have too many passengers sometimes during these games,” captain Bo Horvat conceded. “We have to hold each other accountable. We have to. . . really evaluate ourselves as individuals and as a team. Obviously, we know that this past road trip wasn’t good enough. We can’t have guys not competing or not playing on a nightly basis. We need everybody to win.

“Everybody in that room, the guy next to you is the only person that matters. We have to care about each other in that room and care about each other’s success, and want to do it for the next guy. That’s all that matters right now — is us getting together as a team and really coming together. None of the outside noise or anything like that has to matter in that room. Nobody has to pay attention to it. It’s about us.”

But if they lose badly this week, it’s probably going to be about their bosses.

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Big Ten coaches react to USC & UCLA joining the B1G | Number One Ranked Show

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RJ Young sits down with Big Ten head coaches at media days to discuss the USC Trojans & UCLA Bruins’ impending move to join the Big Ten conference.



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Eagles vs. Jets odds, spread, line: 2022 NFL preseason Week 1 picks, predictions by expert on 35-19 run

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The New York Jets have yet to record a regular-season victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, losing all 12 of their meetings, including a 33-18 setback last year. New York has had plenty of recent success versus Philadelphia in the preseason, however, going 11-5-1 while the teams have concluded every exhibition schedule since 2004 with a meeting. The Jets and Eagles will square off again this year, but this time they will open the 2022 NFL preseason with a matchup in Philadelphia on Friday. The Eagles are 0-4-1 in their last five exhibition games, with a loss and the tie during that stretch coming against the Jets, but have won their last four preseason home meetings with New York.

Kickoff from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. The game is listed as pick’em in the latest Eagles vs. Jets odds at Caesars Sportsbook, while the over-under for total points scored is 36. Before locking in any Jets vs. Eagles picks, you need to see the NFL predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Emory Hunt.

Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007. He is a former running back at Louisiana-Lafayette and knows the game from a player’s perspective. Hunt’s dedication to analysis of all levels of college and professional football helped him start the USFL season 24-18, including a 12-6 record over the last five weeks.

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In addition, Hunt has gone 35-19-1 on his last 55 NFL picks involving the Eagles, returning $1,391. Anyone who has followed him is way up.

Now, Hunt has set his sights on Eagles vs. Jets and just locked in his picks and predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see his picks. Here are several NFL odds and betting lines for Jets vs. Eagles:

  • Eagles vs. Jets spread: Pick’em
  • Eagles vs. Jets over-under: 36 points
  • Eagles vs. Jets money line: Philadelphia -120, New York +100
  • PHI: Eagles have won only two of their last 12 preseason games (2-9-1)
  • NYJ: Jets are unbeaten in their last four preseason contests (3-0-1)
  • Eagles vs. Jets picks: See picks here

Featured Game | Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Jets

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Why the Eagles can cover

With Jalen Hurts unlikely to see much action, if any, and at least seven skill-position players nursing injuries, Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni will get an idea what depth the team has on offense. Gardner Minshew figures to get a significant amount of playing time as he attempts to secure the No. 2 quarterback job. The 27-year-old out of Washington State has plenty of NFL regular-season experience under his belt after he has made 27 appearances with Jacksonville and Philadelphia over the last three campaigns, throwing for 5,969 yards with 41 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions.

Reid Sinnett and rookie Carson Strong also should take snaps on Friday and could be throwing to newcomers such as A.J. Brown, Zach Pascal and Deon Cain. The 25-year-old Brown, who was a Pro-Bowler with Tennessee in 2020, was acquired in April for a first-round draft pick after making 185 catches for 2,995 yards and 24 TDs in 43 games over three seasons with the Titans. Pascal signed with the Eagles in March after spending his first four NFL campaigns in Indianapolis, the first three with Sirianni as the Colts‘ offensive coordinator. Cain spent 2021 on Philadelphia’s practice squad after appearing in 15 games with Indianapolis and Pittsburgh over the previous two years.

Why the Jets can cover

Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson expects to get playing time on Friday, but how much he receives is up in the air. The 23-year-old completed 6-of-9 pass attempts for 63 yards during two series against the New York Giants in his 2021 preseason debut. Wilson was 9-of-11 for 128 yards and two touchdowns versus Green Bay in the Jets’ second exhibition game, but did not play in the finale, a 31-31 tie with Philadelphia at home.

Coach Robert Saleh has three other signal-callers from which to choose, with one being former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who is back for his 15th NFL season after going 27-for-42 for 338 yards and three TDs in two games last year. Another option is the 27-year-old Mike White, who made his NFL debut in 2021 and started three games for the Jets, the first being a 34-31 victory against Cincinnati in which he was 37-for-45 for 405 yards and three scores. Chris Streveler, who played in seven games over the last two seasons with Arizona after helping Winnipeg win the CFL’s Grey Cup in 2019, was signed late last month and is looking to earn a spot on the roster.

How to make Jets vs. Eagles picks

Hunt has analyzed this matchup and while we can tell you he’s leaning over on the point total, he has discovered a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the spread. He’s only sharing what it is, and which side to back, at SportsLine.

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Who wins Eagles vs. Jets? And which critical X-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see Emory Hunt’s Jets vs. Eagles picks, all from the expert who’s crushed his NFL picks, and find out.



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Shohei Ohtani follows Ben Verlander on Instagram | Flippin' Bats

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Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani follows Ben Verlander on Instagram.



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