As the Vancouver Canucks are inching closer and closer toward the trade deadline, Jim Benning makes clear no one should expect any big moves.
Vancouver Canucks fans have been arguing about what the club should do come February 29th for quite some time now. Will the Canucks buy or sell?
While there are some who say “we are proud fans and want our team in the playoffs whenever possible,” the majority seems to prefer something else: a high draft pick. The Canucks have several expiring contracts — including those of Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata — and trading them could bring in a nice return while raising the chances to get a top-five pick.
General Manager Jim Benning, however, has different plans. He addressed the media on Wednesday, making clear that the top priority has been, is, and will be the playoffs.
"If (Hamhuis and Vrbata) are playing well and we are competing for a playoff spot, we want to give ourselves every opportunity to be a playoff team. Our goal is to make the playoffs, and if we can get our young players (playoff) games, I think that trumps everything."
So, let me translate that. If the Canucks are still in playoff contention come February 29th — and most likely they will be, thanks to the weak Pacific Division –, Benning does not want to get rid of either Hamhuis or Vrbata. That, in turn, means Vancouver would lose them for nothing in the summer, rather than getting picks or prospects in return.
Bad asset management or smart hockey decisions?
There are many fans out there who won’t be happy about that statement. Personally, I am.
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I recently wrote a full article on why I believe tanking is a terrible idea. First of all, it doesn’t guarantee anything. Secondly, there is more to a winning team than a few high draft picks — just look at the Edmonton Oilers or even the Colorado Avalanche. Lastly, and probably most importantly, the team’s youngsters should get the experience.
As Benning put it, getting the youngsters some playoff experience “trumps everything.” The Canucks will start losing soon enough, so they shouldn’t embrace a losing culture.
Obviously, the Canucks did demote Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust. However, those moves were not done to tank or make the team worse at all. Both Higgins and Prust were occupying roster spots Vancouver needed for younger players like Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen or Emerson Etem. Higgins stopped producing like a top-six forward should, and Prust couldn’t get back to his pre-injury form.
As Benning noted in the interview, there are teams interested in Prust, and a trade is still possible closer to the deadline. No team wants big contracts in the AHL, so it would only make sense that Benning is trying everything he can to trade them. If he does get a deal done sometime this month, don’t expect it to be for anything big — Higgins and Prust have both cleared waivers, after all.
Last but not least, making the playoffs is always the more lucrative business move. The Canucks would make additional money — why would they say no to that?
Sorry, Canucks fans, but don’t expect anything major from Benning.
What do you think? Is Benning making the right decision? Let us know in the comments!