The Vancouver Canucks would make a horrible mistake if they opted not to bring back general manager Jim Benning, who’s facing an uncertain future in his contract year.
In what has been yet another disappointing season for the Vancouver Canucks — who are on pace to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years — big decisions have to be made this offseason.
Obviously, head coach Travis Green is safe for a couple of years. The roster won’t see a massive change, unless the Sedin twins and Alexander Edler want to be traded (neither seem likely at this point).
So does that mean making changes at the top? With general manager Jim Benning in his contract year, many are speculating that the Canucks may opt to go in another direction. After all, team president Trevor Linden didn’t give a very calming answer when talking to reporters about Benning’s future (via Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet):
"“I’m not really going to get too into that at this point. I think it doesn’t serve anyone, any purpose. I think we’re focussed on having a good second half here. I know that Jim’s focussed on that. He came into a challenging situation and I think we’re trending in the right direction. I like the job Jim’s done. But beyond that, I think we’re focussed on the next couple of months and the deadline, and then finishing and having a good season.”"
Riddle me this, Mr. Team President. If you and the owners decide not to bring back Benning, just who will be a suitable replacement?
- Drafted Brock Boeser 23rd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The Canucks now have a perennial 30-40 goal scorer on their hands.
- Flipped aging wingers Jannik Hansen and Alexandre Burrows for great prospects in Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen, respectively.
- Extended Chris Tanev to a very team-friendly five-year deal worth $22.25 million.
- Probably nailed the Elias Pettersson and Kole Link 2017 draft picks, though to be determined.
- Got Sven Baertschi from the Calgary Flames for a second-round pick
- Moved out Ryan Kesler, who had overstayed his welcome in Vancouver and became a problem in the team’s locker room. You think Mike Gillis would have done that?
Yes, the Canucks are still stuck in a miserable situation and aren’t going to contend any time soon. But no general manager on this planet could fix this team so quickly, considering the stubborn calls by the front office to “retool” instead. The lack of luck in the draft lottery hasn’t helped, either.
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On Friday, Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province took a look at the Canucks possibly going after Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland — who is also in his contract year.
But Botchford pointed out the horrible long-term extensions Holland gave out to average players, such as Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. Holland also doesn’t believe in full-scale rebuilds, which means he’s not the guy to fix this Canucks team.
So Holland isn’t an option. Benning is known for being one of the best scouting general managers out there. I’ll take him over Holland.
The fact of the matter is that Benning has done a great job providing the Canucks with its best cupboard of prospects in franchise history. Boeser is the front-runner for the Calder Trophy. Thatcher Demko, Olli Juolevi, Pettersson and Dahlen could all be franchise cornerstone players, too.
What do you want the Canucks to do instead? Hire an unqualified GM who’s going to try and put off the rebuild and shoot to get this team back into the playoffs? Replace Benning with a GM with an inferior resume when it comes to scouting?
You can dislike Benning’s tenure all you want. You can hope the Canucks front office opts to go in a different direction. But at the end of the day, Benning has done his job in building a contender for the future. If that’s not enough to earn an extension, then the Canucks will be making a heinous and unforgivable mistake.