Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning and mixed messages

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks have a problem with their messaging. Fans are not informed and left to speculate about this confusing direction. Sadly, this is not something recent; it’s been present since day one.

The Vancouver Canucks have several issues all around them. This goes beyond the immediate flaws in their roster and deficiencies present in their prospect pool. What really bothers me after four years of this circus is how the team treats their fans.

There is a lack of respect this management group has for this fanbase. No, it’s not about the poor finishes in the last three years. It’s not about one bad trade deadline from this year (although, it was a catalyst for the underlying frustration held for this regime). Honestly, it’s about messaging.

The Canucks don’t communicate well with their fans. They don’t give us too many details about their plan going forward. Heck, they are too afraid to even give a timeline for when the team will be relevant again. Trevor Linden tried to convince us that the fans were in the wrong for expecting a quick turn around when his own manager proclaimed that shorty after being hired.

When they talk to the fans, there is little consistency. I am conditioned to the point that when Jim Benning says something, I wait for Linden to dash around the corner and contradict it. They promise to not take shortcuts, yet do it anyway. In a single season, you can give them a pass. However, we are four years in, going on five. Perhaps it’s time to change their way of thinking.

Jim Benning’s cycle of depth

What got me thinking again was a recent article from The Province’s Ben Kuzma. In his piece he had this quote from Jim Benning.

"“It’s easier said than done because you’ve got to trade players off your team to acquire picks and we don’t have a lot of depth,”"

Sounds familiar, right? Originally, I wanted to explore the depth (or lack thereof) on the Canucks roster. However, Daniel Wagner at the Vancouver Courier covered that very well already. Basically, the Canucks have followed the same cycle since the 2015 offseason.

Once the seasons got bad, Benning attributes the failure to a lack of depth. After he makes his moves in the offseason via trades and/or free agency, he proclaims that the Canucks have a lot of depth near the start of the season. Then the season falls apart again, rinse and repeat.

Don’t believe me? Here is the perfect tweet summarizing all of that.

That photo will have to be edited to add Benning’s most recent quotes about depth from the Kuzma and Wagner’s articles, but you get the point. This is laughably cyclical and the Canucks themselves don’t realize it.

And the sad thing is, I don’t believe Jim Benning is lying. He is not doing this on purpose. Although, I think he legitimately forgets the things that he says after a month. Since it appears nobody on the Canucks reminds him of that, he looks foolish later on when we play back the tape. Like I said earlier, happening once is an honest mistake. A repeated pattern over three years is just pathetic.

Why the Canucks lack depth every year

The reason this occurs on an annual basis is simple. Jim Benning is serving two masters: making the playoffs and rebuilding the team. You can’t rebuild the team without high draft picks in each round and acquiring a surplus. How do you get high picks? Losing. However, with the Canucks constructed as they are now, the team needs to trade away picks to make the playoffs (and you know, that whole winning business). Pretty hard to balance forces pulling in opposite directions.

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Doing both at once is a nuanced skill that Jim Benning does not have. His strategy, admirable in theory fails with the team’s horrendous track record in pro scouting. All draft picks and prospects dealt away before the 2016 draft could be on the Canucks or at the very least playing in Utica by now.

Going after these roster scraps seemed like a good idea at first, but when a middle-six forward like Sven Baertschi is the best guy you get from these trades, you need to re-evaluate your strategy. The Canucks learned the hard way why you don’t rush to spend the most money on July 1st.

Even when they went for budget signings last year, but they were junk, save for Thomas Vanek (ironically traded for very little). Their trades did more harm than good and they kept using the best players in franchise history as a shield for delaying the inevitable rebuild.

For a team that stresses building through the draft, it’s puzzling that their GM makes that plan difficult when he trades picks and prospects away. Benning will have to do that again if any of the current trade rumours come true.

Frustrated fans and a lack of trust

As a result, this broken channel of communication has created resentment and lack of trust for a portion of the fanbase. It boils my blood when Jim Benning figures out that defencemen are valuable at the trade deadline, despite being around for four of them in Vancouver.

Benning is routinely surprised by how expensive draft picks are at the draft, but fails to notice how easily competitive teams throw them away at the deadline. He says it’s not easy with the low amount of depth on the roster. However, I will counter with this: stop hanging on to your roster.

They have the worst combined record in the last three seasons. Trust me, you don’t need to keep all of them. And don’t tell that no one on the team had value. When Tomas Tatar and Ryan Hartman are fetching first round picks, there is no excuse. It gets worse when players like Brandon Bollig can fetch a draft pick and he hasn’t played in the NHL since 2016!

So, Jim, it’s not hard. You just need to know how to read the market and pick up a damn phone. You’re doing that now with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres. Don’t tell me that’s impossible to do during a trade deadline.

I want these guys to succeed. To see them bring a Stanley Cup to Vancouver. But excuse me for being skeptical when they can’t even detail a rebuild plan for their fans. Everything is shrouded in mystery, radio appearances are sparse and town halls are dead.

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Fans aren’t stupid. They have more access to information than they ever have before. You would be surprised at what is accessible at the push of a button. Now, the Canucks are tight-lipped so their words can’t be used against them. However, it’s too late. We have a record of everything uttered in the last four years. They can’t pull the wool over our eyes any longer.