Jim Benning recently spoke with Iain MacIntyre, clearing the air on the allegations around Trevor Linden’s departure. He also discusses plans moving forward.
As the Vancouver Canucks continue to spiral through this PR disaster, we are hearing more and more interesting things come from this last week. In a recent interview, perhaps to clear the air, Jim Benning spoke with Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre.
There is a lot of smoke around how Benning “betrayed” Trevor Linden and the Canucks’ General Manager and head of hockey ops wanted to set the record straight.
"“I don’t know what happened between Trevor and ownership, and it’s not my place to ask,” Benning said. “I’ve got a job to do building this hockey team. I’ve never been into politics. I have a hard enough time finding a defenceman who can help our power play. I don’t have time for politics."
The good thing about Jim Benning is how he speaks honestly. I may disagree with his opinions on hockey, but I don’t think Benning is capable of lying on purpose. Usually, when contradictions come up, it comes from a place of forgetfulness. It’s not a better quality to have, but if integrity matters (and it should), I guess negligence is a step up on deceit.
I also find it refreshing that Benning understands how difficult it’s been for him to find good defencemen. He does not admit that his acquisitions were mistakes, but it’s a start.
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Over the last season, I have sincerely questioned if the team had a real plan in place. Considering how often the team slides between rebuilding and making win-now moves, it gets confusing. Especially, when the scales often tip more to the myopic decisions that get ripped to shreds.
For the last four years, the plan has been the same. Make the playoffs. Recently, the team is using the guise of drafting and developing to mask that fact. Drafting and developing does not tell you much. You could pick six times a year and accomplish that. It doesn’t mean you are rebuilding.
Benning confirms that “the plan is not changing.” So I ask you, why should we expect anything different? Seriously. Are the Canucks really rebuilding, or are they just an awful team? They rarely make rebuilding moves and simply keeping their first round selection is not rebuilding. Most teams do that, whether they make the playoffs or not.
Rebuilding teams don’t shop top 10 picks, yet the Canucks did just that in 2016 and 2018. Keep in mind, the Brock Boeser pick may have never been if Benning pulled off a trade for Milan Lucic in 2015.
Fostering a losing culture
Then we get to the part that makes me shake my head. Benning went to defend his July 1 signings, spinning the same load of garbage we hear every year after free agency.
"Benning said the players were signed to help build a culture that supports incoming prospects, not to try pushing the Canucks towards the playoffs next season."
I don’t understand why a supporting culture requires terrible hockey players. Every veteran brought in to this point was supposed to achieve that to avoid the infamous “Losing Culture.” Let me break it to you: the Canucks already have one.
And these fourth-line players are not going to change that fact. It will be funny to see which younger players will get to suffer because these vets will occupy their spot. Does that sound like support to you?
Jim Benning and the salary cap
On a final note, we can end on how Benning sees the salary cap. Managing their salary structure has always been another weak area for this group.
"“We still have cap space,” Benning said. “If we were thinking about making the playoffs next season, we’d have signed James Neal or David Perron or someone like that. But we didn’t.”"
Just because you still have cap space, doesn’t mean you used it correctly. Does he honestly think James Neal or David Perron would have signed here? Keep dreaming. The team had to overpay for mediocrity and will not get a return on investment. The bigger problem here is the myopia.
Benning thinks it’s okay since he’s under the cap this year, ignoring the fact that he added two unmovable contracts that run until 2022. That matters. The Canucks will have one of the most expensive bottom-six forward groups in the league and have so many bottom of the lineup players, that a couple will have to play on the second line.
Every dollar counts and if I’m a young player for the Canucks, I know I can cash in on this team. Benning wants to assure us that room will be made for younger players if they earn it. In the past, he used Troy Stecher as example, forgetting that Stecher was sent to Utica and called up after injuries hit.
Like I said, Benning is not a liar. He just has the memory of a goldfish. Those are the consequences of having little flexibility with your salary structure. You can’t get good players on value deals and you are wasting roster spots and cap space on mediocrity. Well, we’ll see how the season goes. I can’t wait to see how many times the narrative changes between now and April.