Canucks: Jim Benning shouldn’t be on the hot seat in 2020-21

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

Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning has been widely criticized for his performance in the offseason, but his job is likely safe for now.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the franchise, and understandably so.

On one hand, the rebuild was longer and more painful than necessary. Benning didn’t fetch strong returns for any of his core veteran players. His first-round picks in 2014 — Jake Virtanen and Olli Juolevi — have yet to really grow into reliable, game-changing players.

And the Canucks did miss the playoffs four straight years from 2016 to 2019. In most scenarios, that’s enough for a general manager in any sport to get fired. But ownership remained loyal to Benning, and their patience was finally rewarded with a playoff berth in 2020.

Those who defend Benning will simply argue that the pain and lengthy rebuilding phase was necessary. He did find some future franchise cornerstones at the draft in Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Thatcher Demko as well as J.T. Miller via trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Canucks went all the way to the Western Conference Semifinals in 2020, before falling to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games. That still wasn’t enough for the Benning critics, many of whom will argue that the team would have grown into a regular championship contender long ago with a different GM.

Regardless of how you feel about Benning, it’s safe to say that his job is safe in 2020-21.

If the Canucks miss the playoffs next season, ownership shouldn’t pin the blame on Benning. 2020-21 will be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: Likely divisional realignment (the Canucks could find themselves in an all-Canadian division), a shorter regular season (48 and 56 game schedules have been suggested) and other factors. Think of the flat salary cap.

If the Aquilinis can stay patient with Benning despite missing the playoffs in four consecutive seasons, why would they suddenly give up on him after 2020-21, regardless of how the team performs?

There’s plenty of trust and confidence between ownership and management. They were fine letting fan favourite Judd Brackett walk after his deal expired, and don’t forget the Trevor Linden departure fiasco.

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Add it all up, and it’s safe to assume that no matter how the Canucks perform in 2020-21, Benning will still find himself in the GM chair for 2021-22.