Canucks: Revisiting Jim Benning’s tenure in Vancouver so far

Vancouver Canucks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 08: Antoine Roussel # 26 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck in NHL action. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 08: Antoine Roussel # 26 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck in NHL action. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

The middle years – 2017 to 2019

Despite the second-to-last finish in the standings, the hockey gods still decided to punish the Canucks even more, dropping them down three spots to fifth overall.

Fortunately, the Canucks made the most of their pick position, selecting Elias Pettersson from the Swedish Elite League. Benning, with the help of Brackett, also struck gold with his remaining picks, selecting Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Michael DiPietro, Jack Rathbone and Petrus Palmu. Aside from Palmu, each player has been able to make their NHL debut, and it appears that all of them could be key pieces for the organization moving forward.

Despite not qualifying for the playoffs for the third consecutive year, the Canucks were slowly starting to show signs of improvement throughout the season, giving fans small glimpses of hope and promise.

The team also made a solid acquisition at the deadline, trading away forward Thomas Vanek to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte. Jokinen actually played well during his short stint in Vancouver, posting 10 points in 14 games. Motte, of course, would end up having more of a significant impact with the franchise. The 26-year-old is easily the team’s best bottom-six forward, providing energy and determination on every shift while also playing a key role on the penalty kill.

The Canucks finished 26th in the standings, and were given the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft as a result. Benning and co. used the pick to select offensive defenceman Quinn Hughes, who, similar to Boeser and Pettersson, also made an immediate impact on the team.

However, despite the successful draft selection process over the past few years, Benning would eventually revert back to his old habits just one week later, attempting to rush the rebuild without a long-term plan in mind.

In a span of 24 hours, Benning made two more massive free agency mistakes, inking veteran forwards Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle to matching four-year, $12 million contracts. Like Eriksson, these two players are only impacting the team’s cap space, and has majorly dipped in production and on-ice value over the past few years.

Benning was eventually able to make up for Gudbranson trade at the 2019 deadline, executing what-would-become a lopsided deal of his own. Benning sent Gudbranson to the Penguins in exchange for forward Tanner Pearson.

At the time, Pearson was a solid acquisition, fitting in nicely on the second line with captain Bo Horvat. Yes, his new contract will most likely be criticized in a year or two, and he has already slowed down significantly in the points column this past season, but you can’t deny Pearson’s overall contributions to the team thus far. Since coming to Vancouver, Pearson sits fourth on the team goal scoring list with 40, with 31 of those tallies coming at even strength.

Benning also wasn’t done at that deadline. He sent Michael Del Zotto to Anaheim in exchange for Luke Schenn, and dealt Sam Gagner to Edmonton in exchange for Ryan Spooner. The last one did come back to bite Benning, as Spooner’s buyout penalty counted towards just over $1 million against the cap for the past two seasons, and will finally be set to expire in July.

The big splashes for Benning, of course, the ones that are still relatively still fresh in our mind and will impact the franchise for years, took place over the past 24 months.