Jim Benning has been given lots of time and Francesco Aquilini shouldn’t have any more patience
It’s hard to believe at times but Jim Benning is in his eighth season as general manager of the Canucks.
“I like this team, I like the core players,” said Benning at his first press conference in Vancouver. “This is a team we can turn around in a hurry.”
This was said on May 23, 2014. The number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time was All of Me by John Legend. The highest-grossing movie at the time was X-Men: Days of Future Past. Vine was still a thing (If you’re too old to know what that was, it was a social networking app where people made funny six second videos.) and singer Joji was known as the bizarre (yet hilarious) Youtuber, Filthy Frank. I was in eighth grade and was hyped for Linkin Park’s new album, which was coming out in a few weeks.
Lots of things have changed since 2014 and Benning didn’t turn the team around in a hurry. I would have been very surprised if you took a time machine back to 2014 and told me that the Canucks were only a playoff bubble team and not a Stanley Cup contender in 2021.
Back in 2016, Benning proclaimed the Canucks would be an elite team by year four or year five. Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen and still hasn’t.
Back in March, he said this.
So hypothetically, it would take the Canucks nine years under Benning for them to be a competitive team.
Since Benning took over in 2014, the Canucks have been one of the worst teams in the league.
Right now, this is the best Benning has put together eight years on the job. It’s an average team that is playing worse than it should be. The team has cap issues and their prospect pool isn’t that great.
The late Jason Botchford said it best in 2018.
"“You need an army. That should be the slogan for the Canucks. We need an army! Let’s go. We need picks, we need players, we need prospects, players, defensemen, everything.”"
There is also someone we need to talk about here and that’s Francesco Aquilini.
“Jim has a vision of how to build this team. So I want to follow through with that,” said Aquilini on Sportsnet 650 back in October. “These things take time. It’s not something that you can cut corners, or shortcuts, like build a team through free agents. It doesn’t work. What we’ve done is we’ve drafted a lot of these young players, and now they’re starting to come into their own. Now is the point where we need to take the next step.”
Aquilini has backed Benning and decided to bring him back after a dismal 2021 season and has extended his contract twice.
Benning has tried to cut corners and take shortcuts by overpaying numerous free agents, trading away draft picks, and bringing in reclamation projects to make the playoffs. There has been a lack of long-term thinking and a plan. The way this franchise has been handled is like how Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams, and Rian Johnson handled the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, it became a mess without a plan from the start.
Yet somehow, Aquilini has decided to keep Benning after almost years of this. Canucks fans deserve better. This city is starving for a Stanley Cup. As a fan and a writer, I want this team to do well. It’s not fun watching and covering bad seasons and losses like the one in Denver.
Aquilini should not give Benning any more time. More losses and not making the playoffs last year should be the final straw. Benning’s moves and Aquilini backing him have handicapped this franchise from becoming a contender.