The Vancouver Canucks are continuing to clean house.
Less than an hour after the team parted ways with head coach Travis Green, more reports started to surface surrounding the future of General Manager Jim Benning.
At first, it appeared that Benning’s job wouldn’t be affected, as per insider Rick Dhaliwal.
However, just 20 minutes later, Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy steered the ship in the other direction, hinting that the ownership group still had more changes to make in their front office.
The speculation gained more traction quite soon after Murphy’s tweet, with both Irfaan Gaffar of The Fourth Period and Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet also confirming the internal rumblings around Benning’s position with the franchise.
Of course, this decision shouldn’t be surprising given the current dismal state of the franchise.
The Canucks have been a colossal let down this season, posting a disappointing record of 8-15-2, good for dead last in the Pacific Division and 28th in the entire league.
The month of November, in particular, was a trainwreck, with the team losing 10 of their 14 contests en route to collecting just nine of a possible 28 points. The Canucks hit an extremely low point at midpoint mark of the month, serving up back-to-back blowouts in Colorado and Vegas in which they surrendered seven goals apiece.
The Canucks were able to kick off December with a win against the last-place Ottawa Senators, marking their second two-game winning streak of the season, but it all came crumbling back down on Saturday night, losing to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-1.
Scoreboard aside, it was still one of the uglier nights for the franchise, with handfuls of disappointed fans creating a mass exodus towards the doors with still minutes to go in the final frame as a result of the team’s poor performance.
The fans that did decide to stick it out made sure that their displeasure could be heard with booming boos and a distinct, unified “Fire Benning” chant that grew louder and louder as the clock winded down. One fan even decided it was time to put his frustration on full display, dishearteningly throwing his jersey onto the ice with just 1.6 seconds to go.
For fans and media alike, that moment will likely go down as one of the key turning points in the franchise’s recent history.
During Benning’s eight-year tenure in Vancouver, the Canucks posted a mediocre record of 242-257-61, but only qualified for the postseason twice. Their most recent success occurred during the bubble in Edmonton, where the team was able to get past both the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues in the opening rounds before eventually falling to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games.
The team also made it to the playoffs in Benning’s first full season, but lost to the Calgary Flames in just six games. Benning had been working alongside Trevor Linden at the time, but the former Canuck captain ultimately stepped away from the organization in 2018 due to reported disputes with Benning, leaving the former Boston Bruin Assistant GM at the helm.
Benning, who still had one year remaining on his most recent contract, made sure his last offseason with the Canucks was a busy one, acquiring Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland in a massive draft day deal, while also signing Tucker Poolman to a four-year, $10 million contract and Travis Hamonic to a two-year, $6 million extension.
Hamonic has only played in seven games this season due to personal family matters, as well as his vaccination status, while Poolman’s already proving that his contract is far too lucrative for his subpar playing style.
Benning was also able to lock down his RFA stars in Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes just days before the start of the 2021-22 season. Hughes has had a great bounce back year with 20 points in 24 games, including a team-high 18 assists.
The same can’t be said for Pettersson, who has registered just 12 points in 25 games. He is also still searching for his first even strength goal of the year.
Francesco Aquilini made the news of Benning’s dismissal official late Sunday night, also sharing that the organization had relieved Assistant General Manager John Weisbrod of his duties.
In the meantime, Canucks legend Stan Smyl will serve as Interim GM, while Ryan Johnson will step in as Interim Assistant GM.
Johnson had been General Manager of the Utica Comets/Abbotsford Canucks since 2017, while also serving as Vancouver’s Director of Player Development. In their first 17 games, Abbotsford has gone 7-7-2-1, good for second last in the Pacific Division.
Smyl, who had his #12 hoisted to the rafters, previously held the position of Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations.
Smyl and Johnston will also be joined by a few familiar faces, such as Chris Gear, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.
Aquilini and Smyl will address the media on Monday, December 6th at 3:30pm, followed by Boudreau at 4:15pm.
The Canucks will also hit the ice on Monday, facing off against Alex Edler and the Los Angeles Kings. Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts on Benning and Weisbrod getting fired? Make sure to drop a comment below!