A Changing Paradigm

Jim Rogash

These are confusing times for Canuck fans. I'm supposed to hate these guys, not admire them.... "2011! Marchand!! Lucic!!! ARRGGLLEEBARRRGGLLEE...." So confusing...The line about " Boston Model, WTF ? " was pretty good though, wasn't it ? In the end, we found that the Boston folks ( thanks guys, fist bumps and bury the hatchets for almost everyone... ) are pretty much the same as the rest of us. That 2011 hatred was a fine vintage wine at the time...but it is time to get back to work.

At least, that is my first take, after watching the first introduction of our new General Manager.

All business, and in all the areas we seem to need.  He just answers the questions.  Now, of course, there will remain a rivalry with a team that beat you out of a Cup. But it is pretty hard to continue your irrational hatred of a team you want to mirror, at least as far as success on the ice goes.

( I did note though, that, from the outset anyhow, looks like it is going to be fun to watch.  The press will go to Trevor naturally a bit more , as we already have the "face of the franchise" guy here. Mr Benning gets to do the GM-ing, but his natural style is just Anti Hype anyhow. It will be interesting to see that dynamic with this particular media market...we do love our narratives here. )

I liked almost everything he said, and he said a lot, about the improvements and plans in this 30 minute presser.

There was much to unpack, for storyline starved Canuck fans, and I am sure that we will around here. ( LOVE how he smacked down the Torts Assertions about the lineup. Jim Benning knows when to use that quiet, effective style to turn the knife a bit, eh ? )

This installment is more about the change in GM, sure, as we get to know Jim Benning and the moves begin to be made. It is a prodigious change, and one that this lifetime viewer of said team heartily approves of as the 11th such title holder.

It almost felt like I had been hired myself. I mean that in the sense that his views seemed to closely align with mine.   That being said,  the way that he dismissed the "Boston Model" thing was prefect in tone.  Plainly, the style is to ahve a four line team that plays a style, more in line with, I would guess, the Hawks than the Bruins, or their Western clone, the Kings.

The Big Boy Hockey of the Bruins and Kings is going to have an influence, as we play in a division that is probably going to be the one that crushes the others in winning percentage over the next decade.  But I have, I hope, when I have talked about BBH, always come down more on the hybrid style of the skating teams that can and do compete well with the teams that copy the Bruins and Kings idea on what it takes.

Perhaps, if the Bruin Model is anything, it is an attitude,.  That will be more determined by the choice our Canuck Circle of Trust makes as to who is the coach, but anyone that has watched hockey for any length of time knows that it is also something the Bruins have done for a while, as they had to, standing up to the Psychos of Philly that used to wear the Orange, Black, and White.  It is something that has been a part of the game from it's outset, the art of intimidation.  Certainly, a GM that came from a team where it was a success might pick and trade for guys that fit that, and I guess we will see going forward. But it seemed that we are going to get back to skating.

The "relentless attitude" Mr Benning quoted in the presser is what opponents would bitch about as swagger at that time.  It, plus the Art of Intimidation, defines the Bruin ethos, but it is nothing new in hockey to have deep teams that play together and physical win.  And that initial indications are that we will play a more skating style over the thuggery style.

But, as we move on, I think it has to be added to what the team leaders said in the presser.  The Boston Bruins are pretty cool in my book.  They could have very well did what the Senators did with Chiarelli, and no one would have batted an eye. It happens all the time. Hell, I think it has happened the last two or three times Rick Dudley has moved around the NHL !  But the Bruin leaders were very gracious and supportive.  Sure, there are a few players on that team that we will continue to hate.  Unless GMJim brings Marchand here, that is fine on spec around here anyhow, with that guy.

But with the chance to show a public narrative to be right, they did, to their possible tactical detriment, allow the guy that has been at the heart of their drafting of their current team to walk without restriction, to a supposed "hated" rival.  We fanbases will continue the animus, to be sure, but that sure does seem like the last vestige of the Great Hate of 2011 blowing away, when it comes to the team off the ice leaders.  I doubt Alexandre Burrows and Patrice Bergeron need to do anything different with the on ice stuff.  That part of the rivalry of our great game is the fun part.

It was illuminating to see a man from another team define what was the "Canuck Style" that was at the acme of the recent success.  It was indeed a relentless skating style. That, augmented by the execution that allowed them to skate ( and if you need any clearer indications of the two different style that are being defined in the current NHL, the Final Four are two teams that can skate AND try to play a more aggressive physical style, the Kings and Rangers, and two teams that can play physical AND still play to their skating strengths in the play of the Canadiens and Hawks. )  was a Top 5 regular season PK and PP.  Those things have definitely waned now, and when you can control special teams, and are skating the other team into the ground, I can see the other teams reacting to it as they did.

Our lifetime scout of the game seems pretty impressed with the current core.  That core will be defined and tinkered with, I am sure.  There will be moves, and a lot of them can and will be defined soon, as promised discussions with players like Kesler happen, and as the bombshell of the presser, the "yeah, sure we would ask guys to break their NTC's...why not" filters through the lineup.

Change is good, and while we will all, in our hockey mad city and beyond, agree or disagree with them all or none, for the first time in a long long time, I feel at ease with the new guy.  It has brought change in the past, both good and bad, as the team changeovers have heralded success or failure in the past.  For every Pat Quinn there is a Bill LaForge.  The new guy that we have is going to immediately improve the team in his greatest strengths, scouting and drafting.  Considering how well teams that draft well are doing, that sounds like a plan.

There are players here that will come and go, as our new GM winnows the roster, and gets to know every current player better than he probably already does.  That will be fun in and of itself, and Jim Benning does his thing.  There are players in the past here that were late round steals, and great players to boot, both from the current crop and in the past.  Our problem here in Vancouver has been either trading away picks that turned into stars, or missing on stars to take busts.  There were simply too many players of the Patrick White, Nathan Smith, Josh Holden variety that litter the drafts of the last three GM's ( and we can go back farther if you like... #yeesh ), and , yes Mike Gillis, we are looking at Anton Rodin and Jordan Schroeder.  You don't get a pass on those, any more than Dave Nonis does on Daniel freaking Rahimi and Patrick White. ( and Schroeder has actually played some NHL time, unlike some of those names ! )

First and second rounders are the currency of success in the current incarnation of the NHL.  We have had GM's that traded those two picks away often, and still found themselves some guys like Kevin Bieksa and Burrows in late rounds, or just elsewhere.  Those things should be celebrated when Ben Hutton becomes ANOTHER Canuck 5th rounder that cracks an NHL lineup on the blue line.  The Canucks have aced that pick for a while ( Kevin Bieksa was a 5th ), but Ben Hutton and Frank Corrado need to get Mike Gillis some credit when they play in the future.  As does the guy that was signed while all this GM search was going on, Anton Cederholm, last year's 5th round pick for the current scouts and past GM.

We now have a guy that is scouting royalty ( his father  and namesake Elmer is a lifetime scout for the Habs ), with the connections that will bring, at the helm, and still going to games to boot.  Apart from the occasional trip, not often was that a stated goal of anyone from the time of Quinn here, and certainly was not a thing for guys like Nonis and Burke, who would rather trade a pick, or even Mike Gillis, who was going to stop doing it, and then did anyhow.

You need to have those picks if you are going to take the right guys.  The current draft is going to require a deft expert, as it is supposedly full of decent, but not superstar players after the top few.  Having a guy with Mr Benning's past accomplishments means that those picks will be kept and used.  That is something we crave out here ( and WHL players that get ignored and then go on to stardom. How can you not scout Lucic in your own backyard like that ? ) , and the past record is spotty.

There are some that get there by other routes, like Burrows, Tanev, etc.  Some that are top of draft locks like the Twins.  But a lot of teams that have success are the ones that draft stars in the late rounds like the Wings did with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, or, more to the point, considering who is our new GM, with second rounders like Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic.  Guys that folks go "you mean our team could have had THAT guy in the first round?" when they hear of them.  It is easy to point to a Patrick White being picked instead of the next guy David Perron.  But it has been a while since we had a guy that came out of the second, third round and became a star. Nevermind that the team picked late in the first round.

There are plenty of great articles out there ( Daniel Wagner at Pass It To Bulis wrote a good one here ) about how the draft record of this team has went.  The scouts here being not that good is one of the most persistent of the flashpoints for the fanbase. It is frustrating watching other teams get better with guys you think your team could have had.  And this is the team that traded away Cam Neely, for instance. We have some baggage.

I will get to the promised youth and change on the next installment.  We have a month until the draft anyhow.  But, for now the most important part is that in the changing paradigm in the NHL ( of a well known ex player as a president, and an active member of the team development  teaming with a GM whose strengths is either in player evaluation or cap wizardry ), the Canucks firmly came down on the side of what was perceived as their biggest weakness, and made it a strength.  That is a very good thing.

If this is the best way to get to what is actually a Championship Model, of a deep four line team ( whether Big Boy, a hybrid, Faster Than You style, or either / or) that can finally win us a Cup for this Cup starved fanbase, no one will care about anything to do with that past, and it is time to get beyond the navel gazing and look forward with the new guys.

Given the new guy and his past accomplishments, having him lead up and help this current scouting staff be much better is a great first step.  With youth and the draft, it is all about looking forward. Wondering if those picks will work out has been at the heart of the Canuck Fan Angst.  It is why I could say David Perron's name above, and you know what I am saying to your bones.

To have a man at the helm who wants to slay that assertion forever. Count me onboard.  2184 words and you are STILL here ? Thanks for reading then. Here, have a treat...

You're welcome ;-)

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