I have a hard time wrapping my head around how I ended up writing 5000+ words in this series only to end up with: "Jim Benning Pissed You Off", but I'm having just as hard a time wrapping my head around what this Benning guy is all about. Marches to his own beat, Mr. Benning does.
And you know what? I frickin' love him for it.
He might have been constantly messing with the narrative of my Summer Series, but let's face it, he's fun to watch. There has been nonstop action coming from the Canuck front office since he arrived- yes, the mob is outside at the gates with the pitchforks and the yelling and all the other usual accoutrements that accompany an angry mob, like a Twitter account- but inside JimBenn is going about his business of doggedly changing the culture and roster of a team that quite literally was rotten at the core. And make no mistake, if you've been too busy yelling at your screen this summer you'll have missed that he has truly reshaped the Canucks in his image. NOW this is Jim Benning's team, and he's only just started.
That, also, probably did not make you happy.
But I say bring it on. A year on the job and the guy hasn't stopped reshaping, tweaking a team that had been withering on the vine for a few years (go read this series if you're
masochist nostalgic enough to want a play-by-play). That's not to say that change for the sake of change is okay by any stretch, but a systematic reconstruction is what the Canucks have been needing for some time now. The 'systematic' part is certainly up for debate, and has definitely been a hot topic these past few months, but as I've mentioned before change always begins very uncomfortably, gets ugly, adds a bit more nasty on top, and then starts to take shape. There's no argument about the 'ugly' to date.
Benning and Trevor Linden have certainly had a few bumps on the road so far, no question. They could stand to take a summer course in Public Relations, there's a concern over the braintrust's understanding of basic contract negotiation, and one sometimes gets the feeling that "Trader Jim", well, isn't Trader Jim. There are certainly red flags involved any time a GM prematurely extends players that aren't bona-fide stars, and Benning is 1-4 on that front so far, with high marks only for the Tanev extension, but Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa and Brandon Sutter are extremely questionable for reasons of either term (Dorsett) value (Sbisa) or both (Sutter), casting valid doubts about the current leadership's asset management abilities. Throw in the fact that Vancouver gave up 2 more years of a serviceable (if not underwhelming) Nick Bonino at $1.9M, and a defence prospect in Adam Clendening who showed promise (at least before the AHL playoffs), to acquire Sutter in the first place, and, well, y'know.
GM Jim Benning pic.twitter.com/QL7CIUNNiS— Josh Weissbrod (@joshweissbock) August 6, 2015
Listen, I understand the concerns about the direction of the team at the moment, I share some of them myself. I just feel the need to bring a different perspective to the conversation that in all honesty has grown really old really quickly, and when this starts happening:
.＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿ | NOW 2 DAYS | | SINCE BENNING | | DID SOMETHING | | STUPID | | ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿| (\__/) || (•ㅅ•) || / づ— pb13 (@petbugs13) August 7, 2015
You know Benning doesn't have a lot of leash around VanCity, which kinda makes me want to rehash Mike Gillis' first couple years on the job. You remember, the Mats Sundin situation where our genius friend offered $10M a year to play here? Mats Sundin! Ten Million Dollars!!! The David Backes/Steve Bernier offer sheet fiasco? KYLE WELLWOOD!
Gillis' first couple years in the neighbourhood didn't appear to be Peak General Managing. Admit at least that much. These moves all worked out of course, but not before Ol' Gilly took a fair bit of heat, not unlike our man Benning now. Gillis was also fortunate enough to inherit a solid, young core already in place (you remember, The Twins, Burrows, Kesler, Luongo, Edler, Mitchell, Schnieder, etc.. No big deal) and was tasked with building. What did Benning have to work with when he got here? A disgruntled Ryan Kesler and a group that had just gone full implosion and missing the playoffs a year after being swept in the first round, and 2 years after winning one game in the first round. Nice. For some reason though this fanbase has run out of patience after one season of Benning shuffling the deck? Gillis' moves worked out over time. Benning may be on to something too but it was a big mess he walked into.
It's more than fair to have an eyebrow or two raised at some of their decisions, but nothing Benning or Linden have done to date could be constituted as franchise destruction. A GM really can't be judged fully until the 3 year mark anyway, when some of the longer-term initiatives start to bring results (like draft picks and player development). Benning has done some good as well, getting any value at all out of Kesler was damn impressive, he disappeared a Gillis mistake by moving Jason Garrison and his $4.6M(!) deal without retaining salary, made the best Free Agent signing in the league and locked down Chris Tanev to a very solid contract, which seems to be completely ignored by the #FireBenning crowd.
Management has stated since the beginning that the team wants to be competitive while the prospects develop, and that they plan on bringing the kids along slowly, so I'm not sure why all of a sudden there's a rush of angst around not having a plan. They have one. Benning repeats it all the time, and he tells you exactly what the plan is. Not liking the plan they have does not constitute them not having any plan at all. Ignoring something you can't figure out is for the advanced stats crowd (which is actually the most vocal component of Benninghate. Huh.). So if Benning says that they're looking at a 3-4 year transition why is he dumber than toast after one year?
There is a chance that Benning isn't cut out for the big chair, that he doesn't learn from his rookie mistakes and doesn't get the rebuild off the ground. There is also a chance that Jacob Markstrom turns into a solid starting goalie, Brandon Sutter plays like he's worth almost what he makes and some of these young players start flooding into the team and become difference makers. There's just as much evidence for as there is against so far, I mean even Mike Gillis got over being drunk with cap space and made smart acquisitions and all those weird moves didn't matter so much in the end. Maybe it was just innocent rookie mistakes after all.
So Jim Benning spent his summer pissing you off, I spent my summer writing about it, am a far, far lesser person for it, and I'm wondering if the process gave me an aneurism. I'm going to move on by writing things not in any way involved with Jim Benning, and my advice to you is to actually wait until there are some results of his plan to hate him over. YoungStars in Penticton is coming up soon so I'm sure someone will find a reason to doubt his ability to draft in any shape or form.
55 days till Hockey! Let's save some of the anger for when the Flames come to town.