Note: This Post has Been Updated to Include Responses from Off the Post, and to fix one of Jimmi’s responses. Sorry, Jimmi.
The last three weeks have brought a flurry of news by or about Vancouver Canucks management. First, Rob Williams of Vancity Buzz posted a complete, fairly analyzed list of Jim Benning’s transactions during his two-and-a-half year stint as Canucks general manager. Then, Sportnet.ca posted a long Q&A with Trevor Linden. Last week Jim Benning told The Province he wouldn’t ask a veteran player with a no-trade clause to waive at the trade deadline and Iain MacIntyre said all the heavy lifting on the rebuild has been completed — the next core is here, developing now.
We thought it would be good to get reaction to all these developments from the contributors here to gauge reaction. We’ll run the answers to ten questions in three posts. Today’s questions relate to Jim Benning and the job he has done in the last two-and-a-half years.
What has been Benning’s best move as Canucks’ GM? Worst move? Any moves you think will pay off better than expected? Worse than expected?
Westy99: Benning’s best move so far, along with Linden, was to hire Willie. I am thinking in a pure Machiavellian way. A veteran coach may have hand too much input into the team’s direction and tried to veto some of GMJB’s decisions. Having a rookie coach also gives GMJB some breathing room when it comes to keeping his own job. Willie has done a great job with the roster he has been given and he has actually helped the youth improve, but GMJB can move to a veteran coach at any time and get another 2 years to be GM.
GMJB’s worst move so far has been drafting Jake. But…..it still might work out if Jake can get his shit together.
VanCityDan: Troy Stecher. There were many teams looking to snag him. More than a few told the kid he would have regular ice time out of the box. Good on the character of the local boy ( and that has helped and hurt in the past, so who knows here. Only Troy… ) for taking what he was told, that he would have to earn a spot, and doing it. Good on Jim Benning for being a man of his word, and playing the kid, because he earned it.
Gmonk33: Benning’s best might be his deal with the Blue Jacked where he shipped a 3rd round pick for Derek Dorsett honestly. The success rate of a third round pick becoming a low level NHL player is around 30%. Say what you want about double D’s lack of production, but he is a true heart and soul player who can deter some liberties from being taken on our players.
Worst move in my opinion had to be Linden Vey for a 2nd round pick. I’m all for trading picks for further advanced prospects, but this deal was a lemon! Prust for Kassian and a 5th is pretty high on my stink-meter, but I feel that Vey deal reeks more!
Better than Expected: look no further than Granlund for Shinkaruk! Shinkaruk is looking like a player that’s not going to make a lasting impact at the NHL level whereas Granlund has etched himself a nice little spot in the Canucks lineup. It will be a shame if we lose a versatile player like Granlund to Las Vegas.
Worse than Expected: Clendening for Forsling. Forsling is playing good minutes in Chicago, and Clendening is on his 500th team in his career. Even though we moved Clendening as part of the package to get Sutter, it won’t be enough to see Forsling have a long and successful career as a Blackhawk. The only thing that could make this worse is having Forsling hoist the Cup.
Jimmi.Cynic: Sign Troy Stecher and Groot. They're signed, right?
Worst: Just one? At least the worst ones are in the past, like signing Double D to a cushy 4 year deal. Or overpaying Sbisa. Or picking Virt over Ehlers or Nylander, if the purpose was to win now.
Any moves you think will pay off better than expected?
Stecher. And quite possibly, Groot.
Worse than expected?
While Richardson, Vey, Vrby didn't work out. And the Kassian for uh...some guy whose wife works in Montreal was not a great deal. And the pizza guy, however, have to wonder if Eriksson will be earning 1st line money on the 4th in year six.
Bailey: Benning's best move - talking strictly trades - was probably either the Bieksa trade (for a 2nd), or the 2nd for Baertschi trade, since those are the only two I have actually liked.
His worst move is hard to narrow down. Overall, his biggest blunder is not getting anything for Hamhuis, Vrbata, or the garage sale 7 last trade deadline. Strictly talking trades, I really did not like... gosh, SO many I don't like! I'll give it to the Sutter trade purely because it's the best example of Benning's 'asset bleeding.'
The move that will pay off better than expected is the Shinkaruk for Granlund. Not because Granlund will improve much, but because he is an NHL player, and Shinkaruk will not be, like many expect him to.
The move that will pay off worse than expected is the Forsling for Clendening trade. Forsling could very well be an NHL dman, meanwhile we threw Clendening away in the Sutter deal. Not that Clendening was any good in the first place.
Thos Pratt: So far, I think his best decision has been to choose Jacob Markstrom over Eddie Lack. Markstrom shows every sign of being able to hold the fort until Thatcher Demko develops. While he may never be a true number one workhorse, he more than good enough for now. His worst move was to sign Luca Sbisa long-term at a number much higher than his qualifying offer. There is just no reason why he had to receive a raise if he was getting term. The Chris Tanev extension will work out better than expected, either because the Canucks will have a capable top pairing defender for the life of the contract, or because Tanev could be traded for a good forward. It’s hard for me to see how the Loui Eriksson contract will not end up being much worse than expected. He’s not really helping the Sedins, he’s not working that well on the second line, and he’s not likely to remain productive through his entire buyout-proof, no-trade protected contract.
Off the PostJim Benning's best move so far would have to be trading a second round pick for Sven Baertschi. While Baertschi's had his share of highs and lows, he exceeds the value of a second rounder and filled the void of young NHL ready wingers on the roster.
My least favourite Benning move was firing Laurence Gilman. Gilman brought a unique knowledge with him and gave the Canucks an edge in the convoluted area of cap management. I feel like he was a huge asset to the team in his time here.
Why do you think he has become such a lightning rod among Canucks fans?
Westy99: First off, Benning comes from the Bruins organization. People may say they forgot that point, but their subconscious didn’t. I think some expected Benning to come in and clean house, draft superstars and the Canuck players would remember how to win. A lot of people actually like Gilles and the job he did as GM, so Benning was screwed no matter what.
VanCityDan: For me, it is all about context. Teams need to change a GM when he is not making the right moves, and change a coach when his team quits on him. There are many things you can say about Willie, but his team plays hard for him, and are not just mailing it in. I think they lead the league in close games. That is a good thing. A very good thing. From this pain will come glory. It always does. They are losing close games, mostly. Patience Canuck fans. Those same things are why both Benning and Willie are lightning rods. This is an impatient fanbase, Management and owners chose the toughest path, being competitive and rebuilding on the fly. That is tough for folks that SAY they would stomach a complete rebuild. Saying and plunking down dollars are two different things. They all saw the empty seats.
Gmonk33: Vancouver is a hockey market with a lot of heavily invested fans. It’s a passionate hockey town that only wants to see the team be a success! After several years of Cup contention our fanbase elevated their expectations for the team. When the results started to deviate from that expectation, people started scrutinizing the GM’s maneuvers even more than they had previously. Given that a few of his trades have been lop-sided, and the team is not rebuilding, but rebuilding, but being competitive every night, it makes for a lot of questions about the team’s long, mid, and short term direction.
Jimmi.Cynic: First, he was brought in from a former arch-rival team - so the sleeper cell theory had some Iron Mike legs. He was billed as a brilliant study of young talent - which he seems to be. But he was hired as a GM - the most obtuse and powerful (allegedly) position in pro hockey. His manner with the press did not inspire confidence - despite his high character guy performances. He's a meat 'n tators GM, where cosmopolitan Vancouver is more comfortable with fancy gourmet flavours. Articulate, smart, crafty - that's what the market expects. JB maybe gets 1 or 2 out of 3. Is that so bad?
Bailey: He's become a lightning rod for fans because he's the GM, and this is Vancouver, and that's what we do. Doesn't help his cause that he's done a pretty terrible job in his work to this point, but he would be a lightning rod either way.
Thos Pratt: As a general manager in a market like Vancouver, you have to master the art of saying nothing while sounding good. Jim Benning says a lot in a very plain-spoken, Prairie manner. That was never going to go over well in a superficial market. Retools are messy, frustrating and not immediately conclusive. While the team struggles to find its way through, it’s only natural that fans and commentators will second guess everything.
Off the Post: Frankly, I think fans would be upset with any GM following the drastic shift from the teams previous success. With the ownership and fans expecting better results while the teams core is bottoming out, I can't think of too many scenarios where a General Manager can maintain that balance.
If you have read this far, thanks. As your reward, enjoy Rice and Peace, the latest single from Brighton-based funk and soul collective Lakuta.