The City of Vancouver was awoken from their summer slumber a couple of weeks ago. While many of us were soaking up the sun (or let’s be real, you were just about to leave work), news broke that Trevor Linden was stepping down, err, amicably parting ways with the Canucks organization.
Timing of the news was strange, and the lack of response from both Linden and owner Francesco Aquilini has led most to believe that the split was anything but amicable.
With Linden now out of the picture, does that mean there’s a bullseye on Jim Benning’s back?
‘Linden’s Guy’ Still Remains
When Benning came on board to the Canucks organization in 2014, he was clearly Linden’s guy. It was Linden’s first big hire after being pegged as the saving grace for the franchise, at least from a PR perspective.
Throughout their four years together, Linden almost always went to bat for Benning. The two often appeared together in press conferences, and Linden hopped on the radio more often that not to talk about the state of the franchise.
Clearly there was a disconnect during the last few months, but the first red flag was during the season ending press conference. More than once, Linden proclaimed that the team would be “very young” next season, and that the Canucks could be “several million under the cap.”
Benning, and Green for that matter, didn’t echo the same sentiments. They were cautious in their answers, saying that roster spots wouldn’t be gifted, young players have to earn their keep, and all those redundant answers we hear over and over again.
That divide in answers was evident in April, and clearly things didn’t get any better prior to Linden’s departure three weeks ago.
More Responsibility = Bigger Consequences
Here’s the bright side for Benning. Many of the young players that he’s brought in the organization will be given a chance to shine this year, whether that be with the Utica Comets or the Vancouver Canucks.
11 players that Benning drafted between 2014 and 2017 will play in either the AHL or the NHL next season, with eight of those coming outside of the first round. You could also throw in players such as Nikolay Goldobin, Johnathan Dahlen and Jalen Chatfield who fit that age range but were acquired through other avenues.
There’s also an older cohort of “young players” that have a chance to elevate their role within the organization next year. Those players include Troy Stecher, Derrick Pouliot, Ben Hutton, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Brendan Leipsic, and most importantly, Bo Horvat.
There has to be enough improvement from these two cohorts of players for consumer confidence not to crater by the end of the season. If that isn’t the case, how can fans or ownership have confidence in Benning’s vision moving forward? The fate of the organization now rests on his shoulders, with Linden no longer there as a scapegoat.
Aside from all the young players the organization has accumulated, there is a group of older players acquired in transactions. Many of them have drawn criticism in from both fans and media, and their performances will be honed in on if the play of younger players doesn’t overshadow them in a positive way.
Loui Eriksson, Sam Gagner, Brandon Sutter, Erik Gudbranson, Michael Del Zotto, along with the newly added Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Tim Schaller nearly round out the rest of Benning’s additions. None of the first five have exceeded, or arguably even met expectations since their arrival. The jury is out on the other three, although reviews were mixed on July 1st.
One thing is abundantly clear though: this roster top to bottom is clearly Benning’s team. Their success, or lack thereof moving forward, falls directly on him. How patient will ownership be if this group continues to struggle next season, and the young players don’t inspire a ton of confidence?
How long will Jim Benning last as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks?
This poll is closed
Gone by the end of 2018-19.
Gone by the end of 2019-20.
At least three or four years until he’s gone.
5+ years. The Canucks will contend for the Cup with Benning at the helm.