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If change for Canucks is on the horizon, it’s coming far too late

Jim Benning’s bulletproof job security is inexplicable.

2018 NHL Draft - Round One
Jim Benning of the Vancouver Canucks waits for the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Remember when the Vancouver Canucks were actually good?

Yeah, it’s been a long time.

As someone who is under 30, my memories of this hockey club didn’t really begin until the 1999-00 season. Yeah, I was still crapping my diapers during the ‘94 run, but I also missed most of the Mark Messier era. Call it a wash.

The Canucks missed the playoffs in ‘99-00, but they qualified for the postseason in 10 of the next 12 seasons. Only the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs with more regularity during that time.

There might be a history of mediocrity in Vancouver, but the turn of the century represented new hope for Canucks.

Now that we’re more than 20 years into this century, it’s fair to wonder if this franchise is truly just cursed.

How else do you explain the fact that Jim Benning still has his job despite “leading” this team throughout of the worst stretches in franchise history?

How do you explain the fact that Benning’s tenure has lasted longer than Mike Gillis’, despite these being the Coles’ Notes on their resumes?

Just a reminder that Gillis was on the job for six seasons. This is year eight of Benning’s tenure.

The easy argument for most “Benning Bros” is that Gillis inherited a good team, while Benning had to rebuild the team from the remnants of the 2011 squad.

The issue with that argument? Canucks management didn’t even mention the word “rebuild” until three years into Benning’s tenure.

Benning has also had plenty of time to build a team around the young stars they drafted. While pickups such as JT Miller and Conor Garland have been helpful, there are far too many Loui Eriksson’s, Markus Granlund’s, Brandon Sutter’s, Sam Gagner’s, Alex Burmistrov’s and Jay Beagle’s along the way.

And yeah, Gillis inherited a good team, but he also used shrewd cap management to build one of the most feared teams in the cap era. Few GMs have constructed as powerful of a squad compared to what the Canucks had from 2009 to 2012.

Why the Benning tenure is beyond expired

Keeping spoiled milk in the fridge for a week is gross. Keeping it in the fridge for two years, well, that’s just inexcusable.

It’s clear that Benning has been in desperado mode ever since the 2019 offseason. Thankfully for his bank account’s benefit, the risky JT Miller trade might have saved his job.

If the 2019 offseason saved his job, the 2020 offseason was the great undoing.

There are valid reasons why ownership is to blame for the downward spiral of this franchise. Last offseason was all about cutting costs, as the Canucks had one of the lowest staff payrolls in the league.

However, Benning and the Canucks still spent to the cap, but their decision to let Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev walk while signing Braden Holtby, Jake Virtanen, along with acquiring Nate Schmidt should seriously put into question their ability to evaluate hockey players.

In particular, the decision to sign Virtanen and let Toffoli walk had devastating impacts on the club.

We all saw what transpired last season. Even before the COVID outbreak, this was a franchise that was moving in reverse.

So, instead of ending this disastrous tenure, Benning continued work for the Canucks, armed and dangerous. Now, after an offseason in which he was the first GM to trade a top-10 pick since 2013, it was clear that this organization had pushed all their chips to the middle of the table.

This is the team that Benning went all in on. So, how’s it going?

Canucks management might be the only “professionals” who are stunned by the lack of success. This was a team that the analytics crowd had unanimously picked to miss the playoffs this season.

They might not be as bad as they’ve shown, but this is a mediocre team at best.

Canucks fans deserve better, and change has to start at the top.