Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning met the media on Thursday morning amidst the club’s worst start in nearly 25 years.
“This is not the start we envisioned,” Benning said bluntly to begin the presser.
If you were expecting Benning to shoulder some of the blame for the team’s poor start, you’d be sadly mistaken.
Here are seven takeaways from Benning’s most recent press conference.
1. Pointing the finger at star players
Part of the reason why Benning had to face the media this week was so it wasn’t just Travis Green and the players who had to face the tough questions.
Despite facing the music, the Canucks GM pointed more fingers at the star players rather than himself.
“Part of our problem is our best players aren’t playing to their potential,” Benning said. “Some of our players need to regain their confidence.”
Here’s what he said about Pettersson.
“We know he’s capable of a lot of more than he’s shown so far. We need to get him to where he needs to be.”
While he’s not wrong about the star players not playing to their potential, it was frustrating to hear him throw them under the bus while defending his own moves.
Speaking of which...
2. Vote of confidence for OEL, Poolman and Jim’s other moves
Sure, the star players haven’t played well, but what about the rest of the team, which was 100% constructed by Jim Benning?
“We made some good moves this summer to strengthen the team.”
“Bringing in Ekman-Larsson and Poolman, those are guys that could work with some of the players we have to make them better and I think they’ve shown that.”
OEL has had a decent start defensively, but he’s been a disaster on the penalty kill. He also has only three points in 17 games.
Oh, and he’s making $7.26 million for the next six seasons. Can’t forget about that.
The Poolman contract was a headscratcher from the beginning. Early on, he showed good mobility for his size and decent positioning in his own end. Lately, his brutal puck skills have been exposed, and statistically, he’s been one of the worst penalty killers in the NHL.
Benning also commented on adding more depth to the scoring group. While Conor Garland has performed admirably, Jason Dickinson has been a black hole offensively, and the fourth line isn’t NHL calibre.
3. No vote of confidence for Travis Green
Benning didn’t give him a glowing vote of confidence when asked directly about Travis Green’s job security.
“We’re looking at everything. We’re trying to find solutions to our problems. Travis and his staff are working hard. This is something I didn't expect to happen after the moves we made this summer, but it’s happening and we have to deal with it.”
4. Broken Communication
Benning isn’t known for being a master communicator, but this was an interesting nugget from the presser.
“We’re talking to agents to see where their players are at, what they’re thinking and how we can help.”
Perhaps it’s the norm in the hockey world to have general managers communicate to players through agents. But, if you’re an NHL GM and your job is on the line, wouldn’t you want to talk to your players directly?
5. Stanley Cup talk is non-existent
When was the last time you heard Benning mention competing for the Stanley Cup?
It’s been far too long since anyone in upper management has mentioned this team and the Stanley Cup in the same sentence.
The downfall from where this team was a decade — hell, even two decades ago — is astounding.
No longer is the Stanley Cup the goal. It seems like the only thing Benning wants to do is make the playoffs to save his job.
Once again in the press conference today, Benning ended one of his responses by saying “we still want to be a playoff team.”
Canucks fans want and deserve a team that isn’t just trying to compete for the playoffs, but a team that wants to win the Stanley Cup.
6. Sutter “nowhere close” to returning
A couple of housekeeping notes from the press conference, including an update on Brandon Sutter.
“He’s feeling better,” Benning said. “He’s what they call COVID long hauler. I talked to him last week, he’s feeling better and better all the time.”
Sutter’s health is the most important thing, especially when battling the after affects of COVID while raising a young family. The veteran spoke candidly last spring about his battles with COVID while his wife was pregnant.
Despite the improvement, Benning told the media not to expect Sutter back anytime soon.
“He’s nowhere close to working out and getting back on the ice,” Benning said.
Of course, Sutter, Motte and Matthew Highmore’s absences were blamed for the PK’s woes.
“When we do our strategic planning in the summertime, our PK guys that we had penciled in were obviously Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte and Jason Dickinson, which we traded for, and Highmore.”
“Not having Motte and Sutter to start the year was a big loss for us. We traded Jay Beagle this summer and he did an awesome job for us in that area.”
Hmm, not much blame for players like Dickinson, OEL, Myers, Poolman and Travis Hamonic, who have also struggled mightily on the PK.
7. Hamonic gets 2nd jab
It sounds like Travis Hamonic will soon be able to join this team on the road.
Jim Benning clarified that Travis Hamonic got his second vaccine a couple of days ago which likely means he will be unable to start next week’s US road trip with the #Canucks.— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) November 18, 2021
Guess that means the Canucks are one step closer towards their return from bad to mediocre.