After another loss at home where the inadequacies of the Vancouver Canucks roster were on display for all to see, and one that saw a jersey thrown from the crowd onto the ice, you had to know that the Aquilini family would respond. And on Sunday, they did exactly that, and true to form, it was like watching a slow-motion car crash.
First, there was the leak that head coach Travis Green was fired. We all knew this would happen first, as it made sense that Benning would throw Green under the bus in a last ditch attempt to save his own job. But almost immediately, there were reports that the Canucks would be bringing in Bruce Boudreau to replace Green.
Nolan Baumgartner would also get the boot, not at all surprising, as the assistant coach in charge of trying to make the disaster that is their defence pairings try to play at an NHL level. The news was mostly welcomed by Canucks fans. After all, change was needed, this was something we’d all agreed on. But for the majority of Canucks fans, the reports that followed minutes later of the termination of Jim Benning and John Weisbrod were the words we’d all needed to hear.
Francesco Aquilini, Chairman and Governor NHL, Vancouver Canucks, announced today significant changes to the team’s front office and coaching staff, and confirmed a search for new Hockey Operations leadership is underway.— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 6, 2021
DETAILS | https://t.co/J3rbN9Rmp3 pic.twitter.com/AGCKoS58wO
So what happens now? So far, the only coaching casualties are Green and Baumgartner. As far as any further changes, I don’t think we should be surprised at all to see further purging, as Boudreau brings in guys he is more familiar with, who will join former Canuck Scott Walker behind the bench.
Assistant General Manager Stan Smyl will be assuming the role of interim GM while the Canucks look for someone to head up the Hockey Operations Department, and there will be a definite role for Daniel and Henrik Sedin in that mix as well. Our hope is that there is a President of Hockey Operations who is not also the General Manager, and that they’re given the power to make the decisions that Francesco Aquilini had been doing through Benning.
There’s a sense of hope this morning settling in over Canucks Nation, though the anger and frustration will take a while to subside. So many wasted years, from the final years of the Sedins, to some of the prime of the new core this team is supposed to be building around, and all of that falls at the feet of Benning, Weisbrod, and Aquilini.
In true Canucks fashion, the whole thing played out in a style befitting this garbage fire of a franchise. News of the firing leaked before it appears Green even knew is not a surprise to anyone who follows this team.
I think, more than anything, Jim Benning’s ultimate downfall as #Canucks GM was his inability to assess and acquire legitimate #NHL defensemen through draft, trades & free agency. There were other issues, sure, but none more so than building a defence corps — over 8 years— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) December 6, 2021
It’s still so maddening that Benning’s failures were rewarded with more than one contract extension, and that there was such a large chunk of the hockey media that continuously carried water for this team’s brain trust, insulting the intelligence of this fan base by not challenging Benning’s assessments that this team wasn’t exactly as it appeared.
Also maddening is that in order to fix this wretched mess will require tough decisions, and trading away pieces that will hurt to part ways with. It will not be a quick turnaround, but we’ll finally get the rebuild that this team needs.
And while time will tell us whether Travis Green truly got a fair shake at his first NHL coaching job, never forget that so much of this could have been avoided if Aquilini had listened to Trevor Linden, and gone all in on a rebuild. Trev knew, and yet he was ex-communicated in a manner that made his removal from Vancouver by the dastardly duo of Mike Keenan and Mark Messier seem kind by comparison.
We also have to wonder what becomes of the scouting department. This was supposedly Jim Benning’s strong suit, but Jimbo proved to be no better than his predecessor Mike Gillis when it came to drafting. Yes, they got some hits in Boeser, Pettersson, Hughes, Hoglander and Podkolzin, but the back end of this team is nowhere near good enough, and saddled with painful contracts that used to be the sole domain of the bottom six forwards that will make it difficult to move guys like Jack Rathbone into the lineup anytime soon.
And so we prepare for the Bruce Boudreau era by jumping right into the fire tonight, as the Canucks host a Los Angeles Kings team fresh off a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers last night. Boudreau is a very different coach than Green the way he approaches the game, and while it may take a bit of time to get systems worked out, I think in the long run, the way the forward lines of this team are designed, they will thrive under a guy like Boudreau.
It’s exciting to have a coach that has been such a consistent winner. Check out his career coaching stats, the man has had one season under .500, and that was his first year in the AHL.
Note that his team made it to the second round of the playoffs that season. He’s won two Calder Cups, and only missed the NHL playoffs twice in thirteen years.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting this season can be salvaged. The St Louis Blues ‘worst to first’ run was done with a far better roster than the one the Canucks are sporting. But there’s going to be hope for the future, and that’s something we’d lied to ourselves about for the past 4 or 5 seasons now under Jim Benning. Bringing in someone who just has a plan would be a major step forward, after almost eight years of Benning and Weisbrod frantically putting out the fires they’d lit.
It’s been increasingly difficult to cover this team over the past few years. The constant losing, the moves that knee-capped this team over and over, all of it was just so mentally exhausting. And it was difficult for you as fans to have to read the negativity surrounding this circus, and while some of you felt we were being too negative, I’m proud we never tried to bullshit you into thinking this smoldering pile of rubbish was anything more than that.
These changes don’t mean we’ll be looking through Bruce-coloured glasses, though. He’ll get some leeway that a new coach should, but if this team doesn’t start making the steps to rebuilding and becoming a competitive team again, we’ll call them out as we always have.