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Canucks management has utterly failed to protect their players

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The buck stops with Francesco Aquilini and Jim Benning.

2017 NHL Draft - Round One
When it pertains to the Canucks COVID-19 outbreak, the silence from Francesco Aquilini and Jim Benning is deafening.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Harry S. Truman famously coined the phrase “the buck stops here.”

The phrase rightfully demands personal accountability from individuals that are in positions of leadership. When your job is to oversee and control a large-scale enterprise, you are inherently responsible for everything that happens under your watch.

The Canucks had one of the worst COVID outbreaks in pro sports and now have to end their season with a grueling 19 games in 32 days.

In the aftermath of this nightmare ordeal, the silence from Canucks’ management has been deafening.

This COVID outbreak unfolded under the watch of owner Francesco Aquilini and (more importantly) general manager Jim Benning. Neither ownership nor management have taken accountability for what happened, and neither have done enough in the aftermath to make the situation better for the players.

This is evident in several ways. Firstly, the fact that the Canucks are playing an unfairly compressed schedule means any “efforts” that management made to protect the players failed.

Also, when asked about the support players received from ownership, captain Bo Horvat decided to ignore that and speak about the support they received from the fans.

Matt Sekeres has also reported that some players are unhappy with how management and ownership handled the COVID-19 situation, a report that was backed up by Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada. There is also the following fascinating passage from an Ian MacIntyre article that indicates the league isn’t happy with management and their lack of accountability.

Instead of taking responsibility for everything that happened and making sure the “buck” stops with them, Canucks’ ownership and management have resorted to a game of hide-and-seek.

While Francesco Aquilini has tweeted about wins and schedule changes, he’s yet to make a concrete statement the Canucks’ COVID outbreak. Although I have much less of an issue with ownership for the entire situation than others, I do think it is a bit disappointing that Francesco tweets a lot about wins for the team. However, when explanations are required for something negative, there are crickets. The magnitude of the situation requires introspection and an acknowledgment of what happened, and what’s being done to protect players moving forward. General Manager Jim Benning also took zero ownership for the COVID outbreak during his press conference.

Aside from the deafening silence, the fact that the Canucks are not allowing media to attend practices reeks of damage control in the sense they don’t want media to see how bad things truly are.

The problem with the hide-and-seek strategy is that there are going to be long-term effects from this situation. For instance, players might not feel as safe, or as protected, as a member the Canucks organization (provided they aren’t annoyed enough to demand a trade). Additionally, playing a sport that requires superb lung capacity just days after contracting a disease that attacks the lungs seems risky at best and at worst, grossly negligent. Add the fact that players passed this virus onto their family members, and it becomes even more absurd that management has remained silent throughout this nightmare ordeal.

The lack of accountability from Benning and Aquilini could have NHL players outside of Vancouver viewing this organization in a negative light. Could that make other players more reluctant to sign here in the long term?

If everything reported on the severity of this situation is true, then it’s fair to question how management ensures safe practices. Also, if the Canucks did not do enough to vouch for a less compressed schedule, then it is also fair to question management’s loyalty to players. If you are a player putting your body on the line every night in a physically excruciating sport, you need to believe that your management group is working for your best interests.

There needs to be significant introspection from Canucks’ management on what occurred, and how they could have done a better job of protecting their players. The most important thing is the health and safety of the players, but you wouldn’t know it from the actions of Canucks management.