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Confidence in Aquilini-run Canucks reaching an all-time low

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Never in 15 years of Aquilini ownership have the Canucks endured a season as bad as this.

2019 NHL Draft - Round One
Head coach Travis Green (R) and owner Francesco Aquilini of the Vancouver Canucks talk at the draft table during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

$3 billion dollars of family net worth apparently isn’t enough to buy common sense.

The utter mismanagement of the Vancouver Canucks is putting the Aquilini family in one of their worst public relations crises to date. That’s saying something for an Investment Group that was fined $133,632 for underpaying blueberry workers, $53,690 having them operate dangerous machinery and one that was sued for negligence over the death of two children in one of their vineyards in Washington State.

This family is no stranger to public relations battles, and their mismanagement of this hockey team certainly isn’t the worst thing they’ve done.

However, 15 years after purchasing the Vancouver Canucks, confidence in Francesco Aquilini and his ability to successfully run a hockey team has to be at an all-time low. That shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that this has been the most disappointing Canucks season since the Aquilini Family took ownership of this team.

It’s been a precipitous downfall for the family, who came within one game of the Stanley Cup Final back in 2011.

Back when they hired general manager Mike Gillis back in 2008, the Canucks were considered one of the most well-run organizations in the NHL. Gillis and his staff were able to perform tough cap gymnastics to create one of the most successful NHL franchises of the salary cap era. The management group was also considered ahead of their by implementing a “human performance plan,” which included a newly designed dressing room and sleep research.

It’s easy to forget that the Aquilinis oversaw the highly successful Gillis regime. However, the best core in franchise history started to tumble downhill after the firing of Alain Vigneault and the hiring of John Tortorella. Media reports suggested that Aquilini was behind the Tortorella hire, although I shouldn’t even write about that in fear of being called a prick by the billionaire mogul.

Tortorella was fired one year after signing a five-year contract. You have to wonder, is that disaster part of the reason why Aquilini is loath to fire someone like Jim Benning, who’s under contract until 2022-23?

Here’s the thing about the Benning situation though. Aquilini’s undying loyalty towards Benning is one of the main reasons why consumer confidence has eroded to such an alarming degree in this market.

It was reported earlier this week that Benning will return for an 8th season as general manager of the Canucks. It was a strange announcement considering that for the last seven years, Benning has spent Aquilini’s money carelessly on a number of free agents who could be considered overpaid at best, and replacement level at worst.

Seriously, look at the $226 million spent here and tell me that most of this wasn’t money wasted.

Agents likely lick their chops every time their player enters a contract negotiation and yet, Benning has managed to be the 11th longest-tenured general manager in the NHL.

Unfortunately, Aquilini fails to see what is painstakingly obvious in the eyes of so many Canucks fans. Yes, Benning has been at the helm for drafting one of the best cores of young talent that this city has ever seen. He’s also hamstrung this team’s ability to escape mediocrity by signing role players to overly expensive contracts.

This team already has a solid core. What they need is someone who can expertly navigate the salary cap to help build a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Benning has done nothing in seven years to prove that he’s the guy for that job.

Does the Aquilini family want more of a say in the way this team is run on a day-to-day basis? Is that why Benning still has his job? We’re left to wonder thanks to an owner who stays silent aside from Twitter rants about injuries(!), ride-sharing, and other remedial topics.

We’ll never know the real truth, although more meddling from ownership does go hand-in-hand with what Aquilni reportedly told a fan back in 2018.

In any business, it’s one of the cardinal sins to run your operation with emotions. If that above nugget from Aquilini is the truth, and he is meddling on a more regular basis in day-to-day operations, then the chances of the Canucks ever becoming a Stanley Cup contender under his watch have taken a serious nosedive.

Truth be told, Aquilini’s antics are growing old. His silence on vital issues such as the largest COVID-19 outbreak in sports is embarrassing. Making your player speak up on behalf of the team’s atrocious post-COVID schedule is despicable. To boot, making your coach comment on a player’s sexual misconduct allegations while ownership and management remained silent is disgusting.

Now, with the Sedins reportedly in line for roles with the team, it feels like another move by the Aquilini’s to cover up some of the egg that they have splattered across their faces.

They already ran Trevor Linden out of this organization, what will they do with two of the franchises two other icons?

As fans, all you want is your team to have success. Aquilini shouldn’t be any different. However, with one of the most important offseasons in franchise history now beginning, it seems like this ownership group is setting this team up for failure and mediocrity instead of success.