3 critical decisions facing new Canucks GM Jim Benning

Thomas Drance
May 23 2014 10:23AM

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If you've watched a television report on the Jim Benning hire over the past week, be it TSN or CTV or Sportsnet, you've probably noticed that there isn't much in the way of quality stock footage featuring the low-profile Boston Bruins assistant general manager. "I guess he's kind of beside Neely here, and he fist pumps, so... yeah." 

For those of us, like myself, who produce reams of digital copy daily - the challenge is similar: if you squint or treat the image like a magic eye, you can maybe make Benning out on the far rightHere's the image we're using over at theScore for the Benning hire, and here's the original photo by Charles LeClaire courtesy of the US Presswire. When I searched Getty's embed-able images of Benning for this post, I found better quality photos of his wife Rhonda than I did of the incoming Canucks general manager...

It's telling that Benning has been such an anonymous figure during his long career as a scout and front office executive, and on Friday that will change. When Benning is introduced in Vancouver he'll be thrust into the harsh glow and officially complete the transition from a no-profile front office functionary in Boston, to the general manager of one of the most heavily followed and scrutinized hockey clubs in the world in Vancouver. Linden's presence and customer service focus may insulate Benning from the burden of media responsibilities in a once-ravenous hockey market somewhat, but he couldn't go Greg Sherman in Vancouver even if he tried. (Who is Greg Sherman? Exactly).

Anyway, let's look at three major decisions facing Vancouver's formerly anonymous general manager right off the bat, and evaluate if he'll even be the guy making them.

Read on past the jump.

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The President's Man: On Benning, cautionary tales, and the Boston model

Thomas Drance
May 22 2014 07:55PM

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When he was hired as the president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks in early April, Trevor Linden was viewed in some circles with trepidation, particularly because he lacked any type of executive experience in hockey. Linden had business experience, but being the top hockey executive of a team like the Vancouver Canucks is an intense, demanding position unsuited to the inexperienced or the faint of heart. If it's not your life, if you're not going to get in early and obsess over every facet of the organization, if you can't sacrifice month-long biking excursions (or commute in from Point Roberts) - you're unlikely to have success.

In his first month on the job, Linden has already put most of these concerns to rest. He passed his first wisdom test, which admittedly was a tap-in (albeit a tap-in shanked by another inexperienced president of hockey operations in a major Canadian market), by firing John Tortorella. He's been extraordinarily available, amiable and frank in conversations with the media and in conversation with fans directly. Most importantly: he indirectly pitched his man to the Vancouver market and then went out and got him. On Wednesday, Linden hobnobbed with paying customers for half an hour before officially announcing the hire of new Canucks general manager Jim Benning at a season ticket holder event at the River Rock Casino.

Read on past the jump.

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Prehistoric Hockey is an affront to the sport and paleontology

Thomas Drance
May 07 2014 07:16AM

dinohockey-small
Wait a minute, Tyler Myers doesn't play for the Habs...
Image via Barry's Sketchblog

(Editor's note: this is a guest post by Ryan Lambert, and was commissioned by us in exchange for a $50 donation to 826 Boston - an organization that supports the development and teaching of cretaceous creative writing skills to students aged 6-18 in Boston. If you've read much in the way of Boston Bruins blog content in the recent past, you likely understand why this is a worthy cause that could use your support. Donate here if you're so inclined.

If, by now, you have not seen the Prehistoric Hockey video which began making the rounds earlier this week, well, lucky you. Here it is anyway, in case you feel like wanting die: 


I am obviously a professional observer of the sport of hockey, the NHL in particular, and the things that happen in this video with respect to the game are, in two words, achingly inaccurate. However, what is less known about me is that I am something of a dinosaur enthusiast (some would say nerd), and thus the problems with this video make Jurassic Park look like a paleontology textbook.

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Daniel Sedin injured in Canucks season ending romp over Flames

Thomas Drance
April 13 2014 11:30PM


Mercifully the 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks season, which even at the best of times was difficult to watch, came to an end on Sunday night with a lopsided Canucks beat-down of the Calgary Flames. Its been a long time since the Canucks had a season end in the first half of April, without so much as a home playoff date, but that's where we're at. At least the overall dissatisfaction in this market, combined with the team's lack of success, should usher in an interesting offseason (draft lottery Tuesday!).

For the first 38 minutes, or thereabouts, this was a vintage Northwest Division style smack down; the Flames completely outmatched by a Canucks team that was actually generating offense and goals (for once). Then Daniel Sedin took a nasty hit in the numbers from Paul Byron, and appeared to be severely injured as he lay motionless on the ice for several minutes before leaving the game on a stretcher. The reports are that Daniel is in stable condition, was in a good mood, and was able to move his extremities; so that's excellent news (Update: Daniel has been released from hospital).

We'll recap the game at length after the jump.

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How will the Mike Gillis era be remembered?

Thomas Drance
April 08 2014 05:52PM


I come to bury Mike Gillis; not to mourn him.

On Tuesday afternoon, after a day of dizzying rumors - a management shake-up, Trevor Linden in as President? - the Vancouver Canucks pulled the plug on the "Mike Gillis era". Gillis had become a controversial figure in Vancouver, as underscored by Monday night's "Fire Gillis!" chant at Rogers arena, owing almost entirely to his mixed managerial record. While there are the obvious successes to point to: six seasons, five playoff appearances, the NHL's fifth best record during that span, two President's Trophies, and one Stanley Cup Finals appearance; there are also the obvious blemishes. 

The sordid way the goaltending situation played out was an unmitigated mess, a fireable offense all on its own. It should be noted that Gillis' bets on the trade market were also generally poor (Christian Ehrhoff the major exception), and Gillis drafted players combined to appear in a paltry 54 NHL games this season for the Canucks. Even worse, you couldn't reasonably describe any of those Gillis draftees (Yann Sauve, Nicklas Jensen, Jordan Schroeder, Frank Corrado) as obvious core pieces.

Firing Gillis is a rupture for this organization, an epochal termination. Though the age was tinged with a perma-film of sweaty arrogance and will always be associated with the 2010-11 team blowing a flat in game seven and the riot that followed, the age of Gillis as Canucks general manager was generally a very successful one for the organization.

Read on past the jump.

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