Ryannuendo: The Kesler Saga has already told us a lot about Vancouver's new hockey ops. team

Thomas Drance
June 16 2014 03:00PM

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It's tough to preview an offseason, or gauge the likelihood of certain moves, when the new faces of Vancouver Canucks hockey operations - particularly new general manager Jim Benning and new president Trevor Linden - have shallow track records as top NHL decision makers. Linden has already proven himself an effective salesman and alliance builder in his new job, but he's never worked in an NHL front office (or any hockey front office for that matter). We've seen Benning give advice in documentary snippets from hockey operations meetings, but this is his first go as an NHL general manager.

Though Linden and Benning have given a myriad of interviews since taking over, we know little about their plans or preferences. Come to think of it, I don't think anyone even has a good sense even of how the dynamic duo's internal decision making process is going to work. 

There's one major data point available to us, however, and it speaks volumes. It's the way that Ryan Kesler saga has, to this point, unfolded.

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The Odd Couple: Benning and Linden seem like they'll need each other

Thomas Drance
May 23 2014 04:59PM


New Canucks general manager Jim Benning faced the fans and media for the first time on Friday, and it was quickly apparent that his commendable accomplishments over a long career in hockey stand out far more than his public speaking skills. Though he was forthright and balanced, Benning doesn't seem to have the sharpest tongue. He ducked multiple questions on Friday with the old "it's my first day on the job!" dodge, he started a large number of sentences with a distracting, drawn out "well," and his syntax is littered with "like" and "y'know." 

In a telling moment towards the end of the Q&A with season ticket holders that preceded Benning's formal introduction on Friday, the modest lifelong scout was asked about his immediate plans for the near future and he listed an itinerary. No seriously.

"From here I'm going to the announcement," Benning joked, "then on Sunday we're flying to Toronto, and we start the scouting combine on Monday, so we're going to be there through the following week interviewing the players for this years draft, after that we'll start in on interviewing for the head coaching position and from there we'll head right up to our meetings in Whistler, and that's about where it ends for me right now..." at which point Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden jumped in, put a halt to the rambling, and talked about "definitely hitting the ground running" and interviewing "the next crop of Vancouver Canucks, which is really exciting." Essentially, or at least as it seemed to me, Linden threw his new general manager a lifeline in that moment.

Read on past the jump.

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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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