Jim Benning on the team’s style under Willie Desjardins, giving the Sedins support

This past weekend Jim Benning sat down with Bob McKenzie to discuss a whole gamut of topics pertaining to the team he inherited back in May, and has wasted no time putting his imprint on. 

It runs nearly 15 minutes and you can listen to it for yourself here, but I’ve gone ahead and taken the liberty of transcribing the main talking points stemming from the interview, as well. As unenthused as Benning may appear above the discussion itself is actually rather worthwhile, especially given the sentiments he echoes on the plan heading into the coming season, particularly as it relates to providing the Sedins with support.

On people saying the team’s ‘window’ has closed:

“I understand what people are saying, but when I went in there and took the job — I talked to Kevin Bieksa, I talked to the Sedins, I talked to Dan Hamhoos, I talked to Alex Burrows — those guys are competitive guys. They still want to win. They’re still at the age where they can contribute and be a part of a winning team. We sat down with our scouts, and discussed the direction we want to go.. we decided ‘let’s give these guys some support. Let’s sign some guys to help these guys out along the way and let’s see where it goes.’

So signing Vrbata to play with the Sedins and help them out, signing Ryan Miller to give us depth in goal and stability in goal, and some of the trades we made were to give these guys a chance to 1) make the playoffs, and 2) see where we can go once we’re in the playoffs.”

On if he views the job as a “reload, retool, or refresh”:

“I don’t really like using any of those terms. We’ll have 6 new players – that’s a 1/3 of our team. I think when you bring young players in to your organization they add enthusiasm and energy. What we tried to do is, with the support of our core players, we tried to add depth and be a 4 line team. You look at LA, Anaheim, San Jose; they’re 4 line teams, they can wear you down and they can play a physical game. 

In adding some younger players, we added some energy to our lineup. I think that’ll be good for our group.”

On what he sees from a 34-year old Ryan Miller who was just ‘so-so’ during his most recent stretch in St.Louis:

“I have a long history with Ryan Miller. When I was in Buffalo we drafted him there, so I know the type of personality he is. He’s an intense guy, he’s a focused guy, he wants to win. This year we have a lot of guys on our team that have something to prove whether it’s to themselves or to each other. They want to prove that they’re still a playoff team.”

“Ryan, I’ve seen him lots being in Boston through the years. And before he got traded to St.Louis, he was excellent in Buffalo. Some games he’d get 45, 50 shots and keep his team in the game. I think it’s hard to pin it all on Ryan Miller. At the end there St.Louis ran into a lot of injuries, those last couple of weeks a lot of their core guys got hurt and they might’ve had a different fate had they gone into the playoffs healthy.”

On Eddie Lack v. Jacob Markstrom for the backup gig:

“We’ll see where it goes. Eddie Lack played well in the games he played the last half of the year. In our market in Vancouver we have a tough travel schedule, so on back to back nights we now have two good goalies that can come in and help our team win.”

On the Sedins:

“First of all, I’ve always from the outside looking in always been impressed with the Sedins. But when you get in, when you get close to them they’re amazing athletes. They work hard. When I took the job on May 20th and I was going in for the announcement they were in the gym, working out for 2 hours. They worked hard for the whole summer. They want to prove to people that they’re still elite players in this league, and they still are.

They had a lot of chances to score last year, and their numbers didn’t reflect it. But I expect them to come back and be real good players.”

On Radim Vrbata potentially filling the role of 3rd wheel to the Sedins:

“When we talked about how we could support them, Radim is like a give-and-go player. He jumps into the holes, he’s a finisher, he has a good shot. We think that’ll be a good fit him with the Sedins. So Willie is going to try it out.”

On a ‘less is more attitude’ with the Sedins:

“That’s how we talked about having more depth. Our 3rd and 4th lines are going to be important pieces to the team because we’re going to have penalty killers in that group. I think Willie has talked about getting them back to where they’re at their best. Whether it’s cutting down on their minutes, maybe it’s not killing penalties, letting them have more offensive zone starts, letting them thrive at what they’re good at.”

On the #2 centre vacancy left by Ryan Kesler’s departure:

“Training camp will bear that out. Nick Bonino had a very good year last year in Anaheim, he’s a solid 200-foot player. He has good hands around the net, he sets his teammates up for scoring chances. Over the course of training camp and their exhibition games that’ll sort itself out.”

On Bo Horvat potentially making the team out of camp:

“He’s going to have to come in and prove to us that we have to move one of those guys out to mark room for him. Bo Horvat is a very good young player, he has proved a lot at the Junior level already. It’ll start this weekend, it’ll give him a jump start on training camp. Some of those guys you mentioned [Bonino, Vey, Matthias, Richardson] can play at the wing too, so if he deserves to be on the team we can shift things up to make room for him.

I think we’ll look at him as a centerman. I don’t know how much he has played on the wing at Junior, we want to keep him where he’s comfortable — and that’s playing at center ice.”

On what they saw in Linden Vey:

“Linden Vey is a guy that we feel is ready to make the jump. He has played in the American league for 3 years and that’s one of those deals where we identified that LA may have the best center ice in the league with Kopitar, Carter, Richards, and Stoll. There might not have been room for him to crack that lineup there in LA, but he’s going to come to us after having played well down in the minors there. I think he’s a guy that has needed a chance and a shot to earn his keep and he’s going to come to our organization and get that opportunity.”

On Willie Desjardins, and the style they expect him to implement:

“Trevor and I talked about the things that we wanted when we hired our next coach. Willie is a tireless worker, first of all. His teams have always bought in and worked hard for him, whether it be at the Junior level or the American Hockey League level. He has a way with his players where they give him everything they’ve got. 

I expect us to be a team that uses our skill, instead of playing a dump and chase game we’re going to come across the blueline with the puck and we’re going to use our speed and skill to create scoring chances. Get back to the type of style of game that they played previously.”

On the dynamic of working with Trevor Linden:

“He’s involved. I came from Boston where we had Cam Neely and Peter, and that’s a dynamic that you see through the league. Trevor is involved in all of the decisions that we make. When we’re going to do something we sit down, we talk about it, we hash it out, and we come to a conclusion on what we’ll try to do.”

On his background in scouting:

“That’s my passion. My passion is in the scouting and player personnel side. In a Canadian market, I’ll be with the team quite a bit. But when I get a chance to get out I’ll get out and see the top players in the draft.

It’s a good draft, but our goal is to make the playoffs. If we make the playoffs, I’m happy picking 15th to 22nd.”

  • andyg

    That last quote is puzzling. He wants to make the playoffs, but will be happy picking in the 15-22 range? So, make the playoffs, but lose in the first round? That’s the target here? Inspiring stuff.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      I wouldn’t dwell too much on those particulars, honestly. Reading between the lines what he was getting at was that the hope is to make the playoffs and give themselves a chance to make some noise beyond that. Being realistic and tempered more than anything else, I’d say.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      If I remember the interview correctly, he gave that answer in the context of being asked if he was excited about some of the amazing talent speculated to go high in next years draft.

      Perhaps I’m reading into it as much as you (albeit in the other direction), but when I watched the interview the impression I got from his answer was more like “Winning as many games as possible is more important to us than ending up with a top pick. We’re confident we can select a good player regardless of what slot we’re picking in”

    • pheenster

      Only the top 4 teams (conference finals) pick from 27-30 and the rest go from 15-26 by regular season rankings so he means we’d be out in the 1st or 2nd round and that we probably won’t be a high ranked team going into the playoffs.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    @JDM…. Finding an innocent quote troubling is really reaching for something negative. He said earlier in the article that his goal is to make the playoffs then see where they go once they are in. Benning isn’t going to be the type of guy that comes out and says he will win a cup, he takes each step at a time.
    Opk at both he and Coach Willies careers. Unlike Gillis, neither of them skipped a rung on the ladder of success. They won’t let their team think farther ahead than the next game.

    What should be taken away is his work ethic and commitment to putting the right type of team on the ice. With Bennings back ground in scouting, I’m sure if we do pick in the 20s next year a very good player will be drafted.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    I seem to remember the Flames trying to “make the playoffs and give themselves a chance to make some noise beyond that” several times recently. How did that work out for them?

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      Apples and Organes. The Flames kept adding older expensive vets to their already older team. As Benning said they are adding depth and younger players to take the pressure off the vets.

      Torts ran this team into the ground. Running 4 lines and putting players into positions in which they will succeed is the answer. Torts tried to fit round pieces in square holes and the team paid for it.

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        The Flames spent several years sacrificing lottery picks to sneak into the 7th or 8th playoff spot with no real chance to contend for the cup. So … Organes to Organes, potentially.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Buffalo is going to be a much better team than the Canucks in about two-three years. Sad but true. And we all know it. But hey, Bo Horvat is a reliable shutdown centreman!

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      Where did the Buffalo comparison come in. The Sabers have been bad and will continue to be bad, so they will get high picks?!

      Chicago was terrible for years and got Towes and Kane, for their performance. How many more years will the Oilers draft top 5 or top ten and still miss the playoffs. Like a Jets coach once said, “you play to win the game”! Unless you are this guy.
      With Vey, Sibisa, Bonino, Jensen this team has a new vibe. I hope Horvat makes the Canucks keep him, because another year in London won’t do him much good. If he doesn’t score 50 goals guys like this will call him a failure.

      Hockey is a 200 foot game. Young players playing responsible defense is a plus in development.

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        Huh? That was a loaded response, almost all of which was misdirected.

        I think you’re underestimating a team with a good sense of direction of where it’s going. I just brought up Buffalo because it was the worst team in the NHL last season, and is stockpiling talent with a clear plan of rebuild.

        You cite Oilers. Not a team you’d look at for guidance on how to rebuild.

        You cite Jets coach to remind me that you play to win. Hope you noticed the irony.

        I was half-joking when I brought up Buffalo, but if they land McDavid next year, man imagine their centre depth of McDavid, Reinhart, Grigorenko, oh and our boy Hodgson ha! That’d be a fun team to watch.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Well this isn’t a Cup contender, certainly not in this conference. But mature fans will see this all as a process: Benning is focused on acquiring skilled players that are young and controllable. Bonino and Vey have upside. We know Kesler only has downside now.

  • pheenster

    Thanks for breaking it down guys!

    There is nothing inspiring about any interview Benning has ever given. In fact, every interview I’ve ever read/seen – makes me more nervous about the direction this team is going under his helm.

    He strikes me as an old school, no b.s., impatient type person. None of those translate well in the new NHL. I remember an interview after the Kesler trade where Benning was saying “well if we can get 20 goals from Bonino” and he goes on to say they’ll be getting 20 goals from hiim next yr. UM, did I miss something. The guy scores more than 10 goals for the 1st time in his NHL career, he’s almost 27 yrs old (peak age for forwards), has a career high sh% etc etc and they’re penning him in for 20 goals?

    My concerns about Benning are showing fruition. First with the Kesler trade (total bust), then with Garrison trade (total bust), then he signs a declining goalie to a massive contract when they just traded one cause he has a history with him.

    My biggest concern is that the Canucks are headed down the old road that used to be occupied by the Cgy Flames and Maple Leafs. No advanced stats, poor trades and no direction for the team.

    “our goal is to see if we can get to the playoffs, and then see where that goes”. Say wha? Does he know this fan base…… at all? Nobody wants to pay big $$ in season tickets to see if this team can make the playoffs. They want a bloody Stanely Cup or bust. It’s been that way for years. His ambiguity about this teams direction has directly correlated in their inability to sell seasons tickets. Nobody has faith in their direction. And from my standpoint, I have no faith in him.

    The only decision I’ve seen logic in has been the Vey trade. That’s it. After all he’s done. He seems incredibly old school and incompetent to me.

    • pheenster

      Yeah…I think you’re a bit off.

      Trader Jim had no options in the Kes deal. Did we get fair value in return? Nope. No chance. McCann may become Kes but you never know. The Ducks had Jimmy B dead to rights.

      Garrison was overpaid by an idiot GM who also gave him an ugly NTC. I was happy just to see him leave (as well as another NTC). Vey should be an interesting prospect too who should be ready for the NHL.

      I think Benning has been fine. He’s better at talent evaluation and knows how to build a team. Michael D was given a young, talented roster and did nothing to maintain the youth by making shrewd moves. No sir! Michael D thought he found the fountain of youth and could keep the same core for 7 + years without adding any significant pieces.

      Oh, and here’s something you may want to look up. How many forwards did Michael D draft, AFTER the first round, that’re playing in the NHL or played in the NHL for a reasonable length of time? Hmmmmmmm?

      Yes, that’s right, ZERO! I’m not suggesting you think Michael D is better but it’s there to support my point: Benning is an upgrade; there is nothing to complain about yet.

      I like what he’s done so far and would to see him deal for a future #1 centre. We have some vets and players with potential that could entice a deal (along with picks and so on). I wish Michael D had the brains to deal for Seguin but he probably wasn’t interested because he was spiking the team water bottles with H2O directly from that fountain!

    • andyg

      So how would you have solved the Kesler situation ?

      What kind of a return did you expect.

      What kind of return could we have gotten out of the twins if they except a trade after last year?

    • andyg

      So how would you have solved the Kesler situation ?

      What kind of a return did you expect.

      What kind of return could we have gotten out of the twins if they except a trade after last year?

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Yeah thanks for transcribing this, that must have been a brutal task. How exactly does a guy like Benning play and then work in the NHL for decades without being able to form a single sentence about the sport of hockey that isn’t riddled with mind-numbing cliches and non-statements?

    I hope he’s some sort of idiot-savant, because every time I hear him speak he sounds like a dumbass. Quite frankly.

    okay just to be fair, I see one quote in there that I like:

    “instead of playing a dump and chase game we’re going to come across the blueline with the puck”

    that’s a bit better. Please more like that.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      I’ll just phone Benning and let him know that sexblazer420 doesn’t approve of his conduct. Though I’d imagine being an idiot dumbass as he is, and also the first GM in the history of sports to resort to cliche’s, he won’t measure up any time soon.

  • pheenster

    Not making a comparison to Buffalo per se, but comparing it to a team that recognized it was a time for a rebuild instead of being delusioned that you can build a contender just by “adding youth”. Seriously, which team in the NHL wouldn’t want to add youth to their lineup if they could.

    If you haven’t heard by now, the message of this team is now “let’s make the playoffs and see what happens. hey remember how kings snuck in to the playoffs and won the cup?”

    If you buy into that message, great, go buy a ticket because that’s what they really want. And good luck trying to be a competitive team in the west with Bonino and Vey down the middle. I guess you could hope that Bonino makes a giant leap and has another career year against much more difficult opposition. And I guess you could hope that Vey comes in and has an awesome year in a checking role against the Kopitars, the Thortons and the Getzlafs this year.

    Or you could start being reasonable and make an objective observation with numbers rather than being spoonfed how to think by a professional team of ticket sellers.

    just sayin

  • andyg

    You can really tell that hockey’s around the corner with the reappearance of the comment section trolls. They don’t have their a-games with them yet, but hey it’s just the pre-season.

    Fire Benning! Can Desjardins! Trade all the players! Move the team to Las Vegas! The sky is falling!

  • andyg

    I’d like to look back on this comments section and see ow everyone feels if the Canucks fandom really hates that their team is playing in late April. I thinks not.

    Bottomline is its September and everyone is dreaming of Connor McDavid, who is a generational talent. Here is the problem with that: I can name you two generational talents that have won a total of ONE Stanley Cup — Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. Great talents. But they can’t do it alone.

    No one can. The direction of this team is to win every year. That’s why Gillishad to go. In no way was he ever going to bring a winner here. GMMG had drafted poorly and miscalculated the talent he brought in. For a GM, that’s what gets you fired.

    This is JB’s first off season. He was handed suspect goaltending, a second line centre who desperately wanted out and an aging ineffective core. I stead of standing par, he added a goalie whose numbers were better on a bad team than a goodone, traded for roster depth in exchange for a declining centre who wanted out and a minor leagie centre who a lot of people seem to like.

    I get that these moves don’t make a champion. But they do give this team a direction as a team with some upside. If they fail to make the playoffs, it’s a chance ro continue adding to the prospect cupboard.

    If they do make the playoffs, then the entire province will be excited and optomistic.

    I’m a fan, not some fantasy GM. I can’t help this team get better with my comments. But you’d have to be cynical jerk to believe this team isn’t in a better situation this September than they were last September.

    • andyg

      Haha delusional Canucks fan.

      Crosby and Stamkos still have more Stanley Cups than the entire sorry history of the pathetic Canucks franchise.

      Typical Canucks fan … beating the drum of mediocrity.

    • andyg

      Well said. You’ll get flamed by the idiot trolls for it but who cares.

      The team will be hard pressed to make the playoffs this year I’d think but at least we’re moving in a more positive direction than last year’s plan — BLOCK SHOTS! TRY HARDER! BE TOUGHER! PRACTICING IS FOR LOSERS! THE POWERPLAY NEEDS NO WORK! PLAY 2 LINES EVERY GAME! And other wonderful strategies.

      • andyg

        Yes, well said. Particularly this part “I stead of standing par, he added …”

        But the “trolls” are the idiots … lol.

        And the part where giving away a top 6 center and replacing their top scoring defenseman with Sbisa puts them in a better situation than last season. Lol.

        Bright future indeed… Enjoy the long painful delayed rebuild…

      • andyg

        “The team will be hard pressed to make the playoffs this year I’d think but at least we’re moving in a more positive direction than last year’s plan”

        Based on what exactly?

        The core is one year older (which is not a good thing for this core) and Luongo, Kesler, Booth & Santorelli have been replaced by Miller, Bonino, Vrbata & Vey (not exactly an upgrade).

        And it’s entirely possible (maybe even probable) that there isn’t a single ELC on the roster this season aside from replacement players.

        For all the criticisms of last year’s “plan”, the Canucks were a decent possession team…

        Realistic optimism is harder to find this year than last when the Canucks were arguably the 5th best team in the West (behind LA, CHI, STL & SJ) and top 7 team in the NHL.

        Though I’m open to suggestions Pollyanna…

        • andyg

          You seem to have the same grasp of the name Pollyana as you do of the terms realistic and negative. I never said the Canucks were going to be great – in fact I said they’d be hard pressed to make the playoffs. They might well be a worse team than last year though not having an absolute lunatic for a coach may help in that regard. You’re so find of dismissing the impact of coaches in calling them middle managers and to some degree I’d say that’s true – except when it comes to a coach who refuses to practice or improve the power play or play to the strengths of his roster.

          What’s different between this year and last? Not having Tortorella. Having some better prospects in the system. Getting SOME value from a fragile malcontent who didn’t want to be here.

          Will this mean we are better? I doubt it. But a year ago all those things were true even if the core was younger. Would you have preferred we stay with Tortorella, Kesler and Yann Sauve, Captain Negatismo?

          • pheenster

            “at least we’re moving in a more positive direction than last year’s plan”

            Shockingly, you base this on the same nonsense that kept you delusional and “optimistic” until last January when, like many others on here, you were starting to accept reality in unsurprisingly reactionary ways akin to a TEAM 1040 caller…

            The Canucks 5v4 possession numbers were fine last year irrespective of the Canucks’ practice habits.

            Actually, they were significantly better than they were the previous season when there wasn’t any talk about “practice” as an after the fact explainer for the poor PP scoring…

            “What’s different between this year and last? Not having Tortorella.”

            Why exactly is swapping out a coach with a decent track record of possession (for whatever that is worth) with a complete unknown an “upgrade”.

            This same conversation occured last year when many on here thought Torts would shake up the “country club atmosphere” or some other such nonsense and hilarously take the team to the next level…

            Actually, a couple of the bloggers even wrote about Torts bringing “Safe is Death” to Vancouver and about how popular he was just prior to the January collapse…

            “Having some better prospects in the system.”

            The better prospects are almost entirely the product of the diluted NHL team.

            And while I agree that the farm system is better, we’re talking almost entirely about junior players.

            The best of whom may very well project no better than a middle of the roster player…

            “Getting SOME value from a fragile malcontent who didn’t want to be here.”

            And Edmonton got “some value” from that malcontent Pronger.

            Shipping off a good-but-declining player hasn’t made the team better in the least.

            “Would you have preferred we stay with Tortorella, Kesler and Yann Sauve, Captain Negatismo?”

            Not at all.

            But that adorable strawman has nothing to do with my original claim that the Canucks were better one year ago than they are today.

            And not much has changed from a year ago even though two (Kesler, Luongo) of the core 5 (Sedin, Sedin, Hamhuis) are gone.

            It’s going to be quite the magic trick to contend again in what’s left of the Sedin era…

        • andyg

          And whatever do you mean by saying despite last years plan the Canucks were a decent possession team? I don’t remember you being quite so positive about it last year.

          • andyg

            The Canucks were a decent possession team last year, one of the league’s best.
            They possessed a tonne of opposing pucks in their net, that’s for sure! HAHAHAHAHA!

  • andyg

    Completely unrelated…

    I tried to show my friend Kevin Bieksa’s interview when he said milk hot dog. It seems to have been deleted from the inter webs…

    Can someone please share a link???

  • pheenster

    Wow, training camp hasn’t even opened and this comments section has already degenerated into a cesspool.

    Q: How can you tell the Canucks cesspool from all the other cesspools?

    A: It’s the one with the diving board.

  • pheenster

    -And not much has changed from a year ago even though two (Kesler, Luongo) of the core 5 (Sedin, Sedin, Hamhuis) are gone.-

    Goes to show you how many years you guys have been wasting on a core that isn’t even a core but a mish mash group of over rated blokes.

    The only thing Linden will do is to continue on with what he knows best…the path of mediocrity and pipe dreams.