Jim Benning spoke today, and I listened so that you wouldn’t have to

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I don’t have the tweet handy, but I distinctly remember Bob McKenzie going on a radio program a few weeks ago and gently, in a which he seems to always do so expertly, pointing out that GM candidate Jim Benning wasn’t exactly one for the spotlight. That he was a simple, understated guy that wouldn’t “wow!” you. 

Maybe even more understated than Benning himself, though, was McKenzie’s preemptive warning of the new Canucks GM’s persona. After an introductory press conference so tame that Thomas Drance compared his charisma to that of a “pair of brown dockers”, he joined Dave Naylor and Dave Hodge on TSN Drive to dispel the notion that this is a sample size issue. 

Luckily for Jim, the guy that brought him into the fold appears to very well be the perfect complement to his particular skillset on paper, and he appears to be quite cognizant of that. He discussed his working relationship with Linden, the core of the team, and the direction he envisions things going in his most recent public appearance on Tuesday afternoon. We’ll get into all of it just past the jump. 

You can listen to the ~10 minute interview for yourself here, but believe me when I tell you that I’ve done you a favour by listening to it myself, and transcribing all of the key talking points below. It’s quite a departure from Mike Gillis’ curious way of handling questions thrown his way over the years, where a brash indignance seemed to be his preferred response route. 

Regardless of your thoughts on this particular tact, there’s no denying that he was far more eloquent with his words than his successor, whose responses are littered with “like”, and very casual lingo. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se; it’s more of an observation than a criticism. And I don’t mean to insinuate anything, but one thing we do know about Jim Benning is that he has shown himself to be a fast learner. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to blame him for being nervous given the new responsibilities on his plate. With guys like Linden and Gilman around to shelter him on this front, he appears to have landed in perfect surroundings to accentuate his skills while preventing his blemishes from becoming a hinderance.

To start the interview off, he was asked why he believed the turnaround in Vancouver shouldn’t necessarily be a long-term project:

“Our core group is solid. With the Sedins, and Bieksa, and Hamhuis (*he actually said Hamhoose, which I found to be irritating) I think our core group is real solid. They’ve won in the past. I don’t know exactly what happened last year, I wasn’t there, but with Trevor providing direction from the top and everyone understanding their roles and stuff, we’ve got to make sure we find the right coach that’s a fit for that group. I’m hoping we can get back on the right track. They had the 28th worst power play in the league and were the 2nd lowest scoring team.. with the talent that they have, it’s hard to imagine.”

It is hard to imagine; not that they’d be so woeful offensively, but that their previous coach didn’t find it necessary to work out those kinks in practice. Unimaginable, really. 

That’s glossing over the main sticking point for fans of the team, here. The thing that quickly jumps out is that one Ryan Kesler wasn’t mentioned amongst the team’s “core group”. Sure, it could be something of an omniscient response by Benning, who may very well already know how this story plays out. 

But chances are that this is much about nothing. He did also leave out names like Edler, Garrison, Burrows, and Sixtito, but obviously the Kesler omission is the glaring one because of everything that preceded his arrival here. 

For whatever it’s worth, later in the interview Benning admitted to not having spoken to Kesler since taking the job last week, and that he had full intentions on discussing the situation with him in the next few days. Considering the gravitas of the situation, it’s easy to imagine it being either 1A or 1B on his “To Do” list at the moment. 

With the other one being the coaching vacancy, of course. When asked about the job hunt Benning retorted (shudders), that the plan is to “finalize a list of guys and start the interview some time next week”.

All of that leading up to this point was an appetizer of sorts, because the largest chunk of the segment was spent discussing his aforementioned, and presumably symbiotic relationship with Trevor Linden:

“How it’s going to work — if I’m talking to other General Managers about trades or for the draft, I’m always going to keep Trevor up to speed as to what’s going on. Any decisions we make he’s going to be part of the process. It’s more about communication than anything else. 

I might go to him with something and I’ll say ‘I think this is a good move and we should make it’ and he’ll tell me that he doesn’t think so and we’re not going to do it. Basically he’s my boss. I’m going to do the work and get his input on what his thoughts are, and from there we’ll make a decision.”

Would the same hold true the other way around?

“Yeah, because we’re going to be honest with one another. Our goal is to build a team that competes for the Cup and I’m always going to be honest with him, and he will be with me. If we don’t have that honesty we don’t have anything.”

Wisdom. At the very least, we can take solace in knowing that if this particular job doesn’t work out for Benning, he’ll always be able to fall back on doling out sage advice on how to keep marriages intact. Hopefully his toes aren’t stepped on when it comes to personnel decisions by the guys ahead of him on the ladder, or that joke I just made could quickly become a sad reality. 

Finally, the interview wrapped up with one last question about the style of team he envisioned the Canucks being under his regime, and whether they’d need to try and make some changes to attempt to keep up with their peers:

“There’s no getting around that, now you have to win your division to keep moving forward. You look at the LAs, the Anaheims, the San Joses; they’re big, physical, heavy teams. We don’t want to lose our identity of using our speed and creating when we have the puck, but maybe we can start implementing some bigger guys, some more physical players to protect the puck.. so that we can play both styles. Chicago was a good example. They could play fast, and they could play heavy. That’s where we want to get to, to have a good mix.”

I have to admit that I audibly groaned as I typed out the opening part of the response, before Benning quickly steered things back in the right direction. We often make fun of buzzwords like “heavy” on this platform, but that shouldn’t be misconstrued as thinking that they aren’t part of the puzzle as a whole. All things being equal of corsi you’d rather have a more impressive physical specimen of a player, but that’s just the problem — they aren’t. 

These sorts of qualities are so frequently fetishized by hockey people that they’re often the root of many of the mistakes made by teams, which we proceed to scrutinize and laugh at. As long as the plot isn’t being lost, and skill isn’t being foregone for these sorts of nebulous fantasies that have long been ingrained in hockey culture, there’s no quarrel to be had here. 

  • John Matrix

    -The US is run by wallsteet big money while Canada is run by monopolies and lazy unions. Either way you slice it, the 99% love being owned and used by the 1%.

    -Back in the French revolution they had a solution. They took the 1% and their accomplices and put their heads in a guillotine.

    -Sooner or later it will happen again.

  • John Matrix

    Hey I’m just a messenger, I didn’t put that crap on the ice for 44 years. You ppl attacking me will get nothing but more return karma of 50 years and no cup and counting. LOL

  • acg5151

    Can the moderators please moderate? Canucks fans want to have a dialogue in the comments, but it has become impossible now that trolls have stolen the thunder.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    The canucks are never going to rebuild the team because to rebuild implies that hard work has to be done and we all know that canucks brass do not like to work.Just like their players hate competing, so do their managers.

    While the Hawks and kings spent the last 10 years rebuilding their club vancouver has doing nothing but sell pipe dreams with the naslund and sedin era…constantly trying to pass off spam as sirloin. And now the kings appear poised for cup 2, like the hawks. Meanwhile the nucks and their fans are still using the same sorry excuses.

    AV will lose again if he ever makes the finals. Then in typical canuck fashion, will spend about 6 years in NY spinning his wheels until slats fires him. The canucks are just like bestbuy. bb does anything but sell,canucks do anything but compete….cause competing is hard.

    Bring back luongo, the fans haven’t had enough of their own punishment yet! LOL Classy pump my deflated tires Luongoat.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      If the Canucks were a restaurant, it’s safe to say that they would have been out of business a long time ago but just like the board of monopolies that run Canada they continue to exist serving up a lousy sub par product. And the people lap it up like some soviet gruel.

      Canada and its people do not like real competition, as evidenced by their love for boards. Wheat board, milk board, skypit, cheese board, liquor board, icbc, subsidized lumber, lazy useless trucker unions, just about the only people who dont have a hand in your pockets everyday are the gangsters.

      The loser canuck club a it stands wouldn’t even make it to relegation if they were a football team, they’d be bankrupt! Cant wait till Bettman brings hockey to Seattle, when ppl with brains will also travel south for their hockey and shopping instead of wasting money on such a sub par loser franchise that’s done nothing in its existence.

      But hey, I must be wrong, keep on supporting the loser canucks, cause without your support, they would surely lose. Oh wait…

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          Don’t worry, we all like reading CA or we wouldn’t be here. PITB has a different take and I feel the two sites complement each other very well. But have to admit, I find the trolls on CA somewhat disappointing. Sure you can be critical, but add some meat to the argument rather than just personal attacks agains all things Canucks.

          • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

            Yes, the clavens and shills can get quite nasty on here with there name calling and attacks to those who have a differing realistic opinion of the team. Good point.

        • John Matrix

          I love the articles here and I read them as part of a daily routine. The comments on the other hand…

          Seriously, you guys are the ones who got me back into hockey with all the different analysis I’d never seen before. It was not meant as a slight on Canucks Army, only on the people who post comments here.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    I can’t believe all the demented commentators here who think Linden wi fail. The guy is a winner, unlike my team who has spent the past two decades living off past glory.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      Name me one thing Trevor Vanilla has ever won? Past glory,,,at least Edmonton won 5 times. The canucks are still cup virgins. 44 year old up virgins. Hahaha

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    #FireLinden+Players

    We all know that you are posting under mutiple names trying to start ‘Trevor Vanilla’ as a new nickname. It’s not funny or smart and nobody is picking it up. If you really feel the need to insult the guy come up with something else because this is going nowhere.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      I created the name trevor vanilla and if you think you can come up with a better name for cptain mediocre, then be my guest. it’s not my fault you’re slow at the game.

      3

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      I’m not sure that argument’s going to work with him/it given all the rest of the crazy he’s into so deeply. Not sure where the animus towards Linden comes from but it’s not even remotely amusing anymore.

      It’s interesting to see how closely we parse every single word that anyone connected to the club makes in the digital age. I wonder just how someone like Keenan or Burke would have come off in their heyday if we subjected them to the same scrutiny. Benning sounds kind of like I’d want him to — being relatively careful in the first moments on the job rather than rushing in with grandiose and often predictably disastrous pronouncements.

      If the “Boston/Chicago/LA/wherever” model means big and tough and goony then no thanks. But if it means building a sustainably successful franchise (and I think Chicago or Detroit are better examples of that than the others) then I’m all for it. It’s not exactly a new thought that big skilled players are prized in the NHL.

  • Mantastic

    “These sorts of qualities are so frequently fetishized by hockey people that they’re often the root of many of the mistakes made by teams…”

    This is definitely the fear with this talk about getting heavier and more physical. The stated idea that the bottom six should be hitting more and causing more havoc on the forecheck to keep the puck in the offensive zone implies that they usually don’t have the puck, or had it and lost it. Seems old school. Would be great if the bottom six had players who could keep the puck and generate shots rather than chasing and hitting…but I guess the proof will come as we see the roster constructed and finalized.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Considering the high quality of writing in the articles on this site, I’m surprised at the generally poor quality of the discussion in the comments. You’d think excellent writing would set the tone for more thoughtful, well articulated responses. I wonder if some of it is in the design of the threads, with replies completely disconnected from the comments they’re replying to, and the ridiculously huge Trash It button. It’s too bad, because the ideas presented in the posts are usually worth discussing intelligently.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      This is a good point. Tthe Canucks didn’t look particularly fast in previous seasons, but they moved the puck so well — making and taking passes quickly and crisply so they didn’t have to skate hundreds of miles at full speed. Especially on the breakout, where the D and forwards seemed to move as a unit, providing excellent puck support into the neutral zone. Despite the past season’s incompetence and confusion, I don’t think the team’s key players have forgotten how to do that — they just lost their focus with Tortorella and got out of synch with the systems that worked best for their roster.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    I know it’s not terribly exciting, but I really like Jim Benning’s demeanor. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, but he seems very calm and rational. Not prone to panic or temper tantrums when things go wrong.

    He makes me think he’ll be one of those guys who when confronted with a problem, he ponders it for a moment and then starts looking for solutions, rather than making excuses or passing the buck to his coworkers.

  • Mantastic

    god knows how we need more Cliff Clavens and delusional Canuck apologists on this site. That would help the team win next year.

    ” It’s never anyone’s fault ” – Don Taylor

  • Mantastic

    Is there really no way to get rid of these trolls? I just want to talk about my team with like-minded bros not sift through crap from a bunch of inbred cowboys mad about how crappy their teams are.

    • Mantastic

      in other words, you want more Cliff Clavens to talk in a special Kling-on till the cows come how about basically nothing while the team does the same tired formulas and never wins?

      Wouldn’t it be less painful if you peeled 200 onions instead?

  • Mantastic

    I like what Trev is doing. It’s a business philosophy of having a vision then hiring people with the same vision. Everyone knows their role and will work towards the same goal.
    I would much rather know Benning is watching a WHL game with potential draftees, rather than meeting with an Aromatherapist or planning out a Gluten free buffet on cross country trips like Gillis.
    He is a hard worker who will acquire hard workers. I like he has a type player in mind, feather than Gillis’s changing philosophy of drafting smaller skilled players, then Over age late bloomers, then finally OHL and WHL guys.

    • Mantastic

      Where was this philosophy of vision when Linden was playing? I recall Linden crying like a baby in a corner and getting his coup started against me and Mess.