Graphic Comments: The Dumbest Guys In The Room

Well, whatever confidence I still had that the current regime running the Canucks actually knew what they were doing just walked out the door yesterday. And it was escorted by security.

As Thom laid out in his level headed take on the matter, the Canucks unceremoniously turfed Laurence Gilman, Lorne Henning and Eric Crawford. So if it’s well documented, informative writing you want on the subject, go read that. But if it’s raw, visceral, facepalming you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.

Because based on the comments and interviews that came out yesterday, the Canucks’ brain trust just lost what brains they had left. All in the name of efficiency, apparently.

Yes, according to Trevor Linden, it was *boohoo* just too hard to make decisions, presumably because there were a lot of differences in opinion around the room:

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Yes, I’m sure that must be hard. Having to think things through. Overcome doubts. Talk through different perspectives. Tough, I know. But you know what decisions are easy to make? Bad ones.

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Look, Benning and Linden are in charge. They make the final call. Are they so threatened by a different point of view that they can’t take it in and and consider it? I mean, it’s not like Gilman, Henning or Crawford could go off and make their own decisions. All they could do is offer a point of view. Is that really so threatening?

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I guess. Because if the only solution to a difference of opinions is to get rid of those voicing a different perspective, maybe it’s because they have a valid point that you shouldn’t dismiss out of hand.

Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, how do you know that’s why they were fired? You weren’t in the room. You have no idea whether they disagreed with the recent signings and trades.”

True. I wasn’t.

But if reading between the lines in that Linden comment above isn’t enough for you, here’s Jason Botchford on the subject yesterday:

So, as you can imagine, not everyone in that front office was going to be all in when, say, Kassian is traded for Prust. Or Luca Sbisa signs a huge extension.

Or when the team goes with the 35-year-old goalie instead of younger, better options.

So yeah. I think it’s safe to say that there was a healthy dose of disagreement in the front office. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Benning and Linden thought it was healthy at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I perfectly understand that you don’t want people undermining the direction you’ve set for the team. But there’s other hints out there that maybe that direction isn’t as well defined as you might like to think. Here’s more from Botch, emphasis added:

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For a time here, the Canucks front office had not been, well, cohesive. There were questions in the executive which are similar to the same ones people on the outside have had.

What is the plan here?

Sometimes, those types of questions are interpreted as dysfunction.

Not every executive views it that way. Brendan Shanahan has been putting together a large front office of strong willed people who stick to their convictions.

So it’s not so much that there was questioning of an agreed upon direction or vision for the team, it was more like, “What is the vision? What are we trying to build? What’s our strategy?”

And if that wasn’t clear enough, here’s Botch’s take on what the core players think of the direction the team is going in:


So yeah. While Linden and Benning close ranks and turf the dissenting voices, other front offices, that also don’t have much experience running teams, are putting together a diverse range of opinions to help make more robust decisions and avoid groupthink. But instead of encouraging a variety of opinions and healthy discussion this group is purging the organization of those voices. That not only gets rid of the immediate dissention, it also discourages others from speaking up for fear of getting the same treatment.

And sure, if you’re all on the same page, it might mean that it’s the right decision. But it could also mean that you’re horribly wrong:

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If you’re still not sure what is I’m talking about, here’s a timely little puzzle on decision making that illustrates my point really well. It was, coincidentally enough, put out by the New York Times yesterday. So go ahead, click on the link and give it a try. I’ll wait.

All done? How did it go? Unlike many people, apparently, my approach was to try and get some wrong answers. And I did on my very first guess, which helped me to discount one theory (each number is the square of the previous one). But then quickly fell into the same trap I just kept trying different variations of my second theory (each number is double the previous one) and after four tries decided that it must be right. As you know by now, it wasn’t.

The point is that you should welcome perspectives that question your decisions. If you’ve made a good decision, it should be able to withstand those other perspectives. But if you don’t even allow those questions to be asked, you wind up being really susceptible to confirmation bias, where you are looking only for reasons that you are right and not even being aware of reasons you might be wrong:

This puzzle exposes a particular kind of confirmation bias that bedevils companies, governments and people every day: the internal yes-man (and yes-woman) tendency. We’re much more likely to think about positive situations than negative ones, about why something might go right than wrong and about questions to which the answer is yes, not no.

But hey, what do I know? I’m definitely not the smartest guy in the room. Heck. I’m not even in the room. I’m just a dirty blogger hanging out in my mom’s basement.

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Hey, has anybody seen my pants?



You can also check out the monthly collections of Graphic Comments over at The Sporting News.

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  • Naturalmystic

    They gut the front office, trash can their head trainer….Now a Sedin has his house on the market. Is he cashing in on the real estate market, is there another kid on the way and they are upsizing, or are the twins on the move? Nothing would surprise me anymore with the dynamic duo that is Linden and Benning.

    • Steampuck

      ya, something is up. it’s like that scene in the godfather at the hospital. gilman, henning and crawford( and mike burnstein!) are the police guards who have been sent away. unless someone does an al pacino runs out front and sticks his hand in his trench coat, pretending to have a gun i fear those sedins might be done for….

  • Steampuck

    Give Benning a break/more time… the core/previous brain trust had enough kick at the cans, something has to change… I am sure more 30plus players will move on soon, I like the young talent we’re amassing in the system… let’s see what happens

      • Graphic Comments

        No, it wasn’t satirical. But that doesn’t mean 99% of the commentary didn’t just read what they wanted to read and completely missed the point.

        Who cares if you don’t believe what Botchford is saying? Linden himself said the three guys were fired because they made decision making “cumbersome”. That’s what this piece was about. I couldn’t care less if it was Gilman or Weisbrod that got fired. If that’s your reason for it, it’s inane and I’m going to call it out.

        So yeah, when most of the comments are off on tangents or knocking down straw men, I do think that *woosh* is rather apt.


        • Steampuck

          Only poor writers blame their readers.

          It sounds like Linden was actually saying there were too many cooks in the kitchen rather than that these three guys were cumbersome to the process. Those are two different things. And since when has Linden (or any hockey person) ever said anything that wasn’t the inane, diplomatic subtext for something else.

        • VancouverEnvy

          No the problem is there was a variety of reasons for which Gilman et al could have been fired. It could have been personality issues, a repetition of responsibilities, cliques forming, etc.

          You chose the one that fit a narrative you could attack.

          It’s an article we’ve come to expect from the province or Team 1040, guys like TG. Canuck’s Army is where I come to read thoughtful articles about stat based facts. Not rumour based attack pieces.

          You’re articles have clearly shown you and all the disagree with management’s direction, we get it. Again, I question many of the recent moves with many curse words flying on draft and free agent day.

          But there is more than one way to skin a cat and while remaining skeptical Im going to give Lindenning some time to show their plan.

          So no the article is not over our head but the normal standards of CA seem to be over yours.

        • VancouverEnvy

          “But that doesn’t mean 99% of the commentary didn’t just read what they wanted to read and completely missed the point”

          “didn’t just read what they wanted to read and completely missed the point”

          That about sums up what appears to be your analysis of the Canucks management right now. It’s lazy to just say people don’t get your brilliance.

          CA is fantastic when it tries to work through ideas like PCS, even if they’re flawed, because they give us thought-provoking and potentially innovative ways of evaluating and valuing performance, to hopefully move us out of the realm of conjecture and anecdote. The proxies for performance really are a wonderful antidote to all the meat-and-potatoes idiocy. But these last series of articles on CA are all about anecdote and conjecture NOT about offering careful and considered analysis of the actual operations of this management. I have a very mixed sense of Benning but these are early days and some of the attacks simply have no basis in reality. If Benning is only an old school throwback guy with no interest in anything other than a vaunted “BRUINS” style of hockey, then why draft snipers with his highest picks the past two rounds? Why Boeser over Carlo then? Why draft high skill Europeans? Why sign Subban? On what basis do you pretend to know that Gilman was opposed to any of the resignings of Dorsett or Sbisa or the signing of Miller? Honestly, do you have ANY proof whatsoever? I might as well guess that Benning was so pissed off at the signings that this was the reason that Gilman was fired. Highly unlikely but I have as much knowledge of this as you.

          Stick to the facts and stick to some actual research and analysis, not lazy hack jobs. We have enough of that in the regular papers.

        • Steampuck

          I think you need to realize that the people commenting here liked CA, at least at some point. But if they’re anything like me, they come for the PCS and leave because of the sneering sarcasm. People who like your blog are telling you what’s wrong with it, and your reply is to brush them off and imply they’re ignorant.

          You’re in the entertainment business. With no readers, you have no job. Yet, you don’t want to give them what they want and will actively insult them. Yeah, it must be the readers who are stupid. Now I realize why I barely frequent what used to be the best Canucks blog around.

        • VancouverEnvy

          You totally ignore the fact that there is no substantive basis for your discussion. You haven’t addressed the facts that your whole argument is based on two unsubstantial bases, namely a) you assumed Botchford is correct (that the executives were let go because they were dissenting elements in the front office) and b) your “reading between the lines” of Linden’s statement. To say it again, there are no valid bases for saying what you did – NONE. You obviously haven’t talked to Linden or Benning to get the whole background, and now you’re calling out those commenters who have had the gall to question your article in the first place. Frankly, the only straw men I see is your article, and if this is the level of analysis which I can expect, I won’t bother with this site anymore. There are other places to find balanced, substantiated commentary about this team.

  • Steampuck

    Canucks Army writers: take a look at the comments section to have a look at the effect of growing success in the blogosphere.

    Your comment section used to be so well populated by people who appreciated statistical and quantitative analysis; now it’s the home of the CDC dregs.

    Over the past few years I’ve been reading your blogs, I’ve grown ever more disinterested in reading the comments. Oh well, nothing you can do about it, I quite enjoyed this article as I feel exactly the same about this management group.