Sighs, Damned Lies, and Season Tickets

It turns out that when it comes to the Canucks’ playoff hopes, sighs does do matter.

This is not a playoff team. Even if they stumble into the playoffs, they are not a playoff team.

You know it. I know it. And yes, even Benning knows it. No matter how many times he has to blatantly lie about it on the radio.

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Sure enough, there he was back on the radio again yesterday telling the world that he might even be looking to add players in order to just make the playoffs:


So while playoff teams make trades to add the depth you need in order to go deep into the playoffs. Benning would apparently be willing to spend assets on the fleeting hope of just making the post season. While I could go on at length at how poor a strategy that is, I won’t. I won’t because even I don’t think Benning is that stupid.

When Benning made that statement Thursday afternoon, he was already likely aware of the announcement the team would be making today:

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That sound you just heard was the air coming out of the tires on the Canucks bandwagon. (There’s a tire pumping joke in there somewhere.)

If there was any chance of making the playoffs for this team, they needed to get back to being healthy. No matter how overpaid I think Brandon Sutter is, he’s still a serviceable NHL centre that can help on the ice. Despite Bo Horvat’s recent upsurge in offensive production, he is still getting caved in defensively every night:


Horvat is just not able to withstand the level of competition he is sent out there to face shift after shift after shift.

So yes, having Sutter back could have relieved Horvat of some of that defensive responsibility but instead, it’s going to be back to grind for him for the rest of the season.

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If that wasn’t bad enough, losing Edler is going to be just as much of a blow, if not more so.

It’s not that Edler has been having a great season, but he’s been at least somewhat dependable on the blue line. No, the real issue is the minutes that he chews up every night:


Edler has taken more that 36% of the Canucks’ even strength ice time this year. Yes, Hamhuis can soak some of that up, but not all. For the most part, that is ice time that will now have to go to guys like Sbisa, Biega and Bartkowski.

So no, I don’t think Benning is serious when he claims that he might be looking to add pieces “to compete for a playoff spot.” I’m sure he and the team would happy if they limped into the post season, but to actively spend assets to try and get there, I think is beyond even Benning’s capacity to make poor long-term decisions.

So while I don’t think the Canucks will be buyers at the trade deadline, I’m afraid they probably also won’t be sellers. Holding onto assets in order to further the pretense that they’re pushing for the playoffs is this ownership group’s wheelhouse.

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I touched on this back in the summer, but the Canucks continue to skate on thin ice when it comes to maintaining a sustainable season ticket base.

Look, I am one of those season ticket holders. But even though I share the tickets with three friends, we still can’t go to all the games. We rely on the secondary market to absorb those extra games. And let me tell you, that market is as soft as it has been in 15 years and it is getting softer by the year.

While the team used to have a healthy season ticket waiting list, they burned through that a couple of years ago and are now bleeding season ticket holders. Many of those that are left, are like me, trying to lessen the financial burden by selling off the games we can’t get to. Or, to be honest, sometimes don’t want to get to.

And there’s the rub.

The secondary market is awash with cheap tickets to games that aren’t fully sold out:

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This playoff push isn’t just to get those two playoff home dates, it’s to try and fill the seats for the remaining games on the schedule.

But as I said back in August, that’s a dead end strategy. The team is bleeding season ticket holders and maintaining a semblance of respectability the rest of the way isn’t going to stop the exodus. Those are single game tickets they are trying to sell. Sputtering toward the playoffs with rapidly depreciating assets, that in some cases will hit zero value come the deadline, is not going to do anything to encourage existing ticket holders to renew for next season, let alone attract new ones.

The Canucks need to sell hope. But we are long past the point where they are selling hope of a Stanley Cup. They need to sell hope in a core of youth that will re-energize this team and this fanbase.

Without that, they won’t just be lying to their fans, they’ll be lying to themselves.

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PS: This is a week late but I note that Brandon Prust managed to clear waivers. nobody saw that coming.



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

  • Andy

    I read Benning’s comments about potentially adding a piece with despair. Surely, surely, SURELY he’s not that stupid. I’m not sure I’ll continue to watch this team religiously like I do if they don’t sell off at least Vrbata for a 3rd or something along those lines. And it’ll be a shame if they don’t let go of Hamhuis IF they get a great offer for him (1st or a 2nd w a prospect, etc).

  • Dirty30

    I understand the need to be positive when making statements, but maybe it’s time to stop making them, Mr. Benning.

    The freakin’ Laffs are owned by a media giant and they don’t babble half as much as Benning does.

    Just shut up and get the job done Jim.

  • Andy

    One has to think that Aqualini is chirping something into Bennings’ ear? He’s not that stupid, but if he’s forced to make a move, this appears more plausible.

    Were they not looking to sell the Canucks a while ago? Seems like they’re attempting to get a buyer for the team by temporarily raising attendance with a playoff push… it’s ironic that they’re looking for short-term gain but costing the franchise in the long term, but that wouldn’t be their problem if they sold I guess.

  • Andy

    Recently Benning had stated that he will not jeopardize the future of the team on push for playoffs.

    If they trade Vrbata for a serviceable player that may be the extent of “playoff push”.

    Don’t know how low Vrbata’s stock has dropped recently, but I would be surprised if we get anything higher than a 4th or a mid-prospect/roster player that can assist in the “push”.

  • Tiamat

    No, believe it Benning and Linden are both dumber than wood. Benning: if you have nothing constructive to say, shut the hell up! Loose lips sink ships and by trying to “negotiate and postulate” through the media makes you a freakn moron. Do you think because you’re doing that you will entice the other normal smart GM’s to do business with you? Do your business behind closed doors. When there is a transaction to be announced, do it after it’s done. You’re not fooling anyone with your act. Benning will probably hang on to his fanatasy that the Nucks are a playoff team and then let all his diminishing assets walk away for nothing because he doesn’t have a clue. He’s late on trading Vrbata and Hammer, and he completely missed on Corrado. Idiot.

    • NucksRock

      Missed on Corrado? The guy is not even playing in Toronto buddy.

      While he could turn into an ok 5/6 that’s all he will ever be.

      If you can’t crack the worst team in the league how is that a ‘miss’?

      This is typical of Canucks fans. Assume our prospects are so amazing because of a few games and ignore the FULL body of work. The reality is, if Corrado is not playing consistently in Toronto at this stage, with how weak that team is, then it’s because he’s at best a journeyman.

      If anything, I’d rather see Biega/Pedan/Sbisa getting that ice as they all are much better players and will be through their careers.

      Benning didn’t ‘miss’ on anything.

  • Cageyvet

    Whether you want to tank or push for the playoffs, I would like to think that we all agree giving up any piece of the long term strategy to achieve more this season is foolish.

    I don’t care what my GM says, I care what he does. GMs lie all the time, it’s the classic kiss of death for a coach to publicly get his GM’s support when he’s on the hot seat. The pink slip usually lands within a couple of weeks.

    I’m not on board with all the moves, but overall I’m happy with the direction of the team. I don’t expect the GM to lay his plans out publicly, and I’m more than happy to have him claim he doesn’t want to sell and try and assume a position of some strength for the trading deadline.

    Save the rancor and negativity until after the deadline, there will be plenty of time to judge when we’re facing reality, not speculation.

    • J_R

      Well said. A GM who lays all his card out on the table loses all negotiating leverage. Benning doesn’t interview well, in fact doesn’t come across as very smart to be honest, but he’s been around the block. Don’t let sound bites and interviews cloud your judgement. Benning will get what can be done, done. Have some faith folks!

      • Dirty30

        Absolutely — and that was my point: less talk, more action. And if more action is unavailable, then stick with less talk.

        And for those who think that we are headed toward Oilers Nation status, before MG I may have agreed. I know that he is vilified by many, but he did do a lot of positives to make the team better — the biggest was obtaining a farm team so prospects would be trained in the Canucks system, not just played as fodder in a minor league.

        As well, the Oilers in the past decade did not have the Sedins — two players don’t get the respect they deserve for their play, for their community involvement or their professionalism on and off the ice.

        It is for that reason that I don’t understand Benning’s love affair with plodders who he considers character guys, when indeed, the leadership of the team is firmly with the Sedins.

  • bigdaddykane

    Benning’s ability to judge talent so far gives him a pass for me over the stupid contracts and probable squandering of assets by keeping Hamhuis et al so far. Nothing he has done has seriously handicapped this team. Gillis traded for Ballard. He traded for Pahlsson. He traded for Booth. He signed Luongo for a huge contract that we are still paying. He p!ssed away picks. He listened to Ron Delorme on draft day. His drafting record is awful. So was Nonis, and really, Burke too. He drafted the Sedins yes, but that was with the #2/3 picks. Its not like they were a Datsuyk and Zetterberg pick. Benning has been here 2 seasons and has picked up arguably the best steals of both draft years. Steals? Canucks? You’re kidding me.

  • bigdaddykane

    Tank Nation is in full whiner mode today,getting angrier by the day because their GM couch playbook is not going as they demand.

    Benning can evaluate and source Etem,Baertschi,Pedan,Fedun,Vey,Zalewski,Sautner and Biega as roster or highly potential NHL players for duds,picks and nada.

    Demko,MBcCann,Virtanen,Tryamkin,Boeser,Brisebois,Zhukenov,Forsling-Clendenning-Sutter and Tryamkin-the future core of this team all sourced in his first two drafts.

    1.5 years on the job,a winning record,stellar drafting,asset appraisal and acquisitions yet the couch slobs of Tank Nation character assassinate because Vrbata and Hamhuis are still on the roster.

    These guys were signed here because they wanted to live and work here and cost this franchise absolutely nothing but Aqua bucks.

    This team needs Hamhuis and GMJB can source more from the back of his hand than he wouldget for Vrbata.

    Amateur hour and alcohol from the couch gang.

  • Tiamat

    I always chuckle over those who think that somehow a hockey club can win by losing.

    These folks evidently have not been following the Edmonton Oilers all that closely for the last decade. They also probably haven’t been successful at a competitive level in any sport.

    As hockey, as in life, losers lose. Winners win. You’re either one or the other.

    And winners make a point of not hanging around with losers.

    If anyone in my organization ever advocated giving less than 100% effort to successfully completing a project or transaction, I’d fire them on the spot.

    I’m glad Benning takes the same approach. It’s called leadership.

    • Andy

      You can give 100% effort and still lose more games than you win, especially when your team consists of substandard players (see Buffalo, Toronto & Edmonton)

      The sad fact you’re willfully ignoring is that the NHL rewards teams that lose by giving them higher draft picks. (see: Chicago, Pittsburgh x2, Tampa Bay)

      For what it’s worth, I respect what Benning is doing – he’s biting the bullet on non-roster players (Prust, Weber, Higgins) and picking up hidden gems (Bae, Etem, even Vey). Letting Matthias & Richardson walk last year irked me, but it’s looking like they wanted to wash away the taste of Tortorella.

      I’ve complete confidence that if Hamhuis/Vrbata/Bart/Weber are still here by the trade deadline, it’s because the returns weren’t worth it.

  • Tiamat

    He is totally going to add. But like he always does with a pick for a guy who needs to blossom out of the ahl. I’m not surprised it also isn’t that stupid either. Also if he bought a top d man I would be pumped.

  • Tiamat

    I guess JB should have said yea this team hasn’t a hope in hell of making the playoffs so we are going to have us a real good fire sale. These kids can learn how to win next year, or the year after or whatever.

    • Dirty30

      As my midget rep coach always said :

      A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.

      That reminds me of Jim Bennings life story and how he made it to the pro level,his work ethic and the sacrifices he placed upon himself at an early age.

      I suspect he expects a similar level of commitment from his staff and players,as he should.

  • CroBear

    It is fairly obvious Benning doesn’t have horrible judgement by the fact that he passed on all those waiver wire players that CA wanted him to take…

    On a more serious note, as Cageyvet said, it’s not what Benning says, it’s what he does. And with the summation of all of his actions, he has some credit in my eyes.

  • NucksRock

    We are half-way through February and Vrbata, who plays on the 2nd line and 1st pp unit, has yet to register a point this month. If Benning was serious about making improvements IMO he should trade Vrbata for a 2nd round pick (if he’s worth that) and platoon Gaunce and Shink for the balance of the season. They would bring heart and effort, things that are missing from Vrbata’s current game.

  • NucksRock

    Has anyone stopped to consider the following?

    1. Benning and Linden are not stupid

    2. They said they have a plan when they came in to get younger and faster, and wanted to create competition from below and not force young players into roles they weren’t ready for.

    3. People whined and complained it wasn’t fast enough last year and this year.

    4. Benning got rid of Lack – people whined. Markstrom is certainly looking to be the right choice.

    5. He traded Bieksa for a 2nd rounder (how I will never know), but a great trade

    6. Keeping Miller has shielded Markstrom, something many fans don’t seem to get, allowing him to develop

    7. He traded for Sutter and while many complain about the money, we’ve seen the impact Sutter has on this team and as a 26 yr old he can be a great transition player. We’ve seen how hard the defensive game has been on Bo with him out of the lineup. Bo was not ready and is not for 2nd line defensive duties- again a great move.

    8. People complained about the Kesler deal but when you add it up, we got McCann, Sbisa, and Sutter (in a round about way)….I’d say that’s a pretty amazing deal given Kesler gave us ONE team to trade him to.

    9. People complain that we’re not getting young fast enough, yet this year we have 5-6 rookies in the lineup almost every night and they are DEVELOPING. Baerschi/Vey/Hutton/Markstrom/McCann/Virtanen/Biega -seems to be following their plan no?

    10. People complain we’re not moving dead weight. Prust/Higgins/Bieksa/Weber all moved out – again seem to be following their plan

    Now, given all of that, if you take a step back and notice that Benning and Co are actually doing EXACTLY what they said they would do 2 years ago and are moving quite nicely to the place where many jumping up and down like they didn’t get their ribbon, want them to, can we accept the reality of what Benning is doing? A pretty darn good job, aligned with his strategy. Also, maybe Benning, by making such comments about the playoffs and potentially adding is trying do something smart?

    Here’s a hint, he is trying to create what is called ‘pricing tension’ in the world of negotiations

    You see folks, by stating hey we’re in a playoff race and want to make it, and we might even add players what do other teams then realize?

    They realize, well if I don’t bid up, they are going to keep those guys because you know what, they are still in the hunt and they aren’t planning on tanking – ie there is no fire sale

    Also, those teams, like Washington, Chicago, LA etc (teams that may want Hammer) think, well if WE WANT him we NEED to offer something very strong because they still NEED him and can use him.

    While many here whine like baby’s who lost their soothers, maybe realize you know less than Benning, and please do whine and complain after he trades Hammer for a ransom and then resigns him in the offseason

    Settle down

  • Dirty30

    I enjoy seeing the idiots rant about management prior to the deadline. Priceless. I am also quite certain the ownership is interfering but such is life. Benning is towing the public line and following what ownership wants him to do. So, he is following orders…what else can he do?!

    Yes, I’m hoping he gets assets for Hamhuis and Vrbata. I don’t see Vrbata getting us much but taking him off the roster might also be a benefit. He seems to have checked out and someone else can slot into his spot.

    If Hamhuis isn’t moved it’s probably because he didn’t waive and asked to get re-signed. If Benning tells him he won’t be re-signed then I can totally see him agreeing to waive and go to a contender. He’s the one guy they could trade for a solid return.

    Another guy they could look at is trading Miller. If they’re out of the race at the deadline then this might make sense. Dealing him to the Sharks sounds feasible. It all depends on the return.

    Hansen is another guy teams would love and they could get a solid return. I’d hate to see him go but if the return is big then it might be worth it. You don’t want to loose all of these guys but a few would be fine…

    Hamhuis and Vrbata coming off the books opens up a lot of cap space. Losing Webber, Prust and maybe Higgins also helps. The more you think about it, the more you think next year will be the time to make a good push and try and go deep into the playoffs.

  • bigdaddykane

    I just don’t get why is JB so hated here. He has been hired about only one and half year ago. He gets a overaged and powerless team with totally no prospect pool and across 2 seasons he did what Gillis should have done 4 years ago. Ok, team is not winning, but look at the line-up today. 2 lines of 4 is created by young perspective guns and I didn’t mention that in Utica and junior are other great prospects.

    What did you expect, that Canucks will won SC thophy in one year? That during cup run he’ll draft another Crosby, Kane and Doughty? That he will exchange Higgins, Weber, Kassian and other Gillis’ fauls for Stamkos?

    Yes, he could do somethig differently (not sign Weber, Prust exchange), but he is able to fix it and learn from it.

    Give him time please. He is doing something we callin’ for years and in imo he doing it right. Either Rome wasn’t built in year.

  • Dirty30

    The great thing about sports(as an objective viewer), sometimes, a team that has no business winning finds a way to win. I look at a team like Leicester City in the Premier league as a recent example, 5000-1 odds at the beginning of the season, and they look like they have a good chance to win it all.

    I agree in that I hope the Canucks don’t take short sighted approach at the trade deadline, but I really hope that we make the playoffs.