Where there’s smoke, somebody should be getting fired

Ok, maybe it’s time we get something straight.

It seems every time something negative is written about the Canucks and/or their management, the usual refrains from the peanut gallery are some combination of: “Why do you guys have to be so negative all the time?” or “Oh look, another article bashing Benning.” or my favourite, “But what about that time he traded for Baertschi?”

But think about it for a minute.

Why do we write post after post after post after post criticizing Benning and his decisions?

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Maybe it’s because they keep making bad decision after bad decision.

It’s not like we’re writing about the same thing over and over. No, it’s one thing after another with this management group. And those are just the decisions we know about. There’s no telling how many opportunities they’ve had to make good decisions and passed them up.

The point is that the signals are there.

And to paraphrase the old saying, where there’s smoke, somebody should be getting fired.

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I haven’t always thought this. I thought Benning came in and had a pretty good start to his tenure with the Canucks. He made the best of a bad situation in getting some value back for Kesler. I was ok with the other deals he made at the draft. Got what he could for Garrison and created some cap room. Brought in Dorsett, a fourth line grinder that could actually skate and sometimes score. You know, play hockey. Took a flyer on Linden Vey. A worthwhile risk for a second round pick.

The draft itself could have been better. We have yet to really regret that Virtanen pick, but the day will come. That’s not to say he’s going to be a bust. But the players Benning passed up to take Virtanen are going to be game breakers in this league, something the Canucks sorely need. And this is not just hindsight. Go back and read the post after post leading up to the 2014 draft on the much more skilled players that would be available at the numer six spot.

When free agency came around, I really liked the Vrbata deal, which was great value. Wasn’t crazy about Miller, but it was ok. A bit of an over pay for three years, but not too egregious.

So overall, not a bad start.

And that good start carried over into the season. Benning picked up Pedan, Clendenning and Baertschi over the course of the 2015-16 season. Giving up Forsling for Clendenning looks horrible in hindsight, but at the time they seemed like prospects on a similar development path, so the Canucks were trading like for like and saving themselves a couple of years in the process. The jury is still out on Pedan, but he has the potential to be a good addition to the lineup.

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That brings us to Sven Baertschi.

Yes, Baertschi was was a good pick-up, and good on Benning for making that deal. But it’s not like we didn’t say so at the time. So if your only retort to the “constant criticism” about Benning is “but what about that time he traded for Baertschi?”, then my response is, yeah, so what? That was a good deal, and we thought so too.

If anything, the writers at Canucks Army were more than willing to give Benning the benefit of the doubt in that first season.

Well, most of that first season.

Because then Benning gave Sbisa and Dorsett those ludicrous contract extensions.

That was the first sign of trouble.

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Then they traded Eddie Lack when they had other teams asking about Miller.

Then they traded Kassian for an older, more expensive Prust on an expiring contract, and had to throw in a fifth round pick because you know what they were moving out, right?

Then they got rid of the one guy that understood how to maneuver the intricacies of the CBA to manage the salary cap as an asset, apparently because he made it difficult to make decisions. Probably because he kept asking, “Have you thought about…?”

Then they gave up what they got for Forsling and half of Kesler for a career third-liner, who they called the foundation for team and slotted in as a second line centre.

Then they gave him a contract extension so bad that it almost makes you forget how bad the Sbisa extension was. Almost.

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Then Benning showed how little perspective he actually has by claiming the Canucks were better than the previous year and that this was a 100 point team, so of course they’re going to retool on the fly.

Then they gave away Corrado unnecessarily and for nothing. If only they had somebody to help them navigate the cap.

Then they kept McCann and Virtanen in the NHL, needlessly burning a year of their entry-level contract, accruing a year toward free agency and hampering their longer term development.

Then they did pick up Emerson Etem, who has proven to be a serviceable player. Maybe things are turning around again…

Oh, no. False alarm. Because then they gave away Hunter Shinkaruk, the only prospect in Utica with some real offensive upside for a guy that is maybe less risky to make the NHL but also less likely to break into the top six. At least on a competitive NHL team.

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And then they frittered away the trade deadline and extracted zero value from Vrbata and Hamhuis. Zero.

Then they didn’t bother to paper any of their guys to Utica at the deadline, including Weber, who had already cleared waivers, needlessly putting them in the position to have to shut down Sutter or Edler for the season because they can’t send anybody down to the farm and perhaps hampering their ability to sign call up anybody else, or sign any of their prospects like Tryamkin or Demko.

So yeah, we’ve been critical of Benning and the Canucks.

But that’s because they are a bad team making bad decision after bad decision.

They aren’t a bad team because they have deliberately extracted value from their assets in pursuit of more and higher draft picks. No, they have squandered cap space, cost-controlled contracts and roster spots in a fruitless attempt to remain competitive. They are a bad team despite trying to be a good team. That is much, much worse. And the one or two good moves since the Sbisa and Dorsett extensions are washed away by the tidal wave of ineptitude.

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Benning may be a good amateur talent scout, but his asset management is abysmal. And yes, this organization has been sorely in need of better scouting department for years. But not at the expense of poor management that at best doesn’t maximize the value of assets and at worse, squanders them.

Now, I’m sure many of you will just write this off as just another negative post and talk about how effort some people will put in just to demean Benning and this organization. But I have to say, it wasn’t much work at all. It was really easy, in fact. Benning and Weisbrod do all the work for you.

And as we head into the off-season, there’s some critical decisions facing Benning and this management team. Let’s hope somewhere along the way, Benning manages to have at least one good idea that will improve this team’s chances next year:


And if we’re lucky, maybe the hyphen key on his keyboard is broken.

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

  • ikillchicken

    Excellent article. Props to CA for not conforming to what many readers want to hear. Thank you for typing the truth.

    This team is headed in a terrible direction, and the management is the #1 reason for that. The best part of the article was: “They are a bad team despite trying to be a good team.”

    This team is tanking, yet Benning literally tried his best to make it a “100pt team” and he truly believed that they would be.

  • Whackanuck

    If Kassian was a drunk and a cancer, waive him and keep the 5th rounder. When he passes waivers you tell him don’t bother reporting to Utica until you get your addiction issues taken care of. Suspend him without pay just as Montreal did.

    He had 1 year left on a sub 2m contract. Even if they had to eat a buyout, it’s less cap hit and money than they are spending on Prust to play in the AHL.I doubt they have to as every contract has a behaviour clause.

    IF Benning actually thought Prust was still a viable NHLer, well that is a whole other big problem.

  • Charlie Allnut

    @petbugs13 aka Graphic Comments

    Did you see Jake Virtanen shove Drew Doughty twice in the last game? I will take Virtanen’s power forward game over Nikolaj Ehlers’ soft perimeter game any day.

    Frankly I am tired of your rehashing old negative arguments/opinions.

    My advice to you is to stick with your day job. Please please go bash another Canadian team in your free time, and transfer your knowledge and skills over to the flamesnation, oilersnation or pick another-canadian-team nation.

  • TrueBlue

    I was a life-long Canucks fan, but jumped ship [not the bandwagon] with the Vertanen pick. Fact, the Canucks would be in full re-build mode if not for the Sedins. This means that they are unable to draft high enough to replace the Sedins. So when the Sedins retire, the Canucks will be an AHL team. The one exception, was when they had that 6th pick. Gradin, Sundstrom, Naslund and Sedins is the history of the franchise. Forget which player will be ‘better’ in your opinion, Vertanen screams ‘grinder’, Nylander was the only player ISS ranked ‘elite’ talent. In plain English, Benning and Linden drafted themselves, players in their likeness – a Don Cherry team, rather than the franchise tradition of elite scorers.
    Soon, when Benning’s team is the worst, and drafts top-4, they will still choose the Lawson Cruise over the Mitch Marner.