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?

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.

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.

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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.

That brings us to Sven Baertschi.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.



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

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    That’s… Not really how it works, man. You don’t fire people willy-nilly whenever you’re upset, continuity is a huge part of winning franchises, if you believe you have your guy you stick with him through thick and thin. If I were Canucks ownership, I would wait until the end of NEXT year to evaluate whether Benning and Willie should be out the door. I’d take the end of this year to let them discuss what they did wrong and what to improve on. Keep in mind, they’re only 2nd-year head coaches and GMs.

    • YouppiKiYay

      I moved over to blogs because of the tripe being posted by whiners on the province…. now reading the tripe above from “graphic Comments…. looks like you should be shilling on the team 1040, Graphic. Perhaps it might be a good idea to, you know, let them do their job, stop screaming for their heads and give this a few years to… toys know BUILD A TEAM?

  • Graphic Comments

    I thought we would actually see all of these bad moves quantified.

    This is more of a Tony Gallagher piece.

    The team was always going to bottom out considering the lack of talent in the early to late 20s age group.

    That is not on Linden and Benning.

    While I’m not sure that I would want Benning in charge if/when this team becomes competitive again, he may very well be useful for rebuilding the farm system.

    And that is BY FAR going to be the most important thing over the next few years.

  • Steampuck

    Gillis needs to be rehired so the delusional basement bloggers can correctly attribute the majority of this mess to him…

    Overpaying Miller, Sbisa & Dorsett has virtually nothing to do with why this franchise needs to rebuild.

    Ridding the team of those contracts (and Burrows & Higgins) would mean more money to spend on…free agents.

    Which would just be a new set of reasons for dumb bloggers to get ornery.

    The previous regime set the organization down this path which free agency would not solve…

    • Andy

      Good point.

      I don’t like any of Miller, Sbisa, Dorsett, Prust and Sutter could also turn out to be an overpay.

      But none of these contracts have prevented the Canucks from keeping the few core players they have like Tanev.

  • Dirty30

    I’m the last guy to defend Benning, but I don’t see this situation as all falling at his feet.

    With no proof nor inside knowledge, I can at best speculate that this situation stinks of Ownership and the desire to make the playoffs at any cost.

    I have to wonder at times if the ‘c-r-a-p’ that Gillis pulled toward the end of his tenure with the team was a reaction to ownership and a simple F-U good-bye on his way out the door.

    Benning has made some good moves, and give credit to his handling of the Kesler situation as some solid proof … and ask how does a guy who starts off so solid become so incompetent in less than a year? Did he have a stroke? Were his early days all down to beginners luck? Or did the notoriously interfering ownership start dismantling some old Gillis parts and look for quick fixes to keep the team trending towards the playoffs?

    I think it comes down to one question: If Benning was as incompetent as some would like to believe, would this Ownership really keep him in place this long?

  • Steampuck

    Good job listing stuff. Is there any evidence here? Because there doesn’t seem to be any quantifiable justification for any of the claims made. I like some of the deals. I don’t like others. But the simple fact of the matter is that it is more or less too soon to evaluate any of them on any merit. Heck: even Sbisa has played reasonably well in patches this year (who’da thunk that last year).

    Oiler colours in the Venn diagrams were a nice touch.

    • Andy

      They can be evaluated based on current information, and updated once you know more.

      Corrado got picked up off waivers. A shame, but not a loss.

      We now learn he was injured during AHL playoffs and never got a summer to recondition.

      In hindsight, that makes the Corrado waiving even more baffling, as the Canucks could’ve put him on LTIR (stays with the team; doesn’t cost a roster spot).

      On a larger scale, the Corrado situation suggests to me that if there is a plan, no one in the organization is able to articulate it to players, AGMs (I miss Gilman), or even season ticket holders.

        • Andy

          …who was told by the GM to find a place in Vancouver, only to get waived in October.

          Maybe they should also have prospect town halls, as quite a few players in the organization don’t even know what their role in the plan is.

      • YouppiKiYay

        Do we have a source for this alleged Corrado injury — one he kept very well hidden from the Comets and the Canucks trainers, management, and medical staff — other than the Province’s resident serial fabulist? One who goes out of his way to shade Benning by making up new facts as convenient.

  • Andy

    Petbugs does raise a good point.

    If we evaluate each deal, some are good, some are bad, many don’t make sense given what the Canucks have said, others don’t make sense because of what the Canucks have done.

    But the fact that no analyst, media pundit, fan, or even president can consistently explain what the plan is (without contradicting themselves) is worrisome.

    • Andy

      The plan is to rebuild the team without the input of people writing on the internet for free consumption.

      And if you do not like it, you may use your entertainment dollars on something else.

      This is a private business.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    I personally totally agree with the article.
    Benning is a fine scout and I would love to keep him in that capacity. Benning seems to come out on the wrong side of every deal, and appears to be a pushover.

    An analogy I would like to make is to compare the Canucks with a Car Salesman selling a car to Joe Schmoe off the street.
    A good Car Salesman extracts every bit of value they can out of Joe Schmoe in a car deal.
    The problem is that every other GM in the league is the Car Salesman and Benning is Joe Schmoe off the street getting taken for every penny possible.

    Benning just does not have a Car Salesman vibe in him.

  • Dirty30

    I’m with the writer on this one. It would be foolish to wait around to see if this management group improve. Although they are new at their current positions, they have been around the league for some time. Looking around the league there is enough examples of new management making intelligent moves immediately, without needing any time to figure it out -see Calgary, Toronto. Conversely, there are few examples of management pulling it together a few years in -probably only NYI, arguably Tampa. Their decisions have shown them to be prioritizing the wrong player attributes, favoring “safe” old-fashioned players to skilled ones -which is actually only a way to ensure your team never climbs the standings. It is not too much to ask of management that know what a good (or very good) hockey player looks like in 2016, new or not. They look like Ekbolm or Ellis, not Sbisa or Girardi; like Gaudreau or Tyler Johnson, not Dorsett or Abdelkator. They can do the thing with the puck and their feet where they move them fast and they get the puck from the other team and keep it amongst their team. The teams that are good, or likely to get good, have this figured out.

  • ikillchicken

    Let’s just say I’m glad the writers at this site are not in charge of making personnel decisions for the Canucks.

    I’m not going to address all the points made in this article. One thing that seems to get lost in all the number crunching is that Benning obviously wants players who have more than one dimension. Corrado and Shinkaruk may turn out to be perfectly decent NHL players, but at this point at least, they are one-dimensional and redundant. They don’t need Corrado if they already have Chris Tanev. They don’t need Shinkaruk if they have Sven Baertschi, not to mention Virtanen and Boeser likely developing into powerful, top-six wingers.

    I take it that the writers would have preferred to send Ben Hutton to the AHL? He’s already proven to be a better player than Corrado, and at his age (turning 23 this year) he should be playing in the NHL. Now is his time. He earned it, and he is where he belonged. If it meant losing a defenseman who will likely be a 5th or 6th d-man on a good team, so be it.

    It often seems that the writers on this site can’t see the forest for the trees. Look at the big picture, folks. Bottom line is that the Canucks are giving their young players a chance to play, and they have a better collection of young talent than they’ve had in a long time. Cheer up.

  • Marvin101

    Corrado turned out to be the Leafs secret weapon when they decided to tank. Losing Corrado was no big but the cap management has been abysmal. If Benning is to be replaced then Linden has to go first.

    I don’t know if I agree with all the points in the article but it was fun to read and that’s what it’s all about. I always like the graphics.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    I want to take a moment to apologize to all the fans here, in particular Beat it Hamhuis, who has posted some really questionable comments recently, but my reaction didn’t have to be so crass. Sorry fellas. The losing has started getting to me, Thanks.

  • Steampuck

    Why do we post comment after comment after comment criticizing Canucks Army’s bloggers and their lack of evidence?

    Maybe it’s because they keep posting opinion pieces without evidence.

    It’s not like we’re writing about the same thing over and over. No, it’s one thing after another with this blogging 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.


  • Marvin101

    Please…. no more graphic comments. Ughh they suck and make no frigging sense other than to fit whatever nonsense narrative that you’re trying to spin. I throw up a bit in my mouth every time I see these things.

  • Andy

    Running a billion odd dollar franchise is not anything like blogging from your living room overlooking the Burnaby Sky Train.

    Yes,he has made mistakes but his Canucks record as GM is 73-57-17-and that stellar record includes a full slate of kids within a major rebuild.

    Peanut Gallery,indeed.

  • Andy

    not very many readers here are able to view their team critically or objectively are they? I’m a Canucks fan but honestly much more productive and rational discussions occur in the comments sections on the Jets’ and Flames’ nation sites. Disappointing

  • Graphic Comments

    This is an excellent well written ,and though-out article.Thankyou.G.C.I think “cheer leading” is something you do for your kids.When it comes to a professional sports team.No!!, some people don`t get that.You can be a good fan,and still be critical of your teams decisions.

  • TrueBlue

    Nice to see all the mistakes laid out in order.
    I love the way JB has drafted and the culture he wants to bring in.
    My problem with management has been their ‘asset’ management.
    Whether its losing players for nothing, not getting any value for UFAs or trading potential high end talent for more guaranteed mediocrity.
    Also the CAP management seems to have taken a nose dive from the Gillman days but maybe thats because we were spooled and didn’t know it.

    Here is where I differ from the author. I don’t think Benning should be fired, lets see what hew can do at this draft and the next where we hopefully have stockpiled a few early round picks.

    If we’re in a rebuild then we have to get used to sucking so it might as well be with these guys, then we can bring in a new management team to take over on the upwards trend.

    I think Willie is a good coach for young players and I do think Benning means well, just have to convince the owners to stay out of it.

  • Andy

    Jesus christ these comments are causing me to lose brain cells soon I’ll be on Benning’s level… It’s evident Benning and co. are incompetent in a management role and the Canucks’ future is in jeopardy. People blaming the former regime is just laughable, he made the decisions a potential stanley cup winning team has to make and look how close he came. Whatever, this team is awful and doesn’t look to be trending upwards anytime soon. BRING ON THE DRAFT PICKS! oh wait.. we traded those too….

    • Dirty30

      Yes, and Stan Bowman made some decisions for his potential Stanley Cup winning team as well. He didn’t gut the farm…he developed and traded. Something Gillis didn’t do. If memory serves, Blackhawks have won a couple of cups recently. So yes I blame Gillis.

      The team isn’t doing well. You expected the Canucks to contend? Now that is laughable. Whether you like it or not, the Canucks are rebuilding. We are getting the results most fans expected.

      Bring on the draft picks! Something we never had under the Gillis regime.

  • Andy

    One more thing… People calling for evidence is ironic because whenever they do post analytical evidene they just get called out for being stat nerds. Maybe stop refuting the evidence and it’ll suddenly appear! oh wait… it was there all along!!?