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.

  • Charlie Allnut

    Logically, this article is built on the premise that Benning is incompetent to reach the conclusion that he should be fired.

    It is obvious that you believe your premise to be sound and supported by overwhelming evidence, and indeed you cite a lengthy list of transgressions to support it. Many are criticizing this premise as not being properly supported by a rigorous citation of available evidence. This is a fair criticism I suppose (although by this point I’m not sure whether people truly need to rehash all the evidence; we’re diehard fans, we should know this stuff).

    This site has offered this evidence in the past, but it has quite routinely been dismissed by many commenters. To give one example: criticisms of Sbisa based, on the empirical evidence of his nearly worst in league possession statistics for a defenseman, have been rather casually dismissed with comments stating “well, stats don’t matter” or “regardless of the stats, we need Sbisa because he is tough to play against” etc. All of which is to say, I’m not sure the criticisms would be much less vociferous had the author cited detailed quantitative evidence in support of his premise.

    For some fairly damning evidence that completely supports the premise, read Daniel Wagner’s article showing that Vrbata is the only player Benning has signed that has a positive possession effect on this team (and had the same effect on their previous teams). Damning stuff: http://www.vancourier.com/pass-it-to-bulis/there-s-a-reason-why-the-canucks-can-t-possess-the-puck-1.2191686

    Suffice to say, many seem to be immune to the mounting evidence of this management regime’s failings. Maybe time and a larger catalogue of bad decisions by management will sway the fan base to turn on this regime as they did on the last one.

    Don’t’ feel bad though, many Oilers fans reacted angrily when criticisms were made against Craig Mactavish. People will come around as the evidence continues to pile up.

    I enjoyed the column. I agree with the premise and conclusion.

    • Graphic Comments

      I think there’s no question that the Benning regime has made some bad moves and taken some large gambles. Like many others I’ve also wondered whether or not those add up to a case of a death by a thousand cuts. I still think the jury is out on this management and at some point you have to have results. But I think the critics of this regime seem to still be missing the forest for the trees — in the rush to criticize the individual moves there’s no discussion of the broader strategy. Indeed the argument seems to be all these moves are evidence that there IS no broader strategy — I’ve seen lots of pieces in different media outlets that the Canucks are muddled and directionless. I also saw at the outset of the season many predicting the Canucks to be rudderless with too many aging vets and no potential up and comers outside of Horvat.

      I don’t think that’s the case. I think the Benning regime has made its bet on drafting and developing newcomers, tutored by the Sedins to do the heavy lifting, sheltering their young goalie with an older vet in Miller, and adding complementary pieces in Dorsett, Vrbata, and some other fringe players. The long list of accusations leveled again and again at this management is meant to be impressive in its thoroughness (i.e. not the same kinds of mistakes but just a mountain of them) but it masks the fact that these are in fact very different kinds of transactions. Kassian had issues that went beyond hockey. Lack was traded to give room to Markstrom. Kesler wanted out. Bieksa was rapidly fading, Garrison was too slow for this conference, Bonino was at his ceiling with better line mates. The picks of Virtanen and McCann are not objectively worse than other options and have yet to be seen for what they could be (and the pick of Demo was also roundly criticized by CA writers at the time). I don’t love the signings of players that have yet to prove themselves (Sbisa and Sutter) where there wasn’t any urgency to do so, I didn’t love losing Corrado for nothing and I don’t love the Shinkaruk for Granlund trade either. But none of these moves catalogued are the core of the Canucks lack of success.

      The criticism seems to be that if you are going to be bad at least get something out of it — and specifically more draft picks. I don’t think we will get that because of the terrible job at the trade deadline. That I do think is on this management group. But at the end of this two year period the Canucks have added a clearly good development pipeline in the Utica Comets, added a quality pool of prospects, moved out a series of aging vets, and had a rookie defenseman in their top-4, and played at least 6 young forwards in their top 9 as well as got a young goalie’s feet wet. All of that is evidence enough for me to think Benning and co need at least another year in their probationary period.

      I think I’d agree with the calls to fire Benning if all these minor transactions (and honestly which of the departed players is playing a prominent role on their current team?) were coupled with the trading of prospects for aging vets or signing aging vets. Sutter and Sbisa are not Clarkson or Clowe.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • ikillchicken

    “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.”

    This is really the core of the issue. Now that it’s become clear just how bad we are, Benning apologists are already trying to spin our terrible play as not Benning’s fault. I mean, Benning has done what he could, right? But he inherited a mess. It was inevitable that we’d crash and need to rebuild, right? In fact though, this is some of the most laughable, revisionist nonsense I’ve seen in ages. Benning was the one who came in and declared that we wouldn’t rebuild. We were gonna retool on the fly while competing for a playoff spot every year. This was *his* stated goal and direction for the team. And as such, his utter failure to meet that goal demonstrates his ineptitude. I mean, at the end of the day, nobody is criticizing Benning because the team is bad. If he took the Toronto route and rebuilt, heck even if he pursued a slightly softer rebuild, nobody would mind that we weren’t very good. What people mind is Benning coming in, making a ton of bad trades and signings while generally bleeding assets all in pursuit of some delusional goal, and then failing to reach that goal. Benning fanboys can (and likely will with increasing ferocity going forward) try to spin this as inevitable. But it only demonstrates that their memories are just as short as Benning’s. If it was so inevitable that we were gonna find ourselves in this position then all the more reason to rebuild from day one and do a better job of building for the future.

  • YouppiKiYay

    The last club we want to emulate is the Oilers. They have had multiple Coaches and GMs over the past decade and remain in the bottom third of the league. Tied for the worst record for not making the playoffs in the history of the NHL. The Canucks have faired much better during the same time period.

    Let’s give Jimbo at least 3 full years to prove he can manage to get this team back into the playoffs.

  • 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!!?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • ikillchicken

    “The Canucks were always rebuilding. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the team had at any time been thinking along different lines. Actually, as fans well knew, it was only two years since the Canucks had been ‘retooling on the fly’. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge, which they happened to possess because their memories were not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of strategy had never happened. The Canucks were rebuilding: therefore the Canucks had always been rebuilding. The strategy of the moment always represented Benning’s genius, and it followed that any past or future strategy was impossible.” – This comments section in a nutshell.

    • Dirty30

      “The strategy of the moment always represented Benning’s genius, and it followed that any past or future strategy was impossible.”

      What I get from all the pundits and talking heads is if you aren’t tanking like the Leafs, you aren’t doing it right.

      I have never heard JB or anyone say we are going to tank and totally gut the team, amass as many picks as possible and hope to be a contender in X many years.

      FFS, why do we want to model ourselves after the Leafs? They have yet to do anything beyond liquidate assets.

      JB is trying to draft and acquire younger players that are ready to step into an NHL lineup. If these players aren’t progressing as he envisions, he either keeps them or moves on.

      We have never had so much youth in the lineup, can’t understand the hysteria from people that wanted change. nuts.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Dirty30

    I think we’re all missing the big picture here. Petbugs just set the record for paragraphs that begin with “Then”, “Then they” and “And then”. I think we need to put aside our differences and take the time to recognize this accomplishment.

  • YouppiKiYay

    I too have often complained about the signings of Miller/Dorsett/Sbisa.Quite simply too much term and monies for 3 guys that nobody wanted! Those are facts I did not make them up. Miller bombed in St.louis and was deemed expendable in Buffalo.

    Dorsett not wanted in Columbus and Sbisa not wanted in Anaheim. The book is still out on Baertchi,but Bartkowski is a bust. Still he has drafted 2 gems in Demko and Boeser but he needs to improve teams defense and certainly size dept.

    Willy I have nothing positive to say about, he needs to go plain and simple

  • Andy

    WTF? This site allowed another poster who seems to have no life to copy my username. Posting number17 is not me,I have never copied and pasting what another poster has said here,EVER!

    That is my posting lower down number38 where I bash Willy cause he deserves it and throw Benning some slack for his drafting.I am in complete agreement with a few others whom correctly posted that benning is on the losing end of the trades he has made. And to beat a dead horse because it needs to happen signing miller/dorsett/sbisa utter incompetance considering the term/money doled out to other teams garbage!

  • 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.