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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:

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

 

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  • Whackanuck

    Congratulations. Probably one of the better satires I’ve read in awhile. It is supposed to be a satire isn’t it?

    I found the complaint about the Canucks trading Lack and keeping Miller especially comical. A GM keeping a guy with with on 9.03 save percentage on a team that IS NOT rebuilding and getting rid of a guy with a save percentage of 9.14 will surely get him the GM of the Year Award (that’s supposed to be satirical). The fact that Miller had a NTC and probably doesn’t matter does it.

    The other one that I found amusing was trading away Kassian, a guy with serious addiction problems who could not play for this team for a guy who, at least could be a role player. We basically gave away nothing and got something back (albeit, not a lot).

    I could go on and on but I think I’ve made my point. You formed an opinion about Benning a long time ago (yes, I’ve read your blogs) and then try to find the facts (not very successfully) to support your argument. Maybe it would be a good idea to gather all the facts look at them with an unbiased eye and then come to a conclusion.

  • andyg

    You are throwing out a bunch of your opinions. I say opinions because you are not backing it up with prof.

    You say they should have papered a few players, but you don’t say who or why. They are allowed 4 call ups and for ever player you paper you use up 1 call up. Would you paper Hutton? Do you really see any benefit to playing him in the AHL playoffs?(why risk it) Etem?

    This is used for players that are waiver exempt. So who else and for what reason? Would Virtanen and McCann qualify? Is there anything stopping them from reassigning Weber to make room for Tryamkin? (Less then 10 games and 30 days)

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!!?

  • Dirty30

    I won’t repeat the many articulate rebuttals of this post already in the comments section (Lumme21’s is especially good). I do think having the pretension of being a sports writer means that you should be a little less thin-skinned and pouty if you get called out for writing opinionated fluff pieces – it’s ridiculous to say that anyone who disagrees with you only uses the Baertschi trade as counter-evidence or is simply a Benning apologist.

    The players we have traded are so far not really missed (certainly not at the price we paid). There are unknowns out there still — will Forsling actually translate to the NHL? Will Nylander and Ehler actually pan out? Did Calgary and Buffalo make huge mistakes by taking Bennet and Reinhart over Dylan Larkin? You act as if these are all givens; they are anything but.

    You say we should take all the myriad moves — some of which I liked, some of which I thought were ok, and some of which I hated (like the Canucks’ bungling of this trade deadline which I really did think was terrible) — and draw the conclusion that the Canucks are horribly mismanaged. But that, as someone else said, is to substitute your core narrative — that the Canucks are horribly mismanaged — for actual evidence, and then just cherry pick the moves as you interpret them, with no context or actual seeming recognition of the realities of running a sports enterprise.

    At the end of the day CA seems to want to have a management team that will basically burn it all down to the ground in order to amass picks. The only teams I have seen actually try to adopt such a strategy are the Penguins (pre-Lemieux and pre-Crosby), Sabres (last year for McDavid), and Leafs (this year). The Oilers don’t count — they weren’t trying to be so bad. Same with the Blackhawks, Thrashers, Kings, Hurricanes, Panthers, and a number of others who have serially sucked.

    Of the teams listed above, several spent years teetering on the verge of extinction and irrelevance, with some actually moving. The Panthers despite numerous high picks have only now sort of started to pull it together. The Penguins have been on the edge of leaving town several times. The Sabres have a deep-pocketed owner committed to using his fracking wealth to buy a championship team (maybe to get those NY politicians to shake his hand and lift the ban, who knows). The Leafs have fans who are so ardent they’ll go alone with it.

    The Canucks are not in that position. The fanbase won’t simply sit and watch a crap product — I remember the empty rink on Renfrew and one of the reasons I think this deadline was a failure was in the team’s inability to at least give the semblance of hope in swapping out expiring contracts for prospects or picks. But just openly tanking won’t work. And while Pittsburgh succeeded in turning around its fortunes with generational talent, Edmonton has not and the Sabres and Leafs strategies are yet to be played out. We keep hearing that the Leafs are in an enviable position but as of now they are a terribly inept team with a whole lot of potential. Something we’ve heard for a decade about the Oilers too.

    The Canucks suck this year. They will likely suck for a couple of more years. That’s what happens when your stars age and your former management both drafted poorly and sacrificed picks and prospects for win-now strategies. Maybe the moves Benning and co makes turn out to be the wrong ones. In the big picture however they have restocked the prospect pool far faster than I could have imagined in a 2 year period. Are the Canucks a better team now than when they took over? Of course not. Are they better positioned and in a better direction? They seem to be.

    Unless you can offer better actual proof that tanking works, please give up the same old tired whining narratives about the moves you don’t like.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • YouppiKiYay

    Kassian is beloved by the author.

    Benning and Trembley think otherwise, not to mention every other NHL GM that passed on him for a fifth rounder and a bag of pucks.

    Benning made way for the young guys to play together,grow together and gel together. Out are the problem drunk,Prusty the Clown, Higgins,Lack and Corrado.

    In with Baertschi,Virtanen,Markstrom,Granlund,Hutton,Etem,Biega and Gaunce.

    Rebuilds are difficult to accept by some fans – others not so much.

  • 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!

  • TrueBlue

    My honest thought is that Benning and Linden don’t need to go, and people have been way too reactionary with their fury over every little move, but that there is someone who needs to get fired. That person is John Weisbrod.

    Here’s my thoughts on each of the “bad” moves listed in this article:

    #1 – Benning gave Sbisa and Dorsett those ludicrous contract extensions.

    On competent NHL teams, the Assistant GM negotiates deals and the GM collects opinions from the full management team and holds the swing vote. Benning should veto any bad suggestions, but I’m betting he deferred to the experienced negotiator that put the offers together here. That’s something you’ll likely only do the first few times around.

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

    Teams calling about Miller were most likely looking for the Canucks to retain salary and take a bad contract back. All they wanted was to make room for Markstrom, that would not have warranted taking a lot of junk back. The Lack trade was reasonable.

    #3 – 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?

    Moving Kassian was always going to require taking back a contract. They decided to do it while that contract was someone like Prust instead of someone like Ben Scrivens, which Montreal had to take back in their later Kassian deal. Prust was a reasonably high profile player for the Habs in last year’s playoff run, and I think it was plausible to assume that with his pending UFA status he might garner enough interest to recoup a 3rd or 4th round pick at the deadline. What happened instead was that he got injured, further slowing down his already questionable skating, and limiting his ability to contribute. He got demoted because he started showing attitude problems, and the team wanted to isolate that from the kids they’re trying to develop. Absolutely nothing wrong with the linear progression of thinking from start to finish here as far as I’m concerned.

    #4 – 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…?”

    This I agree with, and this is why I would single out Weisbrod as not being effective enough as a replacement. I don’t think Gilman is necessarily the best AGM in the world, but he was better than Big John.

    #5 – 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.

    Bonino is a third liner who skates even worse than the aforementioned Prust, and Clendenning is struggling to get ice time on Edmonton. You might take issue with Sutter as someone to target in a deal, but you can’t take issue with what was given up for him: essentially nothing. Sidenote: please tell me how his WOWY charts in Pittsburgh make any sense to look at when the only other centers his linemates ever played with were Crosby and Malkin. Who wouldn’t look worse?

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

    Again, this is an AGM issue primarily.

    #7 – 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.

    Is he supposed to come out and say they were going to be awful? Look at the moves he made and not the words he said if you want to know what he’s actually thinking. It’s ridiculously naive to take anything these guys say to the media with anything but a grain of salt.

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

    Corrado is nothing, stop it with this narrative. That said, also something an effective AGM would flag if it really were an issue (it’s not).

    #9 – 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.

    The year towards free agency and year of ELC arguments are business considerations, not hockey considerations. Here’s another business consideration: pro hockey teams are businesses that rely on ticket sales and fan interest to make money. The fans desperately wanted to see some of the kids this year, and these guys were good candidates to deliver that. They didn’t need another year of junior and were too young for the AHL. No matter what they did for them, it would’ve been less than ideal hockey-wise, so they went with what they felt was the better business decision for the here-and-now. You can agree or disagree with it, but it’s not egregious.

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

    Nothing wrong with this move, so I agree with the writer.

    #11 – 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.

    This one is way, way too early to call. You can talk about ceilings all you want, but as of today, Markus Granlund has just as much of a chance at having a 100 point NHL season as Shinkaruk: very, very little. I’ll withhold judgment on this for another year at least.

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

    This was obviously the thing that drove people to maximum frustration. I’m not at all happy about it, and I do think it was the result of incompetence throughout the management group. I believe a capable AGM would’ve helped in this situation, but I’m not assigning Weisbrod any more blame than Benning or anyone else here.

    People like Brian Burke have given a pretty clear view into how trades are made at the deadline in past years, and all of it seems to happen at the AGM level until the framework of a deal is in place from what I understand. If you remember all those times Burke used to say “talk to Bob Murray, don’t talk to me” in his Ducks days, you’ll know what I mean.

  • andyg

    Never mind it is all in the past. Today we signed a ginormous defenseman that hopefully helps us in this rebuild or whatever anyone wants to call it.

    The sooner he gets in line up the sooner we no longer have to put up with either Weber or Bartkowski.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.