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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • ikillchicken

    I knew we were going to get some Nylander-Ehlers b.s. when I saw the headlines.

    I enjoy watching Virtanen. He wad the right pick. And every time I see him score, I will think of CA and how insanely wrong the writers here are about that pick.

    • Graphic Comments

      Buddy, Ehlers has 13G and 18A, Virtanen has 6G and 5A. Those are rookie numbers, sure, but it’s not exactly clear what you’re basing your conclusion on. Watching the Jets, Ehlers is already plainly ready to be a solid top 6 winger while the jury is still way out on Virtanen. Nylander already looks solid too after basically forcing the Leaves to call him up against their original plan to roll over his ELC by keeping him in the AHL.

      Like most Canucks fans, I think Virtanen has an NHL future, but the evidence is already pretty solid that he was, in fact, a bad pick in his spot.

      • Graphic Comments

        Jake is 19 years old. Every young player has his own trajectory. I’d be curious as to how he is doing in a couple of years compared to his current season, as opposed to judging him so early in his career.

  • 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

    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.

  • ikillchicken

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

    The problem with that criticism is that it takes two teams to make a trade. If there is no team willing to make a serious offer for these guys, I can’t blame Benning for that. And Linden is right in saying that accepting a poor offer is worse than not accepting an offer at all.

  • 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.

  • t3

    I am always astounded at how confident people are that Bennings decisions are wrong. As if there’s no subtlety, subjectivity or grey area to these things. Very few decisions in life are black or white yet Mr. Graphic Comments portrays the Canucks decisions as obviously wrong and his judgement significantly more enlightened.

    I’m not saying Bennings decisions are all right but I’m sure there are more to them than The Canucks Army recognizes.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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

    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

  • ikillchicken

    Zach Kassian was not worth a bug of pucks.

    Seriously, given his poor play and substance abuse, his value as an NHL player was zero. The team would have been strengthened simply by dropping him.

    Therefore the Montreal deal was, in reality, Brandon Prust for a 5th round draft pick.

    • Whackanuck

      Then Prust for a 5th was a terrible move.

      Montreal had an even bigger mess on their hands after he was in the car accident and they got something for Kassian.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • YouppiKiYay

    this article is why canadians can’t have nice hockey teams. too many jackass writers trying to squeeze more stories and drama out of hockey than the sport can bear even if it means firing people, and too many clueless opinionated fans ready to listen to said jackasses.

    if you look up “dunning-kruger effect” on wikipedia you will find this blog entry.

    benning and desjardins, who you seriously want fired, took a team clearly past its prime that missed the playoffs the year before to 101 points last year. the only other canadian team in the last decade with over 100 points would be montreal. the veteran players who did this last year can pass waivers this year. but by all means blame the coach and the gm.

    this year benning and desjardin have somehow managed to transition the canucks into a team that last night dressed three players from the gillis era lineup (burrows, hamhuis and daniel), and is about a decade younger, yet still managed to look like a competitive hockey team for half the game.

    and if you still don’t understand why they signed sbisa and dorsett you also do not understand why the canucks were destroyed in the second half of that game. benning overestimated sbisa’s ability to fill that gap, but he’s dead right about that gap and the need to fill it.