VANCOUVER – The online statistical geniuses, who make their hockey assessments via charts and graphs, all but murdered Jim Benning when he traded for Eric Gudbranson.
They screamed in unison: The Gudbranson deal made no sense. Because the Canucks had a Grade A prospect in Jared McCann up the middle. He had the numbers to prove it. They yelled that Benning doesn’t know what he’s doing and that tone continued throughout the summer after the Granlund extension, the buyout of Chris Higgins, the signings of Loui Eriksson and Jack Skille and the awkward tampering charges over P.K Subban and Milan Lucic.
Benning was hired two years ago to turn the Canucks around quickly and just about the first thing he did was try to acquire a tough defenseman that would strike fear into opposing forwards. He tried often. Benning thought he had it done that first summer when he traded for Sbisa and again last March when he brought over Tryamkin, but each time circumstances prevented it from happening.
The Gudbranson acquisition eventually got done in May — and while many disagree with me, I say on the cheap. What Gudbranson has displayed in the early season borders on the remarkable. His style — calm, in control, square to the opposition skaters — makes him look capable of being one of the truly great defensemen in the game and all the Corsi percentage shouters have been silenced.
The Tyler Seguin trade in Boston used to be Benning’s signature deal. It’s entirely possible the Gudbranson deal will surpass that piece of hockey thievery.