Jim Benning speaks: onnVirtanen, Evander Kane, and his Message to Fans

The 2016-17 season has been quite the rollercoaster so far. The Canucks started out very high with their 4-game win streak, then plunged to the bottom after losing 9 straight, and now it’s just up and down. They are 3 points behind San Jose for third Pacific Division playoff spot, and yet they find themselves towards the bottom of the NHL standings. A number of stories have emerged after a month and a half of the NHL regular season; Willie Desjardins’ job security, Jake Virtanen’s situation, Evander Kane rumours, and why the waiver-wire has not been used.

Jim Benning was on TSN 1040 this morning to discuss these topics and more!

Earlier this week, the Jake Virtanen situation was cleared up by Willie Desjardins, albeit with some laughs.

Different messages were sent to fans when Canucks management addressed this topic: Jim Benning said he would be in Utica for the weekend and then be called up regardless, while Trevor Linden said that he would be evaluated after the two games. Up until he was sent back down to the AHL, nobody really knew what was actually going on.

Jim Benning on Virtanen: “We were on the road and he played in MTL, OTT, and TOR. The TOR game didn’t go well for him. At the end of the trip, I asked him to go down, play a couple games, get his confidence and then he was coming back. He came back on Sunday so he was an extra player for that game. Tuesday was a coaches’ decision, we left that up to Willie. We met as a group and talked about what’s best for Jake’s development. He’s a 20 year-old player, he’s an important player for us going forward, the best course of action was to get him down the AHL, get him practicing, get him playing lots of minutes, keep developing as a player.”

After Jim Benning was fined $50,000 for tampering during the summer, he made sure to double-seal any information regarding the Evander Kane trade rumours. It was well-known that he had interest last season, but Bob McKenzie said the two parties were not able to materialize a deal. In the Canucks’ current state of cherishing every goal scored, the search for the aforementioned “gritty, skilled, 20-goal scorer” has become the goal of Canucks management. The rumours of bringing the Vancouver boy home have, once again, picked up. The word is that Buffalo would be looking to bolster their defence if they were to make a trade, thus prompting individuals to speculate about Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton. 

Jim Benning on trade rumours: “I’m not going to talk about players on other teams. We’re in the marketplace, I’ve talked to all the other GMs. We’d like to add a forward with speed and skill. Whether we can get that done remains to be seen, but we’re in the marketplace trying. We have depth on defense – that’s a position where we’ve rebuilt it. Tryamkin’s 22 year-old, Stecher’s 22 years-old, Edler at 30 is our oldest defenseman. We have a young, good group back there. If we look to make a move, we’d have to  use some of our depth on the blueline to add a forward.”

The names of Seth Griffiths, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Magnus Paajarvi were some intriguing players that have been on the waiver wire this season. Every next morning, the waiver claims are released and have left some Canucks fans disappointed. Waiver claims come at zero cost and zero risk, which has raised eyebrows because the pros of a claim outweigh the cons. There have been some promising players with potential, but Jim Benning insists that this off-season’s depth signees will prioritized by the players placed on waiver.

Jim Benning on the waiver wire: “We look at every player that goes on waivers. We ask ourselves ‘Is this a player that’s going to help our team now or can he be part of our group going forward?’ If the answer is yes, then we’d look to pick up that player. We signed depth players this year (Megna & Chaput), so we have some players in Utica that we want to give a chance to before we look at the waiver wire.”

Every fan is entitled to his/her own opinion with regards to how they feel Linden & Benning should be managing the team. Some want a Toronto Maple Leafs-esque, tear-down and rebuild situation, while others simply want to see a successful team on the ice. Canucks management have been firm and direct in their aim to be a playoff team, which comes to the chagrin of the so-called “Draftists”. 

Jim Benning: “We said we wanted to be competitive in every game, that’s what we said this summer. In being competitive, we wanted to try and compete for one of the wild-card spots. We’re three wins from being first place in our division, we’re two wins out of one of the wild-card spots. For the most part, we’ve been competitive and been in every games. We have to figure out a way to get to the net and score more goals. Hopefully we can continue to be compeittive and win some games and stay in the hunt for one of the wild-card spots.”

Jim Benning’s message to the “Draftists”: The Sedins are still our best hockey players. Some of our older players are the heart and soul of our team and are going to teach our young players and hold them accountable. I’m not going to make no apologies as to where we’re at. Our fans, I think, understand what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be competitive and develop young players. We have some good, young players in our system. I say to them: Just be patient with us. We’re going to rebuild this thing and be a real good team in the future.”

Willie Watch

After last night’s win, Willie Desjardins lived to fight another day. How much longer will he remain for, that remains to be seen. It is worth noting, however, that Canucks management’s comments on Desjardins have gone from fully supportive at the beginning of the season, to now “monitoring” how each game goes.

Jim Benning on Desjardins: Willie and his staff have worked real hard. Losing Hansen and Tanev are big losses, we’ve put other guys in the lineup. We’re competing every night. Hopefully we keep winning games but we’re going to keep monitoring things and seeing where they’re at.”

Injury & Illness Updates

  • Derek Dorsett: Undergoing tests today; will be given an update later today.
  • Chris Tanev: Has not started skating; a couple weeks away, but no firm timeline.
  • Anton Rodin: 3 weeks (rough timeline).
  • Ryan Miller: Available to back-up tomorrow night.

Source: TSN 1040

  • The group we have, is the group we have to go forward with. In today’s NHL there is no quick fix. There is no player movement or trades to be made. If there was a deal to be had, Jim would have made it. So, we have to stick with what we have, support what we have, and rely on our own drafting, player development, and promoting guys from within. Be self sufficient in a way.

    Forget about outside help, forget about overpaying, and build from within. Then, live with the consequences.

  • Dirk22

    “Our fans, I think, understand what we’re trying to do” – Benning

    This management team doesn’t know what its trying to do, let alone the fans. They’re trying to be competitive yet are nearing historical levels of ineptitude. They are building for the future yet have no problem casting off draft picks for mediocre talent. What exactly are you doing Jim?

    • Killer Marmot

      Since he’s been here Benning has traded away the following draft picks:

      2 2 2 3 3 3 5 5 7

      (meaning he’s traded away three 2nd rounders, three 3rd rounders, etc). And traded for the following draft picks:

      1 2 2 3 3 3 7

      I call it fairly even, given that later draft picks have low probability of producing an NHL player.

      Further, when he has traded away draft picks it has often been for young players such as Baertschi and Pedan. I find that defensible. That was not true, however, when he gave up draft picks for Dorsett, Sutter, and Larsen. I think, however, that the Sutter trade was well worth it.

      • Dirk22

        Traded away:
        2014: 2nd, 3rd
        2015: 2nd, 3rd, 7th
        2016: 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th
        2017: 5th, 6th

        That’s 12 picks he’s traded away: 4 2nds, 3 3rds, 1 4th, 2 5th, 1 6th, 1 7th

        Traded for:
        2014:1st, 2nd, 3rd
        2015: 3rd, 7th, 7th
        2016: 2nd, 3rd, 5th
        2017:

        That’s 8 picks he’s traded for: 1 1st, 2 2nds, 3 3rds, 1 5th and 2 7’s.

        Even factoring in that he obtained a 1st from the Kesler deal he’s still in the negative for acquiring draft picks. For certain teams that’s not a big deal. For a team that’s supposed to be rebuilding that’s inexcusable – even taking into account the better moves he’s made such as Baertschi and Pedan.

        • Killer Marmot

          You’re right. I missed the Gudbranson deal as my list of trades was a little old. I stand corrected.

          Having said that, I don’t mind a manager trading draft picks for a 24-year-old defenseman. The team is still acquiring a young player, and defensemen tend to have later careers than forwards.

          It’s when they trade draft picks for older players that we should get concerned.

        • DJ_44

          They also have a 2nd from Columbus coming (this year or next) yah, it was a freebie …..but if you have it, you have to factor it in.

          When you consider the value in return for (Baertschi and Pedan) that means he is down one pick ….and a late rounder at that ….. let’s not make more of it than it is. Overall, he has done a solid job at rebuilding a pretty much empty prospect pool.

          Far more important is what you make of the picks you have. And in that respect, there is little doubt he has been very, very good.

          • Dirk22

            Benning has traded away more draft picks in 2+ years than Gillis did in his entire tenure and Gillis was roasted for that. You’re right that the prospect pool was very empty to begin with – the argument is that Benning could have done a lot more then he has to add to it

            As for your last comment about “very, very good” – you obviously haven’t seen the Nylander/Ehlers thread from a couple of days ago. I certainly have my reservations about praising Benning on drafting when he completely botched his first and arguably most important pick. The Boeser pick makes that a wash but ‘a wash’ does not constitute “very, very” good.

          • DJ_44

            On the contrary, I have taken part in the discussion, even agreeing with you with respect to the quality of Nylander and his role on the Leafs. However, I think you have to agree that Nylander benefitted HUGE from a season in the AHL.

            It also does not make Virtanen a miss by any stretch of the imagination. In short: early days.

            You neglect the unbelievable quality of player the GMJB gets in later rounds. Never mind Boeser (who he probably would have take at 10 let alone 22 (or 23?) …..Tryamkin? Demko? Forsling (…ya, I know), Gaudette, and now Lockwood. Throw in Briesbois and the Russian kid in the Q….that is what gets you to very, very good.

        • Whackanuck

          I believe that’she nine picks acquired using your data…but what the hell, it is only math.

          He also stood his ground and got the mandated 2nd rounder for Torts.

          • Dirk22

            You’re right – there is. Does that make draft picks expendable? Get rid of the picks and rely on undrafted free agents?

            **cough, cough Hutton was drafted in 2012 by Gillis …

  • pheenster

    Those all seem to be pretty clear answers to me, with some standard NHL GM code-speak thrown in (e.g. “monitoring the situation” = very short leash).

    But that won’t stop the Twitterati from disingenuously claiming that they don’t understand what he’s saying.

  • Burnabybob

    I don’t like to be negative, especially after a win…

    but is anyone else concerned that two players selected AFTER Olli Juolevi – Matt Tkachuk and Jacob Chychrun- are now NHL regulars and contributing regularly to their teams?

    There may be others. Those are just two I happen to know about. Defensemen often take longer to develop, it’s true, but this is mildly concerning.

    • Killer Marmot

      I am not in the least bit concerned.

      In Chychrun’s case in particular, it may just mean that Arizona is thin on defensive talent, and thus didn’t have the luxury of letting him develop on the farm team. Vancouver is fairly deep at D. There is no rush.

    • Scouting reports indicated that Tkachuk and Chychrun had pro-ready games while Juolevi needed to build strength. So there is no need for concern, those 3 players are where scouts thought they could/should be.

      Ironically, Juolevi is projected to have higher upside than Chychrun. So if we invert the Ehlers/Nylander-Virtanen narrative, in this case Benning valued potential upside over physicality. And people still want his head? He just can’t win (pun intended).

      (Personally, I would have drafted Tkachuk for his scoring, physicality and drive. Benning passed on the exact guy that he’s trying to acquire via trade, tsk tsk.)

    • SJ

      Not concerned at all. Keep in mind the teams that Tkachuk and Chychrun are contributing to.

      I know we’re not better, but we have a log jam at defense already, no need to jam Juolevi’s development into that equation too. Olli projects to be better than Chychrun in the long run, he’ll just need a bit more time I think.

      As for Tkachuk, he’s been a healthy scratch multiple times and has 6 points in 13 games. If he were here, it would be Virtanen 2.0 and everyone would be screaming to send him back to junior.

  • wojohowitz

    On top of rumoured interference from ownership we also seem to be getting mixed messages from Linden, Benning and Willie. Perhaps it explains why both Pat Quinn and Brian Burke were president and GM of the Leafs – to cut back on media relations getting different interpretation of what`s going on. The ongoing story of Virtanen and his `stuff` is only the latest example. I have to wonder if management and ownership is communicating with each other because they never seem to get their stories straight or do they need advice from a PR person. If they have one already he does not seem to be doing a very good job. The mixed messages also seem to be piling on to the questionable personnel moves – from Corrado to Rodin to Tryamkin and now Virtanen.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I guess in a market like Vancouver, micro-analysis can be expected. But let’s stop talking about Corrado, already!

    For what it is worth, I think that what Benning and Linden are trying to do is clear. Get younger and faster while continuing to compete. Try to build a balanced roster where you don’t have deomgraphic/contract gaps. Don’t be like the Oilers. As a fan, I respect that.

    Ideally, in 2-3 years we are competitive with a young mobile defence (Hutton, Juolevi, Stetcher, Subban) with a bit of snarl (Tryamkin, Gudbranson). Boeser, Horvat, Virtanen and our upcoming top 5 draft (hopefully a #1 centre) leading the top 6. Quality veterans in their late 20s early 30s to fill out the middle 6 (Baertschi, Sutter, Rodin, Gaunce).

    Not a huge fan of acquiring Kane, but as long as the price is not too high he’s probably worth the risk. Off ice issues aside, he fits the roster quite well in terms of age and stage of development.

    One quick thought: while salary and term are important, we should not underestimate the need to have contracts expiring at the right time (i.e. always have high cost contracts expire when you need to sign young players to high cost contracts). Benning has, I think, done a good job on that front.

    • Andy

      Some thoughts (on your thoughts)

      1. Corrado’s story is well past it’s due, though it’s an important tell as to how green the management team was. The team had a variety of ways to prevent it from happening, and decided to utilize none of them. It’s their choice, but did demonstrate their inexperience with the waiver system, LTIR, and paper transactions. (For what it’s worth, the Leafs denying him opportunities frels scummy.)

      2. While I get the idea of a balanced roster demographic, the current prospects of the Canucks AND Comets support the hypothesis that in trying to prioritize both team needs, they whiffed on both. The team could’ve have an AHL first line of Shinkaruk, Virtanen and McCann. Now, say what you will about the individual players, but I think Travis Green could’ve worked some line chemistry with those kinds of high end forwards.

      3. Jim has had some exceptional hits (Boeser, Gaudette) and misses (Stewart, Petit), his overall skill has me wishing he would keep some more draft picks, as they have more value in his hands (due to his draft record) than most other scouting departments not named Detroit or Tampa.

      4. Kane is an overpay/lateral move if if involves any D-man not named Edler, Sbisa, Biega, or Larsen. Hutton, Tanev, Stetcher and Tryamkin are so much younger, with higher ceilings.

      • Billy Pilgrim

        Good thoughts. Let me try to counter your counter:

        1) Corrado. The right and fair thing to do for the player was to waive him. He needs to play. I think the timing can be criticized, but if you believe that Corrado is a replacement level player keeping him on the roster to simply sit in the press box is also bad player management. Simply hanging on to assets for the sake of keeping them from others is scummy (see Leafs). The right thing to do (maybe not the smart thing from a pure business sense) would be for the Leafs to waive him as well. Overall, the Canucks are on the side of the angels on the Corrado front. Now, I promise not to mention Corrado in a post ever again.

        2) I agree that the roster at the level of the Comets is not balanced in terms of quality prospects. But I think the organization overall is better balanced, and there is room on the Comets for prospects playing in Junior and NCAA for next year. Shinkaruk for Granlund appears to have been ok, and met a need.

        3) I think the misses are outweighed by the hits by a fairly wide margin. But most are still prospects, so we are a few years away from really knowing. Stewart was one of the last players picked in the draft, and Petit was not much earlier. His mid-round picks seem to be extremely solid.

        4) I don’t love the idea of bringing Kane to Vancouver. But he would add meaningfully to the roster, fills a need, and is still relatively young (25 – with the apparent maturity level of 16). There is some risk, but it is a potentially buy low exchange. It should be looked at carefully.

        Overall, I think we are close to agreement on a lot of things.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Dear Jim Benning… I appreciate you are a struggling rookie GM who is really a scout and merely paying lip service by treating the ‘fans’ like the MUGS they are, BUT, here’s a heads up for you on what you NEED to ice a WINNING TEAM after tanking this season for hopes of landing NOLAN PATRICK.

    * BUY OUT THE SARDINES PLEASSSSSE!

    *WORLDCLASS Goaltending – nope don’t have it **Solution next summer – UFA BEN BISHOP

    *An ELITE OFFENSIVE DEFENCEMAN – nope nadda
    **Solution next summer – UFA BRENT BURNS

    *Depth SCORING – ummm 27th in the league is it?
    **SOLUTION – Boeser, Virtanan, UFA chris kunitz and 20-30 goal hometown zero EVANDER KANE will fit the bill.

    *An NHL Coach with CUP CREDENTIALS, respect and kudos around the league – nope
    **Solution next summer – HARTLEY,CRAWFORD or possibly Ken Hitchcock if you can coax him out of early retirement.

    Thanks for the laughs on 1040 Jim. Loved the parts about being in every game, depth on defence and the kicker, ‘hopefully we are going to keep winning games’ hahaha.

    Keep playing these schmucks like the broke down fiddles they are Jimbo. As PT BARNUM once so aptly put it “There’s a sucker born every minute” eh.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    We need to chill on the “Virtanen as bad pick” narrative.

    Bob McKenzie’s final TSN prospect rankings (based on a survey of NHL scouts) had Virtanen at #7 behind Nick Ritchie at #6. Nylander was #9 and Ehlers #10.

    It was hardly a reach. Virtanen has only just turned 20. Let’s give it a little time. Hell, Michael Dal Colle, one of the consensus top 5 prospects (pretty much everywhere) drafted at #4, has yet to play in the NHL and is not exactly setting the AHL on fire.

    Drafting goes wrong more often than it goes right. Benning seems to be beating the odds by a pretty good margin overall.

  • 51Geezer

    There were lost seasons long ago that should have been abandoned for a last-place finish and a first-overall pick like, say, Marcel Dionne.
    But things are different now. We can easily finish last. However, winning the lottery is harder and some die-hard Canucks fans say impossible. Just look at the record, which starts with the spin of the wheel in 1970…