Photo Credit: Gerry Kahrmann - The Province

Canucks Make Front-Office Changes: Ryan Johnson Promoted; Additions and Subtractions to Scouting Staff

Earlier in June, Matt Sekeres of TSN 1040 reported that the Vancouver Canucks scouting staff was undergoing a significant overhaul. He reported the names a few weeks ago, and the organization made it official yesterday. That, however, wasn’t the only news of the day. Although the off-season has been quiet, the Canucks made a number of noteworthy moves that deserve attention.

Utica Comets

  • Ryan Johnson named General Manager

Despite this move, Johnson will keep his position as Director of Player Development. In his current role, he works closely with prospects and their respective teams. His duties remain unchanged, but he now assumes the added responsibility of leading the day-to-day functions of the Comets’ hockey operations.

  • Gary Agnew named Assistant Coach to Trent Cull

Most recently, Agnew was an assistant with Mike Johnson in Pittsburgh before both were relieved of their duties. He did not coach last season, but he has 28 years of combined coaching experience in the NHL, AHL, and OHL.

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Scouting Staff

Four scouts are no longer with the Canucks organization: Lucien DeBlois (Quebec), Ken Cook (Ontario), Mike Addessa (Maritimes), and Harold Snepts (Western Canada). Snepts is retiring and will assume the role as a team ambassador. Brett Henning, the son of former Canucks Assistant GM Lorne Henning, has been promoted to Director of Professional Scouting. Henning added former amateur scouts David Volek (Europe) and Brian Chapman (Ontario) to his staff.

As a result of the subtractions, the Canucks have hired four new Amateur Scouts: Todd Harvey, Paul Gallagher, Doug Gasper, and Vincent Montalbano.

  • Harvey was previously an assistant coach with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, and he is most likely to scout the Ontario region alongside Dan Palango and Chris MacDonald.
  • Gallagher spent the past 13 seasons scouting in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers. He is based out of Cole Harbour and will take over the Quebec region for Lucien DeBlois.
  • Gasper is leaving his role as Director of Scouting for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. He will be scouting Western Canada alongside Ron Delorme and Tim Lenardon.
  • Montalbano leaves his position as an Amateur Scout with the St. Louis Blues to join the Canucks. He is also the Director of Player Personnel for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, as well as GM and Head Coach of the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. He will fill Mike Addessa’s void and oversee the Maritime region.

  • Killer Marmot

    Making a former NHL assistant coach (and coach, for a few games) an assistant coach for the Comets seems like a smart move. Presumably Agnew brings knowledge of what players need to make it to the next level.

  • Bud Poile

    Scouting and player development strengthens and intensifies with six new scouts,promotions within and dead weight pruned away.
    All great NHL franchises have elite scouting/player development programs.
    These moves are what this fan of this franchise waited for and hoped to see.

    • Canucks Realist

      These will be short term hires because as even JD admits there is no way Benning is back with a new contract after yet another losing season. **fakenews**

      ‘These moves are what this fan of this franchise waited for and hoped to see.’

      ”Quinn was just as bad as Gillis” – Bud Poille
      ”All that matters are the playoffs” – Bud Poile
      “Additionally, it is hard to attract any star player to a losing club.” – Bud Poile
      “The Canucks need players that can contribute out of the gate, particularly on D. Hopefully it’s a player that is close to NHL ready come September” – Bud Poile

      Some ‘fan of this franchise’!!… why is this multi ID troll not banned? Yesterday was fantastic without him now there is a bad smell around here again?

      • Betty

        That’s a good point. Does anyone know when Jim Benning’s contract runs out? My husband and I are actually counting the days so we can buy season tickets again when he hopefully goes.

        • TheRealRusty

          As big a critic as I have been of GMJB, it seems that most of the “growing pains” he has experienced as a rookie GM are over. He has shown the capacity to learn from his past mistakes (which were numerous if we are to be honest). He has been much better the last year or so with his asset management, being more coy with media wrt his intentions (ie. less of an open book) and lets not forget his undeniable ability to draft better than average. I feel that as a whole the organization is headed slowly in the right direction and that bringing in a new voice at this point might not be the smartest thing to do. My preference would be for another 2 year extension for the GMJBTL combo to fully restock the cupboards, before we determine if they are the ones to bring us back to relevance.

          • Killer Marmot

            I agree. Benning does seem to be getting the hang of it. Even CA has tempered its disdain in the last few months, although I doubt Burke has a picture of Benning nailed to his bedroom ceiling. It’s extraordinary how fast that the forward prospect pool has improved.

          • Terry Dactil

            Couple of points here. Why should we accept all these numerous rookie mistakes by Benning? He’s a hockey lifer that has had years to learn on the job.This isn’t an internship, he is getting paid millions of dollars to do a job, which is to find a way to immediately win hockey games for a team that spends to the cap practically every year. Heading into year four this hasn’t been achieved.

            Secondly, please give examples of better than average drafting especially considering all the high draft picks we have had, as I am yet to see any examples other than perhaps Brock Boeser, which isn’t earth shattering after four drafts when many teams are already icing plenty of picks in the NHL in same timeframe.

            Think we need to stop with the hyperbole and move on from GMJB if his contract is up personally.

          • TheRealRusty

            Terry. Totally agree that the GM’s job should have been offered to someone who has more experience than GMJB (when he was initially hired). Why on earth would the owners of an NHL hand over the keys to a total rookie was beyond me (a point I voiced at the time of hire).

            But this is neither here nor there. The facts are the he was hired and we are year 4 into tenure.

          • Terry Dactil

            Solid reply Rusty. The trouble is, after the Boston SCF defeat ownership had a meltdown and seemed to think that by hiring Benning – who was just a Bruins grunt and not even the architect of their team, Chiarelli was – he could help us copy their formula of big, mean and gritty to lead us to the ultimate prize. This has backfired spectaculary and as he changes direction every year depending on the latest Cup winning trend, we have become a laughing stock of the league.

            Rusty after what will be four years of failure he has to go right? I and many other ticket buyers will be absolutely furious if Benning gets another contract – he has achieved nothing for us. We are going backwards, he has not drafted any franchise changing players despite very high picks and therefore enough is enough.

          • Insider

            Don’t sweat it, Benning’s contract runs out after the coming season and I have it on very good authority that he won’t be back unless the Canucks make the playoffs, and I think we all know that ain’t happenin in the West!

          • lucky luke

            totally agree GMJB doesn’t deserve an extension. Seem to recall Dale Tallon put together a far better roster in Chicago than GMJB has for us but still got fired because the owner believed Stan Bowman would put them over the top. Three cups later…

          • TheRealRusty

            Terry. I can see your point being an ex seasons ticket holder myself…. stopped during the lockout year and spent our canucks money on xmas vacations with the kids to the tropics instead.

            Totally agree with the constant changing of drafting direction, but i wonder how much of it has been due to meddling ownership? My gut feeling tells me that the Virtanen pick (rumour has it some in the scouting dept wanted Elhers) and the Eriksson signing (panic consolation signing after “missing out” on Lucic) were owner driven decisions. This year’s lower key signings seems to me as more of the work of GMJB, but i could also be wrong. I am one who firmly believe that whatever the system you pick, you must follow through and aim to be the best team playing that particular system (trends come and go so no point chasing it).

            Not sure about all the players he has drafted but consensus by the experts seem to be positive wrt Canuck prospects. Not sure if i want to count Virtanen as a bust yet, as i believe that he can be an effective 2nd line winger if they can groom him properly (his development was stunted with the stupid decision to keep him here instead back to juniors that 1st year). The Boeser and Demko picks were solid. Think that Joulevi will be a #2/3 defenseman for us (thinking another Ohlund clone so not a true #1). I like what ive seen of Pettersson kid so far, although i hope that he can fill out his frame to survive the NHL grind. Goldophin is boom or bust player for me (thinking Mason Raymond type at best), but Dahlen should play somewhere in the top 6. Gaudette could be a Kelser replacement (fingers crossed) but at the very minimum a 3rd line centre in a few years. Only the defensive core is a bit of a suspect with the lost of Tryamkin (they should have integrated his wife better). The only miss I can count is the McCann pick (why his character flaws werent discovered during the prevdraft interviews) who was moved out pretty quickly and the Gudbranson trade.

          • Bud Poile

            “he is getting paid millions of dollars to do a job, which is to find a way to immediately win hockey games”
            Actually,he’s here to rebuild the club Gillis gutted and remain competitive while doing so.
            The team has a regulation time record of 109 W and 110 L under GM JB.
            The team has replenished the prospect pool in three years under GM JB.

      • Bud Poile

        Maybe if I had 15 accounts I would smell better.
        Quinn was not a draft master.
        Gillis was the worst in the NHL.
        Benning had to overpay Dorsett and Eriksson to come play on a rebuiling club.
        I’d love to see Benning be given two more years just to see the meteoric tirade and demise of ‘fans’ like you.
        If you don’t like what I say Braindead/Dud/Non realist-too bad for you,troll.

  • wojohowitz

    I wouldn`t be too hard on Benning as it was the owner who wanted a quick fix. Getting back into the playoffs started out as the first priority. Turning it all over to Linden was their first mistake as he had almost no experience running a hockey franchise. Even today I have to ask; Where is their public relations guy who should vet all media releases and identify the potential problems – like Benning talking about North American heart and European skill, which was a really dumb thing to say. Then there was the clueless reaction to the Tryamkin situation when he told management he was leaving at the end-of-season interviews and ten days later we find out about it from the Russian club announcing his signing – the Canucks damage control was silence. Benning started out trying for a quick turnaround which was near impossible and only in the last six months has he reverted to his strength which is drafting. The serious blunder was ownership hiring a rookie President and having an opinion on hockey no better than ours. They need a PR guy to control the message and not play bumper cars from one mistake to the next.

    The one area where Benning has really missed out is recognizing and acquiring core players like when Kesler became available Murray down in Anaheim wanted him right away or when Seguin became available Jim Nill (another rookie GM) saw a core player he could acquire. Drouin to Montreal was another one and where does Duchene go – not Vancouver. To build a team he should put together a core and then a support group. Instead Benning goes for Sutter and Gudbranson to add to his core – both borderline players with entitlement issues.

    • Bud Poile

      “The serious blunder was ownership hiring a rookie President and having an opinion on hockey no better than ours.”Wojo
      Very certain anybody CA’s opinion on hockey doesn’t hold a candle to Linden’s.
      20 years as an NHL player.
      15 years with the NHLPA,including past president.
      Successful buiness owner.

      • Dirk22

        Linden was a PR move plain and simple. I’m sure if he could go back in time he would have taken his 10 speed back to Europe and stayed as far away from this job as possible. Now it’s a situation where the club can’t fire him and there’s no way he’s going to quit or step down.

      • TheRealRusty

        Lol. Poor Mr Bud “Jockstrap” Poile.
        Just because I have driven a car for 30+ years doesnt make me a mechanic. 20 years of being an NHL player does not an NHL executive make (case in point Joe Sakic and the Avalanche).

        Did I mention that the NHLPA was left in shambles during his tenure as President? There was even an attempt by the NHLPA executive committee to oust Linden because he was instrumental in the hiring of Ted Saskin.


          • Griffith Way

            As RR says Linden is not well liked among NHLPA members and without his mentor Pat Quinn to hold his hand should be nothing more than the PR/season ticket holder buffer he was brought in to be by Aquilini. Him and Benning are the worst thing to happen to the Canucks since Mike Keenan.

        • Bud Poile

          Did you mention your opinion means squat?
          How about listening to an NHL owner:
          Arthur Griffiths, whose family owned the Canucks for more than two decades, said bringing Linden back was a smart move. He said Linden exudes a certain confidence and won’t be afraid to make tough decisions.

          He said anyone questioning Linden’s off-ice ability only needs to look at the work he did to end the lockout, when he was president of the NHLPA in 2005.

          “When the deal was done there was a massive, massive credit given by many players, owners and the league for what role [Linden] had in essentially building the bridge to bring the game back,” Griffiths said.

          • Griffith Way

            What??!! The same Arthur Griffith who was told not to bring the NBA to Vancouver because it would end in disaster (it did) and the same Arthur Griffith who is mired in debt having ruined the Griffith family legacy built by his esteemed father Frank – lol.

            Why do you continually embarrass yourself like this sad little man.

          • Laughing-Out-Loud

            l-o-l too funny.
            Read somewhere that Arthur owed creditors more than 2 million against assets of 36,000. Nice guy Arthur but a terrible businessman who ruined the Griffith family. His father must be turning in his grave.

        • Canucks Realist

          Outstanding post, talk about handing Bud Poile his a$$ on a platter!

          There are tons of examples of accomplished players making awful GMs/coaches, Milbury, Joe Nieuwendyk, Butch Goring, Glen Hanlon, Curt Fraser, Oates and some guy call Gretzky come to mind. Benning belongs on the same list and is regarded as one of the worst GMs in the NHL for good reason.