At 8 AM this morning, Canucks general manager Jim Benning made an appearance on TSN 1040’s Morning Show for a brief chat with Bro Jake and Dave Tomlinson. And right off the hop, Jake asked Benning about the status of his contract negotiations with Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini.
#Canucks Benning on contract talks: Preliminary stages of conversations with Francesco Aquilini & confident it will get done. No timeline on when it will get done.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) November 24, 2017
Just a day earlier, TSN 1040’s poll question asked listeners if they would sign Benning to an extension in his current role as general manager. The voters responded overwhelmingly in Benning’s favour, with 70% of the votes going to ‘yes’.
Does Jim Benning deserve a contract extension?
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) November 23, 2017
It’s no secret that this space hasn’t seen eye to eye with the current iteration of the Canucks front office on most roster decisions. That said, Benning’s work over the last calendar year has been mostly well received on this medium. The Canucks aced last year’s trade deadline, had their best draft in years and followed it up with a solid spending spree in free agency.
I think I would know where everyone stood on this at this time a year ago. The landscapes shifted significantly since then, though, so it’s worth evaluating the situation as it’s unfolding in real time. With that, I asked the Canucks Army staff if they would sign Benning to a contract extension if given the choice.
I will be the unpopular one and say yes. While Benning has made some miscues along the way, I do like the direction the team is going. I see some legitimate prospects in the system and I would like to give Benning more time to continue adding more of those prospects. The team looks to be embracing analytics more and if they continue to use those tools, along with Benning’s boots on the ground approach, I think there is every possibility that the team can be competitive in the next few years. Maybe they could bring someone in to help him handle contracts in a little more efficient way?
This is a tough one. Jim has obviously made some pretty ill-advised moves but his draft record speaks for itself. I’m willing to give him a short extension to see this through. Now that Willie Desjardins is gone, there is a realistic chance for the team to develop in a normal environment. Seeing 23rd overall pick Brock Boeser tear up the NHL when my pick was Nick Merkley shows he knows what he’s doing and I do not.
I believe he is still figuring the GM part a bit as the guy and not the assistant so there will be bumps and bruises as he grows. It would be a shame to see him leave and take his amazing scouting abilities with him somewhere else. I would love to see Laurence Gilman back to aid Benning, that would be a great move.
In my perfect world, he would stay in the organization but in a lesser role (i.e Director of Amateur Scouting/Head Scout). That’s probably never going to happen, but I’d still be in favour of re-signing him. Here’s why:
His trade record is 50/50, but it’s like that for a lot of GMs. In his defense, there was never a clear direction up until last season. I’m not sure if that’s management’s fault or the front-office just being in denial, but that definitely played a major role in trading for Sutter and Gudbranson – two players who were acquired so the team could stay competitive while rebuilding.
The trades Benning has made with the future in mind (Baertschi, Granlund, Pouliot, Dahlen, Goldobin) have all been fantastic and I would re-do them in a heartbeat. Now that the front-office has embraced the need to focus on the future and _only_ the future, I think Benning would do much better than he did in his first three years.
One flaw that I would note, however, is when players are signed to contracts. The Canucks have pretty much over-paid for every player and they can’t afford to keep doing that in the future. I think they need someone of the Laurence Gilman-ilk to help out with the negotiation process. Other than that, I’m pretty confident that Benning could succeed for another few seasons.
If you come down firmly on either side of this question I think you’re being overconfident. The reality is there hasn’t be a more Jekyll-and-Hyde NHL GM over the last few years than Jim Benning. Isolate the last six months or so and I think you’d be crazy to say he doesn’t deserve an extension. Isolate the previous 2-2 1/2 years prior to that and I think you’d be even crazier to say he *does* deserve and extension.
If you were to give him the benefit of the doubt, you could say that he’s really flourished since the team has been allowed to take on a more traditional rebuild model, and he’s generally done a good job when making moves with that in mind. You could point to the last draft, and how the team increased the emphasis on analytics when selecting players. Most importantly, you could point to Thomas Vanek, Sven Baertschi, and obviously Brock Boeser as players Benning acquired that are making a huge impact so far this season. There have even been rumours of interference by ownership or even President Trevor Linden, onto whom we can casually deflect blame if it better suits our narrative.
On the other hand, you could also make the case that Judd Bracket’s increased role has more to do with their stellar draft this summer than anyone else. You could point to the how the Canucks have basically overpaid for every player signed under Jim Benning’s tenure. You could look at Loui Eriksson, Sam Gagner, Erik Gudbranson, and Adam Clendening and make the case that pro scouting has been uniquely terrible under this Canucks management group given what was said about those players when they were acquired and how they’ve been used to date. You could point to 2 out of 4 first round picks that are underperforming relative to expectations. You could point out Jim Benning was brought in under the pretense that the team “could be turned around in a hurry” and that he was so steadfast in that conviction that he was extremely reluctant to make the two of the best trades of his career. You could even make the case that, without the sudden emergence of Brock Boeser, (who everyone in the organization believed would be in Utica this season,) he’d be on the hot seat at this very moment.
At the end of the day, it’s not my money. As long as ownership is willing to cut bait if it’s the right thing to do I don’t really care if he’s signed to an extension or not. When I look at the body of work, I lean towards believing he’s done more bad than good; but direction matters. For the first time in four years I actually believe the Canucks are headed in the right direction. Maybe that’s enough to buy Jim Benning a few more years, but we should remain skeptical for the time being. Evaluating a GM is something that almost always benefits from hindsight.
I refuse to answer this because the comment section is mean to me.
I was on TSN 1040 yesterday with Jason Brough and Mike Halford to discuss, among other items, this exact subject. You can listen to my argument against keeping Jim Benning in his current role in the tweet I’ve attached below. Who knows, I just might write about this very topic in the not-so-distant future.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) November 24, 2017