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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

CanucksArmy Roundtable: Jim Benning’s Future

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.

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’.

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.

Cory Hergott

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?

Always90Four

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.

Vanessa

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.

Jackson McDonald

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.

Petbugs

I refuse to answer this because the comment section is mean to me.

J.D. Burke

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.

  • I’d like to see Benning re-signed, although there were definitely periods where I would have canned Benning, Linden, (definitely Desjardins) and forced Aquilini to sell. The last draft was very encouraging and I’d like to see if those prospects and subsequent draft picks will pan out. If 2017 was an example of what he can do when he doesn’t give away his draft picks, it would be nice to have a period where the draft keeps the prospect pipeline stocked and can consistently produce core and depth players at all positions.

  • Killer Marmot

    Benning’s actions over the last 8 months has been solid. My only criticism is that he may have signed too may free agents over the summer, squeezing out guys like Rodin and delaying the introduction of prospects. Apart from that, Benning is getting the hang of this manager thing.

    When deciding whether to re-sign someone, you look mostly to what they have done lately, not what they did two years ago, on the principle that recent performance is the best indicator of the future. Based on that, Benning’s a re-sign.

  • Wiseguy

    If being a GM was that easy…

    First let me say whenever a GM is hired by any team one of the first things stated is we won’t see how good he is until the 3- 5 year mark. It seems most sports reporters default to this in the early days then begin to pick apart all moves immediately thereafter.
    Is it fair to say we are just now seeing the fruits of his labor at about the time we should see it based on all the so called experts?
    Back to the basics guys, keep it simple and stop over thinking things early game…

    He should definitely be resigned.

    • Dirk22

      Not so sure I agree with this. As stated above, he has had a really good run here the last year. Trade deadline (acquiring Dahlen and Goldobin), 2017 draft (aquiring Petterson, Lind) and probably the biggest plus – the emergence of Boeser this year. Not even the biggest Benning critic can argue that….however, his moves in the 2.5 years prior deserved all the criticism he took.

      Not going to rehash all of that but I will say this – for the first time in a long time it’s getting exciting to be a Canuck fan again. Reasons are obvious: Boeser, Horvat…with Pettersson looking amazing and a couple other very strong prospects. That is what is getting people very excited about the future and you have to give Benning credit for that after 1 maybe 2 big missteps with high selections. Draft aside, most of the criticism has come from the lack of obtaining extra draft picks and the spending of draft picks or young players on older players designed to make the team more ‘competitive’ – Sutter, Gudbranson, Dorsett, Clendening, Vey, Pedan, Prust, Etem, Larsson all cost draft picks/players of varying degrees – and yes I know you have to include the good with the bad so we can put Baertchi, Granlund and Pouliot in the + category for. Some will argue these draft picks mean nothing and it’s hindsight blah blah blah. I will argue that it is the product of draft picks (which Benning’s critics have repeatedly pined for) that have this fan base as excited as its been in years (see Boeser, Pettersson, Lind etc). Fans are not excited because Sutter is playing or Gudbranson is playing – those two have done nothing to move the franchise forward and both came at a large cost. They were both acquired to make the team more competitive now – you can argue whether that’s the case or not. ‘Tanking’, whether that was intentional or not (essentially the opposite of being competitive), allowed us to get a talent like Pettersson despite losing the draft lottery. That has moved the franchise forward as many said it would.

      All that being said, should he get an extension? Can’t believe I’m saying this but I think another good trade deadline should earn Jimbo a longer look.

      • Yeah, I agree with having a reason for excitement. We knew that there would be a post-Sedin era but knowing that we have some serious core players in Horvat and Boeser and a boatload of prospects like Pettersson, Demko, Dahlen, Gaudette and Lind, it looks like the post-Sedin era will have a serious challenger for the Cup.

      • Wiseguy

        I think what is to be remembered is that GM;s do not hit on all draft picks or trades, if a GM is at say 25% that would be considered good. So lets take a look back to year one on drafts only.

        2014 – Thatcher Demko, Jake (juries still out) and Tryamkin (not here but damn)…
        2015 – Brock Friggan Boeser, Adam Gaudette – I would say whether anyone else pans out from this draft it was a win
        2016 – Olli Juolevi – so this could be a bad year
        2017 – Pettersson – I keep waiting for him to have a bad week? Jesus this kid is good and exciting

      • truthseeker

        The difference between the “excitement” of a 2nd round pick and not finding someone like Baertchi “exciting” is all in your (or “fans” who think like you) head. There is no difference.

        They’re both risks. And they will both fail more often than they will succeed. So next time all you people who whine about the misses like Vey or Etem, can pause for a minute and remind yourselves how you weren’t whining about Daniel Rahimi, Taylor Ellington, Yann Sauve, and all the other 2nd round picks we did take that didn’t amount to squat.

        If you don’t have the logical self awareness to realize there is no difference between taking a risk on a young minor league player with a track record or a 2nd round pick with no track record…well…not sure what to tell you. It’s like people who treat a grand in their pocket differently than they do a grand in the bank. The difference exists only in your head. Get over it.

        And no matter how much you try to argue it isn’t hindsight, it is Dirk. Another of your logical stumbling blocks.

        • Dirk22

          …and there it is.

          Truthseeker would think declaring it a bad decision to elect Trump as President would be considered hindsight.

          Is every GM in the league immune from criticism because of hindsight? That seems to be a logical stumbling block, no?

          You don’t want the GM to do certain things. He does those things. You criticize him for it. Truthseeker calls hindsight. One second rounder in three seasons and that’s hindsight to criticize. As you say, draft picks are overrated right?

          • truthseeker

            bad with analogies too huh?

            Strawman. Never said that anywhere. Go look. I dare you.

            More strawmen. What things?

            yes they are over rated. Go check the NHL success rates of second round picks that you love so much and seem to think are the worst decisions ever to give up.

            Not to mention those second round picks went towards players. They weren’t tossed into a void with nothing to show like you’re trying to imply.

            Your illogical blabbering response shows how rattled you are….lol

  • Goon

    Whether Benning deserves to be resigned entirely depends on something none of us know: How much was the Canucks’ change in direction over the past year Benning’s doing?

    I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that the floundering of the organization under Benning’s first couple of years was a result of ownership meddling. It’s been pretty solidly established that some of the worst moves of the end of the Gillis regime were made because the Acquilinis got involved. If that’s also true of the worst moves of the beginning of the Benning regime, and he’s now exerting more control over the organization and making better moves as a result, then definitely, re-sign him. The past year has been very good overall.

    If, on the other hand, the change in direction over the past year has been because Benning’s had some of his control over the team taken away, and he owns the bad decisions made over the first couple years of his tenure, absolutely not.

    • defenceman factory

      Goon I completely agree. The Jeckyl and Hyde behaviour of the Canucks management decisions is best described by a change in who has been making decisions. It would be normal for someone new to a role to have limited control and for that to build over time. Many of the decisions earlier in Benning’s tenure are indefensible. They didn’t pass evaluation at the time they were made and haven’t aged well either. As a possible example it is easy to imagine ownership demanding the signing of a scoring winger summer of 2016. Given the choice Eriksson is the lesser evil compared to Lucic.

      If Benning is re-signed it is clearly a signal all the poor decisions cannot be attributed to him.

      And Petbugs perhaps if you put some effort into your work and didn’t insult everything and everybody about the team and its fans the comments section wouldn’t be mean to you. You have produced thoughtful, evidence based articles in the past so we know you have the capability. Your snide, flippant remarks are deserving of the ridicule they receive here.

      • crofton

        Yeah wotta a baby…”boohoo, mommy they’re mean to me”…”oh never mind son, grab your pen and graph paper and come home, I promise I’ll always love you”

      • Bud Poile

        16-17 30 43 9

        15-16 31 38 13

        14-15 48 29 05

        17-18 11-8-3

        Total: 120 W 118L 30 OTL

        270 points out of 268 games

        During Gillis’ final season there were five Canucks under age 25 that played more than ten games.

        Last season there were 15 Canucks under age 25 that played more than 10 games.

        27.6 years is the Canucks average age right now.

        29.4 years was the average Canucks age during Benning’s first season (2014-15).

        We are all familiar with the drafting,scouting,signings and development of the Gillis era.

        There was next to nothing in the pipeline in terms of NHL quality prospects for Benning and a veteran laden roster with ten NTC’s restricting him.

        There are now at least 10 Benning prospects in the developmental stage that most expect to be future Canucks.

        The team is now two years younger in average age despite the Sedins /Edler combined ages/NTC’s.

        Benning’s team is younger,faster and plays competitively.

        This is a vast contrast between a tired Gillis team with very few prospects and core vets demanding to leave.

        In 3.25 Benning seasons there has been a competitive record, roster transformation and future pipeline of quality assets set in motion.

        Benning has made his mistakes so we can only imagine how great this club would be with the hindsight perfection of Benning’s armchair detractors.

        • Dirk22

          Bud – you start with an overall record which is among the worst in the NHL in the last 3+ years as if that is a stat to be proud of. Do you think people weren’t around for 28th and 29th place? The only people that record looks good for are team tank members…so thanks I guess.

          You talk poorly of the GM that was was at the helm for the most competitive Canuck team in history and then slag his ‘era’ like it was a waste. Were you against those Presidents cup years or maybe you just become a fan? Do you not like the future captain Horvat or top defencemen, Tanev? Surely after all this you’re not just here to troll and can see things objectively.

          Funny to accuse others of being armchair GM’s with that sort of mindset hey.

          • Bud Poile

            Schneider was drafted and developed by Gillis’ predecessors,spending six years in our system.
            Horvat was acquired because Gillis screwed up.Royally.
            Schneider was drafted in 2004.Horvat became a Canuck in 2014-15.
            Ten years of development and an NHL #1 lost to the .org because of coat tails Mikey’s incompetence.
            That’s without the mention of Luongo’s loss and that debacle.
            Sam Gagner’s dad brought in Tanev as a free agent signing.
            Gillis’ past record speaks entirely as to his present position in hockey.

          • crofton

            He may have been at the helm then, but traded away far too much to try to get a cup, and left the cupboards bare. So that has to be included in his legacy. Making those trades to get over the top is something every GM will do, Gillis did it to poor effect, and had no apparent plan to re-stock, unless you count poor drafting as a plan.

  • Jabs

    For some reason I think that JD Burke thinks he should be a candidate for the GM role and does all he can to try to sabotage GMJB and make him look as bad as possible to the fans and media. Sorry JD, JB has made a lot of good moves and draft picks and has done well getting this team younger and managing the assets of the Canucks.

  • krutov

    i thought jackson mcdonald’s take was measured and very well done and, perhaps coincidentally, closest to mine.

    i’d quibble with him that only one of the four top draft picks is currently underperforming and even he doesn’t show a clear bust or even miss trend right now.

    i totally agree that if brock didn’t hit the ground running this year it’s a tougher conversation, but not much tougher. we were supposed to suck. the on ice team is basically a jury rigged life raft made out driftwood to get through the season and i can’t see it floating along all season with no major issues. the real metric here is prospect development. brock turning us into a competent team just puts benning over the top.

    i also would like to thank petbugs for one of his best contributions.

  • Holly Wood

    I say re sign Benning. A Lawrence Gilman hire sounds interesting as It sounded like he was well versed in the collective agreement, contracts, and business side of the game. Just wondering if anyone has an idea why he hasn’t been scooped up by another organization. I did hear he is currently trying to straighten out a winless junior B squad in Surrey, undoubtedly on a voluntary basis

    • I’d take Gilman with a grain of salt. When he was interviewed about the 2013 draft, they were *so* sure about Horvat and if they didn’t take him, they would have drafted Wennberg (how convenient), even though those decisions run contrary to all of the draft rankings at the time. Suddenly Gilman, Gillis & Co. have magic drafting capabilities? Maybe in his own head, in hindsight.

  • LTFan

    There is no way I can let this topic slide by without commenting. Definitely should be re-signed. He has done a good job at re-stocking the prospects in Utica. Some but not all of his veterans signings over the summer have turned out well. It is early in the 2017-18 Season so it won’t be until sometime in late January that we know how well the veteran signings have been. Those that have been good include MDZ, TV, AN and the trade for Pouliot. So far the team has been stronger and played better than most on here and especially the Bloggers even imagined.

    IMO he has done a much better job than his former boss Peter Chiarelli has done in Edmonton.

    Come on JD, they have exceeded your expectations. Of course the scouting staff should also be congratulated for their recommendations on players to be signed. It is a team effort.

  • GDD

    Before agreeing to resign Benning based on his performance during the last 1 to 1.5 years, remember this:

    He was disastrous in the first 3 years – a time when he was trying to add assets because he thought the team was close to making the playoffs.

    He was only good (ok) during the past year, when he focused solely on the future (even then he signed way too many free agent veterans this summer and let the BFG go -note: can you imagine the BFG on defense as well?)

    Now with Boeser and Petterson, all the hype is that the Canuck’s will be in the playoffs (next year if not this year).

    Surely if Benning is resigned, he will buy into this hype and revert back to his initial first three years of thinking and actions, acquiring questionable assets because he believes his team could be a playoff contender.

    For that reason, Benning should not be resigned.

    And even if the team was close to being a playoff contender, then I would definitely not resign Benning because he has done an awful job of acquiring assets and effectively managing the salary cap.

    • Silverback

      First of all Tryamkin’s departure cannot be pinned upon Benning. Secondly, if we had a couple of long term injuries on the wings, you would be claiming Benning to be a genius for his forward thinking….and finally your comment “Surely if Benning is resigned, he will buy into this hype and revert back to his initial first three years of thinking and actions, acquiring questionable assets because he believes his team could be a playoff contender” is patently absurd and is completely without any credibility. How do you arrive at that conclusion? Surely you can do better…

    • crofton

      Talk about revisionist…His first 3 years were disastrous? He was hired in May of 2014. So only his last 6 months have been good? Or was it a year, s you later state? He let Tryamkin go? LMFAO

  • Dirty30

    Since the other guys covered what I wanted to say and wish I’d thought of, I’ll simply add that Benning should stay for two more years — not to mitigate the damage he’s done, but to avoid the turmoil of yet another GM rolling in and saying “we can turn this team around quickly” and doing even more damage.

    Lets not forget this isn’t just about Benning, but also about a new Coach in his first season, a new head of scouting, some new players and new contracts and goodwill developed with players GMJB has drafted.

    Is there really a need to push him out the door for past mistakes? And unless he signs the Sedins to five years at five million per year, there’s not a lot more egregious moves he can really make, short of signing Guddy to that kind of contract.

    At this point the team has some stability and success and it hasn’t had that for a long time. That matters more right now than hiring some guy who thinks he can do better.

    The argument that this team deserves a stable future right now considerably outweighs JD’s argument that Benning doesn’t deserve a contract extension. The needs of the many definitely outweigh the needs of the few in this instance. It’s less about rewarding Benning than it is about not punishing the team with another upheaval.

    Let him stay for now. If he ever utters the famous words “As God is my witness … I thought Turkeys could fly!” you can let him go.

  • Freud

    Management’s approach appears to have changed somewhere in the midst of last season.

    I would assume Benning was allowed to make all decisions when he was hired, which were based on his values of familiarity, meat, potatoes, size and grit and “turning this team around quickly”. As his approach and decisions inevitably resulted in miserable seasons, it’s fair to say Linden began to assume more and more control. Nothing else explains the change in approach.

    With Linden having more influence, suddenly, vets were being traded at the deadline for talent. Gudbransen was signed to only a one year contract. The scouting dept was overhauled and Weisbrod was stripped of influence with the scouts. Then the draft philosophy changed in June with an emphasis on analytics and talent over size and intangibles.

    Now we’re a quarter of the way into the season and there’s no rush to sign Benning. hmmmm…..

    You win cups with good drafting and good roster decision making. Benning has only demonstrated a strength in one of these areas. It’s my hope Benning is given a faux promotion with a new contract and is left to focus on drafting. Linden can continue with his progressive approach and bring in other management types who have a track record of strong decision making who can take on the actual GM duties.

    • Wiseguy

      Isn’t that the point? Every single GM in the league has their draft hits to thank for part of their jobs.
      What you stated is like saying a bus driver drove the bus thus saving his bus driving job,…

  • truthseeker

    Not sure why Lawrence Gilman’s name is constantly being floated as some kind of genius. See it in the province and here…makes no sense.

    Gillis’ era did some great contract work to keep a powerful team together but it came at a cost. I have no issue with what they did. It was necessary, but those NTC’s handcuffed the current admin big time. Gilman was a big reason for that. It’s simply one approach to keeping a team together. Not the only approach. Every approach comes with advantages and disadvantages. The “Hawk, Pens, Oiler” model gets you a core but then an unstable team that fluctuates year to year. The Gillis method leads to no long term flexibility to get out from contracts.

    As for Benning, I’d probably give him a B- with work to be completed. Still hard to judge him given he was trying to turn around a supertanker (no pun intended).

    I’m with JD on this…if ownership doesn’t mind firing him mid contract then sure…sign him again. Not my money, so I don’t really care.

  • Gregthehockeynut

    Jim Benning has some important decisions pending. Gudbranson, the Sedins, Baertschi and Granlund contracts. If the Canucks fall well out of a playoff spot by January there could be a lot of moves if JB has full freedom to clear some of these players not intended for next years roster. My guess is the Sedins are probalbly done or one more year max. That’s a huge shift in the roster if Vanek is moved too. JB will need to fill another play making center if he sees Pettersson staying in the SEL for another year. If Pettersson is on the roster then he needs a big experienced winger to ride shotgun.
    This roster is trending too small so probably Baertschi or Granlund will be moved. Anyway the jury is still out on JB until
    these moves are decided and done before the trade deadline. If ownership decides JB is not their man going forward they probably should decide well before the tdl so the new GM can clear the decks and get the plan moving forward instead of scrambling in the summer before training camp. I think JB has done a decent job and earned a new contract with his draft record despite a few misses on signings and trades.