Since the introduction of Vancouver’s second sports radio station, it seems that interviews with the Canucks front-office have been few and far between. That changed today, however, when general manager Jim Benning made a morning appearance on TSN 1040.
In a rare interview with Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini on Sportsnet 650, it was revealed that Benning was in the last year of his contract as General Manager of the Canucks. Unbeknownst to many, the news then sparked conversation regarding Benning’s future in Vancouver. It’s been a hot topic for weeks, and it will likely continue up until the end of the season. Aquilini made it known that he was happy with how the team has progressed, which may hint at a potential extension should the success continue.
Benning on his contract: “I’ve been in contract talks with Francesco. We’re at the preliminary stages right now. I’m confident that we’ll get something worked out. He’s passionate about the team and he lets us do what we need to do to rebuild the player pool. I’m confident that we’ll get something figured out. I don’t think there’s a timeline, but we’re talking.”
Benning has been on the hot seat in his entire tenure with the Canucks, mostly because of the market and how much attention is focused on the team. Until recently, all of the pessimism and negativity towards the team has been turned over. For the first time in several years, the future is looking bright. Brock Boeser, in combination with the success of prospects such as Elias Pettersson, Adam Gaudette, and Kole Lind, have all turned heads and collectively shown signs of hope in the years to come.
Benning on Elias Pettersson:“He’s having a great season. Leading the Swedish Elite League in scoring as a 19 year-old is unheard of. Skill wise, he has the skill to step right in and play in the NHL. He just needs to continue to get stronger and keep working hard off the ice. We’ll try to get him signed at the end of the year. Like Brock, if he comes in and earns a spot on the team, we’ll make room for him. I’d love to see him in a Canucks jersey next year. His anticipation and hockey sense is off the charts. He’s able to read plays before they happen and get into position. We’re very happy to have him in our organization.”
Benning on Adam Gaudette: “He does have one more year of college. After this season is done, we’ll sit down with him and his family and decide what they want to do. From our perspective, that’s what we’ll like to do but we’ll sit down with him at the end of the year. The details of his game are very good, so he could maybe start off on the fourth line and work his way up the lineup.”
On a side note, if you’re not following our own Ryan Biech on Twitter, you’re doing yourself a disservice. He’s been hard at work pumping out highlights from Canucks prospects, so follow him for continuous glimmers of hope from the beloved blackfish.
Although Benning’s forte comes from the scouting aspect of hockey, a lot of credit should also be given to the organization’s regional scouts. They put in the work each season and, so far, the results have been pleasant. In addition to the players mentioned above, the Canucks have Thatcher Demko, Olli Juolevi, Jonah Gadjovich, and Jonathan Dahlen in the pipeline. It might not be perfect, but it’s safe to say the prospects cupboard is looking much fuller than it was four years ago. Earlier in the summer, there was significant movement among their scouting personnel. The moves were rather subtle as the department is of the quieter, less-publicized ones. In his interview, Benning addressed the moved and the upcoming entry draft.
Benning on the scouting changes:“It had more to do with [naming] Judd Brackett our head scout. He wanted to get some of his own people on the staff that he’s worked with through the years. These are the people he’s felt most comfortable with, so we decided to make changes and get younger. The people we hired are all hard-working guys and are passionate about scouting.”
Benning on the 2018 Entry Draft: “We think it’s going to be a good draft. It doesn’t matter to me if we pick high. I’m always excited about the opportunity, wherever we are in the first round, to get another real good player. From all reports and the players I’ve seen, it looks like a deep draft this year.”
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a proper interview without the mention of the playoffs. Unlike past media appearances, there was no mention of making the post-season as a goal. Take it how you may, but it’s certainly refreshing to not hear about the arguably lofty expectations for the team. Would playing in the playoffs be a welcomed accomplishment? Probably, but it’s a nice change of pace know that it’s not something that the front-office is constantly emphasizing and building up.
Benning on the playoffs: “In my four years since I’ve been here, I feel this is the best team we’ve had. All four lines have contributed and our defense has been solid. I haven’t looked that far ahead, I just take it game-by-game. We have a tough schedule coming up but we’re doing the right things. For our fans, we’ve got an exciting and fast team to watch. It’s good hockey, it’s fun hockey and hopefully we can keep winning.”