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Photo Credit: TSN.ca

From The Community: Does Benning have a plan?

We are back with another edition of ‘From the Community’.

Matthew Dolmage has contributed a few pieces to this series over the past year:

Matthew Dolmage is a lawyer practicing in Northern BC and the producer of The Hockey PDOCast with Dimitri Filipovic. He has been a CanucksArmy reader since 2011.

This time, he is looking at the history of Jim Benning’s tenure as GM and if there was a direction in any of the moves.

As always, please remember that this is a guest post and as such should be treated accordingly. It’s to create respectful discussion.


Fans of the early-2000s Battlestar Galactica reboot will remember the opening credits of the series, which ended by declaring that the series’ villains, the cybernetic Cylons, “have a plan”.  When it came time for the series finale in 2009, it became abundantly clear to viewers that neither the Cylons, nor Battlestar’s writers or producers, had any plan at all – the opening credits had been a bluff all along.

We’ve heard from Canucks management for some time now that they too “have a plan”.  But does Jim Benning really have one, or has he, like the Cylons, been bluffing for the past five years?

I don’t have access to Jim Benning’s personal diary, of course, and can’t say for certain whether he’s been working with a plan or not.  What I can do is look at all of the moves Benning has made in his time as GM and try to suss out a pattern by identifying rebuild moves that sacrifice short-term success in order to make the team better two or more years down the road, retool moves are those that make a smaller sacrifice now in order to make team better in a year or two, and a win-now move sacrifices the future in order to improve the team immediately.

Trading a draft pick for a mature roster player is a Win Now move, while trading a roster player for a draft pick is a Rebuild move.  Trading a draft pick for a prospect a couple of years on in development, would be a retool move.  There are some moves that don’t fit neatly into these categories, and the whole exercise is subjective to some degree, but I’ve tried to give Jim Benning the benefit of the doubt in most

There is, of course, a fourth type of move – the neutral move, or the kind all GM’s have to make regardless of whether they’re rebuilding, retooling, or looking to win now. This includes signing draft picks to entry-level contracts, signing players coming off of ELCs to RFA contracts, signing AHL depth players, making one-for-one trades for players of similar ages and abilities on similar contracts, or signing replacement-level or fourth-line players to short-term, low-money contracts.  Because these moves don’t really tell us anything about the direction of the team, we’ll be excluding them for the purposes of this exercise.  Including such moves would just add to the noise and obscure the signal.

I want to emphasize that I am not judging any of these transactions.  The goal here isn’t to assess each individual transaction, but rather, to determine if there’s a pattern emerges when looking at all of the transactions in aggregate.  For this reason I also won’t looking at individual draft picks, as a direction can’t really be determined from judging who the organization chose at 5th or 6th overall, but rather, at how many picks the Canucks had heading into a draft, and how they were distributed – having extra picks in the first three rounds, or having a significant surplus of picks overall, will be considered a “rebuild” draft, while having a deficit of picks in the first three rounds will be considered a “win now” draft.

With all of that preamble out of the way, lets look at Benning’s time running the Canucks and see if he does, in fact, have a plan.

Summer 2014

 

Benning was busy when he took over the team, making a number of significant trades and free agent signings to put his stamp on the organization.  These included:

Sign Radim Vrbata: Two years for $5 million per year Win Now
Sign Ryan Miller:  Three years for $6 million per year Win Now
Trade Jason Garrison & 7th for a 2nd Rebuild
Trade 3rd for Derek Dorsett Win Now
Trade Ryan Kesler for Bonino, Sbisa, & 1st Retool
Trade 2nd for Linden Vey Retool
Draft Seven picks, including two first rounders Rebuild

 

2014-2015 Mid-Season Transactions:

 

Sign Chris Tanev: Five years at $4.45 million per year Win Now
Trade 2nd for Sven Baertschi Retool
Trade Gustav Forsling for Adam Clendening Retool
Trade Alex Mallet & 3rd for Andre Pedan Retool

Overall, for the 2014-2015 year, we have four transactions that can be considered Win Now, five Retool transactions, and two Rebuild moves.

2015 Summer

 

Trade Eddie Lack for 3rd & 7th Rebuild
Trade Kevin Bieksa for a 2nd Rebuild
Trade Zack Kassian and a 5th for Brandon Prust Win Now
Trade Bonino, Clendening & 2nd for Brandon Sutter & 3rd Win Now
Sign Brandon Sutter: Five years at $4.35 million per year Win Now
Draft Seven picks total, but only one in the first top half Win Now

 

*Bonino and Sutter are the same age and play the same position; however, moving down at the draft and giving up a prospect in the trade moves this from Neutral to Win Now territory.

2015-2016 Season

 

Trade Hunter Shinkaruk for Markus Granlund Retool
Trade Nick Jensen & 6th for Emerson Etem Retool
Deadline No Moves Win Now

Why is “no moves” a win now scenario?  This is the season Benning infamously stood pat at the trade deadline, failing or refusing to move Dan Hamhuis, arguably the most valuable player potentially available at the deadline, and also held on to Radim Vrbata, just one season removed from scoring 30 goals and arguably the top winger available.  This is a Win Now decision.

Overall, the 2015-2016 season is, much more heavily tilted in one particular direction – Win Now – than any other, with two rebuild moves, one retool move, and five Win Now moves.

 

2016 Summer

 

Trade Philip Larson for a 5th Retool
Trade McCann, a 2nd, and a 4th for Erik Gudbranson and a 5th Win Now
Sign Loui Eriksson:  Six years at $6 million per year Win Now
Draft Six picks overall, no 2nd round pick Win Now

 

2016-2017 Season

 

Trade Jannik Hansen for Nickolaj Goldobin and a 4th Rebuild
Trade Alexandre Burrows for Jonathan Dahlen Rebuild

Coming into the 2016 season, Benning was clearly all-in on his vision of the Canucks.  The team traded picks and a top-tier prospect for Erik Gudbranson, signed Loui Eriksson to a long-term deal, and gave up a pick to bring in depth defenceman Philip Larsson.  As a result of these moves, Benning went into the 2016 draft without a 2nd or a 4th round pick.

There was a sharp change in direction after Christmas, however, as Benning had unquestionably his best trade deadline as Canucks GM, moving Jannik Hansen and the ghost of Alex Burrows for two solid prospects in Nickolaj Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen, and adding a 4th round pick to boot.

So we’ve got a clearly Win Now off-season followed by a clear Rebuild trade deadline.

Summer 2017

Draft Eight picks, including an extra 2nd Neutral
Sign Sam Gagner:  Three years at $3 million per year Win Now
Sign Michael Del Zotto:  Two years at $2 million per year Retool
Sign Thomas Vanek:  One year at $2 million Rebuild
Sign Alexander Burmistrov:  One year at $900,000 Retool
Trade Andrey Pedan & a 4th to Pittsburgh for Derrick Pouliot Retool

Despite having an extra pick, I’m classifying this draft as Neutral because Benning did not acquire (or trade away) any picks – the 2nd was received as compensation for Columbus signing Tortorella as head coach.

2017-2018 Season

 

Trade Vanek to Columbus for Jokinen & Tyler Motte Retool

This is the season that sees the clearest commitment to a retool from Jim Benning since his initial flurry of moves in 2014.  There are no major moves, but a lot of smaller tinkering around the edges, signing veterans to short-term deals, trading failed prospects for project players, and moving Vanek at the draft for a cap dump in Jokinen, and depth forward Tyler Motte.  Most of these moves for the retool category.

Summer 2018

Draft Six picks overall; however, the team was only missing a late-round pick. Neutral
Trade Canucks’ 6th in 2018 to Washington for the Caps’ 2018 6th and 2019 6th Rebuild
Sign Jay Beagle to four years at $3 million per year Win Now
Sign Antoine Roussel to four years at $3 million per year Win Now

I have left the Schaller signing out as it is a short-term, marginal money deal for a bottom six player that falls into the neutral category.

2018-2019 Season

Trade Michael Carcone to Toronto for Josh Leivo Retool
Trade Darren Archibald & Anders Nilsson to Ottawa for Mike McKenna, Tom Pyatt, and a 6th Retool

2018-2019 was by far Benning’s most “neutral” season.  He made a lot of player-for-player swaps, including Gudbranson for Pearson, Chaput for Kero, Gagner for Spooner, and Dahlen for Karlsson, that don’t make our list.  He did pick up a 7th-round pick in the Del Zotto trade, but traded a 7th rounder away for Mazanec a couple of weeks later.  Given the insignificance of these deals and the fact that they essentially cancel each other out, it seems best to just leave them out of our plan-finder entirely.

I’ve called the Archibald & Nilsson for McKenna, Pyatt and a 6th a Retool move as Benning did acquire a depth pick back in the deal which nudges it out of “neutral” territory, but like most of the others this past season, it’s pretty minor overall.  Benning’s best retool move of the 2018-2019 season was probably swapping Michael Carcone, a solid AHL player, for Josh Leivo, who immediately slotted into the Canucks’ NHL roster and made some solid contributions.

At the time of writing this, we’re between the 2019 draft and free agency.  As such, I’ve set the cutoff at the end of the 2019 season.  I will be writing a follow-up in July to see if we can glean any further plans from Jim Benning after he’s had a chance to make some moves in free agency, but for now, lets plot what we have and see if Benning does, in fact, have a plan.

Now that we’ve categorized the Canucks’ transaction history under Jim Benning, it’s useful to visualize the information both as a bar graph, and a line graph:

 

From the time Benning took over the team until the end of the 2016 calendar year, it’s clear that he viewed the Canucks as a winning team.  He made a number of moves designed to “rebuild on the fly” when he came onboard, including trading away Jason Garrison and Ryan Kesler, but over these first two and a half years, Benning made twelve “win now” moves, compared to nine “retool” moves and only five “rebuild” moves.

It’s also important to look at the nature of these moves – aside from the Kesler trade that brought back a 1st round pick, all of the “retool” and “rebuild” moves are essentially tinkering around the margins.  The most impactful “retool” move Benning made in this time was trading a 2nd for Sven Baertschi, and the most impactful “rebuild” move Benning made was probably acquiring a 2nd for Kevin Bieksa.

On the flip side, the “win now” moves include $6 million contracts for Ryan Miller and Loui Eriksson, and trading picks and an A prospect for Erik Gudbranson.  The moves that truly impacted the direction of the franchise and the makeup of the team on the ice, after the initial flurry of moves, were almost all of the “win now” variety.

After the end of 2016, however, Benning’s plan becomes more inscrutable.  He had his best trade deadline of his GM tenure in 2017 when he moved Burrows and Hansen for Dahlen, Goldobin, and a 4th.  He made a number of reasonable buy-low bets in the summer of 2017 and avoided any major free agent gaffes.  It’s clear Benning recognized by in 2017 that his team wasn’t good enough and set about making some changes.  However, by the end of 2017 the picture gets much murkier.

Benning went into the 2018 draft without adding any picks (and was, in fact, down one depth pick), signed two older players to longer-term, mid-money deals as UFAs in 2018, and made a bunch of moves that don’t show up on our charts because they’re player-for-player swaps or insignificant scribbling in the margins.

It’s clear that when Benning came to Vancouver, he had a plan.  That plan was to move out a few aging players, add a couple of solid picks and prospects, and get back to winning ASAP.  After two and a half years of executing on that plan, it seems that Benning recognized it wasn’t working.  However, since that time, it’s almost impossible to identify a coherent direction or pattern to Benning’s moves.

Is Benning still executing on a plan – one that’s simply inscrutable to outside observers?  Or is he, like Battlestar’s fourth-season writers, on a rudderless ship, drifting aimlessly toward an ignoble conclusion?

Check back after free agency and we’ll see if we’ve got an answer.

  • “It’s to create respectful discussion.”
    Ya, as long as you bash Benning and the Canucks….
    What is actually the point of this site Ryan?
    All other Nation sites are fan sites – except this one. Why?

    • What is actually the point of continuing to be here, only to whine incessantly about the content? Bootlickers would be much happier with house info presented at Canucks.com.

      • LOL – Freud owning Low-life with astute superior acumen once again…

        Locust
        5 years ago
        TRASH IT! 12
        CHEERS 2
        “12 troll comments out of 23 total – so far. This site has
        become a total joke.”

        Locust YESTERDAY… FIVE years later

        “Ya, as long as you bash Benning and the Canucks….What is actually the point of this site Ryan?”

        Unbelievable. Same, tired whining narrative FIVE YEARS later and he is still here, like wtf guy – WHY?

  • The vital question is “How many moves were detrimental to rebuilding?” Few of those WIN NOWs were.

    As an example, signing UFAs only prevents rebuilding if there are exciting NHL-ready prospects being forced to the sidelines by them. But there’s almost none of that. As an example, Gaudette started in Utica last season, but was soon called up.

    As another example, re-signing players like Tanev did not interfere with rebuilding. Not trading him for draft picks might have, but the actual re-signing didn’t.

    • As I said at the start of the article, my purpose wasn’t to judge Benning’s execution of his plan or any of the individual moves, but to see if in retrospect we can see plan emerge from those moves.

      Regarding Tanev – the decision to resign him clearly fits with the direction that Benning was going at the time, which is to either maintain the team as competitive at the time, or to “rebuild on the fly” and return the team to being competitive within a couple of seasons. Does re-signing Tanev to a five-year deal make sense if you expect your team to be competitive in two seasons? Absolutely. Does re-signing Tanev, rather than trading him, make sense if your plan is for your team to be competitive four or five years down the line? Absolutely not. Likewise, signing Eriksson to 6×6 only makes sense if you think you’re competing for a cup right now, or maybe in a year or two. It does not make sense if you’re planning for a long-term rebuild.

      Again, this isn’t saying those moves were good moves or bad moves. It’s just saying that the only way those moves make sense is if you assume that Benning’s plan was for his team to be competitive in the short- to medium-term.

      As to whether these moves were detrimental or not? I’ll be addressing that in more detail in my follow-up, which will be coming in a week or two after we see what Benning does over the first week of free agency.

      • First off, I appreciate the article and the effort that went into writing it.

        my purpose wasn’t to judge Benning’s execution of his plan or any of the individual moves, but to see if in retrospect we can see plan emerge from those moves.

        Yet you put on blinders so as not to see a plan. You actually have to think about the reason behind the moves (the state of the prospect pool — quality, new ones challenging for spots, potential rolls, where are they along the development curve) to assess the moves, rather than arbitrarily assign moves in isolation to one of three categories that do not really make sense.

        The only move from the 2016 trade deadline onward (including the deadline) that has not been consistent with a rebuilding team was signing Eriksson.

        You state you do not evaluate the execution, but you the go on to classify the 2016 TDL as a “win now” exercise. GMJB attempted to move expiring assets your futures (a rebuilding move). Plain and simple. Hamhuis gave two team ….. he negotiated with both, Chicago choose to go with forwards, Dallas choose Russell. Vrbata (…. and to re-iterate, you referred to the 11 goal scorer carrying a $5M cap hit one of the best forwards available..) overtly stated that “if I wanted to be traded, I would have been traded”. So GMJB tried. According to your own criteria, this is solidly in the rebuilding category.

        Even the Gudbranson signing (bringing in a 24 year D-man), while it did not work out, was not a “win now” – they were expecting Gudbranson to be a stalwart on the defence corp moving forward. This did not turn out, but it wasn’t a move motivated by the team winning now.

        Del Zotto and Gagner were both rebuilding moves. They were placeholders. Term and cap hit were not severe. Let them play, and move them for futures when opportunity arises. Benning did just that with Del Zotto … but not included in the list because of low return (again, execution, not motivation). Most bizarre is not classifying the Nilsson trade as a rebuilding move. They traded for a sixth and an AHL goalie. The there were two motivations for the trade: to make NHL space for the goalie of the future they drafted and developed to get backup experience; and to acquire futures. This doesn’t strike you as a rebuiliding move?

        Bringing in Beagle, Rousell and Schaller were also rebuilding moves. The motivation was to provide leadership and bottom line grunts to allow their top prospects to develop in top nine roles. Schaller can be flipped for futures if his play improves. Beagle and Rousell can also be flipped in year 3.

        The only way a draft can be viewed as a “win now” move would be if they drafted player solely because they were viewed as capable and available to play in the league the next season. Otherwise it is the foundation of rebuiliding.

        This off-season management clearly believes they have a core and prospect pool that will now allow them to start coming out of the rebuild mode. The JT Miller trade was the first big step.

        So to sum up the plan for ya:
        2014—2015 –> retool to win (successful)
        2015-TDL2016 –> retool to win (unsuccessful) .
        2016 TDL to 2019 draft –> rebuild (only exception was signing Eriksson).
        2019 draft moving forward …. coming out of the rebuild with a core and a prospect pool that is (hopefully) sustainable into the future.

        The plan is pretty easily to see; but then again you actually have to be objective in your observations.

      • Enjoyed the article Matthew and the exercise. My take on a number of transactions was to remain competitive rather than to “win now”; though I do understand your reasoning. Take moves like Beagle, Rousel and del Zotto over to the neutral side of things makes it clear around 2016/17 a distinct move was made towards the rebuild side of things. The team still has to ice a competitive product if they want to remain relevant in their market. Cheers

  • Miller for a 2nd and a 5th sounds reasonable. Why can`t Benning make that kind of trade? Does Benning have no friends who can help him out? Vegas has to move salary and everybody is talking except Benning. He just can`t get the job done.

    • You don’t know that Benning wasn’t in on it. Most GMs would want to exact a greater price from a divisional rival. Maybe McPhee asked for a 1st. Maybe McPhee only wanted to ship Miller to the Eastern conference.

      • There is something else going on with Benning. Next week he is going to sign two UFAs for too long and too much money and that`s all he`s going to do. This lower cap surprise is an opportunity that has all the GMs talking and working on deals. That`s why I say there is lots going on but for some reason Benning can`t figure anything out. Maybe it`s Aquilini with a big fat no.

        • Here`s an odd quote from nucksmisconduct;

          `…teams just don’t want to business with the Aquilinis. They have made enough enemies throughout the league that it may not matter who is the GM.

          • ^^^This may be the biggest, unknown truth out there…

            Any Canuck GM would have a tough time trying to serve two masters.

  • An interesting exercise. I think a few of the moves you classify as ‘win now’ are more along the lines of ‘basic necessity’ (like resigning Tanev or Horvat). I think you’re right about the assessment of the plan when he came in. I think he sold the Aquilinis on the basic idea of “one last hurrah with the Sedins” and pick up enough young players farther along the development path that Henrik and Daniel wouldn’t be babysitting in their last years. I think that’s the defining and underlying logic of the first years — make the most of the Sedins’ final seasons and get playoff revenue for the Aquilinis. The importance of ownership shouldn’t be understated — the Leafs were never going to get any better under the pension plan ownership who just wanted all the revenue and knew they’d get it regardless of results; it’s only more recently that there is ownership that is willing to use real money to buy success by burying contracts and the like.

    The central problem with Benning’s plan as I see it is that he has demonstrated an exceptionally uneven eye for pro talent. More to the point, he demonstrates a terrible eye for young pros — Ryan Miller, Vrbata, Vanek were all good and proven and did their jobs here. It’s the 20 year olds that are the real problem – Sutter and Gudbranson in particular and that’s what causes me concern about JT Miller. The UFAs haven’t hurt us that much (Eriksson, Beagle, etc) because we still have the cap room and we didn’t have much in the way of prospects before. Now with prospects needing time to develop in the bigs (like Goldobin) getting crowded out by Eriksson or Schaller doesn’t do them any good.

    I don’t think that Benning doesn’t have a plan. I think it’s that he doesn’t have the eye to execute the jump start retool and the majority of his moves have fallen into retool territory.

    • I didn’t actually include Horvat as he signed his deal when he had several years of RFA left and I absolutely agree it falls into the “basic necessity” category.

      As for Tanev, I’m not sure I agree, for the reasons I gave in response to Killer Marmot above. Certainly it’s better to re-sign him than let him walk for nothing, but the decision to re-sign him and to retain him for the duration of his contract is only a move that makes sense if Benning was expecting his team to be competitive at some point during that contract – if not right out of the gate, than within a year or two.

      Can’t quibble with anything else you wrote, though.

  • Having a long-term plan is virtually impossible in this game. Things change too quickly. Players you thought were going to be good go into the toilet, and players you thought little of blossom into stars.

    A long-term strategy, however, is certainly do-able. And I think Benning did have a strategy. It came to a sudden halt, however, when he traded for J. T. Miller, the first move he’s made in years where he blatantly sacrificed long-term rebuilding for shorter-term wins. It was so at odds with Benning’s previous moves that I suspect that Aquilini pressured Benning to do what he had to do get into the playoffs next season. Just a guess, though.

    • If anyone listened to Bettman & Aqualini address the season ticket holders prior to the draft, you would have heard the owner say (paraphrasing)…

      1. Benning is not in trouble
      2. He doesn’t necessarily expect the team to make the playoffs this year, but he expects to see them to improve and take a massive leap towards that goal.

      If you read between the lines, that means Benning needs to make the playoffs this year or next. Even if we had a new GM right now, that timeline would not change. Aqua wants his playoff revenue.

      No doubt in my mind that JB was told and he’s making these moves accordingly.

      And for those who are ridiculously blaming Benning for the whole Luongo fiasco, why didn’t Francesco whisper into Bettman’s ear to talk him out of the penalty? He’s had ample opportunities over the years.

  • Benning was hogtied by Kesler and Kassian. Both moves were to better the clubhouse and not to win now. The bigger picture to me is that the pro scout department has been awful. I think the Leivo trade was a rebuild, since Carcone had plateaued. Getting players like Roussel and Dorsett were needed on a physically weak team. I really do not think the Canucks can do much more this summer other than to move some bottom 6 wingers for defensive prospects. There is no money to be made by buying anyone out due to front-loaded contracts. I am neutral on Jim Benning as a general manager, but I wish he had someone between himself and Frank that would hire some competent pro scouts.

  • Apart from making their allotted draft picks – which thankfully have been very high due to their position in the standings – what has this administration done to try to build a Stanley Cup contender? The list above is alarming enough but also leaves out all of the things they have failed to do: accumulate picks, take on bad contracts for assets, and now we can add – take advantage of teams in a cap crunch (see the Colin Miller trade earlier today if you want to see what that looks like). The predictable excuses will come flying in but even the most staunch Benning apologists cannot day with a straight face they are confident going into this July 1st.

  • This is a really good analysis except that it’s missing one very important piece: context in the form of the draft. Maybe we’re not seeing “rebuild” moves because Benning has scored significantly with the few draft picks that he had? Benning’s core strength is drafting amateur players and some of his draft picks and unexpected surprises have made “rebuild” trades unnecessary. Here is some context in chronological order:

    Pre-Benning: Horvat. Gillis paid heavy for the 2013 #9 and took Horvat despite being ranked in the #10-20 range and being projected as a 3C. 100% credit to Horvat for leading by example and defying the opinions of others to become a near 1C. Good pick by Gillis but outstanding hard work by Horvat. That’s leadership material. No need to trade for a 1/2C, he’s started off with at least one blue-chip player.

    2014: Despite the bad selection with Virtanen (passing on Ehlers and Nylander) and losing players like McCann, Tryamkin, and Forsling, he scored big with Demko. Elite starting goaltender material, we lucked out when Calgary passed over Demko for Mason McDonald. Build through the draft, build from the goal out, take the best player available: check, check, check. Starting goaltender drafted with a 3 year development plan in place.

    2015: Boeser and Gaudette. Benning scored big with a Calder nominee and Hobey Baker winner, respectively. First line winger and middle-six scoring centre: check and check. Potential depth with Brisebois and Jasek: bonus.

    2016: Crap, even our draft picks are ravaged with injuries. Juolevi and Lockwood had significant injuries but you can’t rule them out. Juolevi will play and Lockwood has publicly committed to signing with Vancouver. Potential Top 4 defender and bottom-six winger, the jury is still out

    2017: This is Benning at his best. He managed to win the draft despite losing the lottery. We get an elite Calder-winning superstar at #5 and another elite blue-chip goaltender prospect. Top 9 potential in Lind and Gadjovich and Bottom 4 potential in Rathbone.

    2018:

    • My browser refreshed and posted:

      2018: We luck out with Hughes and nab a top-pairing defender (not #1). Benning passes over Jake Wise to get middle-six centre Madden and another Top 4 defender in Woo. Rathbone could be bottom 4.

      2019: Another top pick falls to us in Podkolzin. Managers subscribe to groupthink thanks to Yzerman and start drafting defencemen way the hell too early. We get Hoglander and Keppen, potential Top 6 and Top 9 forwards.

      So what do we have thanks to the draft? Two Top 6 centres, two Top 6 wingers, six Bottom 9 forwards, one top pairing defenceman, two Top 4 defenders, 2 bottom 4 defenders, and 2 elite starting goaltenders. That’s 17 players on a 22-man roster and all of them are poised to contribute at the same time. Maybe we don’t need a lot of rebuild transactions because Benning built a damn good core around Horvat, despite naysayers, critics, and the draft lottery. The only thing missing is a #1 defenceman. But hey, if we don’t make the playoffs, we still have the 1st round of the 2020 draft. I heard it’s deep.

      • It is real easy to criticize without a solution. An NHL player for 2 wild cards is acceptable. If Miller will work, I have no problem with the trade. Any time you can add to your big league club, you do. This move alleviated Benning’s need to buy out Spooner. Eriksson is a misfit, but I don’t see an avenue that makes fiscal sense. Sutter could have a healthy year. I think if the Canucks resign Hutton at 1.5 for two they make themselves solvent fiscally and have the summer to take on a defensemen that will soon need money.

      • For a good GM, I don’t think the players they take tell you anything about their short-term or long-term plans. Most players, outside of maybe half a dozen first-rounders, are two years minimum from playing in the NHL, so you can’t draft for short-term or medium-term needs.

        For that reason I don’t think looking at specific draft picks is particularly useful for the exercise (and, given that this piece is already over 2,000 words long, wasn’t really feasible).

        And again, the purpose of this piece wasn’t to declare that Benning was making good moves or bad moves, but to try and chart an overall direction. I think we can see from these moves, as I pointed out, that Benning was attempted a “rebuild on the fly” over his first 2.5 years with the franchise, then shifted to a full “rebuild” for about a year, and for the past year or year and a half, a clear direction has been difficult to determine.

        Is that because Benning has still been committed to rebuilding, but hasn’t been able to find moves he likes? Is it because he thinks the rebuild is complete and this team is ready to compete? Is it because Trevor Linden was the one setting the direction of the team, and now that Linden is gone, Benning has no direction?

        I’m not sure. The Miller move certainly suggests that Benning thinks the rebuild is done, but I’m particularly interested in free agency this year because it’ll tell us much more clearly where Benning’s head is at.

        • I guess if you log out, go away for five hours, and come back your computer will log you back in on your other account…

          So cat’s out of the bag.

          I’ve participate in the community for seven years as “Goon”, and I haven’t wanted to give that up. I wanted to keep that anonymous, partly so I could continue to participate in the community and partly because we have a creepy, mentally ill stalker around and didn’t want to regularly use an account associated with my real name. I’ve tried to keep my comments on my own articles exclusively under my own name, and my comments elsewhere on the exclusively site under my old profile. I hope folks around here can respect that and don’t feel like I was trying to be deceptive because that wasn’t my intention at all, just to keep myself as “writer” and “community participant” separate because I really like participating in the discussions with some people around here who I genuinely like and respect, even if we often disagree. It’s my intention to continue to write occasional guest pieces for CA, and to continue to participate in community discussions under my old profile as well.

          • I like Matthew D’s analysis more than Goon’s. It’s a little less reactionary and posits more interesting questions. Thanks for the honesty and the effort you put in on this article.

          • Hahaha – can you f(u)ken believe it. I don’t know what is more pathetic, Matthew Dolmage (a lawyer ffs) shooting himself in both feet outting himself as GOON or CA for allowing their own writer to troll this place under two Ids that they clearly knew about… a dark day for the credibility of this place. ROFL…. what a great way to start the day guys…. GOON>>>>> Matthew Dolmage – SMH.

          • Canucks Army has about as much credibility as a Royal Rumble, luckily its also as much fun as a Royal Rumble.

          • Very true Beer, but this is the biggest humiliation on CA since Biech and JD went begging for paid work on twitter after gettng punted from The Athletic.

            This Goon loser troll has been f(u)*king with forum regulars here forever, and has now outted and humiliated himself as an actual CA writer Matthew Dolmage!!!!!!

            The kicker is, if he had kept his mouth shut chances are no one woulda noticed. Wow, just wow. Remind me not to call thiis clown if i needed a lawyer anytime soon… what a dolt. rofl

            Have another beer Boyddddddddd. Party time on CA :-p

          • CamBurke/PQW/Matty T etc. in case you need reminding you are the “stalker” being referred to. I won’t add “mentally ill” because I think you’re just an obsessive as$hole with nothing better to do.

          • Completely understandable (especially when said creepy obsessive stalker then fully justifies your desire for some anonymity in the SAME THREAD). Much respect for being as open with this as you have been. Damn Skynet, that’s why I say never trust computers…

  • In my opinion, JBs’ tenure has been very polarizing because his drafting (not perfect) had built us a decent core and a good prospect pool but when it comes to trade/signings (not referring to Utica or other prospect type signings and not minor trades) he seems to be a different person. To me, he seems to only have autonomy during the drafts (although, others can point to Aquillini’s potential meddling in the drafting of Virtanen: local kid) and prospect signings but when it comes to trades and/or signings concerning the Canucks the result seems to be counterintuitive to his drafting process – perhaps due to the rumored meddling from the Aquillini’s, it is forcing JB to make a business decision rather than a hockey one. I understand that the Aquillini’s are the owner(s) but if the meddling rumours are true then they should have to take some or most of the blame for this so called rebuild on the NHL level but at the same time, I do still put SOME of the blame on JB for not standing up for his decision(s) and ultimately his reputation. My main point when it comes to the rumored meddling of the Aquillini’s is that if true, then its affect(s) has to be considered when analyzing JBs’ past and current decisions. On the surface, it seems like a perfect situation for a disaster: a meddling owner and a passive GM (but I do still credit JB for most of the current core and the improved prospect pool). For some added context, the Aquillini’s had never gone through a proper rebuild ever since they took over: the plan during the previous regimes was always to build through trades and/or signings. Eventhough, JB wasnt there the decisions from the previous regime are still having some lingering effects on the Canucks: poor drafting, NTC or NTM clauses, Loungo contract and etc (although, some issue had been somewhat mitigated or had simply passed). Any analysis of his earlier decisions will always have to include the previous regimes’ decisions and past owners mandate – whether it was total rebuild (but the lottery did not cooperate) or a soft rebuild – as context.

    I still hope, JB gets a chance to compete with his core. Secondly, I hope the Aquillini’s, will stop or tone down the rumored meddling and instead hire someone to complement or help JB when it comes to trades, contracts and the cap. Moving forward, this is now his roster & prospect pool and I would only judge him on how he would add or complement both. I greatly enjoyed this article and hope for more to come !!!!

    • Thanks, I appreciate the comments!

      I’m not sure how much the Aquilinis meddle. I think it can be dangerous to blame every bad move on the Aquilinis, and then credit every good move to Benning. That said, I think it’s been fairly well-established that the “rebuild on the fly” and “keep making the playoffs” mantra that set the tone for the first year or two of Benning’s management was dictated by ownership.

      From 2016 on, though, we’ve got to consider this Benning’s baby.

      • My guess is that almost every owner in the NHL guides and approves overall strategy, and likely even approves every major deal. I doubt that any of them just let’s management do whatever they want. This is not “medddling.” It’s being a responsible owner. They are, after all, responsible for the long-term financial health of the club, and have a duty to ensure that management don’t do anything outright loony.

        Now if the Aquilini started micromanaging the club then, yes, that would be meddling. But until he starts instructing Benning on what player to call up from Utica, or telling Green what defensive line pairings to use, I wouldn’t call him a meddler.

      • Ditto, I would attribute his tenure from this point, since this is now his roster and prospect pool as to how he would strengthen both while managing the cap.

  • Benning came in with zero prospect pool. It was a nuclear wasteland. They definitely wanted him to build organizational depth and a prospect pool but the team wasn’t actually in a rebuild.

    Finally when the team did start rebuilding the fanbase became completely confused at signings like MDZ, Gagner, Beagle, Roussel, etc. Well, who exactly were these guys keeping out of the line up? Nobody? Exactly. The org was so shallow that he had to fill roster spots and surround the youth.

    Benning has made mistakes but he has also built a core. You need a #1 goaltener, #1 pp D, 2 Centers, and two wingers to build a team around. That’s the core you surround depth with. Benning has likely accomplished that if Demko and Podkolzin pan out.

    I’ll be pissed if they hand Myers a monster contract considering the price Miller and Subban went for. I’m also disappointing Burakovsky didn’t land here. Can’t criticize Benning yet though. He might make a good move or stay put and just not make a big mistake.

    • I agree with spearing, that a contender needs those 6 key pieces, and the Canucks appear to probably have that, with maybe (or maybe not) the exception of a #1D. We’ll see how good Hughes can become.

      In terms of meddling ownership, I agree with Killer Marmot that likely the owners approve the strategy or even say what that is. And, as a neophyte GM, Benning may have been overconfident, “Yes, Mr. A., I think we CAN rebuild on the fly”. So, together with the nuclear wasteland prospect pool (AND number of NTCs) may have cost the Canucks an additional year, maybe two.

      Finally, I expect that the Aquilini’s likely approve every major contract, like Eriksson’s. Hell, they own the team and $36 mill is a lot of dough. And any compentent manager, just about anywhere, is going to run major decisions by his owner/ manager/ supervisor, to make sure they understand what’s going on, and are generally on-board. Can’t win if you are always fighting up the hierarchy.

      Finally, as to whether the Aquilini’s fetter Bennings decision making, probably only in regards to strategy. And that, owners of anything commonly do.

  • While this was quite a well researched article there are grey areas between the various terminologies used such as Win Now, Re Tool, ReBuild, etc. I think every GM wants to wins now and retool and rebuild and draft good prospects but I can see how this article was laid out as per Benning’s tenure. The aforementioned terminologies that govern the processes as outlined here of course vary year to year dictated by club needs and direction. Benning came in as a rookie GM with little to build on. The window had closed on an aging player group and of course circumstances have changed now they have a great young group of promising players. The landscape has definitely changed but all the phraseologies used to describe a GM’s requirements to improve his roster don’t really change.

  • Really enjoyed the article but especially enjoyed the discussion afterwards. I’ve always felt Benning has done a nice job drafting but I have questioned his free agent signings and trades. Drafting is certainly his strength. I would agree with comments that the post could have included who he did draft each year – at least the notable ones.

    • I tend to think the waters are muddied by the fact that his interview for the role of GM Aqualini made it clear what he was looking for and what his expectations were. JB was an asst GM in Boston waiting for a GM’s job. No matter who you are if you’re interviewing for a job that you want you tend to agree with the interviewer. JB said what was needed to get the job he coveted. He didn’t sit in the interview and tell Aquaman he was full of it …. he got the job!! The next 2 years were spent understanding that Aquamans vision was not reality, Linden further muddied the water and may be extended the failures. I also think either Linden or JB couldn’t handle Gilman’s astute wisdom, he likely made them inadequate, so, unfortunately, the moderate input was thrown out. JB drafting ( or Judd Brackets ) is not only based on their astute moves but other GM’s failure. If GM’s on other teams had understood the abilities of Pettersson for example then they would have taken him earlier …. he fell to Vcr in part. Like others who have said the Pro scouting is below average I think it’s clear they need new eyes for this department but as the Captian of the ship, they are JB responsibility so that’s a black mark for JB. The sad thing is the MIller trade has IMO set the direction back. 2020 is supposed to be a quality draft and there’s a chance we won’t be in the lottery. Our only hope is JB does not sign and FA’s and thus misses the play-off. If we do upgrade it simply compounds the Miller move

  • Something to consider Sutter has had issues with abdominal muscles since he has been with the Canucks if it has not been fixed this time could he end up on the long term injury. It would explain why he has not been able to play up to his abilities as he is a quality player with a lot of heart but with that constant pain all the strength and power comes from your core if he is not able to use his core strength it will limit what he can do on the ice and if this is going to keep reoccurring then his career is over. Something to think about.

    • I would tend to agree. Sutter was pretty durable and consistent until these stomach issues. I was a pretty good skater in my day and the two biggest injuries that effected my skating were a pulled groin and an abdominal strain. I would rate the abdominal injury worse and lasted the longest.

  • Some good points but I think you’ve conveniently labeled the result of each move to fit your narrative. For ex.: signing Tanev was labeled as win now. Nope. That move checks the box for multiple reasons – Tanev was, what, 24 or so then? Sure, Tanev should’ve been dealt a couple years later but that was a good move…period. Anyway, I agree Benning is going in multiple directions and I suspect that has a LOT to do with meddling ownership.

  • A good article. It shows that Jim doesn’t have a clear over-arching strategy, certainly wasn’t rebuild focused and he tends to be reactive. Not a surprise, but nice to see it neatly laid out somewhere.

  • I think most Canucks fans can agree that JB is a good drafter (with good help). Where he has failed miserably is with free agent signings. Look at this lid tweeted by “Vancouver Road Warrior “
    All July 1st FA acquisitions, last 4 #Canucks offseasons

    Beagle
    Roussel
    Schaller
    Del Zotto
    Gagner
    Wiercioch
    Burmistrov
    Nilsson
    Eriksson
    Rendulic
    Billins
    Larsen
    Megna
    Chaput
    Bachman
    Fedun
    Bartkowski

    Very Unimpressive

    • Wow, thats not unimpressive, thats pathetic. Thats a s$%t ton of ownerships money poured down the drain. Roussel is the only decent signing on there. Beagle and Ericsson are both still with the team, but their play here has clearly shown that Benning misjudged their talent and ability to contribute to a winning culture. This list in and of itself would easily justify Bennings dismissal. If he signs Myers, he seals the deal.

    • No thumbs down???? Shocking! I guess all the Canucks front office PR staff got sent home for the weekend to save money for FA considering his alleged financial struggles of late. Or maybe they’re all being ‘transitioned’ into temporary foreign workers like his apparent berry farms…

  • Great read. One thing i recall is that when benning took over there were very few top draft picks and the 21-25 age groups were vacant as gillis traded assets to maximize his chances in cup runs. So filling that age group with players like clendenning and bonino was definately part of the plan early on to help stock the cupboard of the missing generation so to speak.

  • Jim Benning has been a winner everywhere he’s been. If only the loser haters and trolls could see that. Just you all wait and see. Why can’t you all give him time like all other GMs get? Such whiners….

    “Rebuilds take 9 years” (Alex Auld – #homerradio)

    So just chill and stop all the hating.

    Come on Canucks front office PR team, lets all continue to slam the haters and keep drinking the kool aid and just relaxxxxxxxx.

  • I hope Benning gets a 5 year extention this coming season so he can have the needed security to go back into his hibernation cycle after he screws over the entire organization tomorrow with more Loui Eriksson type moves for over the hill, overrated and overpriced big slow professional hockey players. All his bootlickers deserve another 5 years of this dumpster fire of a team to continue to fake support as the building gets more and more empty year after year after year.