Hello, and welcome back to WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet to never score on its own net.
The Vancouver Canucks have experienced some highs and lows over the past week, but mainly lows, and they’ve been some rather low-lows.
As always, such periods of turmoil have led to rampant speculation about the future employment of Jim Benning, Travis Green, and the entirety of the front office and coaching staffs, even in the wake of owner Francesco Aquilini’s tweet-thread vote of confidence this past Saturday.
Organizational change is in the air, and to some, it seems more a matter of “when” than “if.”
And chances seem very good that, by the time the 2021/22 season rolls around, there will be someone else in the position of General Manager, and probably a whole host of other positions, too.
But before our new franchise boss arrives, there’s going to be plenty of time for fans to theoretically thrust themselves into the role, and today we’re getting a bit of a head-start on it.
This week, we’re asking you to make a good first impression and answer:
If you were made GM of the Vancouver Canucks today, what would be your first move?
(Try to restrain yourselves to just ONE move!)
Who do you blame for the Canucks’ current woes?
Your responses/accusations are listed below!
It’s been said in pro sports you succeed on the field/court/ice/diamond because you succeed in the front office first. Either team leadership is not providing the proper guidance for some of these very good young players or they have the wrong mix on their roster to get the job done. Things could change very quickly, but in the meantime one gets the feeling that it all starts at the top with ownership, then the GM, and finally a coaching staff who don’t seem to either adjust on the fly or have no game plan to speak of. Like Burkie said recently, in effect, “Dumb it down and play fundamental hockey.” K.I.S.S.
Real easy solution. Fire Benning and the new guy can replace AHL Green and his beer league staff with real NHL coaching talent, there’s plenty out there available.
Better teams than the Canucks have cleaned house in-season and some have won Cups because of it. No more excuses, the young core is in place, so it’s all on the management and staff.
Short season, Aqua, so pull the trigger ASAP like you used to.
Sure, sounds like an excuse, but with so many new bodies a lack of practice explains about half the problem.
The other half is their top-three (Miller, Petey, and Hughes) have some points but have really played well under their ability. And Miller and Petey in particular were dogging it most nights. Glad Holtby called Miller out.
When old man river Alex Edler had to step up in the last game against Toronto and start hitting people, it should have embarrassed the youngins.
It is easy to blame Benning for why the Canucks are not a better constructed team. It is also easy to identify where the systems Green has implemented are not effective enough. The problem with laying all the blame with management and coaching is these things were the same last year, but it is the performance that changed.
The drop in performance is on the players. The roster is not weaker and the systems are the same. The Canucks best players have failed to execute and their effort level has fallen off from last season. No doubt the lack of a pre-season, intense schedule and numerous personnel changes have a negative impact, but not nearly enough to cause the general malaise of the players in many games this season. When the best game of the recent road trip was the last one, you can’t just point at fatigue.
It is the effort and intensity of players most different from last year and most responsible for a decline in team performance.
Current woes: Green. The team does not look well-coached, players are not consistent in how they’re getting rewarded for effort and results (see: Hogs vs. Miller, Myers vs. Juolevi); their play, passing, EVERYTHING on the ice just looks like something that could be fixed by a better coach. Practice time / schedule has an impact, but good coaches deal with bad schedules and get wins.
General woes: The cap crunch that we’re in due to a number of participants. Namely:
Benning for overspending on 4th liners
Eriksson for neither performance nor effort matching contract negotiated
The NHL and Luongo for the recapture, the fact Luongo could’ve gone on LTIR, and the fact it’s basically ONLY punishing the Canucks
Benning again, for letting Toffoli walk so he could sign Jake, cap issues notwithstanding
Benning again, for Hamonic over Stech.
Aquilini, for only getting involved when it’s likely to make things worse, Mark Donnelly notwithstanding.
To be clear, I don’t blame Miller at all for his game right now, nor Myers (he’s exactly as advertised), nor Petey, nor QH who’s being way overplayed, nor Horvat who seemingly always has only 2/3 of a line, nor Beagle or Sutter or any of the other guys not living up to their potential.
As soon as the Canucks lose two in a row because of anything more than luck I’d fire Green & replace with a pedigreed coach (Green will do fine, he’s a good coach, but he’s done all he can here). The new coach would be tasked with replacing Newell Brown. Then I’d quickly execute a GM search and when hired offer Benning a position in the scouting department, reporting to the new GM. I’d tell Aquilini he can offer input to the GM, fire the GM, but otherwise decisions are the GM’s. And I’d send Eriksson to Utica to mentor the kids on defensive structure, which seems lacking in everyone coming up from Utica.
1) The players. Have you ever noticed that teams that win the cup have a lot of really good, and often the very best, players in the world?
2) The coach. The coach’s responsibility is to prepare and get the most out of players. This team is no worse than the roster that took LVK to Game 7. They are one the worst teams in the league right now.
3) Management. They are responsible for the players and roster. Although there is a debate about regression/progression, it’s small either way. Management handcuffed themselves with cap issues which have consequences. That said, last season they were on the bubble of earning a playoff spot with a roster of similar caliber. Goaltending is not the issue right now
If you think goaltending has been the issue, then yes, you could point the finger at management. I believe losing Marky is significant but it doesn’t explain the abysmal play of the team. Toffoli played a handful of games and Boeser was hurt last season. They never had both players, really. Boeser is healthy and scoring this year. Tanev is a good player, but come on, he’s not a massive upgrade over Schmidt. There have been changes but nothing about them translates to a reasonable explanation between the performance last year to the next
I think there is also an issue with the covid schedule. The Canucks have had their slow start compounded by a brutal schedule and no practice time. Sometimes you find your rhythm and footing quickly and sometimes not so much. When you have this schedule, the problem gets compounded.
Personally, I think the 2019 offseason was a big mistake. They needed another year of building and they blew their wad too early. The teams window to win is when Beagle, Roussel, Eriksson, and Luongo come off the books and free up $15 million in cap. They knew this. If I was to step in and replace JB I’d be taking a mulligan on that off-season. Pay Seattle to take Myers. Trade JT Miller for Draft picks (his value has gone up IMO). Miller will be under contract for one season when the actual window opens up. Tank this season and sell Pearson, Sutter, etc at the deadline. Go shopping before the expansion draft and free agency when it’s a buyers’ market (covid should depress $ value of contracts and expansion draft should free up players who usually wouldn’t be available).
I see this disaster as an opportunity to fix a mistake while still realistically building towards their actual window which was set in stone when those vet contracts were signed.
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
Management is largely accountable for the debacle that the team is currently facing. It did not take a rocket scientist to see that some form of compressed schedule was on the horizon for this year. Thus, continuity should have been the #1 priority as the team looked to continue to build momentum from the Edmonton bubble. A number of players have cited the camaraderie developed within the bubble as a key missing ingredient this year – it’s no wonder considering 3 of the top seven defencemen (Tanev, Stecher & Fantenberg), key deadline acquisition Toffoli, and the team’s emotional leader in Markstrom were summarily dismissed during free agency. Redeveloping the mix on the fly, when in-person interaction was clearly not on the horizon, was bound to take some time.
The root of the problem is Benning’s complete lack of vision when it comes to managing the salary cap, and incorporating young talent deeper in roster on a continual basis. The misses have been repeated ad nauseum, and they really handcuffed Benning this offseason. This was entirely his own doing, and there is nobody to blame but the GM and ownership that allowed him to spend so recklessly in the past.
The current problems are simply due to the GM overpaying a lot of players to be fourth line forwards, or healthy scratches, or on the taxi squad, or AHL players.
Being unable to retain better players this past offseason is the direct result of this. This was foreseeable, in fact many writers both on this website and elsewhere predicted this very problem. This shortcoming is why many are not confident in management going forward.
Yes, I am aware the salary cap did not increase as forecast. That however is the difference between losing five players as free agents and losing three or four.
The lack of quality depth is on those tasked with providing that depth.
I believe there are two primary causes for the Canucks poor season.
The first reason is Covid; Covid has caused a shortened season, has caused the Salary Cap to remain flat, put a financial freeze on teams making it extremely difficult to move contracts in trades, and caused the NHL to have a condensed season that sees the Canucks playing a game every second day with no practices.
The second reason is Jim Benning. His bad signing over the last few years hand-cuffed the team this year. Combine that with Benning chasing big names like Oliver Ekman-Larson while ignoring his own unsigned talent. He gave up assets for Tyler Toffoli who really wanted to re-sign with the Canucks and now Toffoli has been single-handedly destroying the Canucks. He let Markstrom go and Canucks goaltending has been mediocre at best. Markstrom has made sure the Canucks have not won a game against Calgary yet. Players became disgruntled when Benning basically ignored them during free agency.
Coach Green owns some blame as well. He should be getting his team to focus on defence first, not offence. The amount of goals the Canucks are bleeding could be cleaned up by a improving team defence. Offence can come later once the defence is sorted out.
FIRE THEM ALL!!!! Just kidding, and now that I got your attention….
Fault of this whole mess lands on ownership. They need to hire the right people and then let them do their jobs without any interference. They need to foster an atmosphere which promotes respectful diversity of opinions, which will help leadership make prompt and informed decisions.
Next. Assuming that revenues are limited due to the pandemic, it would be costly to fire and hire a whole new management team. With that in mind, they should hire an experienced President of Hockey Ops ASAP to oversee GMJB. Someone who has a bigger vision of what kind of team we want to build around Petey and Hughes. This person would have the final say on trades and signing RFAs/UFAs (taking away the parts of the job that GMJB is the weakest at). I would keep GMJB in his current role, mainly focusing on drafting and developing our amateur picks. I would let AGMJW go to improve chemistry within the organization.
As to the coaching staff, I believe that Green’s voice has grown stale in the locker room and that a new leader is needed to bring more defensive accountability to all players (including our young stars). More importantly, there is currently a more qualified head coaching candidate in Gerard Gallant that can more than adequately fill the void. Since Green’s contract is expiring, this a natural transition point which would cost minimal financial stress.
If this game tonight is another no-show for our Canuckleheads then something drastic must be done. If we don’t hit at least .500 over this four-game series – we end up with the same result.
But this drastic “thing” is unlikely to be an immediate and complete change in management – that would take months to properly structure to get the best candidate(s).
An interim coach would be about the only immediate step that could be taken to turn around the mess that Benning and Greener have put together over the last few years.
Stan “Steamer” Smyl knows all the players and staff – would have the respect of all involved – and he definitely comes from the school of heads-up hard-on-the-puck blue-collar effort.
Both Greener and Benning have envisioned the Canucks as an exciting run-n-gun club – which requires Vezina-calibre goaltending on a regular basis. Steamer might be able to convince the Lads that a defensive/counterattacking style is the best path towards a Cup.
An interim coach, who can change the dynamics in the room, is but a first step – and a couple of temporary assistants might have to be found; before the great considerations and efforts needed to find the right group to fully take over. (Prez hockey ops/GM/head coach/staff).
Even if Steamer is reluctant to take on this temporary role, he can probably be convinced it’s the right thing, because he bleeds Blue and Green.
Going out on a limb here, but management made some difficult decisions that addressed the salary cap, expansion draft, aging players, attempted to address previous mistakes, anticipated growth from within, and pushed the core of the club into prominent positions. Some of the core, notably Boeser, Horvat, Sutter, and Pearson have come through. Hughes, Pettersson, Miller, Virtanen, and others have played way under their expectations. If my vote counts, I’m saying the core was put into a position to get it done and they didn’t do very well.
Mainly management, and not only for being forced to let needed depth leave this summer due to their own poor trades, signings, and abysmal cap management, but also for not stocking up on picks and assets over the years. A strong organization makes sure they have enough qualified players coming to fill these holes. A couple good high draft picks and a handful of decent finds in the later rounds does not equal organizational depth, even if you don’t screw everything else up.
You could put some of this on ownership for allowing, or possiblu pushing this direction, but at the end of the day the GM should be held accountable and be judged on the team/depth he builds.
I like Green but I’m starting to think a change is due by the start of next season. A new GM should come as soon as the right guy is found and hopefully that’s before the trade deadline.
I understand the thoughts of mismanaged cap and bloated contracts for bottom-six players. The fact is that even if the Canucks were way under the cap, six years for Marky and four for Tanev were not a good idea.
The team on the ice had been disorganized and there has been little effort. To me the coaches have lost the room.
Lots of blame to go around, but I think the principal person responsible for the current woes is GMJB. He is the leader of the front office. He gets credit/blame for the hires and promotions (Gear, Brackett…) and the people that were let go (Gillman, Henning, Brackett…). He is also responsible for the direction of the team. In short, this team is directionless.
He used all his bullets (signed older free agents, traded away first and second round picks, prospects) just to make the playoffs for one year. He had nothing left at end of last season. Capped out, couldn’t trade bad contracts, and no first or second round picks.
So, what are we now? Rebuilding, retooling? We’re not a playoff team. That is certain.
90 percent on the players. The roster hasn’t changed that much. To suddenly blame it on management is scapegoating. Where was the fire management crowd during the playoff run? Players need to be held accountable. Unfortunately, hard to trade and get value in this environment.