Benning fatigue and the myth of Canucks fans’ impatience
1 year ago
Today, after two days of NHL free agency silly season, CHEKTV’s Donnie & Dhali™ conducted an interview with Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford.
Rick Dhaliwal came out guns a-blazing, saying “I’m going to drive you nuts with the J.T. Miller stuff, but here we go again, you’re in a Canadian market, people are impatient, where are you with J.T. Miller, and where is this heading?”
After a few seconds of silence, Rutherford replied, “Well, I’ll ask you, what are they impatient about?”
Rutherford continued, “Our best forward, we still have in our lineup; what’s the impatience for?”
Don Taylor offered one reason for impatience, “1970 and no Stanley Cups since then, Jim. How about that?”
What the so-called “impatience” is actually about
“What’s the impatience about?”
Are fans impatient because of a lack of Stanley Cups? Or is this J.T. Miller impatience a result of Benning fatigue?
Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin have only been on the job for eight months. However, the lack of proactive problem-solving concerning the organization’s cap situation reminds the fanbase, unfairly or not, of the previous regime’s similar lack of proactivity. A lack of proactivity that very recently saw the Canucks lose every expiring UFA following their 2020 playoff bubble run.
The fanbase cannot bear to hear “we ran out of time” again.
After having just seen Johnny Gaudreau walk to Columbus in free agency, Canucks fans are reasonably concerned that Miller might chart a similar path next season. Canucks fans have been through enough heartbreak of losing good players for zero return. Dan Hamhuis, Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher, and Tyler Toffoli, to name a few.
The impatience isn’t necessarily with the lack of direct action on a J.T. Miller deal but the lack of certainty that the current regime is adhering to a plan.
Since taking over for Jim Benning in December, Rutherford and Allvin have been honest with their evaluation of the team when speaking publicly. In these assessments, they’ve offered the fanbase a much more realistic evaluation of the organization. One that was simply never available or spoken about with Benning at the helm.
In an exclusive interview with the Province’s Patrick Johnston back in April, Allvin was as blunt as it gets, stating, “We’re not a contending team right now. So every single player has something to prove to us. And that’s going to be the mindset moving forward.”
In May, Rutherford appeared on the DFO Rundown podcast with Frank Seravalli and Jason Gregor. There, Rutherford stated the team’s intention of “[unravelling] some of these contracts here, to get more cap space, to try to make some changes going forward. We still have some work to do on that,” Additionally, he stated a team need for “more sandpaper — not a lot, but a few guys that are a little bit heavier, to play with some sandpaper.”
Suppose we’re to evaluate the Rutherford/Allvin duo based on some of their publicly-declared goals of creating cap space, getting younger and faster, restructuring the blue line, and of course, adding sandpaper. In that case, it’s fair to say they’ve only delivered on one of those needs, and that’s sandpaper (although Mikheyev sure is fast).
This sandpaper comes largely via the signings of Dakota Joshua and Curtis Lazar on the first day of NHL free agency.
Now, Rutherford’s appearance on the DFO Rundown podcast occurred only two months ago, but teams have historically been able to act quickly after publicly stating their intentions. The Tampa Bay Lightning let the league know they intended to trade Ryan McDonagh to create cap space. Less than one week later, the Lightning moved McDonagh to the Nashville Predators for Phillippe Myers and change.
Rutherford and Allvin have maintained that they would only move Miller for the perfect return. But this fanbase remembers when the last regime tried to move Alex Edler three days before the trade deadline and how that worked out.
Sometimes the perfect return never comes.
And unfortunately, the Canucks maybe didn’t have enough runway to wait for a “Duchene to the Predators” type of return.
Rutherford and Allvin are new to the market, but they’ll soon understand that Canucks fans never forget. If they say the team isn’t a contender and needs to unravel a bunch of cap commitments, then the fanbase will hold you to it, no matter how difficult that may be. Canucks fans don’t like direction change, either! If you alter course eight months into your tenure, saying, “we can make playoffs with the right players,” they’ll still hold onto your first assessment of the team. This fanbase never forgets.
Since losing Game 7 in 2011, Vancouver Canucks fans have experienced plenty of pain and joy.
Thatcher Demko, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes have given them a legitimate foundation as one of the best cores in the entire league, but the latter two players’ entry-level contracts were wasted by the previous regime.
The club landed a big fish free agent in Loui Eriksson back in 2016, but had to deal with the years that followed.
While the reaction to the JT Miller inaction may seem extreme, fans are simply hoping and trying to hold this current regime accountable to bringing something other than the “no-plan plan” to the table. There is a desperate hope in the market that there is finally a long-term plan for the organization’s success, and the fear of losing J.T. Miller for nothing next offseason is a thought that rightfully gives fans pause.
It would be unacceptable to see the promising reimagined and most diverse hockey ops staff in the NHL be forced into being nothing more than window dressing for an organization that is once again changing their focus to trying to simply “turn things around in a hurry” or “get in and see what happens.”
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