Whatever the Canucks do next, don’t put the Sedins in charge of the team just yet
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
Change is coming to the Vancouver Canucks.
We know it, you know it, Elliotte Friedman knows it.
What we don’t know is exactly what form that change will take.
A trade of some sort is a near-certainty. Trades happen every season, no matter the circumstances, and these are some circumstances.
An in-season coaching change isn’t quite inevitable yet, but it ain’t exactly evitable, either.
The real big-ticket item on the table, however, is a change in management. There are increasingly loud calls in the fanbase — and in Rogers Arena itself — for GM Jim Benning’s job.
Short of the Aquilini family selling the team, a new GM would be the most consequential change that the Canucks could make. But it’s far from a guarantee, no matter how many chants occur between now and April.
Truly, nobody knows what ownership is going to do next, and we’re not going to pretend that we do.
In fact, this author is willing to come clean and say we’re not even sure what the Canucks should do in their current situation.
But we do know something that they should not do, and that’s fire Benning and hand the keys to the franchise over to Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Spare us your pitchforks. The Sedins are definitely management material, and we’d bet good money that they’ll be co-fulfilling the role of Canucks GM somewhere down the road. But we’re not down the road quite yet. We’re at a vitally important intersection, and the Sedins just don’t have the prerequisite experience to navigate it.
And that’s okay. It’s actually for the better.
The last time the Vancouver Canucks underwent a great upheaval was in the summer of 2014, during which Mike Gillis and John Tortorella lost their jobs.
In came Trevor Linden as team president, Jim Benning as general manager, and Willie Desjardins as head coach. Each of them was brand-new to their role at the NHL level…and it showed.
Despite this — or in spite of it, as some would put it — the Canucks’ rookie regime achieved some success. A short return to the playoffs in 2015 transitioned into a soft rebuild, during which Benning built up an impressive core including Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, and others.
It seems obvious to most that Benning is not going to be successful in turning that core into a true contender. That’s fine, and it’s probably well past time to give someone else a shot at the job.
But another couple of first-timers? That’s a risk that is not worth taking.
Maybe the Sedins turn out to be brilliant GMs right off the bat, and it’s never an issue. But chances are very good that they’ve still got a lot to learn about hockey management, and they’ll have the time to do it…so long as someone else takes the reins in between.
The current situation is, if anything, a little messier (sorry) than what Benning sauntered into in 2014. Benning inherited a talented core that had reached the penultimate in hockey glory just three years prior, but that was aging out of contention. There were some difficult decisions to be made, but the path forward was pretty clear.
The 2021 situation is decidedly more nebulous. Whoever gets the job next inherits a talented core that has yet to prove it is talented enough to contend, and that has been firmly punching under its weight for two consecutive seasons. No one really knows where to go from here, there is no clear path forward, and it would be unfair to expect two first-year GMs to figure it out.
Then there’s the potential for a PR disaster if and when things go south. We all remember the Linden debacle, and there’s few amongst this fanbase who don’t have a sour taste left in their mouth from the fashion in which the franchise icon left the front office.
Let’s not repeat that with the two greatest players in Canucks history, please.
Everyone needs to accept that whoever’s job it becomes to clean up the current mess is going to have a difficult time with it, and there’s a high possibility that they do not succeed. They’ll be tasked with salvaging this core — adjusting and cutting from it as necessary — and supplementing it with enough talent to genuinely compete for the Stanley Cup.
That’s a lot of pressure.
And they’ll have to do it while also restocking the franchise cupboards, because the last GM went all-in a couple of times and didn’t end up with much to show for it.
When the next GM makes a short-term move, they’ll be criticized for being another Benning.
When the next GM makes a long-term move, they’ll be lambasted for wasting the prime years of the Pettersson-Hughes-Demko core.
It really is a no-win situation. So why even consider placing the Sedins in the middle of it? Why tarnish a sterling pair of legacies?
Right now, the Sedins are in their first year of any sort of managerial position, handling player development across the franchise, but primarily in Abbotsford. The Canucks have already made the mistake of rushing the twins into the NHL once. They really shouldn’t do it again.
Because, to be clear, we can be quite sure that it isn’t the Sedins themselves lobbying for the job. All indications are that they are happy to work their way up in the organization, and wouldn’t expect it any other way. Of course that’s the case. These are two extraordinarily humble human beings we’re talking about, and not in the Drax the Destroyer sense, either.
Think about their playing days. The twins wanted to remain in Sweden to develop longer, but the Canucks brought them over before they were ready, and as a result, they struggled. Then, they patiently built themselves up from there into NHL superstars, hitting their peaks in their early-30s, something that is almost unheard of in the sport. The Sedins are patience personified. Alexander isn’t the only “Burr” they’re associated with — they’re willing to wait for it.
Overriding their natural tendencies to make them the post-Benning co-GMs, just because it would play well with the fans, would be a critical error.
Could the Sedins figure it out if they were handed the job today? Probably, and probably better than a lot of other folks. They’re smart people, they’re humble enough to accept help, and they possess unparalleled work ethic. But there are plenty of other qualified managerial types in the sport to choose from, too. The only reason to select the Sedins right here, right now, is sentimentality, and that’s not enough.
There’s been some talk of hiring a true veteran of the field, just a few years ahead of retirement — a Jim Rutherford, if you will — to mentor the Sedins and keep the seat warm for them while they train on the job. That’s certainly better than leapfrogging them into the GM role, but it still fails to address the real core of the issue here.
Whoever is hired as the next general manager of the Vancouver Canucks — bless their heart — should be hired with the understanding that they are to build a contender out of what the Canucks have now. The current core is simply too talented to squander or sell off. The fanbase is not looking for another rebuild. There’s enough here to work with, maybe, and the Canucks have to play out those odds.
Maybe that person succeeds. If so, hooray. Stanley Cup and all that. History in the making, yadda yadda yadda.
But if they don’t — and it’s pretty darn likely that they don’t — then you wish them the best and relieve them of their managerial duties.
And that’s when you bring in Daniel and Henrik. With a long, long runway ahead of them and full authorization to build a new team from the ground up.
That’s got to be the plan.
Anything less is downright un-Sedin-like.
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