Will the REAL Jim Benning Please Stand Up?

Did you miss me? The crapping whale has taken quite a beating in the twittersphere lately and over the last year even more so. No one expected the Canucks to turn it all around in one year and be an elite contender again but at the very least the man who was ready to cut his teeth as a true GM has made us all question if this is Jim Benning’s true calling.

Do the Canucks even deserve the GM we think is owed to us? We’ve had wannabe GM’s before and although they have each left their mark, only a few actually made a real impact. In my lifetime, Quinn, Burke and Gillis were the gamechangers in Vancouver and the men that followed each were just holding a title until the vacancy was rightfully filled.

In my opinion, Jim Benning is filling a seat. It didn’t start that way but it feels like it will end that way.

As Peter Chiarelli’s right hand man in Boston, Jim Benning was able to scout and help draft some of the NHL’s youngest stars and the Bruins current big names. He helped bring in David Krejki, Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton and the guy the Oilers didn’t take, Tyler Seguin.

He also helped draft a TON of garbage. It makes you wonder if the Bruins still had Benning on payroll this past June when Boston had 3 consecutive picks inside the top 20 and excuse my french “did really really badly at the drafting thing”. OK, Benning wasn’t responsible solely for the Bruins current success and much of their failures but as a scout since the early 90’s you’d figure his success rate would be better.

When you suck long enough, the high draft picks are easy choices. Its hard to continue to fail when you pick in the top 5. The Canucks haven’t had that luxury/disappointment since the ’99 draft when Sedinary was born. When Benning was in Boston, of his 63 picks he helped make, only the six guys mentioned above have really stood out for the Bruins (Kris Versteeg did well elsewhere).

I’ve left a few lesser players off and to the Bruins credit Lucic, Marchand, Kris Versteeg were great picks but in 10 years the crap shoot after round one really didn’t play in Boston’s favour. Benning took over the big spot in Vancouver after Mike Gillis’ departure and has made some savvy picks but he’s also given up a lot to get them.

It’s not all about drafting though.

The glaring errors still loom and the downward spiral has continued. Is Jimbo even trying right now? He’s made efforts to get rid of players like Ryan Kesler (didn’t get enough), Eddie Lack (traded the wrong guy), Nick Bonino (the guy that we traded for Kesler), Zack Kassian (Ok, who knows whats up with him really) oh and he signed Luca Sbisa, Derek Dorsett and Brandon Sutter to more money than the Canucks will pull in next year and probably the year after that.

There is no silver lining right now, there is no pot of gold. We may witness a few breakthroughs in 2015/16 like the next step for Bo Horvat, the possibility of Jake Virtanen cracking the lineup and possibly a few Comets leaving the AHL behind for the bright lights of Vancouver; but the Sedins are still what this team is based upon, Ryan Miller is still the #1 goalie and it looks like the Canucks will be more braun than skill this season.

As critical as the Canucks fanbase and media are with every decision and non decision, much of what is said has some validity and there might not be a lot of time to make mistakes. Benning is operating like an Assistant General Manager and thats fine if you ARE one but he’s not. I went through the same realization when I worked in retail.

Personal aside 

I was the AM and I did an amazing job too! Won a few salesperson of the year awards and was given my own shop to manage. It took me 2 years to fully take ownership of my responsibility as the Manager and that I was going to need to lead the change and not just sit and accept the status quo. Things really took off after that.

So for you, Congrats Jimbo! The Stanley Cup is quite an accomplishment and no one will ever take that away from you but its time to build the Canucks up, not break them down. You’ve been fortunate enough to get some young studs in the draft since you arrived, missed on one (see: every article and tweet by me about why Nick Merkley should have been drafted) and had a chance to pick up some free agents that could make a difference.

Cody Franson being one of those players who WANTS to play for the Canucks and Jimmers isn’t willing to make things work. Admit you made a mistake with Sbisa, re-up with Dan Hamhuis and if it means parting ways with Radim Vrbata via trade, then do it. Defense wins championships, its not just a saying.

Ask the Blackhawks where they’d be without Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook; they’re a totally different team. The minutes those two guys eat up not only in the regular season but deep, deep into the Final is legit. You don’t need statistics at that point; you can see the results on the ice and they both have 3 Cups to show for their hard work.

Imagine the Canucks back end with Edler, Hamhuis, Franson, Weber (No, not that one), Corrado and Tanev. I know somewhere deep down there is an out clause on Sbisa so for the sake of this paragraph, he’s not included. This isn’t an amazing back end but there is hope there. Can Benning break the mold of Assistant GM and start pulling the trigger on deals that make sense?

I liked the Bonino trade for Sutter but throwing in Clendening was just foolish, that feels like he was bullied by Pittsburgh. The pick swap is a wash, everything after Round 1 is tough to put weight on. Its good to see Benning didn’t take any crap from San Jose when the Bieksa deal fell through so he has done good here but the one position that is the biggest lightning rod for the Canucks is in net.

How he felt keeping Ryan Miller over Eddie Lack was the right choice is stunning. The younger, lesser cap hit, higher potential guy was let go and to a team that may not even use him (Carolina). Publically stating that a trade was available for Miller should have never been done, it was a hand that should have been folded.

Jim Benning has made some pretty big mistakes and his current path isn’t trending too much in the right direction. Training camp hasn’t started yet and Cody Franson is still available, heck maybe a big splash is still in the works?

However, if Jimbo continues to lead the Canucks like I played hockey last weekend (which was basically like watching a clueless marble roll around a glass dish) then there won’t be just a transition period coming: there will be a free fall to the basement.

Will the REAL Jim Benning please stand up? This isn’t Slim Shady asking, this is one Canucks fan asking for a reality check.

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