cody franson

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.

Bowness Coverage – Post Draft, Pre Frenzy, Present Disappointment

This past week has really been a circus of emotions but that hasn’t stopped Canucks twitter and pretty much anything with a pulse from having a say. The NHL draft came and went with many storylines dictating the start to the summer, free agency begins July 1st and hopefully there is a shred of happiness that comes with that. Above all else, it seems Jim Benning may have some critics.

Early Saturday morning Eddie Lack was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 3rd round pick and a 7th next year. On Tuesday afternoon the move we all thought was coming before the draft finally happened, but to a team we never expected; Kevin Bieksa is a Mighty Duck in exchange for the Ducks 2nd round pick next year. 

That alone is a big pause for the cause. 

1) The outrage in Canucksland was heard when Lack was moved for a 3rd round pick, many believing he was worth more. Benning was approached with eight offers and Carolina had the best one. What makes me wonder is if that was the best he could do, why trade him at all? 

Going forward why not keep the combo of Lack and Miller? Big deal if Markstrom walks, at the very least they could have moved HIM for a pick. It hasn’t seemed to matter who is in charge of the Canucks when it comes to goaltending, no one has a clue how to approach it. 

By the time Thatcher Demko is ready, Eddie Lack would be finishing off his 3 or 4 year deal and no doubtedly we would have found someone to partner up with Eddie, quite possibly Joe Cannata or someone else in the system. Everyone knew Lack would be able to sign a very cap friendly, team friendly deal and give the Canucks quality goaltending. Miller is our stop gap and with that tandem they could have actually made it work.

The goalie problems will never end in Vancouver, but thats ok, we’re used to it.

2) Just when the summer was about to get real snarly for Kevin Bieksa, Jimbo made the move I guarantee he did not want to do. Canucks South gained another member on Tuesday when Bieksa was sent to Anaheim to join buddy Ryan Kesler.

Benning did secure the 2nd round pick he was asking for, sadly it was the same one San Jose was offering and you wait, it would have been A LOT better. Bieksa is now on one of the most dangerous teams in the league, one that will most likely destroy the Canucks 5+ times next year.

Jimbo did well to get value out of Bieksa before he entered free agency and with all Juice’s injuries its actually a pretty saavy move. Its a shame he didn’t get what he was offered last week, we could be talking about a good player instead of guy that was just there in round 2. But the draft isn’t a sure thing so I give you kudos Mr Benning.

3) Yannick Weber was not qualified by the Canucks this week which begs the question: WHY!!!!? He was one of the few bright spots the Canucks had last year, he actually made a few powerplays worth watching and we actually didn’t care his name wasn’t Shea. How Benning let this guy slip to not even have leverage to oh I dunno keep his rights at least is nuts. 

Am I wavering here? I can’t tell. Maybe Benning has bi polar disorder or schizophrenia? Make one bad move, then one good move then another bad one. By October, there might be nothing left to criticize: we’ll all be dead from sarcasm.

4) On the plus side, Alex Biega and Linden Vey signed, oh and so did Jacob Markstrom. All very cap friendly numbers and maybe all this hair pulling will end up being a good thing? We wanted a rebuild, we wanted the problems gone and in a roundabout way I think Benning might be doing it.

Im not having fun typing those words and by the time free agency is in full swing I could take back everything and call for his head. Being a Canucks fan isn’t easy, being a Canucks armchair GM is even harder.

5) Side bar – Mike Richards may have a very rough ride back to the NHL; and that’s if they even let him back. He was stopped at the border with oxycodone, a very strong pain killer, and with that, the Kings released him. Richards was given a second chance in LA and it looks like thats all he’s getting. How serious is this? We will probably find out in the coming weeks.

6) Kind of got away from the draft so lets get back into it. At pick 23 Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets star forward, was NOT picked by the Canucks. I cried for a short time and my wife pretty much wanted me to shut up but as life happens we ended up getting the better version of Mike Fisher aka Mr. Carrie Underwood. 

Brock Boeser is the newest Canucks forward and although I know jack squat about him, it sounds like he is all business, and his business is doing the hockeys. Getting through the hyped up first round was tough and from the looks of things we did better than Boston.

Mr. Minnesota is a 6 foot hulking winger who is a self professed “power forward” that goes to the net and gets dirty in the corners. Maybe we’ll be so busy hoping Zack Kassian turns into Milan Lucic that Boeser will be our diamond driller.

The past few years have been good to the Canucks in the draft and hopefully ol’ Eggs Benny gets lucky from this one. Years from now we may look back and see all of our fortunes started here; I’m wrong a lot so lets not dwell on this. 

7) Going into July 1 there are a few guys the Canucks could take a swing at and even though they aren’t winning a cup soon, they can take a chance on these fellas and maybe parlay them down the road:

Cody Franson – Vancouver is in the mix to bring the BC boy home but he may not come cheap. With Bieksa gone and not having to sign Lack, there may be a few bucks in the kitty to sign this dman. We don’t have what you would call a good defensive core so Franson would definitely help. WANT LEVEL – HIGH

Joel Ward – I’ve wanted this guy for probably 4 years now and even though he’s getting older he still has some skill a few of our boys could learn from. He’s beat us around the net when he played for Nashville so we know he gets dirty. Won’t cost tons so he’s potentially affordable. WANT LEVEL – MEDIUM

Mike Green – I guess Washington isn’t home for Mike Green anymore. He’s still a valuable defenseman in many peoples eyes and if he somehow came to Vancouver I’m pretty sure he bounces back. Losing Kevin Bieksa and gaining Mike Green? I like that trade off. WANT LEVEL – HIGH

Johnny Oduya – Something something Stanley Cups. He’s 33 but he’s been to the top of the mountain twice and that might be worth talking about in the dressing room. Is this the direction Benning wants to go though? Maybe a bit more than we need. WANT LEVEL – SEMI MEDIUM

Antoine Vermette/Justin Williams – Doubt either of these guys gets a contract but they are worth talking to. 

8) Is Jim Benning done surprising us? Are there any other guys tha have played their last game in a Canucks jersey? Burrows? Edler? Higgins? Sbisa? Don’t hold your breath, I don’t think we’re done.

9) Pass it to Bulis is done with the Vancouver Sun. Daniel Wagner and Harrison Mooney put me on the Stick in Link feature one Tuesday and the next thing I know I’m the GDT guy for Canucks Army. I owe tons to these two and I can only hope their podcast keeps going and they keep pumping out quality shenanigans. 

SALUTE!

10) I ended on a music feature last time and becaause its summer, this one is no different. Here’s one of my new favorites from an amazing band. I hope Canada Day puts a smile on my face for the hockey fan in me but honestly, spending the day drinking beer, swimming in the sun and painting an apple box with my two little girls is all I need.

Enjoy!