The Vancouver Canucks have a plan. And Jim Benning is the man they believe will implement that plan.
As the news came down Friday that the general manager had been signed to a contract extension, the picture crystallized in Vancouver: Benning is the man.
Were he not the man for the Canucks, he would’ve entered 2019-2020 with an expiring contract and all the concomitant associations that come with that. Namely, a whole heap of distractions.
But the speculation and distractions have been laid to rest for the time being, as Benning is inked for a few years (reportedly the deal is for two-three years). He’s been the Vancouver GM since 2014 and, at that time, promised what was supposed to be a rapid rebuild. That didn’t exactly happen, but it’s hard to argue with some of the results.
After all, this is a post-Sedin world for the Canucks now and they’ve got a rich prospect pool and a pile of thrilling players like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser building for the future.
It’s hard to say Benning hasn’t put his fingerprints on the team in a positive way, even if we can wave at some of the less-than-thrilling contracts or missed opportunities as part of the ever-present counter-argument. But what general manager has a perfect track record? There’s a fine line between blowing a Loui Eriksson deal and being another incarnation of, say, Mike Milbury.
Benning arrived in 2014 and had a fair bit on his plate immediately, including the handling of Ryan Kesler’s trade request and the draft. The former amateur scout of the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres and former assistant GM of the Bruins picked Jake Virtanen in the first round of his first draft and followed that up in 2015 by selecting Boeser. 2016 was the year of defence prospect Olli Juolevi.
Benning’s Canucks made the post-season in his first year in the position, although it’s arguable their success had more to do with residuals than anything the new GM did. After he sunk his teeth in, the squad not only failed to make the playoffs but they posted a 175-186-49 record in his half-decade at the helm.
Hockey is nothing if not populated by hyperbolic, reactionary sentiment, so it stands to reason that many in Vancouver and beyond are already bemoaning this news as the worst thing to ever happen and a sure sign of the Canucks missing the playoffs for the near future.
Not making the post-season may be the case for a host of reasons, but the point for now is that Vancouver’s ownership believes in Jim Benning and that’s that. His plan is the plan.
Until it’s not.
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