weeks, months, years of speculation, the Vancouver Canucks finally made their major shakeup yesterday, firing both head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning. Benning joined the Canucks as GM after the 2013-14 season, a promotion over his previous role as assistant GM with the Boston Bruins, helping them to a Stanley Cup in 2011. Benning was also an integral part in the Tyler Seguin for Loui Eriksson trade that sent the young center to Dallas where he became a reliable high 30’s goal scorer. Definitely the right guy for your team to hire.
Anyways, with his departure the league loses one of its longest tenured GM’s and the Canucks begin the search to find a new GM with Bruce Boudreau taking over behind the bench.
As the Canucks begin their transition, I thought it was important to look back at some of the best memories we have of Benning’s time with Vancouver, and the key decisions he made to help the Flames sit near the top of the Western Conference today.
Thank You for Rasmus Andersson
On March 2, 2015 the Flames and Canucks made a deadline day trade as Calgary sent former first round pick Sven Baertschi to Vancouver in exchange for a 2015 2nd round pick. The pick ended up giving Calgary additional ammunition and comfort to take a swing for Dougie Hamilton at the 2015 draft, while maintaining two late second round picks which turned out to be Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington.
Andersson was the player drafted with the original Canucks pick at 53rd and he has since become a Top 4 defender and long-term piece of the Flames core going forward. Baertschi had a few good seasons with the Canucks before being signed to a three year contract with a $3.37M AAV, which worked out to about $1.12M per goal he scored after signing that deal before 2018-19. Baertschi made his NHL playoff debut against the Flames in 2014-15 which leads us to our next moment.
Thank You for the Memories of 2014-15
The Calgary Flames shockingly made the playoffs in 2014-15 and took on a Canucks team that was a mere shell of its previous championship level core as Benning had attempted to keep the team competitive early in his tenure. While it can’t all be put on Benning as he had been on the job for less than a year, we will nevertheless thank him for not adding anyone to his team besides the aforementioned Baertschi at the deadline.
Thank You for Matthew Tkachuk
This is the big one. Thank you for passing on Tkachuk at the 2016 NHL draft, instead choosing to draft his teammate Olli Juolevi (who was recently traded to Florida). With the Canucks (and Oilers for that matter) letting the Flames draft themselves a huge piece of their core and perpetual thorn in the Canucks side, we really can’t thank Benning enough for following whatever intel he was given. Yes perhaps the Canucks did need a d-man at that draft, but Tkachuk was pretty unquestionably the best player left available. At the very least you trade down.
Tkachuk is now on the verge of hitting the 300 point mark in his NHL career in his sixth season with the Flames while Juolevi played in just 24 games for Vancouver and was traded to Florida this fall for virtually nothing.
Thank You for Chris Tanev (and Jacob Markstrom)
Benning ultimately chose to spend a lot of money on players who definitely weren’t as good as Chris Tanev, and for that we thank him. Markstrom leaving made some sense with Thatcher Demko waiting in the wings, but Tanev has been such a perfect addition to the Flames core these last two years that it’s hard to imagine where they’d be without him.
He helped Noah Hanifin take a big jump in his first season with the club and is now doing the same thing with Oliver Kylington who has 15 points in 24 games so far this year. Considering that the Flames got Tanev for roughly the same amount that Benning committed to both Brandon Sutter and Braden Holtby or that he had $8M tied up with Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, and Jordie Benn, we really do have to appreciate what he did for Calgary by letting him walk. Then they turned around and gave the Dollarama version of Tanev in Travis Hamonic $3M this offseason. Gold.
Also yeah, Markstrom has been great too.
Thank You for the Years of Canuck Mediocrity
Okay I can’t go this whole article without giving some credit for some of the moves he made during his tenure. Drafting guys like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, or Brock Boeser and bringing on good pieces like JT Miller and Conor Garland are quite respectable moves. It’s just that Benning did so many of the bad moves as well during his time as Canucks general manager that the team probably won’t be able to fully recover for some time.
I am also very aware of the “he who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones” mentality of this piece as well as it’s not like the Flames did any better really during this seven and a half year stretch.
It’s just that the moves Benning made have done so much to keep this team unintentionally bad, and with OEL now on for five more years at $7.26M, or two more years of Tyler Myers, or three more of Tucker Poolman, hope is a hard thing to come by for this team.
But as Benning moves on to something new, we just want to take the time to thank him for what he did to help give the Flames some good moments over the last seven years, with hopefully many more still to come as we reap the rewards of the moves he made.