Some of the Vancouver Canucks fans in attendance Saturday night for the team’s 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins got their wish. With about seven minutes remaining in the third period, the booing began, as did the chants to “fire Benning”. Sunday evening, reports had General Manager Jim Benning being let go, moments after the news of Head Coach Travis Green and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner’s firing. Assistant GM John Weisbrod is also out.
The Vancouver Canucks have cleaned house.
Update: While Bruce Boudreau has been hired as head coach, It appears a combination of beloved former Canuck and senior advisor Stan Smyl, assistant GM Chris Gear, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Abbotsford Canucks GM Ryan Johnson will attempt to start righting the ship on the interim management side.
Benning’s Canucks teams made the playoffs twice since he took over in 2014. On one occasion the team was ousted in the first round, the other time in the second round. Confidence swelled this summer after a series of personnel changes, but the performance in the 2021-’22 season have not met the expectations. Not even close. The Canucks sit 8-15-and-2, dead last in the Pacific Division.
For the most part, fans and pundits believed Benning may have saved his job this summer, coming out of the nightmare Covid season in which the entire team was impacted. He successfully purged salary, brought in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from Arizona, picked up Jaroslav Halak, and signed Jason Dickinson, among other moves.
The Canucks went to the very end of September, through training camp and part of the preseason schedule, without deals for restricted free agents Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, the two young keys to the team’s core. Pettersson ended up signing a three-year deal and Hughes a six-year contract.
Apparently all of the new bodies and the chemistry didn’t mesh. Either that or the existing players were no longer buying into coach Green’s systems.
Benning won a Stanley Cup in 2011 as an assistant general manager with the Boston Bruins, coincidentally against the Vancouver Canucks. Or is it irony. A lot of that lately, if you listen to Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan talked about getting fired just yesterday.
One easily got the feeling this season that the coach and/or GM were not long for their jobs when the losses piled up and the reasons seemed somewhat unexplainable. The same tired excuses were dragged out night after night, when it was apparent some of the players were not on board. That will have to change now.
The Vancouver Canucks have cleaned house. Now it’s on the players.