No two ways about it, former Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s roster is a playoff threat. It’s that simple.
Yes, during some degree of desperation while facing job termination early in the season he may have tried to alter that roster by throwing around Brock Boeser’s name and potentially others, but ultimately the team that many of us felt would make the playoffs before the season started is actually threatening to do so.
It’s now up to current Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin to determine whether Benning’s roster turns that goal into reality.
The moves we mostly loved or liked; signing back-up goalie Jaroslav Halak, purging loads of salary to Arizona in exchange for veteran defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and dynamic forward Conor Garland, and signing right-shot defenceman Tucker Poolman, all seemed like good ideas at the time and remain so for the most part, despite some bizarre team performances and recent struggles for Halak and injury issues in the case of Poolman.
Speaking of bizarre circumstances, the vaxx-non-vaxx drama and delays with Travis Hamonic were completely unexpected at the time of signing and eventually worked themselves out. Hamonic might still be finding his game but at least he’s in the process of actually finding it, while bringing some physicality and ill-tempered defensive play to the table.
Other than call-ups, not a move has been made. Because of Covid delays, the coaching change from Travis Green to Bruce Boudreau in early December, and the ensuing playoff charge by the active roster, nature has taken its course.
It’s Jim Benning’s team.
Dumping Olli Juolevi for Juho Lammikko worked out well. The previous has since been waived by Florida while the latter has found his game with the Canucks as an energetic bottom-six forward. Jason Dickinson’s acquisition hasn’t blown anyone away as of yet and Alex Chiasson remains inconsistent but they’re both still part of the mix, as is Tyler Motte, signed in 2020.
Elias Pettersson’s game recovery took some time, but his signing and that of star defenceman Quinn Hughes on October 1st appear to provide plenty of bang for the buck and in the case of Hughes long term value.
Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin signed his entry-level contract last May after being picked in the 1st-round three years ago, while Luke Schenn’s signing in late July has proved invaluable.
Would Benning still be here if he’d changed coaches during the off-season, instead of again, attempting to do so in a panic when the writing was already on the wall? Who’s to say.
“If ifs and buts were candies and nuts it’d be Christmas every day.”
This isn’t to suggest the Canucks aren’t better off big picture, or that Benning necessarily deserved any other fate than the one he garnered, it’s just interesting to differentiate between the somehow mutually exclusive player personnel decisions with those of coaching.
Obviously there’s plenty of work to be done moving forward, but for now with all the excitement and drama, whether they make the postseason or not, it’s Jim Benning’s Canucks.