Jim Benning was introduced as the 11th general manager in Vancouver Canucks history on Friday

Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning’s no Mike Gillis. That’s okay.

The Canucks' new general manager isn't eloquent. But all he has to do with win...



You’ve already read more about Jim Benning that you will for, perhaps, the next few years. Because the most you read about someone who’s coming into a position – whether it’s a new general manager or a number six overall pick, both of which we Canucks fans now have – is when you’re scouting them. Because even though we’re just occasionally paying customers, we think we share the responsibility of building this team with Trevor Linden. Fans are like that.

And when you read about Jim Benning, you’ll surely only read about the things he does say, not the things he hasn’t yet.

That makes sense. Because Benning doesn’t say a lot, and he doesn’t say it elegantly.He says “Okay, like” so much, you half-expect him to namedrop a character from The Hills. But then you see his haircut and his goofy smile and you realize, no… this guy is all baby-booming business. If we didn’t know he was the assistant GM in Boston for eight years, we couldn’t imagine it. When he was asked about advanced statistics last Friday – by Jeff Patterson of Team 1040, kudos – I didn’t even think he’d justify it with a response.

But there he was, saying everything you hoped we would and knowing about every player you didn’t think he could.

He’s done his homework on Eddie Lack and he’s been eyeing this draft since the second the last one ended.

We haven’t had this sort of thing in a little while. When Gillis arrived in Vancouver, he was fresh and exciting and all, but his pile of chips evaporated in 2012 when he ran out of house money. But don’t go thinking Dave Nonis would have done any better – the Leafs GM had the deal-maker’s vision to swap Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan Allen for Roberto Luongo, but he didn’t have the boldness to take it a step further. And as for other vanquished executives like Brian Burke or Pat Quinn, or stoic and capable coaches like Marc Crawford or Alain Vigneault, well they all just overstayed their welcome.

They ran out of magic, like everyone does… even Johnny Unitas ended his career throwing wobbly interceptions to Joe Namath’s New York Jets.

But Vancouver needs an arrow. The Canucks need a bull-headed, machine-like drill. They don’t need someone who’s chasing the best team today, they need someone who’ll set his own course for the next decade.

And that’s where Benning’s awful public speaking comes in handy.

He says so little, it magnifies everything he does say.

Like when he said he hadn’t heard of the Boston Model until he arrived in Vancouver. “Okay, like” really, dude? Isn’t that why we got Benning… because we wanted that Boston model he himself had the heaviest hand in building?

Guess not. Turns out, the Boston model isn’t a model. It’s just built around common sense and winning results. Well… that’s hard to write 500 words about, so it must not be true.

Benning’s idea of a model was this: We try to make the playoffs, and then we add young people so we keep making the playoffs.

That’s basically word-for-word what he said.

I swear, he was asked a question about his goals for next season and the guy actually responded with something like, If you make the playoffs, that gives you a chance to win a Stanley Cup.

How has Darryl Sutter not handed the Kings his two-week notice yet? That guy should be on a plane to Vancouver right now. He and Benning are both from the Yogi Berra school of, If I say it confidently enough, I don’t even have to speak English.

There’s some kind of snark to both Sutter’s and Benning’s speeches, but there’s nothing insincere or arrogant about it. That’s hard to do – to sound like an a-hole but not be a jerk. Gillis was, sorry to say, the latter. But then you got the feeling he wasn’t really a bad guy, like all the jerkish things he said or allegedly did – whether it was confrontations with Vancouver’s media members, some of them made public, or his obvious friction with other NHL general managers – only came about because he was over-compensating for his lack of experience.

Sutter and Benning are cautious but not careful. Gillis – and let’s toss other departed execs like Scott Howson or George McPhee in there, too – was the kind of guy who did things just so others would notice. Every trade was meant to shake up the earth, but they were all bluffs. That Cory Schneider deal to New Jersey, or the Cody Hodgson trade to Buffalo, or Luongo’s move to Florida, finally and too late? Those were the equivalents of going all-in with a pair of six’s on your first hand. Sure, you won a few chips, but now everyone know how you plan to play. Gillis only knew how to mess with others, but didn’t know how to play his own hand. He built up a big lead, but eventually the seesaw evens out.

Hearing Benning basically ridicule the idea of a Boston Model – or an any team‘s model, for that fact – was sweet, ecstatic relief for a long-suffering Orcas fans like me.

Every year, a new MODEL arises. It’s been Boston or Chicago lately, because they’ve each been to two Stanley Cup Finals in the past four years, and they’ve each got a Presidents’ Trophy to toss on top. (I mean, I think the Canucks were even a model to follow three years ago.) And Boston seems scary, until they’re beaten by Montreal or Washington. But if you’re only chasing the flavour of the week, you’re never going to have your own place in the sun. That’s true with everything – be it hockey teams built around speed and size (and, honestly, shouldn’t that always be a winning combination? Why does it need to be labelled or anointed?) or skinny jeans or side-parted haircuts.

Trends are called trends for that very reason – they’re not permanent, and they’re not expected to be. Maybe they’ll come back, and maybe they won’t.

But Benning seems to understand that. He must know, between when he was hired by Boston in 2006 and when he left in 2014, that everything changed. Patrice Bergeron has gone from a perennially injured wuss to and a two-time gold medal Olympian and the best defensive forward in hockey. When Benning arrived in Boston, the Bruins had just dealt away Joe Thornton. In 2010, they blew a 3-0 series lead and lost to Philadelphia, only the third team ever to do so. And 12 months after that, the Bruins had shocked the Vancouver Canucks on B.C. ice, leaving that city to torch and loot itself while the bears skated back to Massachusetts as the only team to ever win three seven-game series in one playoff.

Sure, we can draw patterns and we can try to rig the game, but nobody’s ever going to be successful if they don’t realize there’s always an element of randomness to everything.

Benning doesn’t seem to give a sh*t, and that’s good. Leave the theorizing to ignorant bloggers like me. Leave the conversation and the predictions to Vancouver’s frothy, puffed-up media ship. Benning and Linden need the answers to do their jobs, where people like me just need to think we do.

All the Canucks have to do is the obvious, and Benning’s pretty damn good at explaining that.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson bottle-feeds a calf at a dairy farm in South Surrey Tuesday morning. (Aaron Hinks photo)
BC Liberal Leader makes stop in South Surrey

Business tax, mental health supports among topics addressed by Andrew Wilkinson

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Multiple stabbings reported at Surrey townhouse, including toddler

Police called to townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66th Avenue

Vancouver Police were at a White Rock home Oct. 20 to conduct a search warrant. (Aaron Hinks photo)
ERT response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Ivan Scott. (Aaron Hinks photo)
Surrey mayor enters word war with speakers, councillor

McCallum calls brief recess after asking two speakers to leave chambers

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

Maple Meadows Station’s new Bike Parkade. TransLink photo
TransLink to remove abandoned or discarded bicycles from bike parkades

Rules at TransLink bike parkades ask customers to use facilities for single day use only

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Most Read