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What is Jim Benning trying to do?

Not sure? Let Pass it to Bulis explain
Jim Benning looking pensive

In a recent interview with TSN 1040, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning claimed that he wasn’t going to apologize for where the team is at this season. He also stated that, “Our fans, I think, know what we’re trying to do.”

Absolutely. You could not be more correct, Jim, we are right there with you.

I mean, some of us are. Well, a few of us.

Canucks management have made some moves over the last few seasons that may have mystified many fans. As evidenced by our recent Twitter poll.

Luckily for you, we here at Pass it to Bulis are experts at unraveling the inexplicable. Each move is a piece of a larger puzzle, and it so happens that board games involving interlocking, tessellating pieces are kind of our thing. And speculation, well that’s what hockey writers do best. So let's speculate.

Without further ado, here are ten pretty solid interpretations of what Jim Benning and the Canucks brass have been trying to do for the last three seasons.
 

  1. Why the interest in Evander Kane? Jim Benning is clearly trying to build mad stacks of character and work ethic. Bringing in an “eye on the prize” guy like Kane obviously makes cents, and Vancouver wants to cash in. It’s a moneyball move.
  2. Benning signed a certain depth defenceman to a $3.6M per year contract in order to boost team revenues. This income does not hinge on his on-ice performance, however; it’s part of a long term branding partnership strategy: Boston Sbisa. You heard it here first.
  3. Fans and the media have been stymied by what to do with Jake Virtanen. Should he develop in the NHL or the AHL? Vancouver’s savvy management team has the perfect solution. By constantly demoting and promoting the young winger, he can develop in both leagues simultaneously, without actually playing in either. Benning calls the strategy “Schrödinger’s Prospect.”
  4. Are you curious why Mr. Benning seems so eager to offload second round picks? Easy answer. Who wants to be second? First all the way, baby! I mean, isn’t second place pretty much first loser? So Jim has been getting rid of those losers by trading them for some winners.
  5. Why sign 31-year-old Loui Eriksson as a free agent? It’s so obvious. Benning wanted to make newly acquired defenceman, Erik Gudbranson, feel more at home. Not following? The clue is in the name. Eriksson = Erik’s son. He signed Gudbranson’s eldest boy so they could play on the same team, isn’t that the nicest? What’s that you say? Loui is many years older than Erik? Get out of here with your math, nerd.
  6. Some folks were incensed when the Canucks chose not to trade Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis at the deadline. But had they traded him, what would’ve happened to the community? I’ll tell you what: nothing. Hamhuis may not have improved Vancouver’s prospect pool, but he sure did improve the prospects of the underprivileged students he tutored last spring.
  7. Likewise, many were perplexed that Benning did not trade Radim Vrbata at the deadline. That was absolutely not his fault. He was working those phones, but they all kept hanging up. He even led each pitch with a hilarious joke: “I’m certain he’ll Radim himself in the playoffs!”
  8. Benning sent promising prospect Gustav Forsling to Chicago for Adam Clendening. It was immediately clear that Clendening didn’t have much of a future in Vancouver; he was eventually demoted and then thrown in to acquire Brandon Sutter from Pittsburgh. Forsling, on the other hand, has had a solid start to his career on a very good Chicago team. If this trade makes you question the universe, good. That’s what Benning wants. Depth. And nothing makes you deeper than grappling with existential angst.
  9. The press and fans have long been asking the Canucks for a slam dunk move. They responded immediately by bringing in several players who could conceivably slam dunk. Erik Gudbranson is 6’5 and Nikita Tryamkin is 6’7. They literally did exactly what you fans asked for, are you not entertained?
  10. Trader Jim reasoned that Vancouver needed more grit. So he picked up Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett, and boy, did those two come as advertised, the grittiest ever. Specifically, the kind you get when you visit the beach and sand gets up your shorts so you have to spend the rest of the day in discomfort and full of regret.

As you can see, each move Benning made makes perfect sense as long as you know the context and the end goal. If you’ve got your own insights into recent trades or transactions, I’d love to hear them.