On Friday, new Canucks general manager Jim Benning conducted a Q&A with fans and ticketholders — essentially his first duty as GM — and made it clear he thinks the pieces are in place for a fast turnaround following last year’s disappointing campaign.
“I like the team, I like the core players,” Benning explained. “The Sedins are excellent people and great players, so I think this is a team we can turn around in a hurry.”
Benning, the 11th GM in franchise history, will have plenty to do to right the ship. The next 4-5 weeks promise to be a whirlwind as he has to prepare for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, figure out what the Canucks plan to do in free agency and work with president of hockey ops Trevor Linden in the search for a new head coach.
Benning essentially deferred to Linden on the topic of who would replace John Tortorella, and Linden replied by saying that process was still in its infancy.
“I’ll go through the same process [as hiring a GM] — building a profile of what type of vision and characteristics we want from our head coach, and then we’ll start the interview process,” Linden explained. “The great thing about having Jim on board as quickly as we have him is we can work together in that process.”
Head coach isn’t the only personnel decision Benning will have to address. There’s also the issue of Ryan Kesler, who has been a hot trade target since the March deadline.
Benning wasn’t offering many hints as to what his plans were for the former Selke winner, saying that he “loves the way Ryan Kesler plays” and that “if it was up to me, we would like try and keep him.”
But later, Benning addressed the core group of veteran players in Vancouver with no-trade clauses — which includes Kesler (according to The Province, he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for six teams: Anaheim, Colorado, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh) — and said those NMCs and NTCs wouldn’t keep him from trying to improve the club.
“We’re going to do what we feel is the best thing to do for the organization,” Benning explained. “I know we have a lot of no-trade contracts, but if we feel we can make the team better, we won’t be afraid of approaching players and asking them to waive a no-trade.”
Overall, Benning sounded like someone inheriting a team with pieces he felt he could work with, and ultimately fix. Vancouver missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year, and the new GM said he can help return to the club to a successful level.
“It’s a passionate fan base — the team and the fans really want to win here,” Benning explained. “We want to build a team with the right types of players that has a chance to win every year.”