If you’re the type of person who expects life to be a “meritocracy,” the NHL has probably upset you quite a bit in the last week.
Not long after the hockey train wreck known as the Ottawa Senators rewarded one of the architects of their mess, GM Pierre Dorion, with a contract extension while embracing a rebuild, the Canucks basically did the same thing with GM Jim Benning.
The team announced a multi-year extension on Wednesday, leaving fans in dismay and onlookers flustered. They also put out a “Yep, we’re rebuilding” press release this week, following the lead of the Rangers and Senators.
The thing is, this is probably the toughest of the moves to defend. While the Senators dealt with budgetary limitations and leftover mistakes from before Dorion’s days, Ottawa enjoyed some recent successes. After all, they were within a goal of advancing to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and Dorion was nominated for GM of the Year, with the hiring of coach Guy Boucher proving instrumental in that run.
Under Benning’s watch, the biggest wins have … basically been when the Canucks play against type and actually rebuild a bit or draft well (on paper). There have been serious gaffes in trying to avoid the reality that this team was past its prime, with Loui Eriksson‘s contract (that $6 million cap hit still runs through 2021-22, somehow) being the most glaring example.
By no means is Benning solely responsible for the Canucks’ downfall, but it sends a strange message that he’s getting an extension.
On the bright side, Benning’s performed reasonably well, at least when everyone’s on the same page about rebuilding.
The not-so-bright side is that there still seems to be a tone of denial in Vancouver. From reports of management wanting to bring back polarizing defenseman Erik Gudbranson – who could bring back a nice return – to not moving on from Henrik and Daniel Sedin, there are some signs that the Canucks might parallel the Detroit Red Wings in trying to have their cake and eat it too.
(That approach has really just clogged their arteries, honestly.)
Ultimately, it’s tough to ignore that the NHL is a tight-knit community, and sometimes that means that people who are part of the “inner circle” tend to get more chances than those with fresher voices.
Maybe the Canucks will turn things around, maybe they won’t. More progressive teams might be licking their chops at moves like these, though.