Canucks fire GM Jim Benning, confirm search for new ‘leadership’

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Canucks confirm changes, including Jim Benning no longer being GM

Apparently the Vancouver Canucks made decisions beyond Bruce Boudreau replacing Travis Green as head coach. Late on Sunday, the Canucks confirmed big changes to their front office, including firing GM Jim Benning.

To summarize:

  • Benning is no longer Canucks GM. For the time being, the Canucks named Stan Smyl as interim GM.
  • The Canucks also fired assistant GM John Weisbrod. Vancouver named Ryan Johnson as interim assistant GM.
  • The team’s press release notes others will be involved in the big decisions. Along with Smyl and Johnson, that group will include Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Chris Gear, and Doug Jarvis.
  • In the release, the Canucks referred to a “search for new hockey operations leadership.”
  • Read more about the coaching changes here. In short: Bruce Boudreau replaced Travis Green as head coach; meanwhile, Nolan Baumgartner is out, while Scott Walker slides into an assistant coach job.

Canucks chairman/governor Francesco Aquilini addressed changes, including firing Jim Benning GM, in that statement. Here’s the portion of the release most relevant to the front office changes:

“These are difficult decisions, but we believed we would have a competitive group this year. As a result, I’m extremely disappointed in how the team has performed so far. I’m making these changes because we want to build a team that competes for championships and it’s time for new leadership to help take us there.

“Our search for new leadership is underway. In the interim, Stan Smyl will lead our Hockey Operations team with the strong support of Ryan Johnson, Chris Gear, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Doug Jarvis and others on the team to ensure day-to-day continuity. Stan has been a very loyal and committed member of our Hockey Operations Senior Management structure for many years and is someone whose experience and leadership we value greatly.”

Note: Irfaan Gaffar first reported that the Canucks fired Benning as GM.

Looking back at Benning’s tenure, and what lies ahead for Canucks

Jim Benning took over as Canucks GM in May 2014. During that time, the Canucks went 242-257-61, generating a .487 points percentage. That’s the sixth-worst mark during that span (seven if you count the nascent Seattle Kraken).

During the 2014-15 season, the Canucks made the playoffs, but didn’t win a series. They then missed the playoffs for four straight seasons, sending mixed rebuilding vs. reloading messages in the process. Frequently, it felt like Benning should have been on the verge of being out as Canucks GM, considering how often he was under pressure.

Despite missing the playoffs in five of seven seasons under Benning, fleeting successes kept him installed as Canucks GM. No doubt, pushing the Golden Knights to a Game 7 in 2019-20 inspired heightened hope. Maybe misleading hope.

[More on Boudreau replacing Green as Canucks head coach]

From signing veterans at the wrong time (Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle) to desperation trades (the Oliver Ekman-Larsson gambit) to brutal free-agent signings (Loui Eriksson, Tyler Myers), Benning’s run as Canucks GM is littered with mistakes.

That said, not every moment was a lowlight. While their salary cap picture isn’t pretty, you could do worse than to start a foundation with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.

Clearly, Benning failed more often than not in providing a capable supporting cast. And Green often seemed incapable of creating winning recipes with the ingredients provided.

Can Bruce Boudreau and front-office-by-committee do better? They’ll need to make up for a lot of lost time.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.