This post is part of Canucks Day on PHT…
The times – and the Internet – haven’t always been kind to Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. That’s particularly true when Benning, Trevor Linden, and others resisted the rebuild far longer than most found acceptable.
Even now, it’s difficult to resist putting up the funniest Benning photo available, whether the context calls for it or not.
While Benning struggled greatly in extending the Canucks’ lifespan as a playoff-caliber team, there have been some positive signs that this group might have its act together at the very different job of rebuilding.
(Granted, this sentiment is laced with lowered expectations, so consider that a massive caveat.)
This Fansided breakdown by Isha Jahromi argues that Benning’s been a solid hand at trading, in general, but this seeming renaissance really kicked off at the 2017 trade deadline.
Vancouver made multiple “winners” lists following Benning’s work, including one here at PHT.
Getting Nikolay Goldobin in the Jannik Hansen trade was deft, as was managing Jonathan Dahlen for Alex Burrows.
As this piece from The Hockey Writers’ Matt Dawson notes, Dahlen has shown serious chemistry with first-rounder Elias Pettersson, sweetening that deal (and then pick) considerably.
Even then, it would have been nice to see even more moves, especially when we’ve seen teams like the Philadelphia Flyers really stockpile picks during their own rebuilds, but at least the Canucks made some progress.
And, hey, sometimes it’s actually nicer to get prospects who’ve already taken steps in their development rather than draft choices of variable quality.
The Canucks’ competent run of off-season free-agent signings doesn’t do a ton for their rebuild, really; even so, any sign of the lights being on is promising for Vancouver.
Now, it definitely hurts that the lottery balls didn’t bounce the Canucks’ way, but give them credit for a well-received draft. Pettersson generally seems to be the right choice at number 5, and people like Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek raved about selections deeper in the draft, too.
To continue a theme, there’s an argument stated by Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski and others that Benning might have been able to leverage Vancouver’s situation a bit at the draft … but again, beggars can’t be choosers.
Now, look, the Canucks still have a long way to go.
It’s also plausible that management can still be doing more. After all, it’s easier to make something look better after it has been reduced to rubble.
Still, there were worrisome signs that the Canucks would fight any idea of a rebuild until the bitter end of Benning’s tenure, exposing fans and players to extra years of misery without much of a light at the end of that tunnel.
That light may only be dim after some positive gains, but at least there’s a faint glimmer of hope for the Canucks.