In his two and a half years in the hot seat as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Jim Benning has made some unpopular decisions. From the Ryan Kesler trade, to dealing away Gustav Forsling, history has not been kind to many of his trades.
This has resulted in (justifiable) criticism from fans and media alike.
Ironically, the deal that Benning was raked over the coals more than any other by fans, is one that is turning out favourably for the Canucks. Of course, I’m referring to the Eddie Lack trade.
Here’s the result of a poll question Sportsnet ran on their website on the day of the trade:
Fans were not pleased.
Lack was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes on draft day in 2015. He was coming off a good season in which he put up a .921 save percentage, helping the Canucks to a playoff berth with starter Ryan Miller out with an injury.
While it didn’t go as smoothly for Lack in the playoffs, he was still beloved by fans in Vancouver because of a strong second half of the season, and let’s be honest, because of his personality.
But while the deal most certainly contributed to fan apathy – Lack was one of the most likeable players off the ice – you have to count it in the win column for Benning right now.
Lack had a terrible first season in Carolina. He appeared in 34 games with the Canes, posting a .901 save percentage. That was below Cam Ward’s .909 save percentage, who Carolina re-signed as their starter.
This year has been a nightmare so far for Lack as well, who sits with a .856 save percentage through five games, before sustaining a concussion in practice last month.
There’s still time for Lack to turn it around, but the numbers don’t lie. He has a career save percentage of .910 in 120 NHL games and turns 29 next month. Those are backup numbers, not starter numbers.
If Lack is to complete a full season as a starting goalie in the NHL, he’ll have to do it after the age of 30. Not many goalies outside of Tim Thomas can say they’ve done that.
While the decision to trade Lack instead of Miller can still be debated, the return for Lack looks rather favourable right now.
Vancouver got a third round draft pick in 2015 and a seventh rounder in 2016 for the smiling Swedish netminder. It didn’t sound like much at the time, but those draft picks are looking pretty good now.
The third rounder was used to select defenceman Guillaume Brisebois, who is currently trying out for Canada’s national junior team. Brisebois has 16 points in 20 games in the QMJHL this season and doesn’t turn 20 until next summer.
The seventh rounder was used on centre Brett McKenzie, who given where he was drafted, should still be considered a long shot to make it as an NHLer. Still, McKenzie leads his team in scoring this season with 35 points in 30 OHL games.
Benning gets a lot of arrows thrown his way, and I’ve done some of the throwing. But the handling of his goalies in 2015 looks prudent at this point. Lack hasn’t come back to bite them, while the picks they received for him have potential. Markstrom appears to have a bright future and Miller has been a strong veteran presence for him to learn from.