They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and if you stick your nose out your window right now, you can probably smell it seeping out of Rogers Arena.
Figuratively, of course.
The future of Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green and goaltending coach Ian Clark have been under the microscope all season. Both are thought of highly around the league, which makes it all the more curious that neither have signed a contract beyond this season.
Well, perhaps ownership wants to let a new general manager decide on their future.
There are no shortage of reports lately regarding the future of Canucks GM Jim Benning and a potential shakeup in the team’s front office.
Patrick Johnston of Postmedia reported on Friday morning that he has spoken to more than one person that believes a change in management could be coming.
“I talked with sources this morning, who do not expect Benning to be back,” Matt Sekeres added on the Sekeres and Price show later that day.
“This could go as far as a total reconstruction of the organization. Both hockey, business, and leadership,” Sekeres added. “What I’m told is that it has now dawned on Canucks ownership that Benning is no longer sellable to a large portion of this fan-base.”
“I talked with sources this morning who do not expect Benning to be back.”
Geoff Courtnall’s name was brought up by Sekeres and then again by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Saturday.
“They’ve reached out to him,” said Friedman. “There’s a crisis of consumer confidence out there. I think the ownership is deciding what they want to do. I think they’ve spoken to Courtnall and asked for his opinion… I think what this says is that ownership is asking for several opinions on how it should pursue its route after this season. I don’t believe any decisions have been made.”
— Lachlan Irvine (@LachInTheCrease) May 15, 2021
Benning has survived a lot of losing to this point of his tenure with the team, but never before had a banner flown from an airplane calling for his dismissal.
The fans responsible for the #FireBenning banner truly put their money where their mouths were.
— Coach Stalin (@CoachStalin) April 2, 2014
The last time a significant number of fans publicly called for the GM’s job was in 2014 when Gillis was in charge. A “fire Gillis” chant was loud enough to be heard on the broadcast on April 7, 2014. The next day, Gillis was fired.
Unlike Gillis and Dave Nonis before him, Benning has managed to keep his job through multiple seasons of the Canucks missing the playoffs.
Perhaps Benning should be cut some slack given the team he took over needed to be rebuilt; however, it should also be noted that the current administration never appeared to fully embrace a rebuild, which only served to prolong the pain.
And make no mistake, his tenure has been filled with pain.
Since Benning took over as general manager seven years ago, the Canucks have the sixth-worst winning percentage (.492) in the NHL, ranking ahead of only Ottawa (.490), New Jersey (.480), Detroit (.471), Arizona (.455), and Buffalo (.426).
If you look at the numbers since the start of Benning’s second season in 2015-16, the Canucks fare even worse, ranking fourth-last, with an opportunity to drop to third-worst if they lose their next two games.
Benning is responsible for drafting players like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, and Thatcher Demko, but at some point, ownership will need to see results on the ice. If last season was a step forward, this year has been two steps back, and the main reason is due to salary cap mismanagement.
By his own admission, the Canucks won’t be ready to compete for a Stanley Cup next season, and certainly they haven’t been a realistic Cup contender for any of his seven years in charge.
Not many general managers get this much time to spin their wheels.