In the latest edition of the Vancouver Canucks’ News & Rumors, the organization makes major moves to start a new era. The Canucks have fired general manager (GM) Jim Benning. Also, the club fired head coach Travis Green and replaced him with Bruce Boudreau.
Canucks Fire Benning
The Canucks fired GM Benning on Sunday. Along with Benning, the team fired assistant GM John Weisbrod. The Canucks announced Stan Smyl as the interim GM and Ryan Johnson as the interim assistant GM, while the team continues to search for new hockey operations leadership.
Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre adds the interim management will operate collaboratively. Smyl will work with interim assistant GM Johnson, Chris Gear, Doug Jarvis, Henrik and Daniel Sedin. This is an opportunity for the likes of the Sedin twins to learn and grow in a front-office role to potentially one day take over a job higher up in hockey operations.
The firing came after the club suffered a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game which ended with a Bo Horvat jersey on the ice, while fans chanted “Fire Benning” and “Sell the team.” The Canucks have lost 10 of their last 14 games.
“These are difficult decisions, but we believed we would have a competitive group this year,” owner Francesco Aquilini said. “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.”
Throughout Benning’s seven seasons as GM, the Canucks only made the playoffs twice. Although the team failed to secure a playoff spot for a majority of his time, he found success through the draft, adding players in Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko, Nils Hoglander and Vasili Podkolzin. His best addition outside of the draft came in the 2019 offseason when the team acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The negatives far outweighed the positives during the Benning era, which resulted in the team’s disappointing performance throughout his tenure. He had some high draft picks that didn’t work out in Olli Juolevi and Jake Virtanen. He signed multiple players to overpaid contracts, including Loui Eriksson (six-year, $36 million), Antoine Roussel (four years, $12 million), Jay Beagle (four years, $12 million) and Tyler Myers (five years, $30 million). Benning failed to surround his core pieces with a strong supporting cast, as the team has had an unproductive bottom-six and a weak blue line for the past few seasons.
This offseason, he made a big trade in acquiring Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland for a package headlined by the 2021 ninth overall pick, Eriksson, Beagle, Roussel and two other draft picks. Benning hoped the team would improve over last season’s disappointing performance. Instead, the team has an 8-15-2 record through 25 games.
The organization has been planning to make changes for a few weeks while doing external research on potential candidates, which they’ve already done behind the bench. Irfaan Gaffar reports the Canucks will take their time with their next hire.
Canucks Hire Boudreau to Replace Green
Along with the Benning firing, the Canucks fired head coach Green and hired Boudreau on Sunday. Assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner is also out, and the team will replace him with Scott Walker, who worked in a player development role with the franchise from 2015 to 2019.
“I am excited to add Bruce Boudreau as our new Head Coach, and Scott as Assistant,” Aquilini said. “Bruce is one of the most experienced coaches in the NHL, with nearly 1,000 games behind the bench and a successful track record working with some of the game’s best talent. Scott is a young coach with an excellent reputation who will fit in very well with our group.”
The team hired Boudreau to a two-year deal. Boudreau previously coached the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild. He has a combined record of 567-302-115 through 984 games, giving him a .635 win percentage. His struggles come in the postseason, where he has a 43-47 record, with a win percentage of .478.
Meanwhile, Green ends his five seasons in Vancouver with a 133-147-34 record through 314 games. He missed the playoffs in three of his four full seasons with the organization. The Canucks signed Green to a two-year extension in May.
Hamonic Loaned to Abbotsford
In other news, the team loaned Travis Hamonic to Abbotsford in the American Hockey League. The move is likely a conditioning stint as the defence, as he has only played seven games this season due to his vaccination status. His agent, Kevin Epp, stated the defenceman is 100% vaccinated. As the season goes on, he shouldn’t miss too many games as long as he is healthy.
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Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.