Maple Leafs’ Forgotten Ones: Jim Benning

With a franchise that’s been around as long as the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s not always possible to remember every player that has pulled on that storied blue and white jersey. Some players have come and gone quickly, while others have flown under the radar during their time with the Maple Leafs.

In this series, we’ve looked at some players who’ve played for the Maple Leafs at some point during their careers and might not be immediately associated with the team when talked about amongst hockey circles.

Forgotten Maple Leafs Jim Benning
Jim Benning (The Hockey Writers)

We take a look at their careers as a whole, their time spent in Toronto and how exactly they came to be a part of the Maple Leafs’ franchise.

While this next player has spent some time in the Vancouver Canucks’ front office recently, the Maple Leafs and Canucks were the only two teams that Jim Benning played for during his NHL career. With that, here’s how he became a member of the ‘forgotten ones.’

Benning Becoming a Maple Leaf

Benning was actually a draft pick of the Maple Leafs back in 1981. The team, which was on the verge of switching general managers with Punch Imlach on his way out and Gerry McNamara on his way in, took Benning in the first round, sixth overall in 1981 and the following year he made his NHL debut.

He was the second defenceman to go in the draft behind Joe Cirella who went fifth to the Colorado Rockies.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Forgotten Ones – Travis Green

As for Benning, the Maple Leafs picked him following a two monster seasons with the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks – including a 71-point season in 1979-80 in 71 games, which he followed up with a 139-point season in just 72 games in 1980-81.

While the Maple Leafs thought they were getting an offensive threat on the backend in Benning, that quickly changed and he became a defenceman that could produce when needed but not to the same extent as he did in junior.

Benning Donning the Blue Maple Leaf

Benning debuted with the Maple Leafs as an 18-year-old in 1981-82. While he had a minus-26 rating that season, he put up seven goals and 31 points as a rookie in 74 regular season games.

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He played parts of six seasons with the Maple Leafs from 1981 to 1987 recording 37 goals and 173 points over 364 regular season games. He had a career year just four seasons into his NHL tenure, which included 12 goals and 51 points in 79 games for the Maple Leafs.

Jim Benning Vancouver Canucks
Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He saw the postseason just once in his time with the Maple leafs and that came as a 19-year-old in 1982-83. He was always a minus-player in Toronto and while he did contribute offensively at times, he never lived up to the player that the Maple Leafs expected he would be as the sixth overall pick in 1981.

Still, Benning joined a team littered with talent in the form of Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming and Rick Vaive, among others and learned how to play with some top-end players very early on in his career – a career that spanned over nine seasons for the defenceman.

The Rest of Benning’s Career

Benning spent parts of the first six seasons he played in the NHL with the Maple Leafs, but on Dec. 2, 1986, the Maple Leafs moved Benning and Dan Hodgson to the Vancouver Canucks for Rick Lanz.

At the time, Benning had played just five games for the Maple Leafs in 1986-87 and finished the season with the Canucks – putting up 13 points in 54 games following the trade. He finished out the remaining three years of his NHL career in Vancouver and closed out his time in the show following the 1989-90 season.

The one-time sixth overall pick finished his NHL career having played 605 regular season games with the Maple Leafs and Canucks and tallying 52 goals and 243 points over that span. He added 461 penalty minutes over that span as well.

Related: Canucks – 5 Worst Jim Benning Trades

While Benning never got to experience winning the Stanley Cup, he did see some playoff action during his career, albeit not much. He suited up for four games with the Maple Leafs in 1982-83 and another three games for the Canucks in 1988-89 with a grand total of two points in those seven games.

He left the NHL and played for a short time in the IHL and with AS Varese in Italy. But as we’ve said in the past, once a Maple Leafs player, always a part of the organization.

All-Time Maple Leafs’ Ranks

Games Played: 364 GP (82nd)
Goals: 37 G (T148th)
Assists: 136 A (T61st)
Points: 173 P (87th)
Points-Per-Game: 0.48 P/G (185th)