Canucks’ Disastrous Week Could Spell the End for Benning

After a four-game winning streak to turn their season around, the Vancouver Canucks started a four-game losing streak as they took on the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

The Canucks started the week with a back-to-back in Montreal, as they lost the first game against the Canadiens 6-2. Adam Gaudette and Jay Beagle were the lone goal scorers for their club. The Canucks didn’t have a chance at winning the game, as they were down 3-1 in the first, followed by a three-goal second period by their opponents to extend the lead to 6-1. Beagle scored in the third period, but it was too little too late for the road team to make a comeback. 

Tuesday night’s game was similar as the Canadiens took a 4-1 lead after the first two periods. The Canucks got an early third-period goal from Elias Pettersson on the power play and a last-minute goal from Tanner Pearson to cut the lead down to one. Jeff Petry scored an empty netter to ice the game. 

Next, the Canucks played the Maple Leafs for the first time this season. The Canucks suffered another blowout loss, this time losing 7-3 thanks to a Jason Spezza hattrick. The Canucks were down 5-2 after the second period, which led to the third period where Spezza extended the lead to 6-2, giving him his eighth career hattrick. 

On Saturday night, the Leafs blew the Canucks out once again, winning 5-1. Auston Matthews and Wayne Simmonds scored two goals each to lead the way for their club. Brock Boeser was the lone goal scorer for the Canucks, scoring his ninth goal of the season.

How Canucks Lost Toffoli

The Canucks played the Canadiens for the fourth and fifth time last week. They have now lost four of those five games and have been outscored 28-16. Tyler Toffoli has been dominant against his former team, as eight of his nine goals, this season have come against the Canucks. His two-goal performance on Tuesday led to questions about how general manager Jim Benning let the forward get away, as Toffoli signed for four years at $17 million with the Canadiens, which the GM could’ve made work. 

Tyler Toffoli Montreal Canadiens
Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Benning stated he needed to focus on improving the defence and goaltending since he believed his club could score(from ‘Canucks GM Jim Benning ‘kind of ran out of time,’ couldn’t move money to keep Tyler Toffoli,’ Vancouver Sun,’ 02/04/2021). So far, the Canucks have allowed 60 goals while scoring 49 in 15 games. If you remove the three games against the Ottawa Senators, the Canucks have allowed 57 goals and have scored 33 goals in the other 12 games, which gives them have a goal differential of -24. Therefore, Benning has not improved goaltending or defence, while the goal-scoring has dropped. 

After failing to re-sign Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, and Troy Stecher, Benning says he ran out of time when it came to making room for Toffoli. 

“It was our intention to try and get him signed and if we could have had a little more time, we could have tried to work through that. It got to a point where I know Tyler wanted to come back and we were trying to figure it out. We kind of ran out of time with him getting offers and one he needed to take. We would have had to move money out.”

Benning on being unable to re-sign Toffoli.

Canucks Need Top-Six to Produce

Failing to make room and re-sign Toffoli is a tough blow for a Canucks’ team that looks worse than last season. With the Lotto Line struggling at 5-on-5, the team has been unable to win games. J.T. Miller has 13 points in 12 games, but seven of those points have come on the power play. The 2019-20 leader in team points has been one of the worst players on the team at 5-on-5 to start this season. Miller’s 38.81 Corsi For % (CF%) is the second-lowest on the team, behind Loui Eriksson, who has only played one game this season. 

JT Miller Vancouver Canucks
JT Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Boeser is leading the team in goals with nine but has struggled at 5-on-5 with a 44.28 CF%. Elias Pettersson has been better as of late production-wise, but he still carries a poor CF% this season. He has a 43.39 CF%, the third-worst on the team for players who’ve played more than seven games. It is tough to win for any team when their top line is struggling, but it is even harder to win when they are the only reason your team succeeds. 

Bo Horvat, Nils Hoglander, and Tanner Pearson are the only forwards who have played 10+ games with CF% above 50. Horvat is the one player on the second line who has struggled as of late. The captain scored his first goal since Jan 21st in Thursday’s game against Toronto, as he went on a seven-game goal drought. As for Pearson and Hoglander, the two have played fairly well. The veteran forward scored two goals last week, while the rookie continues to be the bright spot for the Canucks.

If the Canucks want to turn their season around, it starts with their top-six. Not only do they need them to produce but improve their play at 5-on-5 as well.

The Canucks’ impressive 2020 Stanley Cup playoff run was followed by a terrible offseason, which resulted in a disastrous start to the 2020-21 season. The Canucks now hold a 6-9-0 record, which has them in fifth in the North Division. Each loss this week was followed by #FireBenning trending on Twitter, as the club’s fans are calling for the GM’s job. 

Jim Benning
Vancouver Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Since being named the Canucks’ GM in 2014, Benning’s bad moves outweigh the good. He’s done well in the draft, acquiring players including Boeser, Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Vasili Podkolzin and Hoglander. On the other hand, he’s done a terrible job managing the cap and asset management. Signing the likes of Loui Eriksson to a six-year $36 million contract, Antoine Roussel and Beagle to a $3 million cap hit to play bottom line minutes and lastly, signing Tyler Myers to a five year $30 million contract are some of the moves that have put the club in a cap crunch. In turn, the cap crunch led to the departure of many key players last offseason. 

The start to the 2020-21 season spells the ending of Benning’s time as the Canucks’ general manager. Whether the club chooses to fire their GM during the season or after, the organization has to let him go. If they keep Benning on board, the situation can get worse than it already is. 

Canucks Get Some Rest

After playing 15 games in the first three and a half weeks of the season, the Canucks’ schedule lightens up a bit, allowing the team to rest up. In this upcoming week, the Canucks play three times. They play their third game against the Maple Leafs before heading home to take on the Calgary Flames on Thursday and Saturday night. The Flames won the first two games between the two teams. 

Top Performers

  • Quinn Hughes – five assists
  • Tanner Pearson – two goals

Who’s Next?

  • February 8th – @ Toronto Maple Leafs 
  • February 11th – vs Calgary Flames
  • February 13th – vs Calgary Flames 

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