Jim Benning is on the hotseat as he nears the conclusion of his fifth season at the helm of the CanucksWell that was an exciting playoff race for the Vancouver Canucks while it lasted. Speaking of things which tend to fizzle out just as they get interesting, here are the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.• Jim Benning is now closing in on his fifth full season as the Canucks’ general manager.In that time, Benning has presided over four drafts while making 31 trades and signing some 16 free agents. The team made the playoffs in Benning’s first year on the job but have since finished 28th, 29th. 26th and currently sit 25th overall.This is what the Canucks’ lineup looked like on Saturday night against the New York Islanders.At the start of the game their top-six forwards included Josh Leivo, Nikolay Goldobin and Ryan Spooner. Leivo was basically given to the Canucks by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had no room for him in their lineup. Goldobin has been a healthy scratch for the Canucks nine times this season. Spooner was acquired from Edmonton in a trade for Sam Gagner.While with the Oilers, Spooner couldn’t crack the lineup of a team that was actually below the Canucks in the standings. In his second start with the Canucks on Saturday night, he was stapled to the bench in the third period.Spooner has one year left on a contract that pays him $4 million per. Gagner, of course, has two goals in his last two games with the Oil.Elsewhere, the Canucks had three players drafted by Benning in the lineup on Saturday night: Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Adam Gaudette. You can also credit Benning for signing college free agent Troy Stecher, one of his best moves over those five seasons, and Thatcher Demko, another Benning draft, should be returning shortly.But here’s the larger point. Somewhere in all those trades, free-agent signings and draft picks, the organization should have created some depth as the Canucks are still thinner than a super model. That’s also been the story, more or less, for each of the last three seasons and while Benning has added a Tyler Motte here and an Antoine Roussel there, the Canucks still don’t have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot.That may change in the future. Benning has a core group with Pettersson, Boeser and Bo Horvat with Quinn Hughes coming. Behind them are an intriguing pool of prospects which might yield two or three impact players.But ask yourself this. What’s Benning’s best trade as a GM. Based on the raw data, it was likely, wait for it, Markus Granlund for Hunter Shinkaruk. Granlund is now in his third season as a Canucks and has one 19-goal campaign on his resume. Shinkaruk has played 14 NHL games since the trade. The others under consideration: Leivo for Michael Carcone; Sven Baertschi for a second-rounder; Motte for Thomas Vanek; and Jonathan Dahlen for Alex Burrows.His best free-agent signing? You tell me. The Canucks got three solid seasons out of Ryan Miller, one 35-goal goal campaign out of Radim Vrbata and Roussel is on pace to break his career high for points. But none exactly altered the course of the franchise.Look, the Canucks’ story is still being written and two, three seasons from now, Benning’s draft picks might form the core of a very good team. But five years is also ample time to leave your mark on an organization and it’s disheartening to again see the Canucks icing a substandard lineup when the games matter most.• On a related point, we’re aware the Canucks are in the part of their developmental cycle which isn’t conducive to trading for veterans. But when you see Washington flip a second-rounder and B-level prospect Madison Bowey for Red Wings’ defenceman Nick Jensen, you wonder.Jensen immediately signed a user-friendly four-year, $10 million deal with the Caps. He’s not a star but he’s a solid NHL blueliner who would have represented a significant upgrade for the Canucks. Maybe the timing wasn’t perfect for a trade like that but you waste opportunities waiting for the perfect moment.
Canucks prospect Jonathan Dahlen.
Bob Frid /
• One final thing. If the Canucks have really soured on the 21-year-old Dahlen it represents short-sighted thinking for an organization that’s not exactly know for its vision.Dahlen, admittedly, hasn’t lit it up with Utica in his first professional season in North America. But his stats — 14-15-29 in 50 games — are comparable to first-rounders Martin Necas, Michael McLeod and Filip Zadina.One other thing to consider. You wonder what goes through Pettersson’s mind when he looks at some of the wingers he’s been stuck with this season. He’s close friends with Dahlen. The pair have demonstrated chemistry at different times in their career.If I’m the Canucks, I want see if that chemistry translates to the NHL level.• It’s a given NHL players lead a charmed life but if you ever wondered about the emotional impact of losing a friend and a teammate at the trade deadline. we refer you to Henrik Lundqvist’s reaction when he was asked about the Mats Zuccarello trade.“It’s tough,” the great goalie said, fighting back tears. “He’s a good friend.”Then.“I’m sorry. I can’t do it.”Breaks your heart.
Jay Beagle gets a breakaway for the Canucks but can’t convert during an Islanders power play in the first period.
Gerry Kahrmann /
• And finally, back in the spring of 2014, the Canucks were looking for a new head coach and it was widely assumed Barry Trotz, who’d just been released after 15 seasons in Nashville, was at the top of their list. The Canucks, yeesh, would ultimately target Willie Desjardins as their new bench boss, leaving Trotz to sign with Washington where he won a Stanley Cup last season.Nailed another one boys.In Washington, Trotz coached Canucks centre Jay Beagle for four seasons and if you wanted an insight into their relationship. you just had to watch them embrace during Saturday’s morning skate in advance of the Canucks-Islanders meeting.“When it’s all said and done Jay will be in the top one or two per cent of the guys I’ve coached,” said Trotz, who signed with the Isles prior to this season. “It’s just because of the total person he is. That was a real good signing for the Canucks.“Sometimes analytically it doesn’t look right. Sometimes you have to know what the total package is. Jay brings a number of those intangibles that you can’t put a number on but coaches can and teammates can.”Beagle, meanwhile, said his former coach texted him earlier this season to congratulate him on his 500th career game in the NHL.“He didn’t have to do that,” Beagle said.But if you were wondering why Trotz commands such respect in the game, there’s your firstname.lastname@example.org