Acquisitions of Pearson and Karlsson like removing broken puzzle pieces for the CanucksIf there’s one thing we’ve come to know about Jim Benning’s tenure as the Vancouver Canucks’ general manager, one theme which has recurred with numbing regularity, it’s this.Drafting aside, Benning never seems to make two consecutive moves which leave you confident about the assets he’s accumulated and the future direction of the franchise.His trades, and there have now been 33 of them, are seldom disasters. But neither have they accelerated the rebuild. Instead, it’s been half a step forward, half a step backward; three-quarters of a step forward followed by a full step backward.The overall effect has slowed the Canucks’ development curve, offsetting the gains made at the draft table with an ever-changing cast of support players. So tell me, did the trade deadline change any of that? Do you now feel better about the Canucks’ future than you did before Monday?Let’s ask a tougher question.Cher, do you think she’s had some work done?“I think this is a lateral move,” Benning explained when asked about the deal which sent Jonathan Dahlen to San Jose for Linus Karlsson.Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Erik Gudbranson struggled in his three seasons with the Canucks, never finding his form. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Tanner Pearson on Monday.
DARRYL DYCK /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Canucks’ deadline moves, in fact, epitomized so many things about the Benning administration. On the one hand, the faithful will rejoice over the deletion of Erik Gudbranson, whose struggles had reached critical mass on the team’s blueline and necessitated a move for both hockey and humanitarian reasons. If Tanner Pearson, the return from Pittsburgh, is still the 20-20 man he was through three seasons with the Kings, this deal is a massive win for the Canucks.True, you wonder why two organizations have given up on Pearson this season but let’s park those doubts for the moment.Then, there’s the Dahlen trade. It’s not necessarily the deal itself which is the problem. It’s what it represents. Two years ago, Benning flipped a moribund Alex Burrows to Ottawa for Dahlen and Canucks’ supporters believed he’d pulled off a heist which signalled a new era for the Canucks.Last season, Dahlen was named the MVP of the Allsvenskan while leading Timra back to the Swedish elite league in an epic series win over Karlskrona. He’s also close pals with Elias Pettersson and demonstrated real chemistry with The Alien both in Sweden and the Young Stars tournament in Penticton this September.Dahlen, in short, looked like an elite prospect. Not a B-lister but, minimally a top-six NHLer with the potential to become a frontliner. The problem was, there was tension brewing between the player and the organization as early as October of 2017 when Dahlen opted to return to Timra instead of playing in the AHL.And things never really got fixed.This season, Dahlen had produced a 14-15-29 line in 50 games in Utica and if that sounds underwhelming, bear in mind its similar to the AHL production of first-rounders Martin Necas, Michael McLeod and Filip Zadina. Still, Dahlen, through his agent J.P. Barry requested a trade a week ago and Monday he was sent to San Jose, an organization which tends to develop players like Dahlen.“It was the inconsistency of where he hit in their plans,” Barry said when asked about the source of Dahlen’s frustration.“We just felt there was some development left in his game before he’s ready for an NHL opportunity,” Benning said. “We thought he wasn’t there yet. That’s kind of the discrepancy on what they thought and we thought happened.”And who knows. Maybe the Canucks were right on this one. Dahlen wouldn’t be the first young player who had an overinflated sense of his abilities and the organization, apparently, didn’t see a future star.But, again, optics. The Canucks are supposed to be rebuilding. They have a genuine need for scoring on the wings. They had this 21-year-old kid who’s excited a lot of people.And they trade him for a third-rounder in Karlsson, who’s currently playing with, ta da, Karlskrona in the Allsvenskan where he isn’t half the player Dahlen was at Timra.As for Gudbranson, this trade had to be made but it hardly qualifies as a win for the organization. In May 2016, the former third-overall pick was acquired from Florida for the hefty price of first-rounder Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-rounder with the Canucks also getting a fifth.Gudbranson was supposed to be a top-four guy. He was supposed to be a cornerstone piece on a rebuilding blueline.Suffice to say he was neither of those things.“For whatever reason he just never got adjusted,” Benning said.But he was another miscalculation by this organization which has left a gaping hole on their blueline. Pearson now steps in and he’s been handed a top-six role with either Pettersson and Horvat and he, too, fills a need. As mentioned, if he returns to That 70s Line form he had with the Kings, this is a good get by Benning.But the GM now he has to fix the blueline and let’s just hope it isn’t another lateral move this firstname.lastname@example.org