Player of the Week: Jim Benning
It dawned on me earlier that since I started Player of the Week at the beginning of this season — the first one being Radim Vrbata — every week since then has been about one of the new acquisitions over the off-season. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — quite the opposite really, because I’d rather see the new guys being productive and fitting well with the team, which clearly hasn’t been a problem so far. Personally speaking, as a full-fledged Canucks fan since the West Coast Express era, it’s the first time I can recall there ever being so many new additions to the team being such vital parts to the team so early on in the season. It’s a strange and wondrous feeling, and I feel like this week I should be talking about another new addition to team, albeit in a different fashion — Mr. Jim Benning, ladies and gentlemen.
(I’ll get back to actual players next week — maybe even one of our long-time fan favourites, but this week Jim Benning deserves the spotlight and it’s pretty obvious why.)
So, let’s face it. When Mike Gillis was fired at the end of last season, who in Vancouver did not do a little dance, make a little love, or get down tonight? Answer: literally everyone. When Gillis was fired, it was like a huge cloud had been lifted and a light beam spotlighted itself down on the City of Vancouver; that light beam was the hiring of Jim Benning on that glorious 23rd day of May, 2014.
Granted, people were skeptical, because Benning had never footed the general manager position himself before, even though he’d spent the season prior as an assistant GM with the Boston Bruins. That’s the general outlook for the Vancouver Canucks fanbase, though: begging for a change within the organization and then crying wolf when change is made and it’s not what they wanted, and then acting like they were on board with the change all along when it exceeds their expectations. You can’t tell me that this doesn’t happen.
To boot, with the hiring of Trevor Linden as President a month and a half prior, most of Canucks Nation asked – what is going on in Vancouver? Because while our pal Trevor is forever a fan-favourite, no one thought he had what it takes in a position other than with a pair of skates on his feet, scoring Game 7 overtime goals.
But, I digress.
Through Trevor Linden, came GM Jim Benning — and Willie Desjardins (which we can talk about another time), and the results have been positive. Let’s take a look at what we’ve gotten with Jim Benning and what they’ve done so far:
Radim Vrbata: Need a I say more? In 15 games played, he’s got 6 goals, 7 assists, for a total of 13 points, on a line with the Sedins. To say he’s been valuable is a vast understatement.
Nick Bonino: Or, shall I say, #Boninophone. In 16 games played, he’s got 7 goals, 6 assists, for a total of 13 points also. I’ll refrain from telling you we OMG WON THE TRADE!1!!1!, but acquiring Nick Bonino was a very solid, underrated move, and I don’t think anyone expected to see this one coming.
Ryan Miller: He’s 10-2-0 on his season. He’s got the most wins out of any goaltender thus far, with a sv% of .913. Although his GAA has room for improvement at 2.42 (hi, defense helps here too, it’s not all on him), it’s safe to say Miller’s having a bit of a bounce-back year, and it’s nice to see.
There’s also been the acquisitions of Derek Dorsett and Linden Vey, who’ve proven themselves solid on the bottom six. Luca Sbisa may have some work to do, but good news, there’s still lots of time to do that.
I’ll be honest and say I had zero expectations of this team when the season started — mostly because it’s easier that way and it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than to have expectations and be devastatingly let down. It’s still early in the season, I know this, but I like Benning’s vision and I’m curious to see where it takes us.