Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden has concluded his search for a new general manager hiring Jim Benning as GM Wednesday.
A press conference will be held Friday at Rogers Arena to officially introduce the 11th general manager in Canucks franshise history; Linden is excited for fans and media alike to meet Benning, a 51-year-old from Edmonton, Alberta, who was most recently assistant general manager of the Boston Bruins.
Vancouver’s GM search was extensive and thorough and at the end of the day Benning not only fit the profile of what Linden wanted, the synergy between the two was strong.
“There were moments of clarity for me in speaking with Jim that we just really connected on a hockey level,” said Linden. “Our beliefs on how success is built in the National Hockey League were very aligned.”
Benning’s NHL resume speaks for itself, from his work in helping assemble the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins, including drafting Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, to his 10-year success as scout and director of amateur scouting in Buffalo, during which time the Sabres selected Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, among others. All in all, as a member of the Sabres and Bruins, Benning had a combined 47 of 109 players drafted play in the NHL, an impressive success rate of 43 per cent.
Before making the jump to the ranks of NHL management, Benning was a standout defenceman in the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winter Hawks; in 1980-81, his 139 points (28-111-139) made for the second highest scoring season for a blueliner in WHL history.
Benning was drafted sixth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft and he spent five seasons in Toronto before he and Dan Hodgson were sent to the Canucks in a trade for Rick Lanz in 1986. Benning played 241 games with the Canucks, scoring 15 goals with 55 assists for 70 points and was named the team’s top defenceman in 1987-88.
His experience in nearly every avenue of the game and breadth of hockey knowledge overall gave Benning precisely the track record Linden was looking for.
“Jim is an extremely hard worker, he recognizes how much commitment it takes to build a championship team,” said Linden. “He’s a guy that doesn’t have an ego, I think he’s looking forward to rolling up his sleeves and getting to work, and he’s a very down to earth dedicated person, so he’s going to fit great in the structure with the organizational values that we want to create here. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
The work begins immediately for Linden and Benning, who have an interesting summer ahead of them as they reshape the Canucks.
Linden hasn’t shied away from saying the Canucks will be a playoff team next season, but the immediate focus isn’t on the team as a whole, it’s on making the most of the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and hiring a head coach that aligns with Linden and Benning, and the rest of the staff, on what they view is a Canuck and how this organization is going to play.
“Jim recognizes that there’s a lot of work to do and I think we’ve got some big decisions to make heading into the draft and certainly the summer. We’re going to get to work on that, obviously the combine is next week and the great thing about this situation is Jim is able to start immediately with us, so he’ll be in Toronto for the combine with us.
”The draft is first and foremost, but we’ve also got our minds turning to the coach search and working through that. That may be impacted a little bit by teams still playing, so we’re going to have to work around that a little bit, but I think having a general manager work with me to select a coach is really critical.”
Linden laughed Wednesday about reports that have surfaced about how great of friends he and Benning are, when in reality, the two hadn’t spoken since they both played for the Canucks from 1988-1990. Benning’s nine-year NHL career was winding down just as Linden’s was beginning; obviously someday being the organization’s one-two managerial punch was the furthest thing from their minds back then.
“What really became apparent is how much we connected on our vision and our values and how we see winning organizations in the National Hockey League, but we certainly didn’t have those conversations 25-years-ogo when I was a rookie and he was young guy,” smiled Linden.
“It’s interesting how this game reconnects people. We were teammates once, and then worlds apart and now we’re aligned once again.”
With Benning’s hiring, the Canucks are also becoming aligned once again.
Don't forget to watch the live Q&A with both Trevor Linden and Jim Benning tomorrow at 11:15am on Canucks.com