#FireBenning is trending once again, but when hasn’t it been for Vancouver fans? It’s been a bad week for hockey in B.C. and last night’s 5-1 loss in Toronto confirmed the underlying issues. Like so many off-seasons before it, fans called into question the moves made by GM Jim Benning. This team has serious potential, but it appears like this might be another learning year for the Canucks. After a great four-win streak, they are now winless in February.
Currently, Vancouver’s record stands at 6-9-0, which in a competitive division might not seem terrible, however, there’s no denying that they lack sharpness and competency at both ends. While Canadian hockey fans got their dream division, it did mean that life would much more difficult and Benning has once again has caused blood pressure to rise.
Off-season Acquisitions Questioned
The Canucks took a cost-effective approach during the summer. Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom were allowed to leave on megabucks deals for rivals Calgary. Braden Holtby appeared to be a smart replacement, but he has struggled so far. Last night, he was at fault for one of Toronto’s goals and looked uncomfortable facing an attacking side on a hot-streak. Such an important figure in Washington, he has yet to win over fans in Vancouver.
The grit and experience of Tanev is greatly missed. Nate Schmidt has been a decent replacement but is still getting to grips. Olli Juolevi is finally getting game time but he is a long term project on the blueline. While this team boasts one of the most dangerous attacks in Boeser, Horvat and Elias Pettersson, one key free-agent was avoided. Tyler Toffoli is having a great start to life in Montreal. His hattrick in his first game against the Canucks was a massive slap in the face.
Vancouver needs a versatile talent to propel them back to the postseason. Toffoli has already shown that he is a scoring player any roster needs. Future plans might be in place, but the short-term ones are going to hell already!
Second Period and Netminder Blues
One huge issue in Vancouver is the goals against, particularly during the second period. Currently, the Canucks have conceded 60 goals against and are fresh off back to back heavy defeats. A major underlying issue seems to be their second-period form. In 15 games, they’ve conceded 25 goals in the second period. They rank as the 15th overall team in terms of overall stats, but these middle game wobbles need to be fixed quickly.
As mentioned before, Holtby has had a rough start. Brought in to bring the veteran and cup winning presence, it hasn’t gone to plan. Canucks fans blood will boil when he see Markstrom rank among the top goaltenders in the league. Holtby has a 7-7-3-4 record with a cringe-worthy .888 save percentage. His GAA has ballooned to 3.23. Worst of all, his backup Thatcher Demko has recorded slightly better in his appearances. I have faith that Holtby can turn this around, but it will take a lot of work to keep his starting role.
Stars Not Shining
Brock Boeser has lit up the league so far this season. His nine goals put him only one behind Auston Matthews. Quinn Hughes has racked up 16 points and an impressive 15 assists. However, others are not doing quite as well. J.T Miller, Pettersson, Horvat might have some decent points, but none of them are really putting them in the net. Outside of B.B. the highest goal scorer is Horvat with 6, Miller only has 4 goals and E.K. has 3. Rookie Nils Hoglander has the same number of goals!
Brandon Sutter has four goals but zero assists and Alex Edler is officially a shadow of himself. During their 7-3 loss at Scotiabank Arena, Edler was criticized for his performance as he was run ragged by an ancient Jason Spezza! Last season, Vancouver was able to balance veterans with young talent well but this season their approach has left them on the ropes.
Well… that’s the burning question you are here for. Jim Benning’s decision making should really be studied by professionals because we cannot understand how he keeps letting key players slip away. I can understand why he thought Markstrom and Tanev were not worth their big-money deals, however, time has proven once again this was a bad decision. We all remember the joy when he got us Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata in his first off-season. Since then, how he has kept his job is a real mystery. Vancouver deserves a GM who isn’t afraid to make a splash, not one who tries to paper over the cracks.
The North division is a free-for-all and we are against Canadian teams who all want bragging rights. So far, the Canucks are further behind than they realized and it will take a Mount Vesuvius hot streak to get us anywhere near playoff contention. Despite the negatives, we are equal on points with the Oilers and if this team can get its act together there is an outside chance. This is the time to prove a point rather than being looked on as a missed opportunity.
What are your thoughts on the current situation in Vancouver? Join in the conversation below, or tell us on twitter!