Jim Benning, new general manager of the Vancouver Canucks NHL hockey team, smiles at a news conference in Vancouver, Friday May 23, 2014Jim Benning, new general manager of the Vancouver Canucks NHL hockey team, smiles at a news conference in Vancouver, Friday May 23, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
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There were no bold declarations from the podium in Jim Benning's introductory presser as the new general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, no big, sweeping changes announced, no grand statements.
And that, more than anything else we saw in Benning's first day on the job, was the biggest piece of evidence that the Canucks have entered a new era, that the Mike Gillis era is over.
Gillis's first press conference was all bluster. He promised "really bold decisions". He expressed a lack of confidence in the core, saying he wasn't sure the Sedins were the players the team would be built around going forward. (They went on to win two Art Ross trophies in Vancouver.) He talked himself up. "I am fully committed to being as aggressive as possible,” he said. He came this close to showing everybody how much he could bench.
Benning, on the other hand, gave us big-time quotables such as: "I like our core players." Hardly the sort of thing you can print and run with.
And in regards to the fabled Boston Model, that winning secret the Bruins used to rough up the Canucks in 2011, the thing that he's supposedly been recruited to install, so as to lead Vancouver to victory, he stood on the stem of the ship, now his, and promulgated, "I never heard of the Boston model until I came out here, to be quite honest."
Asked about what he planned to do with the aging stars, all the no-trade clauses, Ryan Kesler's reported desire to go elsewhere, the inexperienced goalie tandem, the coaching vacancy, everything, save us, fix this, Benning shrugged, pointing out he'd only been the general manager for two hours.
"I'm not gonna sit up here today and promise any changes," he said. "I'm gonna get to know the rest of the guys and then we'll make assessments."
In hindsight, Gillis came off like a salesman, which is fitting, since that's effectively what he was, an agent making his debut in an NHL front-office. And all through his tenure, he exuded a confidence -- some even called it an arrogance -- that helped to paper over his relative lack of experience. And at times, it worked for him.
Benning, on the other hand, is an under-the-radar guy -- so much so that, prior to Friday's presser, there were only about two photos of the man on record. He came off as the sort of guy who prefers to let his work do the talking, and for two good reasons: first, he's not much of a public speaker, and second, it's a pretty strong track record: a Stanley Cup in Boston. Some very good drafts there, and in Buffalo too.
Benning is the sort of guy who identifies talent and then adds it to teams. And that's about it for his plan in Vancouver. Lots of good players. A full roster's worth.
"We want to be a four-line team," he said. "We want four lines that are gonna go out and work hard. The third and fourth lines, we want 'em scoring, or playing physical, or zone time, that's what we're looking to do. As far as the Boston model is concerned, I don't really even know what the Boston model is, to be honest with you."
"What we tried to do in Boston is we tried to make the playoffs every year and we started integrating young players into our mix, so our team over time learned how to win and our young players learned how to win, until now we're at the point where our young players are the veteran players and they have an opportunity to win every year."
Bit of a run-on sentence there, Jim. But, again, he's not a speaker. He doesn't need to be. He's a builder, and if the work out East that got him the job is any indication, and if he has his way, the team he builds in Vancouver should speak for itself.