Once again, hockey fans in Vancouver are grinding their teeth and fuming.
And they have every right to, because once again, the Vancouver Canucks are a bad team. They’ve lost four games in a row, and won only twice in their past 10 games. The changes GM Jim Benning has made have not paid off thus far. This already feels like another lost season. Time is up for this administration.
There’s no way you can justify the Canucks’ performance this year. With a 5-9-1 record, they’re the sixth-worst team in the NHL. Only the Seattle Kraken, Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, and Chicago Blackhawks are worse. This is unacceptable.
And Vancouver is about to enter a buzz-saw part of their schedule: in their next six games, half of which are at home, the Canucks will take on the Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, and Blackhawks; on the road, they’ve got the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Boston Bruins. With that type of competition, it’s possible the Canucks’ losing skid will continue. Unacceptable.
You can’t blame Vancouver’s season on injuries. Most, if not all NHL teams are dealing with injuries. If a couple of injuries result in a disastrous season for a team, that’s an indictment of that team’s depth and overall talent. You can have highly-skilled young NHLers on your side, but if the mix is wrong, you lose more than you win. That’s where the Canucks are today.
Now is not the time for another letter-to-season-ticket-holders from Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini. Now is not the time for more patience. Now is the time for change. And as always, organizational change often should start with the GM. Benning has had the job for more than seven years, and the Canucks have missed the playoffs in five of their past six seasons. That’s enough time for him. Vancouver needs a new vision, not a revision.
Not coincidentally, the Canucks announced in June of this year that team legends Daniel and Henrik Sedin would work for the franchise as special advisors to Benning. On the surface, they are being trained as NHL executives, but there’s always been a sense they were brought aboard to eventually serve as the chief architects for the Canucks. That time is now. There’s no perfect time to change GMs for a team that has failed more often than not. But the status quo is not the answer.
The answer is change. Real, institutional change. Not cheap talk, and not deflecting the Canucks’ real issues by moving a sixth defenseman or a third-line forward. It’s time for something different. To keep pretending they’re a true Stanley Cup contender is to turn off Vancouver’s young players and spoil their talent on seasons in which they can’t even make the playoffs in a weak Pacific Division. This is the core anger of Canucks fans. They’re sick and tired of the same old, same old. They want change. And they want it right away.
A modest win streak will be held up by Canucks management as proof they can come back over the long haul, but that’s an illusion. This franchise is languishing in the muck and not coming away from battles with enough wins to justify keeping the core and management together.
There’s no question the Canucks have some genuinely skilled players. This call for change is not a commentary on their value as individuals. Sometimes a collection of talent just can’t put all the pieces in the right places to become a winner. That’s where Vancouver is at the moment.
The Canucks tried change this past summer with the acquisitions of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Connor Garland. They’re now a veteran-laden team that has all sorts of experience, but that hasn’t translated into wins this season. They need a serious shakeup to send a message to their players and the hockey world. That message: you can’t continue to sit back forever and create an environment where losing is accepted.
So, Canucks fans, don’t feel as if you don’t have a right to be upset. You do. This organization is not working well, and it’s OK as a consumer of their product to tell them you want more than you’re getting. In a fair world, that change will come soon. It has to. There are no more excuses.