Let’s Be a GM #11: The Finale

Photo Credit: Vancouver Canucks

By Scott Rosenhek

Let’s Be a GM is a series where I get the chance to put myself in the shoes of Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning. I am going to go through the previous management group’s history in trading, the offseason and at the draft table. Since hindsight is a prevalent factor, any decisions made will be done with ONLY information at the time of a trade, signing or draft selection. With that in mind, there are a few assumptions I will make for this series:

  • The Canucks finish each season with the same place in the standings and the same first round draft position from 2014-2017.
  • Alternate trades will NOT be based on using NHL 18 or any other GM simulators. Instead, I will make my best estimation of what I can get in return for Canucks assets. This will not be perfect and I am very open to feedback on any new trades.
  • Personnel changes in the management group such as scouts, executives, etc. will stay the same.

I have had some time to reflect on this series and it should go without saying that being an NHL General Manager is an onerous task. Almost everything you do is critiqued harshly, but this is unsurprising since you are responsible for an $800 million franchise. Hockey teams are important to investors, fans and the media that cover them. I don’t envy Jim Benning’s position, but I think this exercise of putting myself in his shoes was worthy of completing.

There is so much more to being a General Manager than standing at the draft table and signing a few contracts. Now that I am at the end of journey, I want to see where my version of the Canucks stands with the real franchise. I won’t be doing an Offseason for 2017 because I wanted to cut off the series at the draft to analyze the prospect pipeline. I will compare my notable signings, draft class, and prospect pipeline with Jim Benning.

*Jim Benning’s acquisitions/prospects will be italicized

Notable Signings

2014-15

Radim Vrbata, 2 years, $10 million ($5 million AAV)

Chris Tanev, 6 years, $27 million ($4.5 million AAV)

Jonas Hiller, 2 years, $9 million ($4.5 million AAV)

Patrick Eaves, 1 year, $600 000

Nikolaj Ehlers, 3-year ELC (contract would slide and not count that season)

David Pastrnak, 3-year ELC

Ben Hutton, 2-year ELC

Radim Vrbata, 2 years, $10 million ($5 million AAV)

Ryan Miller, 3 years, $18 million ($6 million AAV)

Chris Tanev, 1 year, $2 million

Jake Virtanen, 3-year ELC (contract would slide and not count that season)

Jared McCann, 3-year ELC (contract would slide and not count that season)                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Ben Hutton, 2-year ELC

2015-16

Patrick Eaves to a one year, $1.5 million deal

Cody Franson, two years, $6.5 million ($3.25 million AAV).

Jiri Tlusty, one year, $800 000

Brandon Sutter, 5 years, $21.875 million ($4.375 million AAV)

Chris Tanev, 5 years, $22.25 million ($4.45 million AAV)

Luca Sbisa, 3 years, $10.8 million ($3.6 million AAV)

Derek Dorsett, 4 years, $10.6 million ($2.65 million AAV)

Sven Baertschi, 1 year, $900 000

Nikita Tryamkin, 2-year ELC

2016-17

Rickard Rakell, 6 years, $24 million ($4 million AAV)

Bo Horvat, 2 years, $8 million ($4 million AAV)—starts 2017-18

Chad Johnson, 1 year, $1.7 million

Ben Hutton, 2 years, $4.8 million ($2.4 million AAV)

Markus Granlund, 2 years, $1.8 million ($900 000 AAV)

Troy Stecher, 2-year ELC

Brock Boeser, 2-year ELC

Thatcher Demko, 3-year ELC

Loui Eriksson, 6 years, $36 million ($6 million AAV)

Ben Hutton, 2 years, $4.8 million ($2.4 million AAV)

Sven Baertschi, 2 years, $3.7 million ($1.85 million AAV)

Markus Granlund, 2 years, $1.8 million ($900 000 AAV)

Troy Stecher, 2-year ELC

Brock Boeser, 2-year ELC

Thatcher Demko, 3-year ELC

Draft Class

2014: Nikolaj Ehlers, David Pastrnak, Thatcher Demko, Brandon Montour, Brayden Point, Kevin Labanc, Francis Perron

Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Thatcher Demko, Nikita Tryamkin, Gustav Forsling, Kyle Petit, Mackenzie Stewart

2015: Brock Boeser, Vince Dunn, Blake Speers, Parker Wotherspoon, Caleb Jones, Mathieu Joseph, Carl Neill**, Stephan Desrocher***, Adam Gaudette, Lukas Jasek, Tate Olson**

Brock Boeser, Guillaume Brisebois, Dmitry Zhukenov, Carl Neill, Adam Gaudette, Lukas Jasek, Tate Olson

2016: Clayton Keller, Julien Gauthier, Taylor Raddysh, Filip Gustavsson, Dillon Dube, Adam Fox, Victor Mete, Lucas Carlsson, Nolan Stevens, Jesper Bratt, David Quenneville, David Bernhardt, Brett McKenzie

Olli Juolevi, Will Lockwood, Cole Candella, Jakob Stukel, Rodrigo Abols, Brett McKenzie

2017: Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Michael DiPietro, Mason Shaw, Jack Rathbone, Lukas Elvenes, Kristoffer Gunnarsson, Ivan Chekhovich, Petrus Palmu, Matt Brassard

Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Michael DiPietro, Jack Rathbone, Kristoffer Gunnarsson, Petrus Palmu, Matt Brassard

**As Jim Benning chose not to offer ELCs to Neill and Olson, I will elect to do the same

***I will not offer an ELC to Desrocher

My Prospect Pipeline (includes players yet to play 25 NHL games and are under 24 years old)

Forwards:

Jonathan Dahlen Clayton Keller Brock Boeser
Nikolay Goldobin Elias Pettersson Blake Speers
Jonah Gadjovich Brayden Point Taylor Raddysh
Petrus Palmu Adam Gaudette Kole Lind
Ivan Chekhovich Dillon Dube Julien Gauthier
Griffen Molino Mason Shaw Zac MacEwen
Francis Perron Brett McKenzie Lukas Jasek
Michael Carcone Nolan Stevens Lukas Elvenes
Cole Cassels

 

Defensemen:

Vince Dunn Adam Fox
Caleb Jones Brandon Montour
Evan McEneny Jordan Subban
Parker Wotherspoon Victor Mete
Lucas Carlsson Jalen Chatfield
David Bernhardt David Quenneville
Kristoffer Gunnarsson Jack Rathbone
Matt Brassard

 

Goaltenders:

Thatcher Demko
Michael DiPietro
Filip Gustavsson

 

Jim Benning’s Prospect Pipeline

Forwards:

Jonathan Dahlen Elias Pettersson Brock Boeser
Nikolay Goldobin Adam Gaudette Kole Lind
Jonah Gadjovich Brett McKenzie Will Lockwood
Petrus Palmu Zac MacEwen Lukas Jasek
Griffen Molino Dmitry Zhukenov Jakob Stukel
  Cole Cassels Michael Carcone
  Rodrigo Abols Yan-Pavel Laplante
    Mackenzie Stewart

 

Defensemen:

Olli Juolevi Nikita Tryamkin
Evan McEneny Jordan Subban
Andrey Pedan Jalen Chatfield
Guillaume Brisebois Jack Rathbone
Kristoffer Gunnarsson Cole Candella
Ashton Sautner Matt Brassard
   
   

 

Goaltenders:

Thatcher Demko
Michael DiPietro

 

As you can see in these depth charts, there is a stark difference between the players I have brought in compared to the players brought in by Jim Benning. Goaltending is about the same, but my pipeline is far deeper at every forward position and on defense. I have several options to fill my future top 6 forward group in addition to having Nikolaj Ehlers and David Pastrnak in my fantasy lineup.

You could say I am starting to have a logjam at centre and wing, but this is a great problem to have. I like my defensive group, but it is lacking someone that immediately stands out as a future number one defender. Jim Benning has that with Olli Juolevi, but I think I could use my winger depth to my advantage.

During the 2017 offseason, I could strongly consider moving one of Ehlers or Pastrnak for a young and talented defenseman. In fact, I may just be able to move Nikolaj Ehlers to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Jacob Trouba in a traditional hockey trade. Losing Ehlers would sting initially, but with Dahlen and Goldobin joining the prospect ranks, there could be a replacement there.

Additionally, one of Clayton Keller or Elias Pettersson will play on the wing as Bo Horvat will remain in the team’s top six. I think this trade is worth it since the winger depth is there and Trouba would solidify himself as the team’s number one defenseman, taking some pressure off an aging Chris Tanev down the line. Bringing in Trouba would also make me confident in the right side as I have invested many picks on smaller puck-movers that are meant for the power play (Fox, Rathbone, Quenneville, etc.).

Creating this much depth in arguably one of the strongest prospect pools in the NHL was not very difficult. I know I had more than 11 picks in each of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 drafts. However, many of my picks were acquired by simply not making trades. President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden said that the team would be patient and not take shortcuts. Well, Linden was wrong. The team constantly spent draft pick after draft pick on quick fixes instead of filling the prospect pipeline with good, young talent.

Most of the picks I had made were acquired by standing pat with the “small returns” from other trades. I did not give up the pick that the team got for Kevin Bieksa. I did not panic after a bad playoff series and ship off a cost-controlled center for an overpaid one. I did not sign a 30-year-old player to a 6-year deal to make a push for the playoffs. Often, I stood pat and when I didn’t, I moved veterans on expiring contracts for futures.

Jim Benning loves the draft, but gave himself the fewest number of lottery tickets to select future NHL players. Maybe he is just confident in his eye for talent. However, you can’t depend on all draft picks turning out. I am expecting only about 30-40% of my picks to pan out, but that is optimistic. Jim Benning has brought in a lot of young players, but only a few of them have the potential to make an impact. I have at least 3 or 4 of these players that Jim Benning is going “all in” with (except for the top end of my defensive corps).

I did not create this series to shame Jim Benning. Although, I think it is very important to point out that patience is the key when executing a rebuild. Jim Benning started off well, but this management group made very questionable and reactionary decisions that threw caution to the wind with these shortcuts. I must re-iterate that we have to be patient. It’s frustrating to lose, but patience and a little luck gets the rebuild moving quickly like it did with Brendan Shanahan’s Maple Leafs. Hasty shortcuts led to the Edmonton Oilers suffering for 10 years until a generational player fell into their collective laps.

There is good news. Most of Jim Benning’s recent moves are contributing to a rebuild. He has created a lot of competition at training camp, so if young players make the team, then they earned it. I do take that sentence with a grain of salt because we have seen that some players have been held back because there looked to be guaranteed spots for replacement level players. I will try to be optimistic for the rebuild moving forward.

If you made this far in my Let’s Be a GM series, I just want to extend my thanks and gratitude for sticking around this long. I like little projects like this and the fantastic news is hockey is just around the corner. The Canucks have their annual Young Stars Tournament on September 8 and then the preseason starts September 17.

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