So we know Jim Benning is staying on as GM of the Vancouver Canucks. Deep breath, Canucks fans. The question of how to improve the team’s heavily damaged reputation comes to the fore. The answer is, apparently, the players who brought the team to the brink of ultimate success such a short time ago. But when the Canucks hire the Sedin twins, what will Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin actually bring?
Not sure what to expect for a timeline of announcements from the Canucks, but word tonight is Jim Benning was given indication in the last 24 hours that he is to return.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 19, 2021
Canucks Will Hire the Sedin Twins as a Desperation Move – But it’s Not a Bad One
We’ve been down this road before, and not long ago. When Trevor Linden was hired in 2014, the team was three years removed from their Stanley Cup Final appearance and had missed the playoffs entirely for the first time in five years. He wasn’t hired on to the newly available general manager’s position, but to President of Hockey Operations. In theory, that was a position of greater authority overlooking all aspects of the team. He chose Benning as the new GM and the rest is (somewhat erratic) history.
When Linden was hired, the owner hailed him as a businessman and “community leader” – both of which could be useful now. While none of the principals have discussed the causes of his firing, speculation was at the time that Francesco Aquilini wanted to accelerate the team’s return to competitiveness. Linden disagreed, thinking the slower pace would be more reliable. The same year he left the Canucks’ front office, the Sedins skated their last season as players.
Stocking the Prospects
For a sport that loves its mythology, that timing can’t be lost on observers. But there is a vital difference here in their respective hirings. Linden was given immediate authority, using it to hire Benning. This time, the legends are being put in a place where they can learn the “white-collar” side of the job. This gives them the luxury of taking some low-stakes risks without mistakes being fatal. This is a better option than hiring someone for a vital position with no experience at the job. Or any job like it.
Benning on Sedin Twins – We are talking to them, we will figure out a role. Could be an announcement next week.
Donnie and Dhali
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) May 28, 2021
Obviously, there is a PR aspect here. The Sedins’ reputations – both on and off the ice – are impeccable. This is invaluable for a team owner who normally stays out of the spotlight. Unfortunately for him, the glare put on general manager Benning has spilled over, and Aquilini needs some shades. It’s not helped by his Twitter feed making rare appearances when the team doesn’t win – just the sort of fair-weather fandom long-time sufferers despise.
Putting them in a place where they can learn is great for them. Having them handy for interviews is great for Aquilini.
The (Grouse) Grindhouse
After a year where Canucks Sports and Entertainment made deep cuts everywhere, any hiring is good news. But there is more to the twins than good public relations. When the Canucks hire the Sedin twins, they are expecting the same players who were legendary fitness fanatics during their careers and continue running marathons after retirement. Having the highest-scoring players in team history work with new players can’t be a bad thing. Except maybe for their morale when they can’t beat the infamous Grouse Grind numbers the twins set in their thirties.
#Canucks Benning on the Sedins roles: 'they'll help our hockey ops group, team building. They want to learn the business. They'll be in our pro scouting meetings. They're going to be doing the work and help us get better. They don't want to be guys that just have desk jobs'
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) May 28, 2021
They may not have won the Stanley Cup, but they are World and Olympic Games champions. Their time in the NHL went the full range from trying to deal with Joe Thornton in Penticton (“How good is this guy? We are seriously going to play in the same league?“) to being the players that coaches planned against. There’s very little they can’t tell any player from a personal perspective. Top draft pick pressure? Been there. Touted for years, but it takes five years to produce in the NHL like a star? Done that. Now you’re the engine that drives the best team in the league? Been that.
For now, details about what exactly their jobs will be are a bit vague. That’s not a real surprise, of course, because details are kind of boring and not really what a big reveal like this should be about. This is, for now, as much about public relations as it is about staffing. But the Sedins are no fools: they have something on paper and in hand before the deal was anywhere near public. And beyond what contract they have reached, they know who they are.
Whether or not you trust this management team – general manager and owner, both – you can trust Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They will have thought long and hard about this move, and not just for themselves. They’re going to do what they think is best for the team. There won’t be an immediate solution, and they know that. It’s going to be an uphill grind. Fortunately, they know a little something about what that takes.