Vancouver Canucks fans just want the best.

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With concern amongst the Vancouver fan base about the state of their hockey team growing, a number of fans have sent their thoughts along to Postmedia.

Here are a sampling:

From an anonymous fan

Francesco:

We are all struggling and making it up as we go along these days so I don’t envy the decisions you face. It must be tough figuring out the next move, so why don’t we start with the very last move and work backwards from there:

It ends with a Stanley Cup in Vancouver for your players, your family, and your fans.

How do you get there? That’s tough. So let’s ask an easier question that we all know the answer to: How do you not get there?

You don’t get there with good intentions. Wanting to win and surrounding yourself with people who want to win isn’t enough. You need real mechanisms to get real results.

You don’t get there by throwing money at the problem. It’s a cap league.  Resources must be used strategically, not liberally, and mistakes can’t be easily undone. All actions have consequences, eventually.

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You don’t get there by mortgaging the future to pay for the present, at least not until you’re on the precipice of greatness. Trading top picks for veterans isn’t sustainable and doesn’t compound (moving out veterans for top picks, on the other hand, well, we’ve seen how that pays off….).

You don’t get there with a quick sugar high. Sure, you can get a loud cheer from the Yonge Street lobbyists for hiring their friends, colleagues and sources, but those aren’t the cheers you really care about, are they?

And sure, you can get a couple nights peace of mind by hiring someone claiming to be able to solve your most immediate problems because of their personal relationships, but you need strategists who can be your own fiduciaries for the long term, not ones who claim they can close the next deal or two with their friends.

You don’t get there without learning, reflecting, being humbled, and evolving. No one does. Mistakes get made, but thank god we get to come back.

When you lift the Cup, the greatest story that could be written would be about your evolution as a steward of the franchise. A story about how you learned from the pitfalls, put the team and the fans first, and in doing so laid the groundwork for sustained greatness. Redemption is the stuff of comic book superheroes. Be one.

You don’t get there without a group of exceptionally talented women and men committed to your mission, and they don’t get there without leaders who can empower them to succeed.

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You don’t get there, not in this moment, anyway, without Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman.

But you know that already. We do too.

It’s time. Like it always was.


From Curtis Andrews

The next leader of Canucks hockey operations must be a woman

It’s that time again Canucks fans. Following an off-season distinguished by several unusual decisions made by the organization’s management, the Canucks have played well-below expectations. With Jim Benning now having served as General Manager of the Canucks for approximately six-and-a-half years and sporting an objectively inconsistent track record of on- and off-ice success, Canucks fans and the media have begun to openly consider what (or rather, who) comes next.

This can be a fun time for followers of a sports team. The hiring of a new General Manager tends to be treated like the potential acquisition of a star player – lists of ‘who is available’ are drawn up and the unique experience, skills and vision of the candidates are debated. In modern professional sports, the speculative discussions toward new team management also tends to focus on how team ownership might structure management roles to strengthen and combine skills into a more expansive management team. The approach of the Toronto Maple Leafs over the past years is a good example of this. Ultimately, fans rightly understand that changes to team management – both in personnel and management structure – is a significant signal indicating where the team is going.

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With all this in mind, I was scrolling through the news and came across the announcement of Team Canada’s 2022 olympic hockey management team. While composed primarily of very experienced ‘hockey men’, the addition of a relative management neophyte, Roberto Luongo, was a pleasant surprise. For those of us who have followed him since his early ‘Strombone’ days on Twitter, Luongo clearly possess a unique way of looking at the world while also appearing to be smart and insightful. To wit, see Luongo’s reaction on being named to the management team:

“Quite honestly, I was shocked, I was floored,” Luongo said last week. “I wasn’t expecting it. I thought I was just getting a call to scout some pee wee tournament. But then I realized it was Team Canada for the Olympics in 2022.”

Luongo’s inclusion on the management team was lauded with most coverage touching upon Luongo providing a needed ‘fresh perspective’ for the otherwise ‘traditional’ Team Canada management team. Luongo’s inclusion was seen as providing a competitive advantage of sorts. Frank Seravilli’s summary for TSN is a good example of the media reaction:

“…Luongo’s fresh perspective may be exactly the kind of advantage on the margin Team Canada needs in their quest next year for a third straight gold medal in Olympic best-on-best competition.”

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 17: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates a shutout victory over the Buffalo Sabres with teammate Eddie Lack #31 at First Niagara Center on October 17, 2013 in Buffalo, New York. Vancouver defeated Buffalo 3-0.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 181108248
Roberto Luongo (left) is congratulated by his backup Eddie Lack after posting a shutout in Buffalo over the Sabres earlier in the 2013-14 NHL season. Photo by Jen Fuller /Getty Images files

After reading this news, my day progressed but my thoughts continued to linger on both the potential for new Canucks management and how, as exemplified by Luongo’s hire, new approaches to hiring in this space can indeed provide advantages to teams. I very much want to see the Canucks win a championship – I want the team to be successful – and in thinking about this a key question arose in my thoughts: how can the Canucks find a clear, obvious advantage in hiring a new management team?

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I am happy to report that there is an unequivocally correct answer to this question: hire a woman. As it currently stands and has always stood, NHL owners have deliberately excluded 50 per cent of the population from consideration for senior management positions in their hockey operations. This is a quantitative fact. Imagine: NHL owners have simply refused to consider candidates that do not possess a Y-chromosome. And it’s not just team leadership positions. Leadership roles within the NHL league administration are filled in this same way – as one example, the NHL department of safety appears to be a training ground for future NHL team management as it cycles through ex-player after ex-player to lead an area of work that one would think begs for an injection of new thinking and deep management experience. But no, literally zero women have been hired into one of these roles.

There are ‘counter-arguments’ to justify the exclusion of women from these opportunities, but these arguments are bunk. In today’s modern NHL, the skills and experiences required of an NHL general manager or President of Hockey Operations lend themselves to a variety of resumé-types. One does not need to be a ‘hockey man’ and there are many examples (including here in Vancouver) demonstrating that this tired ‘hockey man’ hiring path carries a very high degree of risk itself. Why do NHL owners always refuse to take the same risk? Why would a team that has waited over 50 years to win an NHL championship be so content to take the same approach to management hiring that has always led them to failure?

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There is a plethora of talented female candidates that are waiting for the same sort of shocking call that Luongo received. Without any blame placed on Luongo himself, I’d argue that there are a lot of more qualified female candidates that have toiled for years waiting for a chance like Luongo just received and yet, these calls never arrive. As a Canucks fan this should make you angry, not because changing this is the ‘right thing to do,’ but because your team is deliberately weakening itself. It has failed for more than 50 years and it refuses to take a different approach, one so simple it merely requires selecting a candidate from the other 50 per cent of the human population.

prv0124N hockey 01 -- VANCOUVER, BC -- JANUARY 24, 2006 -- FOR UNWIND STORY BY MIKE ROBERTS -- Ray Ferraro and wife Cammi Granato will both be in Turin, Italy for the Winter Olympics working as hockey commentators. The pair are pictured in their Vancouver, BC home playing table hockey. PROVINCE STAFF PHOTO BY JASON PAYNE [PNG Merlin Archive]
Ray Ferraro and wife Cammi Granato enjoy some table hockey in their Vancouver home. Granato’s hockey school for girls will start Monday at North Shore Winter Club. Photo by Jason Payne /Postmedia News Files

Vancouver sports fans — primarily Vancouver soccer fans — have started to demonstrate what it means to be an ally to women, to inclusion and, ultimately, to demanding the teams it cheers for do the ‘right things’ that also make their team better on the playing surface. Let us continue this. My call to all Vancouver Canucks fans is to demand that the Aquilinis make the next leader of Canucks hockey operations a woman. I don’t want a ‘hockey man’. I don’t want a beloved ex-player. I am tired of the Canucks taking THAT risk. I want the team to exploit the huge competitive advantage that none of its competitors for a Stanley Cup are willing to use. The Miami Marlins hired the first female GM in professional sports, we must be the first in the NHL.

Hire a woman, Franco. No excuses.  Hire her.

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To all Canucks fans, make your voices heard.

#hirehercanucks


From John Marriott

I’m going to be blunt: I am ready for this team to be led by someone that is going to bring us a Stanley Cup and a perennial contender. I am done with squeaking into the playoffs, and I’m done with pretending we have had any real success in the seven years Jim Benning has been on the job.

My dream scenario sees either Gillis or Gilman, or a like mind, back in the driver’s seat and they start gearing us up for six to eight years of serious contention starting in two to three years. Maybe we make the playoffs before then, maybe not, but THAT IS NOT THE GOAL.

The goal is a Stanley Cup.

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 12: Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks (R) celebrates his power-play goal against the St. Louis Blues at 8:37 of the second period and is grabbed by Brock Boeser #6 (L) in Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 12, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775544614 [PNG Merlin Archive]
Brock Boeser embraces Elias Pettersson after his linemate scored a playoff goal Aug. 12. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /PNG

This is the first time in the Canucks’ history that we have most of our core assembled (more or less) as they enter their primes: the Sedins and Kesler were already into their mid-late 20s by the time that team arrived, and while Linden and Bure got us close, they weren’t really a real Cup contender with a solid core.

We cannot waste this opportunity. We need to be dealing the Pearson’s, Sutter’s, Hamonic’s, Miller’s (yes, Miller, too), etc and creating a situation where our oldest core player is Bo in a few years time and the roster is filled out with young, exciting players and older, inexpensive veterans.

Take advantage of our expansion draft situation, create room in our cap to be flexible and leap on opportunities, get rid of dead weight even if it means adding in assets. Let’s get this train off the same old track and get a Stanley Cup firmly in our sights.

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From Daryl F.

I don’t want someone to come in with a three-year or five-year plan.

I want someone to come in that has a vision for the Canucks club forever. An identity that ensures every single year we are taking the correct approach and have a singular plan.

Sometimes this means we will have to sell off assets or well-liked players to acquire futures.

Sometimes this means we will have to trade a fan favourite who is in the prime of his career.

Sometimes this means we’ll sign a contract that has a couple bad years on the end of it because we’re really going for it and he’s the missing piece. I do not want to ever, EVER hear that we can’t handle a rebuild again.

We have gone through something that was far worse than a rebuild. It was accidental rebuild that felt like being on a boat without rudder looking for dry land.

We can handle a rebuild, we can handle tough decisions.

What we can’t handle is incompetence.


From Andrew

I don’t have all the answers (no one does really) and yet it is still clear where Jim Benning has missed the mark as a leader of an organization: he has refused to surround himself with perspective and diversity of skill. Not even talking about on-ice product.

Look at the management team he has assembled (John Weisbrod) vs. the team he could have had. He is very proficient in uncovering young talent through the draft, but that is ONE aspect of the job, and ultimately one he shouldn’t be leading.

VANCOUVER, BC - February 24, 2020  - Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning post trade deadline at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, February 24, 2020.  (Arlen Redekop / PNG staff photo) (story by reporter) [PNG Merlin Archive]
Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning post trade deadline at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, February 24, 2020. Photo by Mike Bell /PNG

I think of an alternate universe where Trevor Linden is still President of Hockey Ops with Benning running the operations of the Canucks. He had an AGM who is GREAT at cap management and contracts (Laurence Gilman), an AGM who is GREAT at Scouting (Judd Brackett), an AGM who is GREAT at Player Development (Ryan Johnson), and all he needs to do is listen to everyone’s perspective and facilitate execution.

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Instead, he needs to own it all because he needs to be the guy, and he’s drowning. Ran out of time? No kidding… how can you expect manage the team when you need to be involved in every single step along the way.

Surround yourself with good, talented people and you will have much more success.

So I guess long story short is, the next person that assumes this role needs to be an actual General Manager who can lean on other great minds to help run the organization — a leader who leads.


From “a Canucks fan, soon to be a Kraken fan”

Mr. Aquilini, you have claimed in the past that you are an owner that has grown up a fan of this team. To me that says that your fandom runs deep. What I don’t understand then is why you want to make these thoughtless “turn it around quick” types of decisions.

“Turn it around quick” being a famous line from the hiring of your current GM of YOUR team.

This has not been turned around quickly.

In fact, this has been dragged through the mud with very small spurts of hope sprinkled in. The frustrating part, on top of that, is that this same GM was extended and allowed to make more mistakes that were and are crippling this organization for the present and the future.

Players that are essential to this organization are seeing some of their peak years waste away due to terribly long and bloated contracts being handed to aging players with “cup experience” and “character”.

Although I don’t question the player’s character, where has that got us to so far? No where. You can’t just sign players ’cause they are nice guys.

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That is what Jim is. A nice guy.

But he consistently is losing in all his trades. There is a general feeling that other teams lick their lips when talking to the Canucks for trades.

This is not to say that “nice guys finish last”, but that, that is all Jim is. He doesn’t seem to have that quality to come out ahead in anything.

Unless that is to convince you, the owner, that he is a competent GM that can operate efficiently with a barebones staff. For the record, he can’t. His excuse for missing out on players that would have kept this team closer to what they were last season was, “ran out of time”.

How do you run out of time when you WANT to do something? Was it maybe because Jim handcuffed himself by trying to do everything himself? I wonder if two, three, four phones are better than 1 phone that has four agents on hold while trying to trade for a declining $8-million player?

Seems like it since he “ran out of time”.

Anyway I feel like there is more to say, but you know, time. “Time is money”.

Make the right decision Francesco.

Make the right decision now and going forward. Don’t go for the one-dimensional nice guy anymore.


From Paul

Mr. Aquilini:

I have been a Canucks fan for 30+ years – been to games at the Pacific Coliseum when we had our first real contender in 1991/92. I have been through the ’94 run, the Messier years, Westcoast Xpress, Sedinery, 2011 Cup run, The “Rebuild” and up to our recent edition of the team that quite possibly has the core to be a dynasty for many years to come. We have a franchise centre, a franchise defenceman (finally) and the makings of a superb goaltending tandem in Thatcher and Mikey D.

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This core was drafted by our current regime, which at the draft table has enjoyed success with home runs on Elias and Quinn. The draft has turned our team into one of the most promising teams in the NHL, and if we make the right moves to support them, we can finally WIN a Stanley Cup, something that this city deserves like no other in Canada. By bringing a Stanley Cup to Vancouver , you will cement your legacy in B.C. as well.

However, and with all due respect, we have wasted our first window with this core, and it is due to an inability to insulate our stars with a supporting cast that can make a difference in games. I am all for character and stability in the room, but, in my opinion, we should be spending money and term on talent that produces consistently in the NHL. Support players should never be paid (with term) what we are spending, no matter how foundational a bottom-six player seems.

To take the next step, we need to re-organize the front office and, quite frankly, add more hockey expertise into the room. This starts from the top with a President, GM, and at least two A/GM’s who hold expertise in cap management and pro scouting. We have built this team through our amateur scouting, but have failed due to pro scouting. I am not saying an overhaul, but we need voices of winners. We brought in the current regime to fix amateur scouting, and have paid the price in every other facet – contract negotiations, trades (minus JT Miller – in 7 years!), and free agency.

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Mr. Aquilini, I do not want to talk negatively about anyone, but this team means a lot to me, and our city, and we deserve a Stanley Cup.

We deserve to be the team that brings the CUP back to Canada. And in all honesty, we need to make changes in the front office to take the next step, and not close window #2 as soon as it opens. We failed window #1 and we must succeed after signing Elias and Quinn long term.

We need to build the culture, and make similar adjustments that we made when we had #22, #33, #1, #17, #3 as our core before taking the next step into perennial contender year in and year out.


From Kyle

I want the Canucks to be an organization guided by best practices and a commitment to excellence. Not just be merely “okay.”

An organization that values out of the box progressive thinking and collaborative decision making. One that values long term vision of winning the Stanley cup and maintaining best in class excellence.

I feel in recent years, the goals that informed the Canucks organizational philosophy were short sighted. Rather than setting their sights on a championship, they made numerous short sighted decisions that damaged them in the long term. Their stated vision was too low — they merely wanted to make the playoffs and were unwilling to take the painful but necessary steps to build a real contender.

There’s a good young core there now. It’s not too late to build around them. But it’s not a quick, one season fix, either.


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