Where does Vancouver Canucks’ Jim Benning rank among other Canadian NHL teams' general managers?

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      When Jim Benning was brought into the Vancouver Canucks management group in May of 2014, he was billed to fans as a savvy scouter and drafter who would help replenish the team’s prospect group.

      That part of the deal has been upheld, as the Canucks farm system group is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the league.

      Of course a large part of that is the fact that Vancouver has been in the league’s basement for a majority of Benning’s tenure, allowing the club to stockpile high draft picks.

      A major criticism of the former Boston Bruins executive has been his apparent inability to bring his amateur scouting talents to the pro level. To that end, many of the signings and trades Benning has authorized haven’t turned out as well as he was probably hoping.

      But how does he compare with his peers, the other Canadian NHL team general managers?

      Of course each GM has served a different tenure with their respective clubs, so some have a larger pool of moves upon which to judge. As such, this list should be taken with a grain of salt, and the knowledge that a couple future transactions good or bad could move the needle in a major way.

      Without further ado, the seven Canadian NHL teams’ general managers, ranked.

      Montreal Canadiens on Twitter

      7. Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens

      Hired: May 2012

      Best move: Trading two draft picks for Jeff Petry

      Worst move: Trading P.K. Subban for Shea Weber

      Lately, it seems like it’s been one disastrous move after another for Bergevin. At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if he was run out of town halfway through the coming season. After a long stretch of success for the Habs, it seems like Bergevin’s moves have doomed the franchise.

      Whether it was the incredibly misguided trade of Subban for the older, worse, more expensive Weber, the Carey Price contract, the Max Pacioretty situation or dealing Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi, it seems that everything Bergevin has touched lately has turned to disaster.

      If it seems like Bergevin has burned the team to the ground looking for a first-line centre, it’s because he has. That’s included dealing star rookie Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin, who has seemed more comfortable on the wing, as well as drafting Jesperi Kotkaniemi about five spots too high at the 2018 draft.

      If the Canadiens start the season in a rut, we’d be surprised to see Bergevin remain with the team.

      Edmonton Oilers on Twitter

      6. Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton Oilers

      Hired: April 2015

      Best move: Trading three draft picks for Cam Talbot

      Worst move: Trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson

      Honestly, it seems like Chiarelli has been at the helm of the Oilers for much longer than just three years and change. The architect of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins was hired right after Edmonton won the draft lottery and the right to select Connor McDavid.

      The idea then was that Chiarelli would lift the team from the dregs of the league to the cream of the crop in no time. At first, it looked like that might actually happen. The Oilers had a great 2016-17 season, eventually losing in the second round of the playoffs to the Anaheim Ducks.

      But that success—and the sheer greatness of McDavid—masked some absolutely terrible moves from Chiarelli. Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy this year and that trade will go down as one of the worst in the history of the NHL. But there have been others as well.

      Signing Milan Lucic for six seasons at $6 million a year screamed of outdated thinking: an executive wanting a player that had success for him in the past while ignoring all the warning signs.

      There was also the Kris Russell contract (four years at $4 million per, with a no-move clause), the Griffin Reinhart trade (for two draft picks, including the first-rounder used to select 2018 rookie of the year Mathew Barzal) and the Jordan Eberle deal, in which the Oilers got back the less-effective Ryan Strome.

      If Connor McDavid lifts the Oilers back to the playoffs this year, it’ll be in spite of what Chiarelli has done to the team.

      5. Pierre Dorion, Ottawa Senators

      Hired: April 2016

      Best move: Getting a prospect, two draft picks and Ian Cole for Derick Brassard. We guess.

      Worst move: The Matt Duchene deal

      If you thought the previous two teams were in bad shape, hoo boy.

      The Ottawa Senators are in trouble, that much is obvious. How much is owner Eugene Melnyk’s fault is up for interpretation. But let’s run down the team’s current situation.

      Erik Karlsson, the team’s star defenceman is an unrestricted free agent next summer and it’s a virtual certainty he won’t be back in Ottawa.

      Mike Hoffman, one of the team’s best forwards, was shipped to San Jose for an underwhelming return after his fiancée reportedly slandered Karlsson’s wife online repeatedly. Hoffman was then shipped by San Jose for a better deal to Florida. It is suspected that Dorion tried to deal Hoffman before the information about his fiancée leaked to the public. As such, teams didn’t want to deal with Dorion, leaving him with few options.

      The team doesn’t have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft because they dealt it, along with Shane Bowers, their 2017 first-rounder, to Colorado in the Matt Duchene trade. The Senators are expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this year, meaning the pick will likely be in the top 10 and could potentially be in the top five.

      Mark Stone, another of the team’s best forwards, went to arbitration for a one-year deal in order to become an unrestricted free agent next year, when he will almost surely leave the Senators.

      And we haven’t even discussed the Jonathan Dahlen trade for Alex Burrows or the original Brassard trade, which saw Mika Zibanejad (and his 47 points in 72 games) go the other way.

      Call Vancouver’s sports media what you want, but most Canucks reporters can’t be accused of being blind homers. This is fun to laugh at.

      4. Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks

      Hired: May 2014

      Best move: Drafting Brock Boeser 23rd overall in 2015

      Worst move: Signing Loui Eriksson (six years, $36 million)

      We’ll be honest. In most random groupings of seven NHL general managers, Benning would not be in the top four.

      But the fact is that the Canucks have stockpiled a good group of prospects. And though much of that does lie with the scouting team, Benning must get some of the credit. Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko looked primed to make a major impact on the Canucks for years to come.

      And then there are the supporting cast members, like Adam Gaudette, Kole Lind, Jonathan Dahlen and Michael DiPietro. The Canucks will likely finish near the bottom of the league this season and add another promising prospect to their group.

      Of course, most if not all of the Canucks free agent acquisitions have been ill advised. And the team’s general reliance on older, mostly ineffective players to lead the way and establish a “winning culture” in the dressing room seems woefully misguided.

      The Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter contracts, while bad, likely won’t hurt the Canucks when they’re ready to compete, sure. That’s all well and good, but how can one trust the man who took them all on?

      Calgary Flames on Twitter

      3. Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames

      Hired: April 2014

      Best move(s): Signing Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to team-friendly contracts under $7 million per year

      Worst move: Signing Troy Brouwer to a four-year, $18 million contract

      When you’re the GM of a Canadian NHL franchise being pretty average means you break into the top three.

      But don’t mistake “average” for “complacent”. Treliving has been one of the league’s more courageous GMs, something that has both helped and hurt the team at times.

      For instance, getting excellent defenceman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins in exchange for three draft picks (including a first-rounder) and then shipping him out almost exactly three years later for younger, promising NHLers in Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm are the type of moves that would cause many GMs to lose sleep at night.

      The jury is still out on the second deal, but Treliving has rightly recognized that his team’s window to compete, with Gaudreau and Monahan on favorable deals, isn’t getting any wider. Similarly, the trade for Travis Hamonic and the James Neal contract were also risky. Maybe they’ll work out. The Hamonic trade gave the New York Islanders well-regarded prospect Noah Dobson, so maybe they won’t.

      Brian Burke didn’t call Treliving a “riverboat gambler” for nothing.

      2. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets

      Hired: June 2011

      Best move: Drafting Connor Hellebuyck 130th overall in 2012

      Worst move: Signing Ondrej Pavelec (five years, $19.5 million)

      It’s amazing how much one season can change the perception of an organization. For a while, Cheveldayoff was a lightning rod for criticism because he shied away from making trades or any real signings of significance.

      In hindsight, he’s been patiently building a roster through the draft that is now as good as any in the league.

      It remains to be seen whether he can get the Jets over the next hump, as it’s always been a challenge to bring high calibre free agents to Winnipeg. But that’s changing now with the quality of talent Cheveldayoff has drafted and developed.

      The team reached the Western Conference Final last year, in large part because of its young talent.

      Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Connor Hellebuyck, Josh Morrissey, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine were all drafted under Cheveldayoff’s watch. That’s quite the collection of players.

      No wonder former Canucks president Trevor Linden sought advice from Cheveldayoff and the Jets on how to conduct a proper rebuild.

      1. Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs

      Hired: May 2018

      Best move: Signing John Tavares (seven years, $77 million)

      Worst move: N/A

      This is going to be contentious, because technically Dubas has only been on the job for less than three months.

      But Dubas has been in the Toronto organization since 2014, when he was brought on as an assistant GM at the age of 28. He then rose through the organization, making it easy for the Maple Leafs to bid adieu to Stanley Cup winner Lou Lamouriello and well respected Mark Hunter.

      And though he was clearly a large part of Toronto becoming an instant Cup contender after signing Tavares, this ranking also has to do with how Dubas conducted business before May.

      As assistant GM, Dubas was in charge of the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League, and oversaw a Calder Cup championship this past June. He’s also reportedly been responsible for some of the Leafs’ more analytically based moves, such as drafting Travis Dermott.

      It’s no coincidence that after Lamoriello took the helm of the New York Islanders, he grabbed two former Leafs especially loathed by the analytics community: forwards Matt Martin and Leo Komarov.

      The Maple Leafs are—unfortunately for the rest of Canada—in good hands.  

      *An earlier version of this story called Treliving risk-averse instead of courageous.*

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