Jim Benning is gone.
I never thought the day would come, to be honest. The man seemed impenetrable to scrutiny and somehow remained as safe as ever in the Canucks’ GM seat despite nearly a decade of constant failure.
Alas, that was not the case. Benning is out and the Canucks need a new GM.
Who could it be? Good question! Let’s take a look at five candidates who could potentially fit the bill.
5. Laurence Gilman
The Toronto Marlies are the class of the American Hockey League. Much of it is due to the tireless work of Laurence Gilman, who took over as affiliate GM and president in 2018 when Kyle Dubas was elevated to the Maple Leafs.
Since then, Gilman has guided the Marlies through a pandemic that threatened the viability of an AHL season on several occasions, played a big part in installing Newfoundland Growlers as a successful ECHL franchise, while guiding them to a Kelly Cup championship in their inaugural season, and has since helped maintain the stable pipeline of prospects and support players who have continued to flow up the street to the Scotiabank Arena.
Not to mention, he knows the market well.
Gilman worked with Mike Gillis as general manager during Canucks’ most successful seasons in franchise history, helping build the team into a multi-year competitor with a forward-looking approach that was clearly ahead of its time.
The Canucks clearly want someone with the groundbreaking mindset. And if they seek to copy the success of the Gillis era without bringing Gillis back themselves, it may be second best to hire his right hand man.
4. Alexandra Mandrycky
They say the key to success as a leader is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Well, Alexandra Mandrycky is smarter than you. Pardon. It’s just her.
Mandrycky has an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, co-founded the highly influential analytics site war-on-ice.com before being hired by Minnesota Wild as a data analyst, and now serves as director of hockey administration for Seattle Kraken.
If you’re looking for a bright, young voice, Mandrycky is it.
She has been in warm enough rooms to have gained the negotiation experience required of a major league GM, navigating the Paul Fenton disaster in Minnesota, demonstrating her ability to stand in line with management, and above all, she is a brilliant hockey mind.
The Canucks have quietly begun to build a promising analytics department behind the scenes in recent years with the hiring of forward-thinking writers like Ryan Biech and Miles Hoaken, among others. Mandrycky would be the perfect person to lead this staff and bring the Canucks’ hockey activities into the present – and beyond.
3. Marc Bergevin
Let me just start this by saying that Bergevin would not be my choice to lead the Canucks. He honestly would not crack my top ten. But pretty much everyone in the hockey world has attached the former Canadiens GM to this job over the last 48 hours, so I can NOT include him here.
So dear readers, you will now have the pleasure of seeing me try to write something positive about Bergevin’s credentials as a GM. Your prayers are welcome in this trying time.
Look, the Canadiens made it to the Stanley Cup final last year. It can not just be ignored, no matter how much luck played into it. Bergevin was the architect behind this list, and he signed key pieces like Brendan Gallagher and Philip Danault and swapped for others with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry.
Bergevin does well in free agency in a way that Jim Benning certainly did not either.
Signing Tyler Toffoli for $ 4.85 million for the next three seasons is smart business. The same is true of getting Petry, a leading puck-moving right-back defender, to less than $ 7 million – though the term may become an issue later on given his age. Jake Allen kept the Canadiens afloat in the stretches where Carey Price was unavailable, where Bergevin locked him in for under $ 3 million until 2023.
These are all decent moves. And if the Canucks really think about bringing him in, he has at least some profit. There are just far brighter minds out there.
2. Eric Tulsky
This will almost certainly not happen, as Tulsky is about as entrenched in the Hurricanes organization as a leader can be, but that does not mean we can not do some wishful thinking.
Tulsky is without a doubt the best non-GM director in the entire NHL. Every single owner should throw bags of money at him when he steps out in public in hopes of courting him to run their hockey team – including the Canucks.
In short, Tulsky is anti-Benning.
He does not lose trades, can identify advanced offer-free agents in the open market and is an advocate for the importance of developing and developing – areas where Benning fought fiercely while driving the Canucks.
What more can you ask for? Tulsky is a big reason why the Hurricanes are a deep, talented, fast and, most importantly, cap-compatible team with a stacked prospectus despite being currently in the middle of a battle window that seems to remain open in the coming years. .
Tulsky has been a supportive, albeit extremely influential, front office piece for years. Perhaps the urge to finally sit at the head of the table for a Canadian team might pry him out of his ideal surroundings.
2. Chris MacFarland
The Colorado Avalanche is a great hockey team. Chris MacFarland helped make them that way.
MacFarland joined Avalanche in 2015 after 16 seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, arriving in Colorado shortly before the team began its meticulous rise to the NHL elite.
Coincidence? I do not think.
The 51-year-old has over 20 years of experience in an NHL front office and is an influential voice within arguably the best management team in the league. If there is a general meeting that is more deserving of a promotion, I have not yet seen them.
MacFarland is ready. And the Canucks could be the perfect opportunity for him to show it.