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Jim Benning's reported contract extension means the Canucks' time is now

August 17, 2019, 2:17 PM ET [175 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Friday afternoon news drop is a tried-and-true staple of Hollywood celebrity reporting. The strategy is employed to get a news story out into the public sphere at a time when the attention of the media and the public is elsewhere, minimizing coverage in the near term. Long-weekend Fridays are the best of all.

The classic example was the Jennifer Aniston/Brad Pitt breakup announcement, release by celebrity-friendly People Magazine on Friday, December 7, 2005. The article's precise 7:00 p.m. timestamp also offers a clue that the announcement had been prepared earlier and scheduled to run at that specific time.

Just last week, People was also the outlet of choice for the announcement that Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth had called it quits on their brief marriage. That story came out on Saturday night, at 8:20 p.m. — even more of a news wasteland.

Lately, some NHL newsmakers have started picking up on this tactic.

For example, the Milan Lucic/James Neal trade went down on the afternoon of Friday, July 19.

This past Friday, somebody in the Canucks organization used this playbook when they leaked the news that Jim Benning has signed a contract extension.

Coming from Elliotte Friedman, who works for NHL TV rightsholder Sportsnet, the report is almost certainly accurate. My guess is that it originated from ownership or the organization, or from Benning himself.

The deal was also confirmed by Rick Dhaliwal, our local rightsholder insider at Sportsnet 650.

There's no official announcement yet from the Canucks' website or Twitter. I imagine that will come sometime next week.

With the focus on the celebration surrounding the Canucks' 50th anniversary season and the team's clear goal of ending their four-year streak without a playoff appearance, I think the timing for this extension makes good sense.

Benning won the showdown against Trevor Linden last summer with his pitch to ownership that the Canucks can be competitive sooner rather than later, and every move he's made since then has been an attempt to push the team further in that direction.

Ownership has given every indication that it's on board. By extending Benning now, he'll have the opportunity to try to put his plan into action without the distraction of contract negotiations hanging over his head.

Does the new deal give him real job security? That part, I'm not so sure about. There has been plenty of chatter that Benning will be fired if the Canucks don't make the playoffs next spring—and five years out of the postseason would be a franchise high. That would be a definite black mark, even in a 31-team league where the simple odds of grabbing one of 16 playoff spots are lower than ever.

Even with the new deal, Benning could still be on the hot seat. With one year remaining on his initial five-year contract with the Canucks, Mike Gillis signed his extension in May of 2012 — just two weeks after the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks were unexpectedly swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings.

As it turns out, that playoff loss marked the beginning of the swoon that the franchise is still trying to put in the past. Though Gillis had contract security, he was kept on a very short leash and was ultimately dismissed in April of 2014, after serving just one year of his new deal.

Gillis had his chance to prove that the 2012 loss wasn't a fluke, but he couldn't right the ship. Now, Benning gets his chance to prove that the building blocks he has put in place can yield a competitive hockey team.

The Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues are now living proof that if a team can make the playoffs, anything can happen from there. But the onus is now on Benning to deliver results. No more malingering at the bottom of the standings, where draft day is the most exciting moment of the year...

With Benning's contract status set, I hope we'll hear more news about other changes in the front office and scouting department over the next couple of weeks. On the player front, of course, the unfinished business is getting new contracts for Brock Boeser and forgotten man Nikolay Goldobin and possibly filling the vacant captaincy.
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