Trevor Linden has the man he wanted all along: Jim Benning.
The new boss of the Vancouver Canucks has decided on a new general manager, according to a report on Twitter from TSN on Tuesday morning. Linden is expected to officially announce the hiring of Benning, currently assistant general manager of the Boston Bruins, later this week. TSN also said disposed Nashville coach Barry Trotz is high on the list of candidates to fill Vancouver's vacancy behind the bench.
Benning had been the No. 1 candidate for the Vancouver job since Linden himself was hired in early April as president of hockey operations, replacing the fired president/GM Mike Gillis. Linden dropped hints over several weeks about his interest in Benning, and Boston's composition and style of play. The two men have various ties, including as teammates in Vancouver as Linden began his career in the late 1980s and Benning ended his.
It is unclear how quickly Benning will be able to join the Canucks full-time, if the Bruins are willing to let a key executive walk ahead of the draft and free agency. At the start of May, when Linden fired coach John Tortorella, he referenced a situation where it could be a complicated transition.
"There may be some partnership I guess, if you will, on moving forward, depending who that person is and what their role is with their current club," Linden said in a scrum with reporters on May 1.
Benning is 51 and started his life in the National Hockey League as a highly touted defenceman, chosen No. 6 overall in the 1981 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He last played in the NHL in 1990, which was his fourth season in Vancouver. He joined the Anaheim Mighty Ducks as a scout in 1993 and the next year moved to Buffalo, where he eventually ran amateur scouting for eight years. In 2006, he joined the Bruins as the director of player personnel and the next year became assistant GM.
Boston appeared in two Stanley Cup finals in Benning's time with the team, winning once, against Vancouver in 2011.
The choice of Benning leaves the future of Laurence Gilman, 49, unclear. Gilman has been assistant general manager in Vancouver since 2008, Gillis's first hire, and Gilman was a candidate for the GM opening. He is known for his expertise in the salary cap but has been a hockey executive for two decades and in Vancouver is also head of amateur scouting.
Last Friday's firing of GM Ray Shero in Pittsburgh added a swirl of questions around the potential Benning hiring, with some people wondering if Vancouver would go after Shero, and whether Benning would be more attracted to the job in Pittsburgh rather than Vancouver, with the Penguins in much better shape in than the Canucks.
Linden, a rookie executive, has said he wants to re-institute an entertaining brand of hockey in Vancouver and values a team with depth, one that has four strong lines. Benning has quite the task ahead of him, to rework an aging roster of players coming off a terrible season under Tortorella. The mention of Trotz as a potential coach does not seem to jibe with Linden's talk of entertaining hockey, given Trotz's long history of employing a defensive shell in Nashville.
The Canucks's greatest need is to replenish its roster with younger players who can make an impact. The team has the No. 6 choice at the draft in late June, Vancouver's highest choice since the team drafted the Sedins at No. 2 and No. 3 in 1999.