Benning Brings Experience and Scouting Skills

His name is already engraved on the Stanley Cup.

In the season of 2010-11, when the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins met in the final round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jim Benning was in his fourth season as the Bruins’ assistant general manager. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup that year with a 4-0 win over the Canucks in game seven. Now, Benning looks to re-build the Canucks so that they too can get their names engraved on the Stanley Cup, as he takes his place as the 11th general manager in the history of the Vancouver Canucks.

From first impressions after Benning’s first press conference with Canucks, if you had to pick one word to describe Benning, it would likely be something along the lines of ‘well-rounded’ or ‘experienced.’ The Canucks’ new general manager brings a wealth of experience in various roles in the NHL as well as player evaluation and scouting skills, not to mention his role in the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup win.

The sixth overall pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1981, Benning has played in nine NHL seasons and has served as an amateur scout, the Buffalo Sabres’ director of amateur scouting, and the Boston Bruins’ director of player personnel and assistant general manager. When Benning was promoted within the Bruins organization from director of player personnel to assistant general manager in 2007, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took note of Benning’s experience.

“Jim has experience in a number of different positions, and he has achieved wherever he has been,” Chiarelli told bruins.com in July of 2007. “His expertise in player evaluation, and his knowledge of the league-wide landscape will be extremely valuable to the organization.”

Benning’s experience and his scouting abilities have been praised not just by Chiarelli in 2007, but also by Canucks president Trevor Linden. Linden mentioned in a live Q&A session on Friday that he was looking for somebody with experience and told the Vancouver Sun that it is important to him that the GM has “a proven ability to evaluate players and identify talent.”

Chiarelli touched upon Benning’s scouting skills upon Benning’s contract extension with the Boston Bruins in 2009, saying that “his player evaluation is amongst the tops in the industry.” On Friday in the Q&A session and the press conference, Benning outlined the ways that he will work alongside the Canucks scouts to improve that area of the Canucks organization. Communication seems to be key for Benning, as he stated that he will be giving directions to the Canucks’ scouts, telling them what it is that he is looking for in players. Benning also mentioned that he himself will get actively involved and go and watch the players that they are scouting.

With the Canucks selecting the sixth overall draft pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft and the NHL Scouting Combine starting next week, Benning’s work starts right away. As he looks to draft players, hire a head coach, and evaluate the current roster, he will be making his decisions based on a vision that both him and Linden share.

“There were moments of clarity for me in speaking with Jim that we just really connected on a hockey level. Our beliefs on how success is built in the National Hockey League were very aligned,” Linden told canucks.com.

Their vision involves a return to fast-paced play and what Linden and Benning call a “relentless attitude” to score goals. They want to bring back confidence in the players that struggled this past season and both place importance on the character of core players. They look to build strength and depth through all four lines, with the third and fourth lines playing bigger roles in order to create a complete and well-rounded team.

“Now that I’m in Vancouver, my heart is going to be in Vancouver,” Benning said during Friday’s press conference. “I want to do everything I can to make this team successful.”

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