Jim Benning is gone.
I never thought the day would come, to be honest. The man seemed impervious to scrutiny, somehow staying as secure 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 that be? Great 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 that is due to the tireless work of Laurence Gilman, who took over as the affiliate’s 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 numerous occasions, played a large hand in installing the 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 steady pipeline of prospects and supporting players that have continued to flow up the street to Scotiabank Arena.
Not to mention, he knows the market well.
Gilman worked alongside Mike Gillis as AGM during the Canucks’ most successful seasons in franchise history, helping build the team into a perennial contender with a forward-thinking approach that was clearly ahead of its time.
The Canucks clearly want someone with that cutting-edge thinking. And if they seek to replicate the success of the Gillis era without bringing Gillis back himself, hiring his right-hand man might be the next best thing.
4. Alexandra Mandrycky
They say the key to success as a leader is surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Well, Alexandra Mandrycky is smarter than you. I’m sorry. She just is.
Mandrycky holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, co-founded the highly influential analytics website war-on-ice.com before being hired by the Minnesota Wild as a data analyst, and now serves as director of hockey administration for the Seattle Kraken.
If you’re looking for a bright, young voice, Mandrycky is it.
She’s been in enough warm rooms to have gained the negotiation experience required of a big-league GM, navigated the Paul Fenton disaster in Minnesota which demonstrates her ability to toe the line with management, and is, above all else, a brilliant hockey mind.
The Canucks have quietly begun building a promising analytics department behind the scenes in recent years, with the hirings of forward-thinking writers like Ryan Biech and Miles Hoaken, among others. Mandrycky would be the perfect person to lead that staff and drag the Canucks’ hockey operations into the modern-day – and beyond.
3. Marc Bergevin
Let me just preface this by saying that Bergevin would not be my choice to head up the Canucks. He wouldn’t crack my top ten, frankly. But pretty much everyone in the hockey world has linked the former Canadiens GM to this job over the past 48 hours, so I can’t NOT include him here.
So, dear readers, you will now have the pleasure of watching me attempt to write something positive about Bergevin’s credentials as a GM. Your prayers are welcome in this trying time.
Look, the Canadiens made the Stanley Cup Final last year. That can’t just be ignored, regardless of how much luck played into it. Bergevin was the architect of that roster, signing key pieces like Brendan Gallagher and Philip Danault, and trading for others in Shea Weber and Jeff Petry.
Bergevin does well in free agency in a way that Jim Benning certainly did not, too.
Signing Tyler Toffoli for $4.85 million for the next three seasons is some shrewd business. So is getting Petry, a premier puck-moving right-shot defender, at under $7 million – although the term might become an issue down the line given his age. Jake Allen kept the Canadiens afloat for the stretches in which Carey Price was unavailable, with Bergevin locking him in for under $3 million through 2023.
Those are all decent moves. And if the Canucks are indeed thinking of bringing him in, he at least has some merit. There are just far brighter minds out there.
2. Eric Tulsky
This will almost certainly not happen, as Tulsky is about as entrenched within the Hurricanes organization as an executive can be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do some wishful thinking.
Tulsky is arguably the best non-GM executive in the entire NHL. Every single owner should be throwing bags of money at him whenever he steps out in public in the hopes of courting him to run their hockey team – the Canucks included.
Simply put, Tulsky is the anti-Benning.
He doesn’t lose trades, can identify high-end bargain-free agents on the open market, and is a proponent of the importance of drafting and developing – areas in which Benning struggled mightily while running the Canucks.
What more could you ask for? Tulsky is a big reason for why the Hurricanes are a deep, talented, fast, and, most importantly, cap-compliant team with a stacked prospect cupboard despite currently being in the middle of a contention window that looks to stay open for years to come.
Tulsky been a supporting, 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.
1. Chris MacFarland
The Colorado Avalanche are a good hockey team. Chris MacFarland helped make them that way.
MacFarland joined the Avalanche in 2015 after 16 seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, arriving in Colorado shortly before the team started its meticulous ascent to the NHL’s elite.
Coincidence? I think not.
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 group in the league. If there’s an AGM more deserving of a promotion, I have yet to see them.
MacFarland is ready. And the Canucks could be the perfect opportunity for him to show it.