The Vancouver Canucks have officially introduced Jim Benning as their new general manager.
Benning is the first significant hire made by new Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden, who was handed the franchise’s reigns after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in six years following a disastrous 2013-14 campaign.
“I wanted a builder with similar views that could help us set up the Vancouver Canucks for the next decade and beyond,” Linden said.
Benning spent the last eight seasons with the Boston Bruins, including seven as the club’s assistant general manager.
A former Canucks defenceman during his playing days, the 51-year-old Benning is the 11th general manager in franchise history — a post he has never held with an NHL club.
But Benning said he knows what the Canucks need to do to recover from one of their worst seasons in recent history.
“This organization needs to play an up-tempo, fast skating, skilled game,” he said. “Before last season, this team has an attitude about them that they were going to skate and to wear teams down and to score, and for whatever reason that didn’t happen last year.”
The Edmonton native replaces Mike Gillis, who was fired as Vancouver’s president and general manager a day after the club was eliminated from playoff contention with three games left in the regular season.
Benning and Linden played together in Vancouver early in Linden’s career, and both men said they shared a vision on how to address the team’s future.
“We want to become a four-line team,” Benning said. “You watch the playoffs, the final four teams that are playing, they have four lines that contribute. We want our third and fourth lines to have a role in the team winning.
“We have some work to do there in getting to that point, but we want to be a four-line, six-(defencemen) complete team.”
Benning’s first order of business with the Canucks will be to hire a new head coach after Linden axed John Tortorella earlier this month following one tumultuous campaign.
Benning will also have to prepare for next month’s NHL draft and assess a roster that Tortorella accused of being “stale” at his end-of-season press conference.
Apart from helping to shape a Bruins team that defeated the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup final, Benning’s managerial resume also includes 12 seasons with Buffalo Sabres, with eight of those spent as that club’s director of amateur scouting.
Selected sixth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1981 NHL draft, Benning played nine seasons with Toronto and Vancouver, collecting 52 goals and 191 assists in 610 career games.