In retrospect, my reaction to the Zack Kassian trade may have been over-the-top. My take was tinged by how much I like Kassian, who is an odd, if troubled, character. I felt like he got a raw deal last season, getting scratched when it was undeserved, which ultimately submarined any trade value he might have had. I didn't take into account Kassian's back injury or whatever off-ice issues he might have, because when he was healthy and on the ice he was an effective player, just not always effective in the way the Canucks wanted him to be.
Having been up since 6:30 am with two sick kids might have also played a role.
I still don't like the trade, but I can accept at least some of the reasoning behind it. It feels like the wrong move to make even if Kassian had to go, but maybe Benning is right and Kassian will never reach his potential. The trade could very well be just a minor move with little impact.
Today, however, the Canucks made a move that could be far more damaging to the team's future, sweeping the front office clean of the remains of the Mike Gillis era, firing Assistant GMs Laurence Gilman and Lorne Henning, and Director of Player Personnel Eric Crawford.
All three are great people who are intelligent and good at what they do, but it's entirely likely that they have a different vision for what makes a good hockey team than Jim Benning does. It's entirely likely that they disagreed with a number of Benning's moves and said so. And it's understandable that Benning would want people in those positions who agreed with his vision for the future of the Canucks.
I only know Henning and Crawford by reputation, but I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Gilman a couple of times. He was always incredibly accommodating and willing to talk, including when I was even more of a nobody than I am now.
One occasion in particular sticks out in my memory: it was when the Chicago Wolves were the Canucks' farm team and they were in Abbotsford to face the Heat. Gilman and some of the Canucks scouts came out to the game and I ran into Gilman in the hallway near the press box. He was clearly on his way somewhere, but when I said hello he immediately stopped and spoke to me for several minutes about prospects and the Canucks. He only stopped when we both realized that the intermission was over and the puck had dropped again.
Gilman was Gillis's salary cap wizard, helping the Canucks through some tricky times with the cap, constantly shifting players to the IR and AHL to keep the team cap-compliant and somehow always find space to add players at the trade deadline. He will be missed in the Canucks front office and I'm sure he'll have another job in hockey as soon as he wants one.
Henning and Crawford's contributions are harder to quantify -- it's always difficult to parse out each individuals contributions in hockey management -- but Crawford was brought in to help clean up some of the mess left by Ron Delorme. He was primarily responsible for Gillis's final draft as a GM in 2013, which was easily his best and one of the best in recent history. Somehow, Delorme remains employed by the Canucks and Crawford does not.Laurence Gilman squeezed hilarious value out of the 2010-11 Canucks roster. They had a $10 million goalie with a $59.4M cap...— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) July 2, 2015
Henning, meanwhile, had the Utica Comets in his portfolio of responsibilities and they just made a run to the Calder Cup Finals.
This isn't a surprising move, by any means. Really, it was inevitable that Benning clean up the front office and bring in more of his own people and it's surprising that it took a full season for it to happen. It's still upsetting to see good people lose their jobs, particularly in the wake of the moves made in the last week by the current management team.