Every save Eddie Lack made at Rogers Arena had the crowd chanting his name. His popularity with Canucks fans is no secret.
Vancouver woke up to the news Saturday morning – Lack had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. The return – a third and a seventh round draft pick.
Fans did their best to prepare themselves to accept an early second rounder, but after seeing what Jim Benning accepted for Lack, you realize it was more a good riddance than a trade.
Benning wanted Lack gone. His “trade for the best offer” policy indicates that.
The Canucks’ GM defended the move on TSN 1040 Tuesday morning, saying, “We have Ryan Miller, who is the number one goalie for us, who is an experienced NHL starter.”
Never was there a thought that Lack could be number one, with Markstrom in tow. This despite the fact Lack held the starter’s position for the last month and a half of the season, posting a .927 save percentage and outplaying Miller on the year.
All those in-roads Lack made this past season – they were lost on Benning. He had his plan. Lack was but a wrench in the gears.
From the moment it was signed, fans questioned the $18-million, 3-year contract. As the season wore on, the case for Lack and against Miller grew. And much like each giveaway by Luca Sbisa, each of Lack’s saves reminded fans of the GM’s errors.
Now, just over a year after beginning their tenure, the perception of Trevor Linden and Benning has shifted. Last year, Linden was the saviour. He was the warm, people person with a million-dollar smile, who would use his charm to hire the best people, who would use his charisma to make amazing trades.
Now they’re on watch.
Certainly, managers in professional sports have to make unpopular moves. They have to have guts and conviction. The key, though, is when a very unpopular move is made, it has to make the team better.
When new GM Mike Gillis let team captain Markus Naslund walk in the summer of 2008, many fans were upset. But the move made sense. Naslund was getting older, and the team needed to be younger and faster.
The problem with trading Lack is it doesn’t make as much sense. He is younger than Miller, he shows more upside and he would be cheaper. Those reasons, combined with Benning’s overvaluing of Sbisa and possibly Linden Vey, have led to second guessing from the public.
When fans stop trusting that the GM is fit to guide their team to greatness, a problem arises, a rift begins to take shape. Just ask Mike Gillis.
There are still many fans and media members saying you can’t judge Benning on his first year – that it will take at least 3 years to see if his draft picks mature, and if his scouting changes make a difference.
And it’s true. Many of the Benning’s moves won’t come to fruition for years yet.
Question is, will the Canucks’ GM still be around in 3+ years to enjoy any successes?
Tough one, but you can bet Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is squirming right now, as he sees the fanbase eroding further than before.
One more question – if the Canucks miss the playoffs this year, does Benning survive?
Last two times the Canucks didn’t make it, the GM took the fall with Aquilini weilding the axe.