It’s a Canucks tale as old as time, true as it can be. In this tale, Judd Brackett is the beauty and Jim Benning the beast.
Under the Benning regime, the Canucks have parted ways with notable figures including Laurence Gilman and Trevor Linden. Patrick Johnston of The Province first reported back in January that the Canucks and their Director of Amateur Scouting, Judd Brackett may be headed in different directions.
Now, from bombs dropped by TSN 1040’s J.D. Burke and Sportsnet 650’s Satiar Shah this past week, it sounds like that is indeed the case.
Drafting is an area the Canucks have always struggled in. They simply have not been able to keep a stable prospect pool. Let’s pour one out for those recent first-round picks who didn’t quite pan out, including Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Nicklas Jensen.
That being said, the Canucks have had arguably their most successful consecutive drafts in recent years, which included taking phenoms Elias Pettersson fifth overall in 2017 and Quinn Hughes seventh overall in 2018, with numerous hits in the later rounds as well. Brackett is a major factor in the recent draft results and it would be a travesty for the Canucks to lose him.
J.D. Burke dropped a fire hit Tuesday on TSN 1040 to discuss the fractured relationship between Benning and Brackett including where this all started. “Last year at the trade deadline, you look at the Jonathan Dahlen situation, that is the canary in the coal mine for this story.”
Burke laid out how the Canucks’ amateur scouting department has earned autonomy due to their success in recent drafts and that is something that is rarely seen in the NHL.
Now that autonomy seems to be taken away from Brackett by Jim Benning and John Weisbrod.
Another major aspect of the mangled relationship was last year’s draft and the 10th overall pick. “There was a real debate in that front office on what to do with that tenth overall pick and it was not the most friendly of debates either, in fact, bordering on acrimonious according to all sources,” said Burke. “Particularly around whether the Canucks should invest that 10th overall pick in Vasili Podkolzin, who the people high within the Canucks’ scouting department rated very highly. Then you’ve got Philip Broberg who Benning wanted but went 8th to Edmonton.” Now, we’re left to ponder, would the Canucks have still taken Podkolzin if Broberg was available?
Now it’s day two of the draft. “A lot of people across the league believe Jim Benning and John Weisbrod tinkered with their draft board between days one and days two. You’re seeing a pattern here of management at first ignoring the scouting staff’s council entirely then — taking it a step further and manipulating their work. This is happening over a 3-4 month stretch and this set the ground floor for what became a very acrimonious season in which the relationship between the two sides has deteriorated very rapidly to the point where I don’t think there’s a chance the two sides can reconcile the differences potentially.”
This makes it difficult for Judd Brackett and his staff to trust the work they do will be respected and taken seriously. It would be impossible to put in an optimal effort doing the gruelling work that the scouting staff does day in and out without the assurance of their work being valued by their boss.
Satiar Shah took to the Sportsnet 650 airwaves Thursday afternoon and dropped another bomb that sent Canucks fans hyperventilating. “Those scouting disagreements and debates are not the reason why the Canuck are where they are, the GM chooses who he wants. When the landscape changes and you’re not being included in the same way, it’s a pretty clear directive you may not be in their plans.”
“Jim Benning mentioned to Iain McIntyre that the offer was rejected by Judd Brackett and the offer that Jim has talked about was a two-year deal. The issue wasn’t term, and the issue wasn’t money. From what I gather, the contract didn’t come with a raise, Brackett was coming off a three-year deal, and the issue was Brackett was willing to take that contract even though, it’s not a ‘we’d love to keep you’ type offer. He was still willing to take it if they could hash out this collaboration issue and they could build trust again. They haven’t really talked about that since late January early February. It’s pretty clear, that this is probably about, ‘this is how I’m going to do things if this is not what you like, too bad.’ This is pretty much management’s show and if they don’t feel like another person fits in, then the GM makes a call on who’s going to be there and who’s not going to be there.”
It may be a grave mistake to lose the man responsible for the Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes picks, not to mention all the diamond-in-the-rough players Brackett’s staff has found beyond the first round. Aidan McDonough, Kole Lind, Petrus Palmu, and Tyler Madden — who the organization shipped out in the Tyler Toffoli deal — to name a few.
The worst thing Benning could do is surround himself with yes men who agree with everything he wants. A scouting department functions optimally when debates take place and different opinions and observations are expressed. A department run by John Weisbrod is frightening considering his track record with the Orlando Magic and Calgary Flames organizations.
Considering the Canucks may not pick until the third round this year, wouldn’t now be as good a time as any to give the man who has shown an ability to find talent in the later rounds the same autonomy he had when he found said talent? Especially when that man is willing to take a short term deal with absolutely no pay raise.