It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when the consensus around the NHL was that the Canucks got hosed in the deal that sent Corey Schneider to New Jersey in exchange for the ninth overall pick in the 2013 entry draft.

In the days that have passed since the Devils netminder was placed on waivers, fans have been treated to a plethora of mea culpas, Twitter dunks, and even an Alan Jackson-style meditation on Where You Were When the Hockey World Stopped Turning, but there’s been precious little reflection on just how well the trade ended up turning out for the Vancouver Canucks.

From an optics standpoint, the Canucks’ goaltending controversy was a complete disaster, which was compounded by the front office’s relationship with the press, which could be described as antagonistic at times. Rumours abounded regarding potential sky-high returns for each of the team’s netminders, but the truth is that team have historically struggled to recoup value when dealing a goaltender.

Listing every trade that has involved a goaltender over the past handful of years would be a tedious exercise, but here are some highlights:

Goaltender Return
Craig Anderson Brian Elliot
Steve Mason Michael Leighton, 3rd round pick
Tim Thomas Conditional 2nd round pick
Jaroslav Halak, 3rd Michal Neuvirth, Rostislav Klesla
Roberto Luongo Shawn Matthias, Jacob Markstrom
Ben Scrivens 3rd round pick
Devan Dubnyk Matt Hendricks
Martin Jones Sean Kuraly, 1st round pick
Robin Lehner, David Legwand 1st round pick
Eddie Lack 3rd round pick, 7th round pick
Anton Khudobin James Wisniewski
Ben Bishop, 5th round pick Peter Budaj, Erik Cernak, 7th round pick, conditional draft pick
Frederik Anderson 1st round pick, 2nd round pick

Since 2010, a few other teams have been able to fetch good returns for their goaltenders, especially when they fit the profile of a young potential starter with some time left on their contract like Schneider did; but the the ninth overall pick used to select Bo Horvat at the 2013 NHL Draft remains the highest pick a team has received in return for a goaltender in the post-lockout era.

Interestingly, the Canucks have been one of the best teams of the past decade at extracting value from goalie trades. In addition to landing the pick used to select Horvat in exchange for Schneider, they also picked up a starting goaltender in Jacob Markstrom in exchange for Roberto Luongo, and a pair of draft picks for Eddie Lack. In all three cases, many Vancouverites were eager to criticize the trades, and in all three cases, that proved to be an overreaction, so there’s probably a lesson in there somewhere about patience and not expecting the moon in return for a position that’s historically been undervalued in trade negotiations.

We can also see, with the benefit of hindsight, that perception and reality don’t always line up when it comes to analyzing hockey transactions. At the time, the Schneider trade looked like a desperate, panicky move, that appeared even more senseless when Roberto Luongo was dealt to the Panthers just eight months later. The consensus in this market was almost unanimous: the Canucks had completely botched their goalie situation, and it likely cost Gillis his job.

Looking back, however, it appears there may have been some method to the madness. By the end of 2013, it was clear that the team had run out of gas and was in need of a serious re-tool, if not a full-blown rebuild (something that Mike Gillis allegedly tried to sell to Francesco Aquilini earlier that summer). The deals left the Canucks in a position to take advantage of decent selection of goalies in free agency, a serviceable backup (at least at the time) in Eddie Lack, and gave them their current captain and starting goaltender. While the trades effectively closed the Canucks’ cup window, getting a core piece in return for each player seems like a relatively positive outcome in retrospect given the outrage the deals generated at the time.

The deals also serve as an interesting contrast to the way the Canucks have done business in the post-Gillis era. They were bold, risky, and perfect examples of accepting short-term pain in return for long term gain, all things that, for better or worse, the team has been reluctant to do under Jim Benning. As a result, the deal that landed Bo Horvat remains the best rebuilding trade the Canucks have made in the past six years.

Casting Mike Gillis in a favourable light in comparison to Jim Benning will always be controversial in this market, but in this case, it’s virtually indisputable. The Canucks have added some elite pieces under Benning in Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes, but all of those players were acquired through the draft. The jury is still out on J.T. Miller, but for now, Bo Horvat remains the only piece of the Canucks’ young core that was acquired via trade.

While many fans in this market are quick to label either of Gillis or Benning as firmly better than the other, the truth is that neither is likely to go down as one of the great general managers in NHL history. Ultimately, the two men are or were very different GMs with arguably fatal flaws, and the reason they’ve been the subject of debate for so long is the fact that they are so different from one another. The Canucks current front office stands in stark contrast to the one that preceded it. Gillis and Gillman were seen as cunning, duplicitous eggheads who did great work with the salary cap but let the amateur scouting department atrophy to the point of irrelevance over their tenure, while Benning and Weisbrod are generally perceived as straight shooters who have done a good job at the draft but have bled value in trades and contract negotiations.

In both cases, I suspect that we will look back and see that it is very difficult for a GM to have a notably awful record in one area of the job for a long time and survive. For Gillis, it was the draft. For Benning, it may turn out to be the questionable track record in trades.

What looking back on the Schneider trade teaches us is that, in the quest for instant analysis, the media often gets it wrong (including us). With that in mind, we’ll see if the mainstream outlets are eventually rewarded for their seemingly endless patience with the current incarnation of the Canucks’ front office.