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With the departure of Trevor Linden as president of hockey operations and general steady hand of the Vancouver Canucks in a reportedly messy divorce, there is no longer a branch between general manager Jim Benning and the ownership group, headed by Francesco Aquilini.Usually, the president of an NHL team provides a bridge between ownership and hockey operations. The GM in turn, reports to the president, and all major decisions runs through the latter before they are communicated to the owner(s).But it isn’t incredibly unusual for an NHL team to not have a president, as some clubs like the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets, among others, currently operate without one.It’s also true that the impact a president actually has on a team varies wildly among franchises. Toronto’s Brendan Shanahan, for example, is known to have considerable input in every decision the Maple Leafs make, while some of his peers don’t seem to figure into on-ice personnel decisions.But because of Linden’s high-profile exit from the club and due to Aquilini tweeting that “a new president would be named in due course”, even though Benning later said that he had been told there were no plans to name a new president (what exactly is happening in this organization?), it’s worth looking at some of the possible candidates to oversee the Canucks.Luckily the B.C. Lottery Corporation is taking bets on this very thing—and hey, it’s completely legal!
Jim Benning: 2-to-1 oddsThis wouldn’t be a surprise, nor would be an oddity in the NHL. Some general managers do double duty as the president of their teams, including Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues and David Poile of the Nashville Predators. But those are two well-established GMs who have been around the league for years and have held the GM position with multiple teams.Usually, for a GM to also serve as president, the candidate must have a rock solid relationship with the ownership group, cultivated over years of trust.Benning was hired by Linden in 2014. This is the happy couple at the beginning. And this was taken at the end of the most recent season. In his time, Benning has led the Canucks to two playoff wins.Even though the odds are high, it’s hard to see the Aquilinis handing over this role to Benning when he’s ostensibly already doing it in Linden’s stead. The lack of quality results probably doesn’t do any favours for Benning’s chances either.Dean Lombardi: 4-to-1It’s not worth spending too much time on Lombardi, who acknowledged that while a “mystery NHL team” had reached out to him (spoiler: it was the Canucks), the former L.A. Kings executive currently has a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Chris Pronger: 6-to-1A former All-Star defenceman who is now serving as an advisor with the Florida Panthers, it seems like a matter of time before Pronger gets a GM job somewhere. But does he want to serve as president and attempt to be the bridge between the needy Aquilinis and Benning? Or would he rather enter a situation with decidedly less baggage?And then there’s the question of whether he would tolerate being so close to Edmonton.Julien Brisebois: 21-to-1Some of the same questions apply to Brisebois, who has been dutifully serving as assistant GM to Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay since 2010. His name comes up every time an NHL vacancy does, and it’s a good bet that he’ll wait until the perfect fit comes along before jumping ship on the Lightning.
Markus Naslund: 7-to-1Pavel Bure: 19-to-1Stan Smyl: 31-to-1Henrik or Daniel Sedin: 101-to-1Sure, it’s attractive, as many Vancouver Canucks fans harbour a love for what Smyl/Bure/Naslund/the Sedins did for the team. And obviously the odds on each of these players vary for a reason—it would be an absolute shock to see either or both of the Sedins step off the ice and directly into the president’s office.But they’ve tried the former player thing before, and it would be hard to go back to that well right away.
Pat Lafontaine: 13-to-1Ron Francis: 16-to-1Both Lafontaine and Francis went the Linden route as heralded former players who came back to helm their former franchises (Buffalo and Carolina, respectively). Unfortunately, things didn’t go smoothly for either of them. Lafontaine lasted just over three months as president of the Sabres before resigning and going to work for the league.Francis, meanwhile, was named GM in 2014 and couldn’t generate much success for the Hurricanes. He was moved upstairs to the president’s office (billed as a promotion but in reality it was anything but) after the team was purchased by maverick owner Tom Dundon. Less than two months later, he was out of that job too.Both these two are probably smart enough to avoid working in an environment as contentious as what’s going on in Vancouver. They can likely see a hostile workplace from a mile away.
Mike Gillis: 42-to-1Brian Burke: 76-to-1Yeah, not going to happen. Though some Canucks fans would love to see Gillis back in the fold, it’s hard to see those fences being mended at this time, if ever.As for Burke, well, he put it pretty succinctly himself: “First of all, the Aquilini family wouldn’t hire me.”
Garth Snow: 21-to-1After being fired as the GM of the New York Islanders—but remaining mysteriously in the organization—Snow might be looking for a change of scenery.But it’s hard to see any NHL team taking a chance on the former Canucks goaltender, who was in charge of a truly bizarre regime in New York that ended with former franchise saviour John Tavares leaving for Toronto.
Mark Messier: 501-to-1Don Cherry: 751-to-1This is the ultimate “would you rather” question among Canucks fans. Who would you rather have as president, a misogynistic, backwards-thinking 84-year-old or the biggest enemy in the history of the franchise?If anything, this category should serve as a reminder to those that think things can’t possibly get any Messier.Who should I bet on?There really aren’t a ton of palatable options here. If we had to go with one, we’d say Pronger, but even that seems like a stretch. It’s possible that there isn’t another Canucks president until Benning is eventually let go and a new regime rolls through.