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Canucks GM Benning on team’s awful start: ‘I feel responsible’

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VANCOUVER – For the many critics of Jim Benning who think the last seven years have been hard on them, just look at what time and losing has done to him.

Looking pallid and exhausted, sounding almost emotional at times, the beleaguered general manager emerged Thursday amid the Vancouver Canucks’ five-game losing streak to tell reporters that his team’s awful start has been wearing on everyone.

No kidding.

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“Of course, I feel responsible; I’m the leader of this group,” Benning said. “The moves we made this summer, I would have never envisioned we got off to this start. But we have. Now we have to deal with it and we’ve got to figure it out. You know, it’s hard. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not hard. It’s really hard. But you know, with what’s going on in B.C. right now with the people out in Abbotsford and the floods that they’re dealing with, that’s not easy, either. This is what we call life.”

Benning was never a good candidate for the triathlon, but the 58-year-old seems to have aged at least two years for each of his eight seasons in charge of the Canucks.

Vancouver has made the Stanley Cup playoffs twice during his tenure – once on each side of the full rebuild Benning orchestrated – but has gone unexpectedly backward since what appeared to be a young team’s breakthrough in the Edmonton playoff bubble two summers ago.

The excellent young players Benning drafted and developed, supported by a few key veterans, no longer look like a “team,” and the Canucks have lost their identity during a 5-10-2 start that has them ahead of only the expansion Seattle Kraken and dreadful Arizona Coyotes in the Western Conference.

The task of leading the group looks too onerous at this stage for 23-year-old star Elias Pettersson, who missed the last half of last season with a wrist injury and most of training camp with a contract impasse, and heads to Game 18 Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets with three even-strength points – all assists. Linemate Brock Boeser, 24, goal-less during the current 0-4-1 losing streak, hasn’t been much better.

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But the ineptitude that trumps all else is the Canucks’ league-worst penalty killing that has allowed 19 power-play goals in the last 10 games. That’s as many extra-strength goals as the Vegas Golden Knights yielded in the entire 56-game pandemic season of 2021.

Shorthanded, the Canucks have been so mesmerizingly horrible that a lot of people haven’t noticed the leaden power play has been blanked in nine of its last 10 games, leaving Vancouver with a special teams deficit of 19-3 during that time. It’s a wonder the team managed to win twice.

But it’s no wonder that the bulk of the blame, accompanied by increasing hostility, had landed again on Benning.

Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, which matched in one game the Canucks’ power-play output of three goals in 10 games, ended with scattered chants of “Fire Benning!” inside Rogers Arena.

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“It’s upsetting,” Benning said during his 20-minute press conference. “It’s really upsetting because I think as a management team, this last, you know, seven-plus years, we’ve worked really hard to draft well and develop our players properly. It’s wearing on all of us. The fans are frustrated. I get their frustration; we’re frustrated. But we need to figure this out and get back on track and start winning hockey games and play like I believe we’re capable of.

“My whole career is based on trying to figure things out to help build teams that are competitive, that are successful. Figure out solutions to our problems — how we can get to where we need to be so we’re winning hockey games (and) we’re having fun. That’s not going to change for me.”

Unless owner Francesco Aquilini decides to change GMs for the first time since he fired Mike Gillis – with $10-million left on his contract – in 2014.

But Benning emerged from his Tuesday summit meeting with Aquilini with the ownership family’s apparent continued support. For now.

“I’m not going to worry about that,” he said of his job security. “That will be an ownership decision. And if they get to a point where, you know, they don’t feel like I’m doing a good job and I need to be replaced, they’ll make that decision.

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“Like I told you, I like this group. I like this group of players. I think, along the way, what we tried to do is make sure that with our younger players, we surrounded them with veteran players so they could learn from them. But now we’ve kind of handed it over to that younger group of players that we’ve drafted and developed. And with that responsibility, comes a lot of pressure. Now we’ve got to work with these guys to get them to play to their potential … so we can start winning.”

It would be helpful for everyone involved if that happened soon.

Benning didn’t make any promises when asked about the employment security of head coach Travis Green, whose staff has Vancouver at 32nd in penalty killing and 27th on the power play despite improvements over last season in five-on-five play.

“We’re looking at everything,” Benning said. “We’re trying to find solutions to our problems. Travis and his staff are working hard. This is wearing on them like it’s wearing on all of us. This is something that I didn’t expect to kind of happen after … the moves we made the summer. But it’s happening and we have to deal with it, and we’ve got to find answers and get things back on track.”

It’s difficult for the Canucks to change general managers in mid-season, especially since right-hand man John Weisbrod will probably leave whenever Benning does, and for every team that gets an in-season bump from firing its coach, for five others it’s a sign of surrender.

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Benning could try to make an impactful trade, but that is fraught with risk given his position of weakness and the vultures from other teams circling the Canucks hoping a desperate GM will make a mistake. For now, it appears the Canucks will try to ride out this latest hurricane.

“We’re looking at everything right now,” Benning said. “I’ve been working with the coaches, the coaches work with the players. We’ve been talking to agents about their players to just see where they’re at and what they’re thinking and how we can help. I’ve looked to the outside, talking to other general managers from other teams to see what’s available.

“We’re going to have to regain our confidence as a group and as a team. We’re going to have to do a better job, obviously, on the PK. And I believe some of our players need to regain their confidence to play to their potential. And if we can figure those things out — you know, it’s going to be hard, it’s not going to be easy — but I think if we can figure those things out, we’re going to have to string a group of wins together now to get back in it. We’re going to keep working hard to find solutions to our problems. We still want to be a playoff team.”

Given the Canucks’ first 17 games, it may already be too late for that.

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How to watch Appalachian State vs. James Madison: NCAA Football live stream info, TV channel, time, game odds

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Who’s Playing

James Madison @ Appalachian State

Current Records: James Madison 2-0; Appalachian State 2-1

What to Know

The James Madison Dukes watched the action from their couches last weekend, but are set to take to the field. James Madison and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will face off in a Sun Belt battle at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The odds don’t look promising for the Dukes, but the bigger the opponent is, the harder they fall.

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A well-balanced attack led James Madison over the Norfolk State Spartans every single quarter on their way to victory two weeks ago. James Madison claimed a resounding 63-7 win over Norfolk State at home. The game was pretty much decided by the half, when the score had already reached 35 to nothing.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State didn’t have too much breathing room in their contest with the Troy Trojans last week, but they still walked away with a 32-28 victory. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice was slinging it as he passed for two TDs and 279 yards on 34 attempts. Near the top of the highlight reel was Brice’s 53-yard TD bomb to WR Christan Horn in the fourth quarter.

Their wins bumped the Dukes to 2-0 and the Mountaineers to 2-1. Watch the matchup and check back on CBS Sports to find out who keeps up the positive energy and who hits a stumbling block.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, North Carolina
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $40.99

Odds

The Mountaineers are a solid 6.5-point favorite against the Dukes, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Mountaineers as a 7.5-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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