The Canucks season was definitely not their best and warrants many changes to come. The first of the major variety is the return of Trevor Linden to the organization. Welcome home Mr.President!
Shall we start at the beginning? Rumor has it that is best place to begin any story. Flashback to the 1988 NHL Draft where on June 11th the Vancouver Canucks drafted Trevor Linden second overall (behind Mike Modano). Who would have guessed that young rookie would become a franchise leader, captain, fan favourite, and now the President of Hockey Operations for the club where he spent 16 of his 19 NHL seasons?
Linden’s hockey playing career spanned 20 years in 1,382 regular season games played (1140 of those were with the Canucks). In his 1,382 games played, Linden amassed 375 goals and 492 assists for a total of 867 points. He hung up his skates June 11, 2008 and walked away from the game to focus on various business ventures before coming back to where it all began. The first Linden era had come to a close and many wondered if he would ever consider returning in a management position.
Even before the news broke of Mike Gillis being let go, the rumors of Trevor Linden returning the Vancouver Canucks organization began swirling through both the local media and social media. Rumor became fact on April 9, 2014 when the Canucks announced they had named Trevor Linden as the President of Hockey Operations. As he put it, he never wanted to work for another organization, he is a Canuck and wants the organization to win just as much as, if not more than the fans. (**Admit it, how epic would it be to see the Canucks with Linden at the helm win the cup one day? Is your answer amazing?…because THAT would be incredible to see one day).
ONE very notable change from the very moment that Linden was introduced as the President is the fact that he IS willing to talk to the media and the fans in such a personal manner that Gillis NEVER did in his entire 6-year tenure with the team. One of his first comments was a promise to the fans in bringing back excitement to the Canucks game that got lost somewhere along the way during this last season. He followed that up with some very important comments on when and why the team will make a change and how he believes that despite what many have said that the team CAN be competitive next season.
“We’re not going to make a change just to say we’ve made a change. It’s got to be the right change and it’s got to be for the right reason. It’s got to be for the right pieces, that’s important. Making a change because people want it or expect is not going to the way we’re going to do things.” -Linden
“I think we CAN be competitive next year. In fact I know we CAN. I know we’ll be exciting and I think we’ll have a real good opportunity to be in the tournament as they say and that is where you want to be.” -Linden
There will be endless questions of whether hiring the former Captain Canuck was a the right decision until results from any decision Linden makes is seen. Two immediate decisions that will be judged and over analyzed when they are announced: the name of the new General Manager and the new Head Coach. On May 21, 2014 the search for the new GM came to a close with the breaking news that former Bruins Assistant GM, Jim Benning had agreed to terms with the Canucks.
Benning has been at the top of the list from the very beginning of the search so the announcement came as no surprise. Even though Benning was the frontrunner, it was a process as he had to await getting special permissions to talk to many of his candidates and for the second round of the 2014 playoffs to come to a close before he could speak with Benning (as the Bruins went all the way to 7 games deep with the Montreal Canadiens). Yes he comes to the Canucks after working for the Bruins for 8 seasons (& yes that includes the 2011 Stanley Cup) but prior to that as a player he played for the Vancouver Canucks for 4 years (1986-1990). Jim Benning will be joining that Canucks immediately and among his first tasks, he will be attending the NHL combine.
The official introduction by the Canucks will to take place first with a fan Q & A (11:15 AM) followed by a press conference at 12:00 PM on Friday May 23, 2014. We can now call him GM Benning! Welcome back Jim!
His next decision that will come under fire will be the hiring of the newest head coach. Everyone will have an opinion on who they think should be named coach and will express it loudly as they always do. There are many candidates for that position including Barry Trotz (former Nashville Predator coach) and John Stevens (LA Kings assistant coach). Benning will be assisting Linden in his search for the RIGHT coach that will be the RIGHT voice for the team moving forward.
Among his most important qualities that he is looking for in a coach, Linden said: “I’m a believe that a coach with experience is critical. We want a coach that shares the same values as myself and Jim do.” The process of hiring the next coach may take weeks or it may take months but however long it does in fact take, Linden wants to make sure that whoever comes in IS the best fit for the team.
The NHL draft in which the Canucks have the 6th overall pick will be yet another choice made that will be over-analyzed by the fans and the media alike until the results are seen. In regards that 6th overall pick Linden has made it very clear that the type of player he wants to select WILL be a franchise player. The list of decisions does NOT end with the draft as there are many many more decisions that will need to be made prior to the start of the new season. We are in for an interesting off-season to say the least as each day gets us closer to October and the new NHL season.
And so begins the Trevor Linden Era (again) as he has the difficult task of showing WHY he IS the right fit for this organization.
Are you ready for what comes next, Canucks fans?
As always until next time, nuck said.