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Former Vancouver Canucks GM Pat Quinn sees no easy fix to team's struggles

Former Vancouver Canucks' president and general manager Pat Quinn acknowledges the crowd after being inducted into the team's Ring of Honour before an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday April 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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Former Vancouver Canucks' president and general manager Pat Quinn acknowledges the crowd after being inducted into the team's Ring of Honour before an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday April 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - There is no easy fix for the problems faced by the Vancouver Canucks, says the man who took a foundering franchise and came close to winning a Stanley Cup.

Pat Quinn, the former defenceman who moved behind the Canucks' bench and into the general manager's office, believes new team president Trevor Linden—a player Quinn drafted and coached—has the potential to return Vancouver to the NHL elite.

"There is no magic luxor," Quinn said Sunday after being inducted into the Canucks ring of honour at Rogers Arena. "You have to fix it. You have to have luck, you have to have cap room.

"A lot of things come into play."

A promising season turned bad for the Canucks, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Watching the team this year Quinn noticed a slip in the talent level.

"It's cyclical," Quinn said. "The hard part is when your good players' skills start to diminish a little bit, then you've got to find replacements for that top level player."

A 30-team NHL reduces that talent pool.

"We don't have enough top players," Quinn said.

Fans will need to be patient.

"That's where the first step comes in, the assessment that needs to be done," said Quinn. "I think that's the stage where Trev is.

"I've read he has a plan. When you have a plan you don't go around telling everybody."

Linden was named president last week after Mike Gillis was fired as Vancouver's president and general manager.

Quinn shrugged when asked if he will play a role in the Canucks' rebuild. There has been speculation Linden may ask Quinn to return to the organization in some sort of advisory capacity.

"It's a different day today," said the 71-year-old Hamilton native. "Whatever happens, happens.

"Trevor is a terrific kid, there is no question. I'm not really thinking about that sort of thing. He has lots on his plate."

Quinn was joined by members of his family at centre ice prior to the game against the Calgary Flames for the induction ceremony. Other members of the ring of honour include Thomas Gradin, Kirk McLean and Harold Snepsts.

The crowd gave Quinn a standing ovation.

"It was inexplicable," Quinn said. "You can't express the emotions you feel.

"You are mindful of the people who touched you along the way, how important they were to me."

Quinn was Vancouver's president and general manager from 1987 to 1997. He coached the team from 1991-94 and then again late in the 1995-96 season.

There are some parallels between what Quinn, 71, faced back in 1987 and the task Linden now faces.

Quinn took over a wheezing, money-losing franchise and helped turned it into a high-scoring team that came within one game of winning the 1994 Stanley Cup final.

"When you are first starting you know one thing," said Quinn. "I always wanted to be a team player.

"No one person wins a hockey game, no one person builds a franchise. I got pretty lucky in putting this team together."

In 280 games as a coach, Quinn had a record of 141 wins, 111 loses and 28 ties. With him behind the bench the Canucks won two division titles, five playoff rounds and he was voted coach of the year in 1991-92.

As a general manager Quinn helped build the Canucks by drafting players like Linden and Pavel Bure.

Quinn also traded for players like McLean, Cliff Ronning, Dave Babych, Jyrki Lumme, Greg Adams, Geoff Courtnall and Markus Naslund.

It was through Quinn people like Brian Burke, Dave Nonis, Steve Tambellini and George McPhee received their first NHL jobs.

Quinn played his junior hockey with the Edmonton Oil Kings, winning a Memorial Cup in 1963. He spent nine years as a player, playing defence for Vancouver, Toronto and Atlanta.

He coached the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers.

On the international stage, Quinn coached Team Canada to gold medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics and 2009 world junior championships.

Quinn said the Canucks may have struggled this year but he sees hope for the future.

"When I came here in the 1970s it was hard to find a Canuck fan," he said. "Now we are all Canuck fans.

"Thanks for how you treated me."

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