First off, let’s cut through the crap: The Vancouver Canucks don’t need to go through a ground-up rebuild. They don’t need to trade the recently signed Sedin twins or tank the 2014-15 season to chase after Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. New president of hockey operations Trevor Linden doesn’t need to tear down the walls. He just needs some new furniture and a little paint.
And work has already begun to refresh a Canucks franchise that has become stale and fallen behind the curve. With the right direction from the right GM at the helm, the Canucks should be able to make the moves necessary to resurrect them as a relevant playoff team again in the next two or three years.
At his introductory press conference Wednesday, Linden said the search for that GM has already commenced both in and outside of the organization, and that he has an idea of the type of manager he wants, though he didn’t elaborate on even what characteristics the ideal hire would have.
Names from Nashville’s Paul Fenton to Jay Feaster have been mentioned as potential replacements, and with David Poile and George McPhee on deathwatch, their names would also inevitably be tossed in if no GM were yet in place.
The GM hire is the most important decision Linden will make this summer (and perhaps of his entire tenure), as it will set in motion a new Canucks era and either get it off to a good start, or a shaky one that one that may not change the disgruntled mood of Canucks fans. And wherever Gillis’ replacement comes from, we can expect him to be named some time within the next two months.
“We would aim to have a manager in place by the draft, hopefully before that,” Linden said.
The Linden hiring is an easy, feel-good end to what has been a disastrous implosion of a season from the Canucks. But the fan-favorite has no experience calling the shots in an NHL front office and he’s now being tasked with planning what the new look and feel will be for the team, from the doctors and trainers to the players, coaches and, of course, the GM.
And as for how much autonomy he’ll have forging this new direction?
“Trevor will make all the decisions on all hockey-related personnel, coaches, players, free agents,” said Francesco Aquilini. “Trevor will make all the decisions.”
But is he the right guy? Is he capable of getting this franchise back on course? What makes him more qualified and better prepared for this job than Gillis?
Well, he played on that 1994 Canucks team that went to the final and fans adore him, I suppose.
To be fair, Linden said all the right things at his introduction, even apologizing for a misleading comment he made on a Vancouver morning show Tuesday, when he denied talking to the Aquilinis about this job. He was in a tough spot there and I think everyone can understand that.
What he didn’t do was get into any specifics about what the plan would be, where the coach stands in this future or just how much player change he thought was necessary. This press gathering wasn’t the place for deep, defining thoughts such as those. But one astute comment Linden did make that stood out as a promising sign was this:
“My experience comes from playing, no question,” he said. “I look at some of my colleagues whether it be Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Cam Neely who I’ve spoken to in the past couple days, and ultimately it’s about surrounding yourself with good people. I intend to surround myself with good, thoughtful, independent thinkers.”
The best news to come out of this question-and-answer period was that Linden, with his lack of experience running a head office, recognizes this is not a one-man job. Far from it. He recognizes the necessity to not only surround himself with good hockey minds, but independent hockey minds. What the Canucks don’t need is to start down a predetermined path with a gaggle of Yes Men – they need to consider all options, tread carefully and cautiously through this reformation, and start moving this team back towards where it was, rather than further down the NHL food chain.
Linden will be integral in hiring the next GM of the Vancouver Canucks and rebuilding a front office that needs a new voice. That new voice hasn’t yet been acquired, but today the Canucks got a new face and Linden appears prepared for that job.
But the new voice calling all the shots in the future? If Vancouver is to bounce back to its full potential, they need a shrewd, experienced hockey manager to fill that role.
Linden is the new face, but someone else needs to be the voice.