In the least surprising and poorly concealed news in recent memory, the Vancouver Canucks have officially announced that Trevor Linden – a former Canuck, and someone who has stuck around in the community – has been named the President of Hockey Ops in advance of the press conference scheduled by the team for this morning.
This comes less than 24 hours after the firing of Mike Gillis (who along with being the General Manager, served as the team’s President), as the reeling franchise embarks upon what figures to be a series of moves that’ll attempt to right the ship following a truly dreadful campaign.
While this particular piece of the puzzle will probably be lionized and overstated, there’s still some meat to it worth discussing. We’ll do so just past the jump.
According to Dan Murphy, Linden’s role with the team will include being responsible for hockey operations, coaching and scouting staffs, player procurement and development, and minor league affiliations. To me, that personally sounds like a whole lot of official mumbo jumbo that can be summed up in layman terms with two words: “public relations“.
Now, I don’t mean to be completely dismissing Linden as “just a pretty face”, but right now the Vancouver Canucks as an organization find themselves in a PR hell of sorts, considering how badly everything has been handled recently. While I’m sure #16 will have some say in things, his biggest impact at least to start will be with helping fix how the franchise is perceived publicly.
And it’s mostly because of that angle, that I really do get the basis of this move. Here’s the thing: people around these parts absolutely adore the ’94 Canucks team (much moreso than the ’11 version), remembering it uber fondly. Trevor Linden was the face of that team, and he’s someone that’s going to go a long way in getting the casual, fairweather fan of the team that’s lost interest with the product during this recent tailspin – which there are much more of than you’d probably care to admit – to buy in again. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
I can’t necessarily relate to that, though, seeing as Linden is just another former Canuck in my eyes. As a quick little aside I came to Canada in ’96, and didn’t really start watching hockey until about 1998. At that point Linden was a member of the New York Islanders, before going on to play for the Habs and Capitals. While he did finish out his career with 6 seasons back in Vancouver – including this goal I’ll never forget against the Stars – it’s safe to say that his most important contributions as a Canuck were before my time.
Ironically enough, my generation’s version of Linden, Markus Naslund, has been widely rumoured as a potential GM candidate, and I figure I’ll have an interesting time trying to remain rational and unbiased if that comes to fruition one day.
One final thought: the NHL can most certainly be considered a “copycat league”. We’re coming off of a season where the Colorado Avalanche bottomed out, and while the young talent they have surely didn’t hurt their cause, the “let’s bring the band back together!” approach was a big part of their turnaround, as well. Of course we’ve seen that totally backfire in Edmonton, too, and it’s hardly a foolproof plan.
If things go even remotely that sour, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for fans to turn on someone that they used to love. I imagine he’ll get a lot of leeway, but.. his total lack of experience in this field is certainly a cause for concern, and if he doesn’t surround himself with the right personnel we could find out the answer to that question in a hurry.
The press conference is set to run on basically any of the Sportsnet channels at 10:30 AM PST. If you’re unable to watch it or stream it online, we’ll surely have some of the choice quotes transcribed on here later in the day.