As part of the Team 1040’s ‘President’s Week’, Trevor Linden joined Matt Sekeres as a co-host this afternoon with Friend of the Blog Blake Price out of commission. This wasn’t your typical radio spot that only serves the purpose of being a filler, either.
In the two hours or so that the show ran, quite a few different topics – really hitting all the points on the spectrum – came up and were discussed in some detail. Linden gave his thoughts on the team’s expectations for their young players heading into training camp, how the franchise plans to potentially honour Gino Odjick sooner rather than later, the usage of analytics in hockey, and some surprisingly choice words on fighting. On a more light-hearted note, he also addressed the strange marketing ploy that took his Twitter account by storm last week.
More on all of it just past the jump.
Initially there was quite a bit of time devoted to discussing the outlook for the prospects in the system heading into this coming season. Of particular interest was Bo Horvat’s name, and specifically how his unique circumstances will play into the decision that’ll need to be made on him:
“I think Bo has played extremely well at the Junior level. Bo is going to have every opportunity to make our team, but at the same time he has to come in and earn a spot.
I think there’s probably that thought [being that if he’s close, they’ll give him the benefit of the doubt]. Bo is in an interesting situation; with the success he has had at the Junior level, we’d love for him to take the next step. Having said that he has to prove that he’s ready.”
On whether having him spend some time with the Canucks before sending him off to represent Canada in the World Juniors is in play:
“That’s always an option. The biggest thing is — we don’t want to have to rush players into our lineup. We feel that Utica and Travis Green and Nolan Baumgartner are going to play huge roles in developing our young players. You want to make sure the player is in the right spot. It’s a possibility, but it’d be great to have him playing too well to loan out, too.”
A more generalized point on the entire prospect group as a whole, and whether there’s a desire to move some of the older assets should some of the recent draft picks be deemed ready to step into the lineup immediately:
“You know what we’d love to see? Look at Detroit and how they’ve handled their young players; they go to Grand Rapids, they play well at the AHL level, which makes them better pros. Everyone is in a rush to get these young guys in the lineup, but having said that it’d be great to have some of our young guys have real successful AHL seasons where they’re not pushed into spots that ask too much of them. You’ve got to be careful with young players, it’s a big jump from Junior to Pro. We want them to grow organically.”
Further along those lines, differentiating between the concept of a “rebuild” and a “retool”:
“Blow guys out, blow the whole team up.. it just doesn’t work like that. It’s not realistic. We feel we can accomplish both; we feel we can be competitive and retool our prospect pool (which I feel like we’ve done). We’re going to be a good team this year, we’ve got too many good players to go down that path. We have to support Sedin, Sedin, Burrows, Bieksa, Hamhuis, Edler. Ultimately fans want to be entertained and see winning hockey, AND we want to develop our younger players in a winning environment.”
On how he views his place in the organization:
“One of the many conversations I had with ‘The Family’ was about autonomy, having the ability to do what I needed to do. I think the commitment that the ownership has made to this franchise, and to this fanbase, in allowing me to do what I needed to do.. and that included writing some very large cheques. I think they definitely looked at bringing me in as an opportunity to bring a brand in, a face of the franchise, but at the same time I think they valued my ability to make the right decisions from a hockey standpoint and advise them as such.”
On the potential of inducting Gino Odjick into the Ring of Honour:
“Obviously I’ve been visiting Gino many times over the past few months, he’s actually back in Ottawa as we speak. One thing about Gino is that he has tremendous spirit, in just sitting and talking with him he’s a huge fan. Internally we’re working on plans to celebrate Gino’s career, and we want to encourage him to stay strong and give our fans to participate in that and show support for him. That’s obviously what he needs right now.”
“It’s not really my decision, we have a committee and they have a criteria of things they need to consider. This is obviously a special circumstance, so we’re going to have to talk about that. We’re keeping tabs on thing and we’re in constant contact. We’ve got a group that’s fully on top of it and working through things.”
On what makes himself and the franchise as a whole believe that they can make it back to the playoffs next season:
“We had some players underperform last year that can be better. We’ve got to recapture those guys, and that’s going to come down to how we coach. I think we’re going to be a deeper team up front, we’ve gotten younger, we’ve gotten quicker.”
Are the Canucks satisfied with where they are right now, or are there more moves to come?
“We’ve undergone a lot of change if you look at the entire organization. We’ve made significant changes and we’re happy with them. I think this is the way we’ll go into training camp. We’re not currently looking..”
This is where the conversation became really interesting (at least to myself, and I assume the readers of this blog). A question came up about the usage of analytics and how the team plans to use them:
“That’s a huge part of the game. And Laurence has done a great job with this (him and Jonathan Wall), I believe we’re cutting edge when it comes to analytics. Those are tools that our coaches will use, but I think in anything there is not an end-all, be-all. It’s not all about analytics, it’s a piece of the puzzle. You can use it to help your team, to help pre-scout, to see trends. It’s become a part of the game, but at the end of the day it’s another tool to help you assess your club.”
I do genuinely look forward to the day when people affiliated with hockey in whichever capacity stop feeling the need to snidely point out that analytics are “just a piece of the puzzle” and that there’s more to breaking down the game. As if anyone in their right mind has ever claimed to the contrary.
With that being said, even if Linden is just saying these sorts of nominal things to appease segments of the fanbase, he’s pretty on-point in terms of where analytics can be useful. Shortly thereafter, a listener asked Linden about fighting in the game and what his stance on it is:
“I think that our game is such a great one. It’s built around speed, and skill, and hard-hitting, not unlike the NFL. Can you imagine an NFL game where a linebacker puts a good lick on a running back and the linemen get in there and drop their helmets and start bareknuckle punching each other in the face. It seems rather odd. And you can see why there are some fans in the States that have a tough time with that. They say ‘I watch the NFL on Sundays and they hit hard, play hard, and pop up after hits and run back in the huddle’. That’s part of the game.
Hockey has a different culture, of course. I think there are a lot of fans that don’t care for the needless fighting. The staged “I’m supposed to fight, you’re supposed to fight, so let’s fight. We’re not really mad at each other, but that’s our job” type of thing. I tend to agree with it. I think the NHL moving forward – whether it be a Steve Yzerman or various others – have come out and had significant stances.”
“I recall this incident when I was playing — Mattias Ohlund came across and just levelled someone with a great bodycheck, which is a great part of the game that should be celebrated. Next thing you know he’s got some guy that can’t even skate chasing him around the ice. That isn’t right, that’s not the way our game is played. But it’s a mentality that has been coached in, talked in – you know, Coach’s Corner influence. We see it in the playoffs all the time; extremely hard hitting, and there’s no fighting. And I’m not sure that the intended use of fighting – which is to protect our stars – actually works. I think it’s something that as we go down the path the NHL is going to have to look at.”
Some juicy stuff, there. Reading between the lines, this could be the beginning of the end for Cult Hero ‘Top Sixtito’, who led the league in fighting majors with 19 last season. The most likely outcome seems like a trip back to his hometown of Utica, especially with the conceivable logjam that awaits the coaching staff in the bottom-6. But as we’ve learned with Sixtito, anything really is possible.
And finally, closing the books on the biggest mystery of them all:
“My personal life has changed. I don’t Instagram anymore, you know. I’ve got to be very careful. My Twitter account got hacked last Friday..”
What happened there? You got hacked?
“You think? *laughs* I hope I got hacked! Or I’ve got very fast fingers, because I sent out hundreds.. Big Buns 21.. crazy stuff, right? It was quite entertaining actually. Some of the responses were the best part.”
There was a bunch of other stuff that you may find interesting and can listen to should you choose to do so right here. Things like making Vancouver a more desirable location for free agents to come to, a new Johnny Canuck jersey, and the in-arena experience all came up. But all of that pales in comparison to the revelation that Linden opts to drive to work these days rather than taking the bike. Change really is coming.