Bringing the Band back together: Trevor Linden as President of Hockey Ops

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Photo via Arlen Redenkop

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.

(s/t to @_Proto for the punny headline)

  • GarthButchers

    “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.”

    How so?

    Did Sakic/Roy throw fairy dust on the players?

    Although they certainly deserve some credit for going against the popular vote and taking Mackinnon over Jones…

    It’s unfortunate that this organization reset had not occured a year or two ago.

    The Canucks would have been a prime landing spot for Jim Nill, Jarmo Kekalainen or Tim Murray.

    And AV and either Lou or Schneider might still have been here as well…

    • stinkpickle

      My take away on your recent comments in this thread and others is that no GM and no coach has any beneficial impact on any organization – or at least no coach or GM has any impact on the Canucks, unless of course its negative.

      I suppose we should just rustle up some good players between the age of 20-26 and let them organize themselves in some fashion. Oh wait, that’s what they’re doing in Edmonton.

      The easiest job in the world is that of a critic. There’s always something wrong with everything. Making endless comments about what should have happened two years ago is, like, the easiest job in the world.

      Making interesting and thoughtful suggestions about what should happen in the here and now is another matter. It might put at risk your record of being right 100% of the time about things that have already happened, but I for one would appreciate the change.

      • JCDavies

        Do you have an example or two so I have something to address?

        I’m wrong all the time.

        I thought the most realistic outcome for this season was a 1st round loss to LA/SJ.

        I thought Gillis had built up enough goodwill with ownership to get at least 7 or 8 years on the job before he became exposed.

        Of course, at the macro level, have I been wrong about the underwhelming reset, the GM being exposed as the core he inherited became old/works elsewhere or that the franchise is on the decline and headed towards some form of rebuilding?

        For the sake of accuracy, I suggested Gillis should have been gassed before the 2013 draft day debacle.

        It has little to do with this season’s outcome even though I’m amused by the rubes that are now acting in such a reactionary fashion…

    • JCDavies

      Any sensible fan would know that he told a minor lie in respect to Gillis as he had not yet been fired. I really hope everyone remains calm and doesn’t spit him out, “Don’t know what you’ve got till its gone” applies to many recent events in this city.

      The guy never took a shift off, bled green and blue, and is firmly rooted in the community. This guy will always have my trust.

      ps. Hopefully Trevor’s prowess with the media will take away the shadiness that has been canuck management in the past.

  • andyg

    Not impressed by the move – it’s all about ticket sales. By no means is that meant as disrespect to Linden.

    The model of dusting of a team’s old superstars and dropping them into a management role doesn’t work in Edmonton. Why would it work here?

    Linden is out of his depth, the owners seem desperate and the team’s future is murky.

    At least it is never dull being a Canucks’ fan.

  • asdf

    linden wouldn’t have been my choice, but he’s not a difficult sell in vancouver. with the right GM, he’ll be fine. it’s about ticket sales, i agree, but i see that as a logical move. it’s a business after all.

    on that note, i think people underestimate how much economic value the sedins bring to the franchise. worth so much $$ more to the franchise, short-term and long-term, for the twins to retire here.

    so many NTCs among defensemen means rebuild is unlikely in the short term. unless you keep torts and players want the hell outtahere.

    linden will try to do what mike gillis has tried to do. retool on the fly. except linden’s a nicer guy so people will give him more latitude to right the ship.

    but linden didn’t really offer any specifics so hard to see where he’s going to go with this. probably hire Gilman and we’ll have more of the same but with linden’s handsome face on it now.

  • Cliff?

    I think his point is that since everyone is good at being a GM/Coach, there isn’t much variance.

    In baseball, there are only six coaches to ever provide real wins. Everyone else was average, or didn’t coach enough to be able to make a call on his value.

    You don’t necessarily need hockey experience to know how to surround yourself with the right people, and I hope Linden can do that.

    I doubt he will do much until he takes a year to get his feet underneath him.

    • JCDavies

      “I think his point is that since everyone is good at being a GM/Coach, there isn’t much variance.

      In baseball, there are only six coaches to ever provide real wins. Everyone else was average, or didn’t coach enough to be able to make a call on his value.”

      I have heard this before. I’m not sure it was about baseball general managers, though.

      Can anybody verify?

    • JCDavies

      “In baseball, there are only six coaches to ever provide real wins. Everyone else was average, or didn’t coach enough to be able to make a call on his value.”

      From where are you getting this.

      If you have a link, please share, because it sounds like an interesting read…

  • orcasfan

    Who has been the most “successful” President/GM in Canucks history? As far as results over his tenure are concerned, that would be Gillis.(Not that he didn’t inherit a good team with players about to peak, mind you!). But the point I want to make is that Gillis also had no prior hockey management experience. And yet he managed to do an OK job.

    I have no problems with guys like Linden (and Sakic) being put into top positions where their focus will be on hockey and all associated personnel, rather than the business organization, or the operations of the organization. Their talent and relevant experience can then be focused on an area where they can have an impact.

    I, for one, would definitely trust Linden’s perspective on how the game can be played, as well as which players are a good fit for the team, more than what Gillis had to offer.

    I imagine that Trevor’s new position is going to be a work in progress, not because of his limited managerial experience, but, rather, because the position itself is brand-new to the organizational structure. Even though there are other teams adopting this managerial structure these days, the influence of the individual personality will obviously have a great bearing on how much “control” over all things hockey these “presidents” have.

  • stinkpickle

    This owner is the epitome of trying too hard to sell the Canucks, and this move is just another part of that.

    Linden, you were a legend in Vancouver, a city with precious few legends.

    That being said, you’ll have people stabbing you in the back pretty soon. Take a look over at Lowe for an example of that. This was a bad hockey move. What’s happening next, Naslund is the new GM? Maybe Bure can be the new asisstant coach.

    • stinkpickle

      While I’m certainly not advocating hiring a former Canuck as a pure PR move, I also don’t think we should hold it against him before he has done anything yet.

      Edmonton could be in the exact same state irrespective of whether or not Lowe was there.

      And that’s just one team really.

      Let’s see who the new general & middle manager are as well as the direction of the franchise before assuming Linden is unfit for the job.

      But by all means, if he does prove to be unfit, hopefully he doesn’t get any special treatment simply because he is a former player…

  • stinkpickle

    Let’s talk about who he should hire for GM! I just read Gallagher’s piece about it and like the sound if Jim Benning. Former Canuck, so he know’s what he’s getting himself into at least.