Trevor Linden speaks: Burrows, Virtanen’s character, and the club’s goals for the 2016-17 season

Hockey talk in the middle of July can be bland, speculative, and argumentative. Obviously the off-season is uneventful, with the exception of a few trades here and there. In the eyes of those whose work focuses on hockey though, any hockey talk is better than no hockey talk. 

During this time of the year, the topics that emerge are meant to generate discussions, they’re not necessarily ideas that are being pursued by management. Earlier today, Vancouver’s hockey fans were given a reprieve from the dog days of summer as Canucks President Trevor Linden gave a two hour ‘tell-all’ on TSN 1040 as part of their President’s Week coverage.

You can listen to Linden’s appearance here. And here.

From talking through the latest rumours to answering fan questions, there is a lot to dissect from Linden’s interview. The first major point of discussion subtly addressed rumours that Evander Kane may be traded to his hometown Canucks this offseason. Because Kane has built a poor reputation through his off-ice habits, this headline comes with its fair share of opinions. 

Linden on if the Canucks have any ‘guiding principles’ in terms of acquiring players involved with “police blotter”: “We’re looking for players with character, leadership, and skill. You have to do your homework and look into the situation and make sure you know the facts. Every situation is unique. There’s the mentality that you can give a player a second chance, and many organizations have been successful. You have to do your homework, because sometimes we get to a conclusion without knowing the facts. Ultimately, we’d prefer not to have that situation arrive. The challenges are significant for young guys who make a lot of money and get themselves into spots where they make mistakes. People make mistakes, but (violence against women) is a challenging one. We take these situations very seriously and we want to make sure that we understand everything before we act.”

Linden – obviously – is not allowed to talk about his club’s rumoured interest in Kane specifically, so his response to the question is very neutral. What was emphasized was the fact that management would need to ensure that they learn the facts beyond what is being discussed on social media. The Kane headline is a story in itself, so refer to Jeff Veillette’s outlook here, and J.D. Burke’s piece here.

Jim Benning did not receive much criticism when he announced that the team would not be buying out the contract of Alex Burrows. It’s hard to criticize the decision to keep Burrows because all Canucks fans know the type of person Burrows is, as well as what he brings to the team. Although his on-ice production has begun to fall off in recent years, Trevor Linden had only kind words when speaking of the 35 year-old.

Linden on Burrows: “He has been an incredible leader for the organization. He’s a special person. Some players will say it and not mean it, but he honestly does not care where he plays in the lineup. If it’s 4th line duty or the top line with the Sedins, he loves the game and he’s so good for the young players. One thing we learned from exit interviews is how much our young players talked about Alex and how he treats them and works with them. That’s what Burrows is about. It was an easy decision, he’s a lifetime Canuck. We’re excited about having him back.”

The next topic discussed was Jake Virtanen’s professionalism, both on and off the ice. Jason Botchford had reported that 19 year-old weighed about 230 pounds when his 2014-15 season ended. In March, Virtanen took to social media and shared his night out partying and socializing with Justin Bieber and company. He also received some negative feedback from the Canucks’ leaders, and Alex Burrows summarized it when he said, “As for Jake, he’ll get it one day – hopefully sooner than later.” 

Linden on Virtanen: “I think all young players mature at different levels. Bo Horvat is extremely mature and extremely professional. Jake has a very raw and unique skillset, and he has come a long way. Last year was important for him and having him see what it takes to get to next level. It’s from the coaches, myself, Jim, Stan Smyl, and the players in the locker room. He’s working hard, he trains at Rogers Arena. He knows he has to come in and earn a spot. We have a very competitive training camp. There may be a situation where his best place is in Utica.”

Moving on, Benning raised eyebrows with his draft selections in June. After taking Juolevi at No. 5, Canucks fans are hoping that the scouting staff pulled through with their later-round selections. Trevor Linden spoke about drafting Juolevi, as well as the late-round picks that surprised some individuals.

Linden on Juolevi over Tkachuk: “Our group felt so strongly about Olli’s vision, poise with the puck, and overall hockey sense. His performance at the World Juniors, being 17 years old and the best defenseman there, he has tremendous upside. We saw the value of defenseman this spring. You can’t get these guys without drafting them, and Olli is going to be a top-pairing guy. There was debate, Matthew Tkachuk is a heck of a player, but we felt Olli was the right fit for us.”

Linden on drafting defensive over skilled players in the later rounds: “Projecting is hard to do at this juncture. Will Lockwood played with the U.S. National Team and we think we has potential upside. At pick 64, you’re looking for a player who you feel can play. Cole Candella has tremendous upside to be an all-around defenseman. Jakob Stukel has great speed and has shown the ability to score. When you look at later rounds, you look for players who can play. We love the Lockwood pick, and we think he has more upside than he got credit for.”

Some other takeaways from Linden’s interview:

  • Analytics is always taken into consideration when making moves, Linden said. The influence varies based on the situation.
  • Linden acknowledged that Dan Hamhuis was the best analytic defenseman in zone exits and zone entry/denial.
  • Linden is aware of Tryamkin’s unwillingness to play in Utica.
  • Linden had a feeling that Columbus would select Pierre-Luc Dubois with the third-overall pick.
  • Linden says he talks to Francesco Aquilini every day and has no reason to believe the rumour that the Canucks are for sale.
  • Linden said having their AHL team in Utica is great because of time allocation and the fact that Utica is a tremendous AHL market. If they relocate the Comets, he wants to make sure that they’re leaving for an equally as good, if not better, situation.
  • Despite the transition from Reebok to Adidas, the Canucks will not be changing their logo and jerseys.

Finally, I leave you off with an excerpt from Trevor Linden on the Canucks’ goal going into the 2016-17 season. It is one that Canucks fans are all too familiar with, but management wants to ensure that fans are aware and hopeful, just as they are.

“Our goal this season is to be competitive every night. I like where our group is going. Obviously, last year was a disappointing season, it was definitely a step back. When we came in a couple years ago, we realized it wasn’t going to look perfect and last year wasn’t that. We’ve gotten younger, we’ve gotten faster. We want to be competitive every night, and we’re going to be in the hunt and going to be in the fight. We want to make the playoffs. I’m never going to stand here and say that’s not our goal.”

    • Jay (not J)

      Was there any mention of Gubrandson playing with Hutton written in stone? I think Tanev and Hutton and Gubrandson and Edler have the possibilities of having more balanced pairings in the top 4.

      • Jay (not J)

        Written in stone? no.

        I think WD hears input from the management group, but WD has final call on lines and deployment. team pres. & gm’s can promise all they want, the Sedins had some input in taking Vrbata off their line.

        as you mention with switching up the d partners in the top 4, I think we will see it switched up at some point. with special teams and everything, I’d expect they will all end up playing together.

        If Gudbranson and Edler were paired together, would Edler skate and handle the puck more? play more offensive?

  • Good summary. “Our goal is to compete for the playoffs.” And I think we’ll make it.

    Some early predictions:

    Canucks make the postseason with 100 points.

    Eriksson and Sedins are a perfect fit.

    Burrows has a bounce back season.

    Tryamkin proves he’s the real deal.

    Our defense rocks.

    Markstrom establishes himself as a bona fide NHL starter.

    • Riley Miner

      Those Pom-Poms look good on you. They match your Canuck Blue skirt and rose coloured glasses.

      Now get ready for an 85-90 point, transitional year and a pick in the 7-12 range at next years draft.

    • Jay (not J)

      Seriously? Only 100 points? Come on. I don’t think there’s a game on the schedule that they’re going to lose. I mean, they still have the Sedins right? Added Erickson and a rookie defencman and you think they’ll only get 100 points? Sheesh. Talk about selling your team short.

  • SJ

    Guys, the president of the team is never going to say anyone (especially someone new) is locked into a position 2 months out from training camp. First of all, that’s the coach’s decision. Secondly, “spots are earned.”

    • SJ

      Agreed totally. Optically it will look so bad if the position was gifted upon signing him especially by admission.

      I forsee that Erikssson will have the opportunities afforded to Vrbata in the first year on the first line but may be moved down the lineup to attempt to “get the other lines going” even strength. PP he will play with the Sedins.

      However, if WD changes his MO of rolling of 4 lines regardless if we’re down a goal and willing to try what AV did a few years back and put them together in down-a-goal situation in the 3rd… But I think it might be wishful thinking.

  • Laxbruh15

    If Trevor’s talking to ownership on a daily basis, I’m guessing that they have a fair amount of influence on the running of the team and it’s direction. Especially trades which I’m guessing means that he’s the one pushing for the better now trades. It would be great if the team got sold to someone who’s focused on winning a cup and spend or have periods of lower attendance.

  • SJ

    I really love and appreciate the comments about Burrows. Of everything Linden said, that decision gives me confidence abut what he is doing with the team right now.

  • Riley Miner

    Linden seems pretty educated on analytical numbers, he seemed very comfortable discussing the impact it had on hockey ops. Perhaps Linden and Wall are the counterbalance to Benning’s purely old-school approach. That’s the impression I gleaned.

  • LTFan

    I would feel more comfortable if TL wasn’t talking to the owners every day. Sounds to me if the Aquilinni’s are too involved – still.

    I agree that JV should spend some time in Utica learning the ‘pro’ game.

  • Riley Miner

    He was so awkward dancing around the Kane questions.

    Lineup wise the forwards got better but the defense got worse, and they probably won’t be as injured next year. The young guys will probably take a step forward and the old guys will take a step back. As always, they’re an Edler back injury or Tanev shot block away from a defensive tire fire.

    That doesn’t pull them out of the lottery range.

  • LTFan

    so, parsing some language there, I’d say the canucks are interested in acquiring evander kane. no outright denials, with linden leaving the door wide open. i’m thinking there’s a good chance they are going to give the hometown boy his last big chance.

    • Laxbruh15

      And that is the scary part…

      this me me idiot will make Kassian look like a saint….

      Can’t wait to see how many draft picks and prospects old Braindead will throw away to get this homey back to “light it up” on Granville

  • Big Cap

    ZERO Percent chance the Canucks make the Playoffs.

    Sedin(s), Erickson, Hansen, Edler, Millar, and Burrows, are all North of 30 years old. Couple the fact the two 36 year olds will also participate in a grueling, physical, and intense tournament even before the season starts, does not bode well moving into the second half of the NHL season.

    The Defence core is paper thin in talent, and depth.

    Goaltending is completely up in the air. Millar is shaky at best, injury prone, and not reliable. Markstrom is still unproven as a starter.

    The top 9 nine forwards don’t hold a candle to the rest of the Western Conference and their respective rosters.

    Willie D is a below average NHL coach.

    Benning & Linden are both way in over their heads as team executives with no clear direction for the organization.

    The Ownership group is way to meddlesome and emotional and always involved.

    Not a lot of prospects in cupboard, with a very limited interest from potential UFA’s. This is going to be a long dry spell for years to come.

    At least you “Slayed The Dragon” in the first round of 2011, and can dream of what may have been if you hadn’t choked Games 6 & 7 of the SCF. Enjoy your seat at the Draft Lottery table for years to come.

    • LTFan

      Using ‘you’ slayed the dragon or if ‘you’ hadn’t choked. Like anyone who reads your comment actually played in those games. It’s like the Canucks woes are actually effecting our lives. Yes we are Canucks right?

    • LTFan

      obviously you are not a Canucks fan.

      “Enjoy your seat at the Draft Lottery table for years to come.”

      and since you are not a Canucks fan, pray tell your team so we should know who we are sitting next to…

    • Dirty30

      It’s unfortunate that the validity of issues you raise are lost in the vitriolic and hyperbole.

      Any one of these items could become a future CA article for discussion and elicit some realistic concerns from fans.

      Yet I doubt things are as obviously bad as you state since no one has yet seen this iteration of this team play — last year was an injury disaster.

      WD may not be Scotty Bowman, but he did what he could with what he had — and might have considered options — we may see those this year.

      This isn’t the 2011 Canucks, but until they play 20-40 games, no one knows what they will be.

    • Jay (not J)

      Wow, the prophet of doom has spoken. would you like some bile and vinegar to sweeten up what you are drinking? So, according to what you have written, we might as well simply fold the tent tomorrow. Not a hidden ray of sunshine, not one faint hope? I guess I will prepare my cyanide cocktail now. Good bye cruel world, goodbye big cap ….sniff, this is on you.

      Okay, I am kidding. but one thing for sure is your glass is half empty, I mean a lot more than half empty, in fact your glass is completely empty. Maybe fans like Backup Bob (not a shot, Bob)are overly optimistic, but you sir take the cake on misanthropy and pessimism.

    • Jay (not J)

      Don’t read between the lines, but since you are, nobody is questioning Bieksa or his character, but the Canucks knew that in a year, they would not be able to afford to re-sign him (Ducks gave him two years at 8 million. Canucks received a second rounder, which is not optimum, but expected with another one of those famous no trade clauses that were handed out like lollipops by Bennings predecessor.

      Burrows will likely not be re-signed, and who knows, maybe Canucks will see a position in coaching or scouting for him? Frankly, I’d like to see both of them back in the Canucks organization…in Bieksa’s case his one liners are enough to have him back!