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.
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.”