‘We’ll keep an open mind’: Jim Rutherford discusses the Andrei Kuzmenko situation

Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
7 months ago
Andrei Kuzmenko’s second season in the National Hockey League hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, but the Vancouver Canucks are keeping an open mind about the situation.
Kuzmenko, 27, has just four goals and 15 points in 25 games this season and has twice been made a healthy scratch by Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, who has frequently expressed his frustration with the sophomore winger.
Canucks president Jim Rutherford told Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre on Monday that the team still believes in Kuzmenko but won’t lock itself into a specific direction with the 5’11” forward.
“I’m concerned only to the point that now he’s feeling the pressure,” Rutherford told MacIntyre. “And when you feel the pressure and you start pushing, squeezing the stick harder and passing when you should be shooting and vice versa, you get a little bit concerned.
“I believe in the staff we have and they will continue to work with him,” Rutherford continued.” He’s a good player. He is a capable player. Is he a guy that’s going to score 40 goals again? Maybe not. But certainly, the way he plays, you should be able to project him at 25.”
The Canucks’ management group clearly believes in Kuzmenko — they signed him to a two-year, $11 million contract extension back in January. But as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated over the weekend, the Canucks are fielding calls from other teams who want to know what they’re prepared to do.
To their credit, Rutherford and Co. aren’t painting themselves into a corner with regards to the Kuzmenko situation — or, at least, they’ve said as much.
“We’ll keep an open mind,” Rutherford told MacIntyre. “I don’t want to just lock ourselves into one answer. But we need to continue to try to help him.”
In 81 games with the Canucks last season, Kuzmenko collected 39 goals and 74 points to go along with a plus-nine rating. Due to his age, he was ineligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the NHL’s top rookie.

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