When things begin to fall apart for an NHL team, it’s not unusual for the decision-makers to publicly defend their roadmap. What is surprising is just how quickly the Vancouver Canucks have gotten to that point for Jim Rutherford.

In a recent interview with Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre, Rutherford discussed the Canucks’ dismal start to the regular season, along with the struggles of players like J.T. Miller.

Just about everyone and their mothers have been stunned by the Canucks’ record-breaking start, where they’ve blown multi-goal leads in four straight games and fallen to a record of 0-3-1. But Rutherford thinks the situation unfolding isn’t completely out of left field.

“But I’m not totally surprised at what’s happening. I’ve talked about this since I came to Vancouver and what I’ve seen with his team: We have good players here, but how do you become a winning team? It’s about playing the game the right way and playing with good habits.”

Rutherford feels the team is slowly getting better, pointing to their overtime loss to Columbus as proof. But he also thinks beginning the season on a long road trip put the Canucks in a tougher position than other teams.

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“We need to do that on a game-to-game basis: just keep going, even if we’re losing,” Rutherford said. “And if we’re playing the right way, we’ll come out of it. And not just come out of it for a while, but come out of it and do well.

“It’s difficult to start on the road. My preference is to start with a couple of games at home and then go on the road for a little bit. But when you’re starting from scratch and you don’t have any points to show for it, the games get harder and harder.”

Some players have struggled more than others. J.T. Miller has been on the ice for 12 of the 18 goals scored against the Canucks so far this season and has been a major liability defensively.

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But Rutherford was quick to defend his seven-year, $56 million man.

“I think he over-tries,” Rutherford said. “I think he tries to do too much sometimes. That’s the kind of player he is; it’s what drives him. He wants to win, he wants to do well. And when things aren’t going right with the team, some players have that tendency to try to do too much.”

In a similar conversation yesterday with Rick Dhaliwal, Rutherford mentioned Ilya Mikheyev as a player that could provide some help for Miller.

With their final game of the road trip coming up tonight in Minnesota against the Wild, it’s very possible that the Canucks play their home opener as a winless team in front of a short-tempered Rogers Arena crowd. But Rutherford has the patience to wait before making any drastic changes and spent his time at the recent NHL Board of Governors meetings making it clear that Bruce Boudreau isn’t going anywhere for the time being.

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But Rutherford also mentioned he’s been meeting with Boudreau to discuss the team’s play and had no qualms publicly discussing how they need to be playing to improve.

“I don’t want to put any certain time on it,” Rutherford said. “But I don’t think judging where a team is after a five-game road trip would be fair. We just have to build in the right direction.

“The way the game is played today, giving up leads in the league happens a lot because it’s harder to defend with how much tighter they call the game and how you play defence in this league. But to have it happen four games in a row, that’s not something that happens to teams. We just have to get to the point – and I saw it in Columbus – where we play with a lot better habits.”

It’s fair to understand why the Canucks’ President of Hockey Ops doesn’t want to rush into any drastic moves five games into the season. But the clock is definitely ticking down already.

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