The last time Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini spoke in front of a full media room, it was to announce the hiring of Trevor Linden as the Canucks new president of hockey ops in 2014. Today he finally returned to the Norm Jewison media room, albeit for a much less happy occasion.
With general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green sent packing on Sunday and the Canucks sitting dead last in the Pacific Division, Aquilini and interim GM Stan Smyl were steadfast that a change was finally necessary, and explained what the team’s new direction under Bruce Boudreau will entail.
“I know our fans and the media are frustrated and unhappy. But I assure you that no one is more frustrated and unhappy than me and my family,” Aquilini said. “In the offseason, we believed we’d have a much better team than what we’ve been seeing… So now it’s time to go in a different direction with a new coach and a new GM.”
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That new coach comes in the form of Boudreau, who brings a wealth of experience from his time in Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota, and Aquilini said the deal to bring him to Vancouver came together pretty quickly on the suggestion of Smyl.
“Stan had thrown some names to me and one of the names was Bruce,” Aquilini said. “At some point very recently I made him an offer, which I think is a good offer for Bruce and for myself. He accepted it and he’s here today. We all know what he can do and hopefully he can make a difference. We’re all hoping for that.”
As far as the next general manager is concerned, that search is already underway according to the Canucks owner. Until then, Smyl will be taking over the interim role after working with the Canucks in some capacity for the last 40 years.
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“This is my team. My only team. I will always, always do what’s best for this organization. And I will always step up when asked to help,” said Smyl.
One of the main points Smyl made mention of was the team’s identity. Under Benning and Green, the Canucks have often referenced a mantra of being “hard to play against” and the interim GM used that same phrase again today.
“It starts with your effort, and those things are all important. So I think the players just have to step back a bit, and see what’s gotten them there, and their experiences and use that now,” said Smyl. “I want to be hard to play against. If I’m lining up against you, I’m going to make it as miserable as possible. I think that’s an important area and that’s an area where we’ve got to start it.”
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With rumours floating around early Monday that Marc Bergevin could be a candidate for the general manager role, Aquilini didn’t completely shoot it down as a possibility.
“I haven’t spoken to him, but I’m sure he wants to sit back and just reflect,” said Aquilini, adding that he wasn’t ruling out the move, or potentially hiring a president of hockey ops. “It would have to be someone that comes in as a tandem, president and GM. You’d have to find the perfect fit and that’s not easy to find… but it’s an option on the table.”
That president of hockey ops might be a tandem role with the general manager position, Aquilini added.
Questions have been raised about the owner potentially being involved in day-to-day hockey operations, but it was something he made a note to shoot down.
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“Owners own, managers manage, coaches coach, players play. The minute you cross those lines, there’s no alignment anymore,” he said. “I see my job as supporting the general manager.”
You can watch the full press conference by clicking here.