New Canucks president Rutherford talks about trades, hires and culture change

Francesco Aquilini summed up one of the busiest weeks off the ice in Vancouver Canucks history well.

“Another week, another press conference.”

Aquilini went many years without facing the media, but in the span of seven days he twice stepped onto the podium in the Norm Jewison Media Room at Rogers Arena.

Today was to introduce Jim Rutherford, the new Interim President and General Manager of the Canucks.

“Jim was at the top of my list of candidates to come and transform this franchise,” said Aquilini. “We brought him here to Vancouver to win our first Cup.

The new “Trader Jim”

Rutherford didn’t make any big proclamations today as he will understandably need a few weeks to assess his squad. But he arrives with his eyes wide open.

“I saw what you saw in the first 20 games, a team that underperformed,” Rutherford told media gathered at Rogers Arena. “Thinking more about this team and what I’ve seen, I’ve seen something in them and I’ve definitely seen a lot in this franchise, in the Canucks brand, that I’ve decided to take up this challenge. “

“We’re going to do our best to change the culture and get to a point where we have a cohesive playoff team that can become a contender and give us a chance to reach the ultimate goal.”

Rutherford has a reputation for being an executive who enjoys doing a lot of trading, but he hasn’t promised a quick fix.

“I don’t have a good answer for you yet,” Rutherford said in response to a question about whether his roster needed small adjustments or bigger moves to become a Stanley Cup contender.

“I’m in no rush to make a trade.”

Rutherford praised Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, and went out of his way to call Thatcher Demko a “franchise goalie.”

“There are a lot of good players here, but there are some areas that absolutely need to be improved. How long will that take, especially with our position in the cap, we have to be very creative. “

Rutherford has said he doesn’t want to trade any draft picks in the early rounds, saying the Canucks aren’t in that round. It’s a change from the previous regime, which had no first-round picks in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.

“I want to be careful with our trades,” Rutherford said. “I don’t want to trade draft picks unless they’re later round picks. This isn’t the cycle we’re in to trade high draft picks. The trades we do, I’d rather we get a little bit older on that, so as we go along, if it takes a few years to bring it together to be more of a competitor, then we’ve got the right one. age group they can get together.

One thing Rutherford really appreciates? Have a fast team.

“What I would like to see… is start playing faster,” said Rutherford. “We don’t have a fast team where we have a lot of fast skaters. This is really my favorite thing. But if you don’t have fast skaters, you have to be smart. You have to play fast. front pressure, washer pressure, rear pressure. Support your teammate as they fight for a puck.

Rutherford’s track record isn’t perfect, but it’s hard to argue with a resume that includes three Stanley Cups. He said he didn’t regret trading for Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson in Pittsburgh – two players the analytics community correctly identified as overrated.

“I use analytics a lot and I really like it,” said Rutherford. “But that’s not what I make my decisions about.”

Hiring process

Rutherford admitted he was not sure whether he would retire after leaving the Penguins, and that Aquilini convinced him to come to Vancouver. The 72-year-old executive was courted by Aquilini, who met him at his home. Rutherford was clearly impressed with the gesture.

“I enjoyed my time with Francesco. He did something I really couldn’t imagine… that an NHL owner would come directly to my house to meet me, ”said Rutherford. “It was pretty special.”

When Aquilini fired Jim Benning, Travis Green, John Weisbrod and Nolan Baumgartner eight days ago, they were widely seen as necessary and overdue. It must be said that the movements since then have been strange in their process.

The wheels were on the move for Rutherford to come to Vancouver before Bruce Boudreau was hired and before Stan Smyl was told he would be the team’s acting GM.

Aquilini has promised extensive research, but Rutherford appears to be the only person interviewed for the job, judging by the Canucks owner’s non-response to a question. He consulted with Rutherford before hiring Boudreau, obtaining his blessing before announcing the move. The layoffs of Chris Gear and Jonathan Wall were Aquilini’s call, however.

“We needed a new culture,” Aquilini explained. “We have decided, as an organization, to clean up the slate for Jim, and Jim will call on his staff to start over. “

“I didn’t ask for any movement,” Rutherford said. “But when you change the culture, sometimes when you have people who have been here for a long time, it’s harder to do and what I’m trying to do is change the culture to have that cohesive, positive attitude. and winning. I’m not saying these people couldn’t do it, but I think the more fresh new people we have, the easier it will be to do.

Rutherford says he has a list of 40 potential CEOs and could start making calls as early as tonight. He’s also looking to bring in a GM assistant this week.

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