Saturday, 28 July 2018

Linden Gone Again

February 6, 1998 was the last time that Trevor Linden left the Canucks by some means other than his own choosing after having been traded to the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, it seems that he has once again left the Canucks this week and there are some who are questioning whether his departure is as amicable as the team is stating the parting is. Either way, Trevor Linden is no longer the President of Hockey Operations, a title he assumed four years ago, for the Vancouver Canucks. In making this change, the Canucks have made it clear that they have a view of how they want the future to look, and it appears that one of the most popular players in team history didn't share that view.

As President of Hockey Operations, his boss was the only man whose opinion matters in the end: owner Francesco Aquilini. It was Linden, however, who was to chart the course to put the Canucks back on a winning track, and it was reported by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman that the direction Linden wanted to go was in contract to what ownership had wanted. Mike Johnson of wrote,
Elliotte Friedman joined Sportsnet 650 to discuss the front office shakeup and after making a few calls he suggested Linden and ownership might not have seen eye to eye on the direction of the team’s current rebuild.

Friedman would go on to explain that one NHL general manager told him that at June's draft in Dallas, Linden had approached several teams that had gone through rebuilds and inquired about their respective processes.

"I think that was his plan. I think he wanted to keep going the same way and I do think there was a recent meeting where I'm not sure the vision was shared, and I think at that point in time it was recognized that it was time for a break," Friedman said. "I think Linden had a plan that he saw as he asked some other teams about how they went through their rebuilds and he presented that and I don't think he felt that the organization wanted to do it the same way."
Perhaps Linden wanted to expedite the rebuild process by trading some of the prospects they had in the pipeline to acquire pieces that would get the Canucks back into the hunt faster, but it sure sounds like he wanted to acquire more draft picks to amass more blue-chip prospects. Whatever the vision he shared was, it was not what Francesco Aquilini's ownership group wanted. With Linden unable to pursue this plan and not favouring ownership's preferred plan, it seems changes had to be made.

There's no doubt that Trevor Linden's time has produced very little to celebrate on the left coast as the Canucks missed the playoffs for three straight years while piling up prospects like Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Jonathan Dahlen, Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi, Kole Lind, and Thatcher Demko. While Horvat and Boeser have proven they can play at the NHL level, the remainder have some work to do when it comes to finding that consistency. The team recently re-signed Jake Virtanen, but it's hard to see him morphing into more than the checking forward he is, and there's little hope for a return by 6'7" defenceman Nikita Tryamkin as his NHL days had him look sorely out of place. And while no one is suggesting that any of the other players above have hit their ceilings, the Canucks desperately need a number of them to start taking steps forward to fill open roster spots.

GM Jim Benning has been plugging holes with the likes of Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Tim Schaller this off-season, but these signings won't do anything but add bottom-six depth to a team that doesn't really need anymore depth at those positions. If it were Linden's vision to continue to try and grab another high pick in next year's NHL Entry Draft, these signings would be in line with that vision. With Jack Hughes on the horizon as the potential top pick, it would give the Canucks another weapon in their holster as their young stable of players mature.

As Elliotte Friedman stated, "I think it comes down to a point where if you're not going to support it, you don't want to be there, and if you're not going to support it, ownership probably doesn't want you there. So, people can decide what that means but I do think both looked at each other and said, 'This is not going to work.'"

As it stands, Jim Benning has all the keys to the good ship Canucks now, and it will be on him to right the boat moving forward. If that means accelerating the process by dangling a prospect in a trade, so be it. But as fans of the Winnipeg Jets will tell you, the six years they waited for anything other than early tee times and two home playoff losses was entirely worth it with the run that the Jets went on this year. It may have been a long and painful road with a lot of questioning of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, but hope springs eternal in Winnipeg with all the youth they have in their system.

It seems like Trevor Linden was trying to replicate that magic in Vancouver, but had the curtain fall on him before he could finish the act because someone got impatient. If that's the case and there are moves made to try and expedite the process, it could be a long time before the Canucks return to prominence.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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