The Vancouver Canucks are attempting to enter a new era, but a familiar face will lead them into it as Trevor Linden has been named the organization's president of hockey operations.
According to Canucks.com, Linden was hired on Wednesday, and he will shoulder the burden of helping the Canucks return to the playoffs next season and beyond.
After reaching the postseason five consecutive times, the Canucks missed out this year in their first season under head coach John Tortorella. Although Tortorella is still at the helm for now, general manager Mike Gillis wasn't so lucky as he was fired on Tuesday, per the Canucks' official Twitter account:
It didn't take long for Vancouver to bring in a new front-office leader, and there is no doubt that Linden is a popular choice among the fans.
Even so, the choice came as a big surprise to many, including Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada:
Linden has no experience in NHL hockey operations, but he once served as president of the NHL Players Association, and he is an icon in the city of Vancouver.
Linden also spent parts of 16 NHL seasons with the Canucks as a player, which Canucks chairman Francesco Aquilini pointed to as a major positive:
It's my honor to officially welcome Trevor Linden home in his new role as President of Hockey Operations for the Canucks. We believe in Trevor's leadership abilities. His 20 years of NHL experience including seven as team captain, his role as NHLPA President, community leader and businessman offers a very special skill set; one that will positively shape the direction of this club in the future.
Aquilini also spoke about the decision to hire Linden at a press conference (via Sportsnet Hockey Central:
Aquilini on why Gillis was fired: "It was time for a change... We need a new direction, a new voice... Trevor was the perfect fit."— Hockey Central (@SNHockeyCentral) April 9, 2014
Like Aquilini, Linden is excited about the opportunity and he has set some huge goals that he intends to accomplish:
I'm passionate about the Canucks and I want to win– just like our fans. I believe in this team and share the organization's commitment to excellence on and off of the ice. I am looking forward to getting started– getting to know everyone in the organization, and working together to win the Stanley Cup for this great city and Province.
Linden later spoke to the media about taking the job (via the Canucks and Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports):
“Today is a real honour. I came to Vancouver 26 years ago and I’ve never left.” - Trevor Linden— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) April 9, 2014
“I always wanted to be back. I never wanted to work for another organization.” - Trevor Linden— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) April 9, 2014
“I believe I’m ready for this challenge. I’m passionate about this team and I want to win.” - Trevor Linden— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) April 9, 2014
Linden: "My experience comes from playing, no question." Mentions Sakic, Yzerman, Neely. Spoke to them in last few days.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) April 9, 2014
As for other candidates, Bob Nicholson was linked to the job, but Darren Dreger of TSN is reporting that the team did not speak to him about the job:
Told the Canucks did not speak with Bob Nicholson. His name will surface in NHL based on experience and availability. Rest is his priority.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 9, 2014
The Canucks have a great deal of talent in place such as the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler, but their core is aging quickly, and they must quickly put a quality supporting cast in place.
Even though the Canucks have had success in recent years, they have looked like a franchise in disarray. They had constant squabbles with goalie Roberto Luongo, but seemed to settle on keeping him when they traded backup Cory Schneider at the 2013 NHL draft.
Is Linden the right hire for the Canucks?
Vancouver then inexplicably dealt Luongo to the Florida Panthers at this year's trade deadline, which meant that the Canucks went from having two world-class goalies to none in a matter of months.
Perhaps a change in leadership is exactly what the doctor ordered, but Linden won't be able to lead on the ice like he did for so many years in Vancouver.
If he can help get everyone on the same page and make some shrewd personnel decisions, though, there is no reason why the Canucks can't get back into contention in the near future.
With that said, the window of opportunity in terms of winning the Stanley Cup in the coming years may have closed, and it's possible that there is nothing Linden can do to change that.
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