Canucks name Linden president of hockey operations

Vancouver Canucks great Trevor Linden has been named president of hockey operations of his former...

Vancouver Canucks great Trevor Linden has been named president of hockey operations of his former club. (CARMINE MARINELLI / QMI AGENCY)

HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:40 PM ET

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks didn't need to stall. They got their man.

Not even 24 hours after firing Mike Gillis, the team found a replacement for one of his two former positions. And if there ever was a hire to win back fans, this was it.

In a much-anticipated press conference at Rogers Arena on Wednesday, the Canucks officially introduced Trevor Linden as the team's new president of hockey operations.

"Today is a real honour," Linden said in front of a packed media room. "I came to Vancouver 26 years ago and I never left. It is my home and the Canucks have always been a big part of my family.

"When this opportunity was presented to me, I gave it good thought and I simply could not pass it up. I'm young, I'm passionate about this team and I want to win, just like the Canucks fans do. I'd love to be sitting here in 20 years, that's my intention."

"Our goal is nothing less than to bring the Stanley Cup to Vancouver," Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini added, after beginning his opening remarks by thanking Gillis for his five years with the club. "I don't want to play the blame game. Today is about change, today is about going forward. The best years of the Canucks are ahead of us.

"We believe in Trevor, we believe he is the perfect person to lead this hockey club."

The former captain, who led the Canucks to the 1994 final and spent 16 seasons through two stints with the club, will be given full autonomy and will take over the reins in selecting who then becomes the general manager, among all other hockey-related decisions. As president, the Medicine Hat, Alta. native will also be responsible for "the coaching and scouting staffs, player procurement and development, and minor league affiliations and operations."

When asked about picking his general manager, Linden wasn't willing to disclose much but did say he will begin building a candidates list soon enough and plans to have a GM in place by the NHL draft in June.

"We will do a search from within and from outside of our organization," he said. "I have a profile of not just the general manager but what I want that team would look like.

"But I definitely have a specific profile. It's one of those things where gaining permission to speak to certain people can be a challenge. When I make the decision, you'll understand and I'll be able to speak more freely on the profile I'm looking for."

But first things first, the hiring of a local legend in Linden serves as a move many Canucks fans are likely to get behind, even if he has no actual NHL front office experience after retiring from the league in 2008.

"My experience comes from playing, there's no question," Linden said. "It's one of those things where you need to surround yourself with good people ultimately, it's about building a team not just on the ice but off the ice.

"I've always been someone who's loved to learn. I have the ability to learn quickly and make the right call."

The 43-year-old has kept busy though since ending a 19-year NHL career, residing in Vancouver and leading several business ventures from commercial and residential development projects to starting his fitness chain, Club 16.

But Linden isn't entirely new to what happens off the ice in the league. He served as the NHLPA president from 1998 to 2006 including through the 2004-05 lockout.

The hiring brings Linden back onto the club he was originally drafted by in 1988, and served as the captain through seven seasons.

When he left the game in 2008, the former Calder Trophy finalist and two-time all-star was ranked first in games played (1,140) and assists (415), and second in goals (318) and points (733) in Canucks history. He still holds many of the team's playoff records, including most games played (118), goals (34), assists (61) and points (95).

His number 16 was retired by the club in 2008 and he was appointed to Order of Canada in 2010.

Accolades aside though, the focus for Linden is now on bringing this Canucks team back to elite status around the league. Having reached the Stanley Cup final just three years ago, the team has won one playoff game since, and this season, missed the post-season for the first time in six years.

The Canucks were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Monday and will play for pride when they host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. They sit 11th in the Western Conference, having lost four of their last five, and are on pace to finish their worst campaign since 1999-2000.

The unexpectedly disastrous year which also saw the departure of No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo led to the demise of Gillis, and more heads could potentially roll. It explains why a move although arguably hastily needed to be made by ownership to restore some hope amongst the fan base, especially since Wednesday was originally the deadline to renew next year's season tickets before the team decided to extend it.

Enter Linden.

"Anytime a team doesn't succeed or misses the playoffs, people aren't happy," he said. "My decision was more based that at this time of my life, this is a great opportunity and a great challenge to be back in a game that has been such a big part of my life. It really felt right.

"I can't wait to get started."

LINDEN SPEAKS

On his comments on Global TV a day earlier denying his involvement: "I apologized for being put in a situation that was very uncomfortable. It was an impossible situation to be in and out of respect the process and certainly Mike and his family, I had to do what I did."

On the owners: "They've given me full control to make all the decisions."

On the style he wants this Canucks team to play: "I come from the school that fundamental-sound hockey is winning hockey. I've been a big believer that playing well-defensive, smart-positioned hockey doesn't compromise your offensive."

On why the team under performed: "I don't want to get into that. Until I gather all that information, I'm going to reserve comment until I have more detail."

On his other businesses: "I've got a great partner who is going to continue on there. I am 100% committed to what I'm doing here today. My full attention will be here."

On the team's core: "There's many moving parts and I need to fully delve into that. I've got some ideas I'm not willing to share today. I like this core because there's good people there ... and they deserve the right to be where they are. Having said that, at this juncture, there needs to be a full evaluation of how we get better and what that looks like."

On handling future criticism: "I've kind of been like the backup quarterback the last few years. Everyone loves the backup quarterback because he hasn't made any mistakes yet. That's part of it, I fully recognize what I'm getting into. I know this market is passionate about the game. With that comes the potential that people aren't going to be happy with you and over the course of my career I learned a lot. But I wouldn't want it any other way.

On being back in hockey: "You don't spend 20 years in the NHL and spend your whole life in hockey and not have it in your DNA."


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