Canucks’ Rutherford: ‘There’s no rush here’ to make trades
It’s been a busy few weeks for Jim Rutherford. While most Hall of Famers are at a point in their lives and careers where they consider golfing, traveling, or perhaps getting into pottery (why not?), Rutherford, 72-year-old took on the arduous task of rebuilding the dying man. Vancouver Canucks franchise and, along the way, put the hockey world in tune with a series of groundbreaking hires in critical positions in hockey operations.
Rutherford, the architect of a Stanley Cup champion in Carolina in 2006 and then the man behind Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Cup runs in 2016 and 2017, has hired former player agent Emilie Castonguay as a assistant general manager and soon after named Patrik Allvin as general manager, making Allvin the NHL’s second European general manager. Then Rutherford stole fellow Hall of Famer Cammi Granato away from the Seattle Kraken where she was scouting and set her up as an assistant general manager to work with Castonguay.
« And don’t lose sight of Rachel Doerrie, the other person we put in the analysis and she’s also very impressive, » Rutherford noted in a recent chat with Daily face-to-face.
Sure. We would never neglect our old Daily face-to-face colleague who is now part of the Canucks’ growing hockey analytics department.
While other NHL teams have promoted women to key positions within their hockey operations departments in recent months, the Canucks have broken barriers to new levels almost overnight.
« I’m making some changes and we have some work to do, but I’m pretty happy with the squad we’ve put together, » Rutherford said.
And as if those key staffing decisions weren’t enough, after a disastrous start that saw Canucks ownership led by Francesco Aquilini, the clean house lay off general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green at Mid-season, the Canucks resumed their playoff path in the Western Conference’s big opener under new head coach Bruce Boudreau.
On Tuesday morning, the Canucks were five points shy of a wildcard spot — with a considerable amount of distance to climb based on point percentage.
As busy as it has been for Rutherford, it’s about to get a whole lot busier as we head into the final month before the 2022 trade deadline on March 21. Here is a sample of our conversation with Rutherford.
Scott Burnside: When you make the decision to go to Vancouver and take over the hockey operations department, how quickly does that idea of what you want your staff look like come to fruition? How do the blocks fit together for you?
Jim Rutherford: Well it’s like always, you accumulate information over the years. You put it away somewhere. And for different situations. When you make a coaching change, people tell you how did you build your roster? Well, it’s a list I make regularly. And keep it stored in my head. It is the same as this situation. I would say that over the last 10 years I thought about exactly what I ended up doing in Vancouver. But the situation in Vancouver, with more vacancies, gave me the chance to do what I had been thinking about for some time.
SB: You envision building the best hockey department possible, but is there a part of that that’s also, ‘I want to do something that will change the landscape on a bigger frame?’ Is that part of it? Or is it just the Vancouver Canucks? Because I think it’s fair to say that what you’ve done here is important.
J.R.: It’s more about what we do. Not what others will do. There are different ways of doing things. And there are different ways to succeed. It’s like there are different ways to win the Stanley Cup. You can win it with a heavy team or you can win it with a fast and skilled team. There are different ways of doing things and that concerns us more. I mean now that you ask the question, I suspect that’s going to change things up a bit, but that wasn’t the reason to do it.
SB: Had had a relationship with Emilie or Cammi before?
J.R.: No. I spoke to Emilie a few times on the phone regarding the players she represented. But I hadn’t met her in person. I had not met Cammi in person. Obviously well aware of Cammi.
SB: Have you had any staff meetings where people look around the room saying « hey, this is different from what other staff meetings would look like. » Have you ever experienced this moment?
J.R.: Yes, we had a full meeting. I don’t think anyone thinks about who our band is. I don’t think they look around the room and say « there’s something different here ». I think it’s just that we have a really good group of people. Good people. Good hockey players. We don’t see anything as different.
SB: So now you have this band together. You are getting used to each other and the trade deadline is in a month. What is the challenge for you in the short term between now and March 21? How do you sort through all the things you need to make sure you’re tracking the way you want this franchise to track?
J.R.: No different challenge than anyone else. That’s why we have people going through the hockey system in different ways. We want different voices. Everyone’s voices will be heard. Patrik is the general manager, he will have to make these decisions. But having different voices and people that we have is going to benefit us. And so certainly a decision has to be made as to where we are now as a team and where we want to get to, but we don’t have to start over. We know that. We have a number of good players here, so we’ll see where it goes.
SB: We in the media are all caught up in labels; buyers and sellers and the west is so fluid do you think in those terms ‘buyer or seller’ or do you have to wait maybe three or four weeks to make that decision with Patrik and the rest of your operations staff hockey?
J.R.: Well, we’re in a position where we don’t have to feel any pressure this year because we don’t have better players where they’re going to be UFA. So there is no urgency to make these kinds of decisions. Our decisions will be made step by step as to what we think is best for the franchise now and in the future.
SB: Is that a good way to get it if you start building this organization so you don’t have to deal with those kind of staffing issues right away?
J.R.: He is. Yeah. Yeah. It wouldn’t be as comfortable if we were sitting here with some of our best players who would be UFAs, which would put a lot of pressure on the staff and we’re not in that position, so that’s good.
SB: Has there been a time since you took over where you’ve been ‘I’m so glad to be here. Am I so glad I made this decision? Because you didn’t have to take this job.
J.R.: No. No. It has been a long time. I also didn’t have to take the Pittsburgh job. And I’m glad I did. « t have been treated better by the Aquilini family and Michael Doyle (President of Canucks Sports and Entertainment) and everyone here. So I’m really glad I took on this challenge and it’s not going to be easy. These jobs are not not easy. I don’t see it that way. But it’s a wonderful city. It’s a great franchise and the passion for the Canucks throughout the province of British Columbia is really special. So it’s It’s a good place to be.