Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford appeared on Canucks Center with Sportsnet 650 radio hosts Dan Riccio and Satiar Shah on Monday to talk about his team’s 3–6–3 start to the 2022–23 regular season.
Rutherford didn’t mince words about his displeasure with what he’s seen from his team since the start of training camp.
“We have to make the players more responsible. We will have to take the necessary steps to get players’ attention,” Rutherford said. « We tried to make changes in the offseason, one of our priorities is the right side of our defense, we need to rejuvenate it. We took a step forward there when we were finally able to get Ethan Bear.
« If we played in a really solid structure, it would make it easier for our defense to play, » continued Rutherford. « It doesn’t matter who was on our defense. Right now we don’t have that solid structure.
The Canucks lost Saturday’s game to the Nashville Predators 4–3 in a shootout after leading 3–0 in the second period, marking the fifth time in 12 games this season that the team has squandered a multi-goal lead before ultimately lose.
Rutherford compared his reaction to the loss with angry messages sent by Canucks fans in the Sportsnet 650 radio text line.
« I feel the same way as those texts that you referred to, the way those people feel, » Rutherford said. “At this point, I expected better. I didn’t like our training camp and we continued the same at the start of the season.
“There are a lot of things that need to happen, but for us to become a better team, we need to play with a stronger system and really be more accountable for some of the things that some players struggle with,” Rutherford continued. « When you win at home, 3-0 in your own building, and you have the goalkeeper we have and the players we have, we shouldn’t lose this game. »
When asked directly if the Canucks have the right people behind the bench and on the ice to play with a better structure, Rutherford didn’t expressly give head coach Bruce Boudreau a vote of confidence.
The Canucks hired Boudreau as head coach on Dec. 5, 2021, four days before Rutherford joined the organization. Boudreau’s deal with the Canucks is set to expire at the end of the 2022-23 season; Rutherford didn’t sign him for a contract extension last summer.
« I believe the style that the team played that was successful in the second half of last season was a loose style and was more on the attacking side, » Rutherford said. “Our goalkeeper played really well in the second half and really helped win a lot of those games or bail us out in open games.
« I don’t believe that’s the style of play you can sustain for a long time if you want to fight for a playoff spot. »
The final question Rutherford answered concerned the contract status of Canucks captain Bo Horvat, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
Horvat, 27, has 10 goals and 14 points in 12 games with the Canucks this season. He is under contract for this season with a cap of $5.5 million.
It should also be noted that Horvat’s contract does not include any trade or movement protection.
« There was no movement [on contract talks]. Our priority is to keep Bo,” Rutherford said. “We recognize what he can do for us. I’m very proud of him, I give him a lot of credit. He might lose focus here and think about what’s going to happen with his contract and so on, but he’s ready to play and he’s played very well for us.
« I hope it continues, I hope we can sign him. If we can’t sign him, the better we play, the better we will come back, » Rutherford said. « Ideally we can find a way to keep Bo in Vancouver. »