"We will get better": Rutherford writes letter to Canucks season ticket members

Mar 30 2023, 10:43 pm

It’s season ticket renewal time for the Vancouver Canucks.

“Next season starts now” is the tagline, with a group of five players appearing in the Canucks’ ad campaign.

The Canucks will lucky to hold onto all of their season ticket members this summer, given what they were subjected to in 2022-23. There is increased optimism over the past two months, however, even if recent wins are coming at the expense of a high draft pick.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford wrote a letter to season ticket members this week, thanking them for their “continued support.”

Rutherford said the passion of Canucks fans is “simply incredible” and it’s something the team “will never take for granted.”

“This season has been difficult for all of us, but especially for you, our fans. We had expectations going into this season that were not met. All of us share in your frustration,” said Rutherford.

“This team needs to get better, and we will get better.

“I came to Vancouver 15 months ago with a plan to build this team into a legitimate contender, one that can ultimately compete for the Stanley Cup. Even though this season did not go as we hoped, our vision for this team has not changed.”

The Canucks have undergone a number of changes since Rutherford took over. J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser were re-signed in the offseason, Bo Horvat was traded, and Rick Tocchet took over from Bruce Boudreau.

The team spent money in free agency on Ilya Mikeheyev and has been active in signing European and college free agents, highlighted by Andrei Kuzmenko. Rutherford’s Canucks also flipped the first-round pick they received in the Horvat deal for a top-four defenceman in Filip Hronek.

What’s now clear is the Canucks won’t be committing to a slow rebuild, and will instead try to make the team competitive quickly around Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, and Miller.

Rutherford pointed to the Canucks being the fifth-youngest team in the NHL, mentioning a “core of elite players.”

“This is a terrific base to build upon. There is still much work to do to upgrade areas of our team. This includes being active in the college and European free agent markets along with managing our cap space by using all options available to us.”

Coaching and player development will also play an important role in the team’s success, something that’s not lost on Rutherford.

“A big part of the development of this group will be the work of new Head Coach Rick Tocchet and his staff. We are already seeing improvements under Rick’s leadership. He is implementing the style of hockey we want to see this group play and holding the players accountable.”

For the first time in a long time, the Canucks’ farm team has earned some kudos, as many players from Abbotsford have stepped into the NHL lineup and helped this season.

“We have a unified vision that runs from Abbotsford in the AHL to the Canucks in the NHL. Coach Jeremy Colliton is doing exceptional work in Abbotsford and is in regular communication with Rick on the development of our players. Our hockey development staff has also been highly strengthened by the addition of Henrik and Daniel Sedin. We are lucky to have two Hall of Famers working with our players in both Abbotsford and Vancouver.”

The proof will be in the pudding of course.

The Canucks fan base has endured a lot of losing, which stems from long before Rutherford was hired.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the Canucks have lost the fifth-most games in the NHL, and are poised to miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons.

Vancouver hasn’t hosted a playoff game in their home arena since 2015. Only two other fan bases have waited longer to see their team play a home playoff game: the Arizona Coyotes (2012) and the Buffalo Sabres (2011).

The Seattle Kraken have never hosted a playoff game, but appear poised to do so this year, in just their second season.

“We are excited for what we are building and always appreciate your support. Your passion and commitment are what drive this franchise. Together we can show the rest of the league why Vancouver is the best place to play, and more importantly, the best place to win.”

Full letter from Jim Rutherford:

To Our Members,

On behalf of Canucks Sports & Entertainment’s ownership, our hockey operations team and our players, I want to thank our Season Ticket Members and all of our fans for your continued support. We know how much this team means to you.

The passion from the Canucks fan base is simply incredible and something we will never take for granted. This season has been difficult for all of us, but especially for you, our fans. We had expectations going into this season that were not met. All of us share in your frustration.

This team needs to get better, and we will get better.

I came to Vancouver 15 months ago with a plan to build this team into a legitimate contender, one that can ultimately compete for the Stanley Cup. Even though this season did not go as we hoped, our vision for this team has not changed.

We are currently the 5th youngest team in the league, and we believe in our core of elite players. Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, and Thatcher Demko are exceptional players who continue to elevate their game. We are equally excited about the emerging new players on our roster which includes Andrei Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, Ethan Bear, and the recently acquired Filip Hronek. This is a terrific base to build upon. There is still much work to do to upgrade areas of our team. This includes being active in the college and European free agent markets along with managing our cap space by using all options available to us.

A big part of the development of this group will be the work of new Head Coach Rick Tocchet and his staff. We are already seeing improvements under Rick’s leadership. He is implementing the style of hockey we want to see this group play and holding the players accountable. We have a unified vision that runs from Abbotsford in the AHL to the Canucks in the NHL. Coach Jeremy Colliton is doing exceptional work in Abbotsford and is in regular communication with Rick on the development of our players. Our hockey development staff has also been highly strengthened by the addition of Henrik and Daniel Sedin. We are lucky to have two Hall of Famers working with our players in both Abbotsford and Vancouver.

Overall, I am proud of the hockey operations team we have put in place here. We have added bright and diverse minds to our management group over the past year in Patrik Allvin, Cammi Granato, Emilie Castonguay, Derek Clancey along with Ryan Johnson, and Stan Smyl. We have exceptional people working in our pro and amateur scouting departments. I’m confident in this group as we embark on upgrading our roster and selecting a top pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

We are excited for what we are building and always appreciate your support. Your passion and commitment are what drive this franchise. Together we can show the rest of the league why Vancouver is the best place to play, and more importantly, the best place to win.

Jim Rutherford

President, Hockey Operations

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