“Serious changes” are coming for the Vancouver Canucks.
Those were the words of President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford, who answered questions from reporters for about 45 minutes this morning.
The questions were difficult, as you might expect for the leader of a team that has woefully underperformed this season. Instead of being a playoff team like they planned, the Canucks are 12 points back of a playoff spot, which is almost as close as they are to last place in the entire league.
Rutherford admitted that the task of fixing the Canucks is more difficult than he first thought it would be.
“I’m disappointed in the job I’ve done to this point,” said Rutherford, highlighting his management group’s inability to significantly shed cap space.
"I'm disappointed in the job I've done to this point… We have to do major surgery."
Jim Rutherford on the Canucks’ roster changes. pic.twitter.com/AGDtw29gOg
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 16, 2023
“The opportunity hasn’t been there, but it’s still my job to get it done. Until we do that, we’re not going to be able to make the kinds of changes that we need to make, or certainly the changes we need to make to put ourselves in a better position.”
Major surgery required
Rutherford spoke highly about the Canucks’ core players, saying that there are others that he’d prefer to move. But he did recognize that core players might need to be moved.
“The changes we need to make are not with the core players, the changes we need to make are other players on the team. It could end up being core players. When I came here, I knew it was going to be a big challenge, and I thought we’re going to have to do minor surgery… Have I changed my position? Yeah, we have to do major surgery.”
Rutherford didn’t offer up much hope with regards to re-signing Bo Horvat, saying that the team has taken its “best shot” already in negotiations.
And with regards to clearing cap space, he pointed to the possibility of buying out players that they’re unable to move.
On Bruce Boudreau, Rutherford admitted that has looked at other coaching candidates this season.
“Between now and the start of next season, we’re going to have to make some changes. Some won’t be very popular. Some will be popular. But we’re going to have to really do some things that I didn’t think we would normally have to do when I first got here on how we make those changes.”
“We’re stuck with contracts that we can’t move. Until we move those out, or until they expire, it’s going to be hard to make those changes.”
Canucks will retool, not rebuild… again
With fans and media calling for a rebuild, Rutherford remained as defiant as the previous regime. While they may add draft picks, that’s not Rutherford’s preference.
It wasn’t Jim Benning’s preference either.
“We’re not looking towards a rebuild, I’d rather call it a retool,” said Rutherford.
“My preference is when we make these deals is not necessarily for draft picks that may come in and help the team four years from now, five years from now. I’d prefer to get younger NHL players that maybe didn’t work out in their entry-level contract. You know, bring them in, give them a second chance. We’ll still try to acquire some draft picks, but we have to go about this in a way that it’s not a long-term rebuild. And I think we can do that. The possibilities are out there… So it’ll be a mix of draft picks and hopefully younger NHL guys that have NHL experience.”
While Rutherford said fixing the Canucks will “never happen as fast as we all want,” he also seemed confident that the team could be turned around in under three years.
“Yes… Three years. I’d like to think it’s quicker than that. We got a lot of good players here… We have really a lot of good players. But do we have a team? We’ve never come together as a team.”
Tanking for Bedard
On the prospect of tanking the rest of the season, Rutherford didn’t exactly shoot down the idea.
While he said that he would never tell players and coaches not to try to win, he did mention sending down young players like Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Höglander, and Nils Aman to the AHL for their development.
“When we go into the second half, we can make different decisions in how we go about doing our business. I don’t view that as tanking.”
And what about Connor Bedard?
“I’ll say the obvious, we’d all like to get the first pick overall, if there’s ever a year to get it.”