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Jimmy Rutherford Takes the Helm for the Vancouver Canucks

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Vancouver Canucks, Jim Rutherford
Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford after winning the 2017 Stanley Cup with his Pittsburgh Penguins.

The transitional overhaul continues; the Vancouver Canucks have announced Jim Rutherford as their new President of Hockey Operations and interim general manager.

An old goalie, I knew him as “Jimmy” when he manned the crease for some bad to pathetic Red Wings teams in the 1970s. Rutherford developed into one of the more successful NHL hockey executives of the past two decades. If you subtract Ken Holland from the list, ironically from later Detroit teams, Rutherford likely heads that list along with Lou Lamoriello.

All three of those gentlemen have already been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Rutherford in 2019.

It’s been a busy week at Rogers Arena. Just three days ago Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini announced an interim arrangement for his hockey management and a new head coach. The latter, Bruce Boudreau, is two-and-oh since taking over with game three coming Friday night at home against the Winnipeg Jets.

As for plans for a general manager and/or a president of hockey operations, things weren’t quite as clear.

“We’re gonna need a leader that’s gonna come in, whether it’s a president or general manager, or a combination of both, we just want to get the right people and they’ll have to articulate that vision,” Aquilini said.

He talked about a thorough and exhaustive search. As it relates to finding their top dog, thorough and exhaustive meant 72 hours, which is fine if you’ve found the right person. In the case of Rutherford, they know they’ve found someone whose resume’/CV backs up the hire.

Rutherford has been available since January 27, 2021, when he resigned from the Penguins citing “personal reasons”. Initially, fans and others were concerned he might be ill. Instead, it’s believed his departure came due to his perceived loss of decision-making autonomy. Pittsburgh’s loss is Vancouver’s gain.

Rutherford re-organized the Carolina Hurricanes with great success, winning the NHL’s first post-lock-out Stanley Cup in 2006. The club epitomized roster balance that included veteran leadership and playoff experience. Aside from riding a rookie netminder in Cam Ward and a 20-year-old flourishing centreman in Eric Staal, the Canes line-up that playoff year included ten regulars age-30 or older.

Mark Recchi was 37, Rod Brind’Amour and Bret Hedican 35. Just three examples. How about the influence that group had on a 23-year-old Justin Williams, who’d go on to win multiple Cups and become a cagey, wily veteran of his own.

Fast forward a decade and Rutherford did it again with the Sidney Crosby led Pittsburgh Penguins. In the Penguins case, the wins involved a mid-season coaching change early in the first Cup season, 2015-’16, from Mike Johnston to Mike Sullivan. In this case, with the Canucks, Rutherford officially inherits a coaching change, with Boudreau just four days into this tenure.

Rutherford will attempt to build around a much younger and less experienced line-up with the Canucks.

“It is time for a new vision and a new leader who will set a path forward for this team,” Aquilini stated Thursday as part of the hiring announcement. “Jim has tremendous experience building and leading winning organizations and I believe he will help build the Vancouver Canucks into a team that can compete for championships again.”

A new era begins.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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