Building the Vancouver Canucks. I hit up President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford with some random questions last week. These were the second half of his answers mostly related to building a winner with the Vancouver Canucks.
As an NHL goalie he never made it past the second round of the playoffs and played in very few postseason NHL games. He did win the Memorial Cup with the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1969. He was drafted 10th-overall by the Detroit Red Wings that summer.
Rutherford won Stanley Cups managing the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and again overseeing the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. He joined the Vancouver Canucks in December 2021.
Is this competitive drive for you at this point in terms of you just keep working because you want to win another Cup, or you’d go nuts if you weren’t working?
(after a hearty laugh) I would probably go crazy if I wasn’t working, it’s what I’m used to doing, but I was gonna retire when I when I stepped down in Carolina (2014). Pittsburgh came along and I said I’d go for a couple of years and I went for seven and then I thought that was it. Then (Vancouver Canucks owner) Francesco (Aquilini) came and convinced me I should go to Vancouver and you know, I love the challenge and I like to win. Certainly would like to win another Cup.
It would be pretty cool in a Canadian city.
Yep it would.
It would be bonkers.
Yep, well, we’ve got some work to do. It’s not going to change overnight. But we’ll peck away at it here and hopefully we can get there.
Do you think you can make this a Cup contender in three years?
That’s always a tough question. I mean, I think that’s a fair time frame and a fair goal, but to predict that you can do that, there’s so many variables of what other teams do, injuries, and even if you do all the right things, I mean everything doesn’t work out. You know some things are gonna work, some aren’t, hopefully more work than don’t.
You gotta get a little bit of luck in there with things, but I like a lot of things that are in place now. I like a lot of these players. Like I said, we’ve got work to do, but we’re not starting from scratch by no means.
Given this roster I kind of look at three years as a goal or a mindset.
Usually in sports we talk about these things and everybody agrees, but then at some point everybody gets impatient and wants it’s done yesterday, not three years from now. So, we have a very knowledgeable fan base in Vancouver and they understand how it works, but at the same time, we all want to win and we want to win sooner than later. So, we’ll see how it goes.
Just one more on your playing days. Was the 1978 playoffs with the Red Wings, was that your biggest moment as a player when you beat the Flames and then started off hot against the Canadiens?
That was probably the biggest moment as a professional player. I won the Memorial Cup as a junior so that was that was probably the biggest accomplishment as a player. But yeah, that was a good run we had in Detroit. I mean, we had some tough, tough teams (as in bad). Not some real good teams there in the 70’s in Detroit, and it was tough for a long time, but we beat a better team in Atlanta, we won that series, and then we gave Montreal their only loss on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
We won in Montreal in Game-2 (round two) and that was that same year I was talking about when we got beat eight-nothing, we were alternating goalies, Ron Lowe and myself. I played in Montreal, we won the second game. Everybody’s all excited, we’re coming back to Detroit, we’re going to beat Montreal because we won a game in Montreal, and then we lost a game eight nothing at home. That was the day I was referring to, where going into the game, joking around. It was like we’d already won the game and we hadn’t even played it yet.
Oops. Especially against the Habs.
Yeah, they were really good, I think they only lost ten games all season. Like I said, they only lost one playoff game before the Final, they were phenomenal.
The memory of that emotion, as a fan, that the Red Wings might beat the Canadiens, I was an early-teen, I recall the anticipation vividly.
We beat them the first game because we surprised them. They brought their B-game that night. They had a few other levels they could go up to when they needed to and they did.