British Columbia

Vancouver Canucks president says 'major surgery' needed to build a winning team

President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said he wants to "retool" the roster with young players rather than stock up on draft picks for a multi-year rebuilding project.

Despite promises of improvement, the Canucks are having one of the most disappointing seasons in memory

A man in a dark suit and white open-collared shirt sits at a desk in front of a microphone with a plastic water bottle beside him, waiting for questions. Behind him is the Vancouver Canucks large-C-and-orca logo on a blue background.
Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford is pictured during a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Anyone doubting the Vancouver Canucks is in a very bad place these days need only listen to president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford, who on Monday confirmed the fact amid questions from the media about the club's ongoing failure to ice a winner and related dramas blowing up around the team. 

With playoff hopes already dashed and the season only half over, Rutherford was blunt in his assessments. 

"I'm pretty disappointed with the job I've done," he said. "This was never going to be a quick fix ... I know the frustration of the fans and media. And everyone wants it done sooner than later, just like I do. But in a cap world, it's not that easy to do."

Rutherford, 73,  joined the Canucks 13 months ago amid a front office and coaching shakeup that saw coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning fired.

But expectations that a new vision at the top would lead to improved results on the scoreboard have not materialized.

Rutherford was asked if the team should just tank the remainder of the season to increase the odds of drafting superstar-in-waiting Connor Bedard in June's rookie draft.

"I thought we were tanking. We're pretty close to the bottom," he said. "I would never ... go and tell a coach or the players don't play hard for this game. They have a job to do, to come to work every game and try to win that game."

Addressing rumours that head coach Bruce Boudreau would be fired imminently, with Rick Tocchet waiting in the wings to replace him, Rutherford divulged he's been talking to contacts about potential coaching hires for months. 

A man in a dark suit and tie stands behind the players' bench, with four players in white hockey uniforms in front of him. Behind the glass he stands in front of are the spectator seats.
Hockey insiders have reported that Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau will be replaced by Rick Tocchet. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

"Bruce is our coach, and that's the way it is today," was all he would say.

Rutherford said the team needs "major surgery" and that the plan is to "retool" the roster with young players rather than stock up on draft picks for a multi-year rebuilding project.

 "My preference is when we make deals, it's not necessarily for draft picks who may come in and help the team four years or five years from now. I would prefer to get younger NHL players that may not have worked out well on the entry-level contracts and bring them in to get a second chance," he said.

One of the major moves that seems inevitable is parting ways with captain Bo Horvat, likely in a trade before the season ends.

A pending free agent, Horvat is having a career year and will command upwards of $8 million a season on the open market, which is more than the Canucks can manage under the salary cap.

"I believe we've taken our best shot. The contract we have on the table for Bo right now is fair value for what he's done up to this year, but it's certainly under value for what he's done this year," said Rutherford. "So we're in a pickle here." 

The Canucks called the news conference to address comments made by defenceman Quinn Hughes implying that the team's medical staff mishandled a hand injury suffered by Tanner Pearson in November.

The club initially said Pearson would be out for four to six weeks. He's now had three surgeries and will miss the remainder of the season and possibly more.

Rutherford said because of privacy concerns, he could not discuss the details of Pearson's treatment or injury.

"He's had two setbacks, and that has led us to the place where we are today," said Rutherford.


Karin Larsen


Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster who covers news and sports for CBC Vancouver.


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