British Columbia·Q&A

Trevor Linden on the Canucks' tough year and future plans

In a conversation with On The Coast host Stephen Quinn, Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden discussed the future of coach Willie Desjardins, the impact of young players and if the team should have been focused on a better draft position.

"I think our fans are seeing what will be the new core and the nucleus of this team moving forward"

Canucks president Trevor Linden says this has been a tough year, but there have been bright spots when it comes to young players' development. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

It's been a frustrating season for the Vancouver Canucks, who entered Thursday night's game against the San Jose Sharks  in the midst of a nine-game losing streak.

The team hoped a rebuild around a core of young players plus veterans like Henrik and Daniel Sedin would be enough to lead the team into the playoffs. 

But, the team's recent form has made clear the Canucks' run for the Stanley Cup has been on put on ice for the season. Instead, they're competing at the bottom end of the league standings for the first overall pick in the NHL entry draft later this summer.

The disappointing season has fans wondering what's next for the franchise.

Trevor Linden, president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks, spoke with On The Coast host Stephen Quinn about this season and what the future holds for the team.

The Canucks are on a nine-game losing streak right now. How did that happen?

You never want to look for excuses, but I think you do look for reasons. We've had a lot of injuries. The key injury early was when we lost Brandon Sutter, our second-line centre. That put us in a bit of a hole. And then lately in the last month or so we've had Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Radim Vrbata, Derek Dorsett, we've had as many as seven or eight guys out at one time. So we are shorthanded, we're relying on a lot of young players. It's challenging when you're out of the playoffs, but I do give our guys credit. We're going into every night playing hard and continuing to work hard. There have been  a lot of positives in seeing the young players step in and play significant roles.

Earlier this month, before the nine-game losing streak, you said Coach Willie Desjardins would be returning next year, that he had your confidence. Have you rethought that since this latest slump?

Vancouver Canucks' head coach Willie Desjardins, left, and president of hockey operations Trevor Linden laugh during a news conference in Vancouver. Linden says Desjardins will be back behind the Canucks' bench during the 2016-17 NHL season. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Not at all. Any time you get into these situations everyone's looking to point the finger or place blame. Obviously when I came into this two years ago I recognized the significant challenges the organization faced. Obviously we had an older group of core players and we needed to integrate young players and that wasn't going to be seamless. I'm encouraged by the steps we've taken this year with young players, I'm excited to watch them grow, but this is one of the byproducts of the challenges we faced two years ago. When we look at getting ourselves out of this situation it's about drafting and developing, and that's where our focus lies.

The plan was to somehow rebuild the team with a number of young players while still going for wins and ultimately the playoffs. Was it a mistake to take that approach instead of just focusing on rebuilding?

You have to support your young players with quality veterans. And we've done that. You can't just vacate your team of veterans and leaders, young players need people they can look up to, learn, understand how to be professionals, and we're going to continue down that path. We haven't done anything to sacrifice the future. We've always had our eye on the future, we felt our draft in 2014 was an excellent one, we're seeing that with some of the players in our lineup today which was sooner than we thought. We liked the player we picked last year, Brock Boeser. We're going to do another good job with the draft this year, and bringing these young players with the kind of leaders we have is how we feel we're going to go about this and it's going to prove successful in the end.

A lot of people are speculating that it could take a couple of seasons for the Canucks to really develop the younger players. What's your plan to get those new guys performing more consistently?

It doesn't happen overnight. There has to be a measure of patience with our group. There's been an incredible run here of hockey, and the organization is in a different place right now and a place it hasn't been for a while. But at the same time, I think it's exciting because I think our fans are seeing what will be the new core and the nucleus of this team moving forward. So I think they're excited about that, as am I.

Brock Boeser, left, walks off the stage after being chosen 23rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. (The Associated Press)

With files from On The Coast

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Trevor Linden on Canucks' 'challenging' year and 'exciting' future


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