SBD/April 9, 2014/Franchises

Canucks Name Trevor Linden President In Move That Could Repair Trust With Fans

Linden's responsibilities will include overseeing coaching and scouting staffs
The Canucks today named Trevor Linden President of Hockey Operations, where he will oversee coaching and scouting staffs, player procurement and development, and minor league affiliations and operations (Canucks). The move comes one day after President & GM Mike Gillis "was fired, and two days after the club was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention" (THEPROVINCE.com, 4/9). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted Linden was "very involved with the business side of the game as a player," but has "not been involved in any managerial capacity with the Canucks since he retired" following the '07-08 season. The move to hire Linden comes after a source indicated that former Hockey Canada President & CEO Bob Nicholson had been in negotiations with Canucks Owner Francisco Aquilini to fill the vacancy created by Gillis' departure (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 4/8).

END OF A DOWNWARD SPIRAL: In Vancouver, Elliott Pap notes Gillis held the President & GM position "for almost six years and the team enjoyed tremendous success under his leadership." However, the Canucks "fell on hard times this season, especially during the second half, and were officially eliminated from the playoffs Monday" (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/9). The AP noted there were indications last week that Gillis and coach John Tortorella "weren't communicating." Gillis also had been "roundly criticized for his poor draft record, questionable free-agent signings and trades, and the handling of the Roberto Luongo saga" (AP, 4/8). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau wrote under the header, "Gillis' Downfall As Canucks GM Was Loving His Players Too Much" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 4/8). However, in Vancouver, Tony Gallagher notes under Gillis' tenure, the Canucks "went from No. 8 in NHL revenue to No. 2, something the owners actually notice, and the value of the team went from somewhere around" C$280M to close to C$800M. There likely will be "no shortage of opportunities and offers coming Gillis’s way if he wants to get back into hockey at some point, but it’s likely he will take a good while to decompress and take stock of what happened here" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 4/9).

REPAIRING A TARNISHED BRAND: In Vancouver, Iain MacIntyre writes the Aquilinis, for the first time since they bought into the Canucks in '04, "face a crisis of consumer confidence when it comes to their product." The Canucks brand "has been badly tarnished" since making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in '11, and the team should hire Linden to begin "restoring" the brand. With the team's season-ticket renewals "going poorly and chants Monday night at Rogers Arena of 'Fire Gillis! Fire Gillis! Fire Gillis!' echoing among the thousands of empty seats at the end of another desultory loss" to the Ducks, the "most immediate benefit of firing Gillis is that it is popular." Hiring Linden, at least in the short term, "would generate a windfall of goodwill for the franchise" (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/9). Also in Vancouver, Ed Willes writes the Aquilinis now face "winning back the confidence of the faithful." Francesco Aquilini "denies that he's been involved in the decision-making process." But whoever was "making the calls, ownership still presided over an organization that made a series of terrible miscalculations and errors in personnel assessment." The Canucks' on-ice issues "have been well documented." But it is the "off-ice problems, specifically the damage to the previously bulletproof brand, that is the larger story, and that story is nowhere near complete" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 4/9). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote the decision to get rid of Gillis is viewed "mostly as a business decision by the Aquilini family, needing to hand Canucks fans a scalp to stop the downward plunge of the Canucks brand." Hiring Linden would "be a smart PR move at the very least, helping to heal what appears to be a fractured marketplace that's become disillusioned with the franchise." There needs to "be trust again between the fans and their team." Right now, there "isn't, as underlined by all those empty seats at Rogers Arena on Monday night" (ESPN.com, 4/8).

TOO MUCH MEDDLING? SPORTSNET's Mark Spector wrote the Canucks' "true problem" is "meddling ownership that at some point likely told Gillis he had autonomy to make hockey decisions, then changed its mind when it mattered most." Spector: "Will the Aquilinis stay married to their wrong-headed hiring of [coach John] Tortorella and hire Jay Feaster, perhaps the only prospective GM in the entire hockey world who would keep Tortorella as coach of the Canucks? Talk about the very definition of a compounded mistake." If Feaster "gets the Canucks GM job, this team is in trouble," because that "means the Aquilinis think they are hockey smart, and the Canucks will lose for a long, long time if ownership is going to make the important, hockey-related decisions" (SPORTSNET.ca, 4/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the Canucks are the Aquilinis' team and "they can do whatever the hell they want with it." Francesco Aquilini in a statement said "new voice is needed." Wyshynski: "We imagine he means that of a ventriloquist's dummy who will parrot what the owners say and never go on the radio for line-in-the-sand interviews about how he knows better than they do. Because it's their toys, you see" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/8).
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