The Vancouver Canucks are set to bring in some veteran front office leadership, announcing Jim Rutherford as the new president of hockey operations. Rutherford will also take on the role of interim general manager for the time being, while he leads the search for a new one. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic notes that it’s a three-year deal for Rutherford in Vancouver. Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini released a statement on the hire:
It is time for a new vision and a new leader who will set a path forward for this team. 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.
Rutherford, 72, left the Pittsburgh Penguins in January, resigning his position as general manager. In the following months, reports started to surface that the legendary executive wasn’t finished with his front office career and would look for a new opportunity somewhere else at some point. It appears as though the Canucks, who cleared out their coaching staff and hockey operations group this month, is that opportunity.
After firing head coach Travis Green, assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner, general manager Jim Benning, and assistant general manager John Weisbrod, the Canucks have actually won two games in a row. Bruce Boudreau is now behind the bench as head coach, and with Rutherford joining the front office, the team is obviously not going to deal with any inexperience moving forward. It would have been difficult to find a coach-GM/president pair with more experience actually, given how long Rutherford and Boudreau have been around the NHL.
First taking over as GM of an NHL franchise in 1994 with the Hartford Whalers, Rutherford navigated the relocation to Carolina and won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. He joined the Penguins in 2014 and took home two more championships, before leaving the organization earlier this year. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2020. Known for his blockbuster deals and out-of-nowhere free agent signings, Rutherford is extremely well-respected around the game even if not all of his moves pay off.
In Vancouver, it’s stability and structure that is necessary now, as they transition away from the Benning era. The team has some spectacular talents at the core of the team, but things have not gone well in recent years. In fact, the team has only made the playoffs a single time since 2015-16, reaching the second round in the 2020 bubble postseason. Rutherford will now decide how to shape the roster around Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, and Thatcher Demko, and whether or not they want to strip things down before building it back up.
Darren Dreger of TSN first reported that things were “escalating” between the two sides and a deal was expected.