The Vancouver Canucks shook up their organization Wednesday night with the surprise announcement that Trevor Linden was leaving his role as president of hockey operations.
Jim Benning is being tasked with filling in for Linden for the time being but the Canucks general manager, plus head coach Travis Green, described the situation as “tough” as the team looks to move forward after digesting the news.
“It was hard because Trevor’s meant a lot to a lot of us in the office,” Benning told Sportsnet 650 Thursday. “Like, he hired me as general manager, gave me an extension last year. We’ve worked closely for four years. It’s been tough.”
Although the split was described as amicable in a statement released by the team, there are those around the league suggesting Linden and ownership might not have seen eye to eye on the direction of the team’s current rebuild and that it was a contributing factor in Linden leaving.
“I don’t know all the reasons why it happened and it’s not my place to comment on it,” Benning explained before adding, “but I think this is important for our fans to know that the plan has not changed. We’re going to continue to draft skilled players, make sure they’re developed properly and then when they’re ready to play give them a chance where they can be successful.”
If Linden’s vision for the team contrasted with what ownership has in mind, Benning didn’t notice.
“I’ve never seen [any philosophical differences],” Benning said. “We would have meetings with ownership once a month. We would go over our plan with them and really our plan has never changed. … I think we’ve got to a place now where this year whether they make our team or they’re in the AHL, we’ve got like six, eight, real good, grade-A prospects, so I think we’ve worked hard to get to this point but I’ve never seen any disagreements there.”
Green also expressed shock over the announcement while adding that he’ll miss his former colleague.
“He was good to work with, a big believer in communicating. Trev and I usually talked every morning really about our team, about our game,” Green said. “He’s been such a big part of the organization, the city, the team that it has been a tough couple days and quite a surprise to all of us.”
Green, who was named Vancouver’s bench boss in 2017-18 after four seasons with the AHL’s Utica Comets, said he likes the way his team is coming together and where the group is headed.
“When I came in to coach the Vancouver Canucks I knew where we were, where we were going and the vision we had as a group and that definitely hasn’t changed,” Green said. “You look where we are right now, even though we haven’t won as much as we’ve wanted to, I think it’s a new era, an exciting era. I think we’ve got a lot of fans within the city that are excited about where we’re going and how we’re getting there.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are on the cusp of making the NHL, and hopefully not just making it, but being players you can win long term with. … We want these players to be part of something special in Vancouver and we’re trying to build a team that this city can be proud of.”
Benning also continually mentioned the impressive crop of Canucks prospects the team plans on leaning on as the post-Linden rebuild continues.
“The players we signed this summer was to support our younger players and help them be successful NHL players,” Benning added. “We’ve got some young players that we feel are going to come in and push for jobs. … And let’s make no mistake about this, if we have young players that come to camp and deserve to be on the team and earn a spot on the team we’ll find room for them. I’ll move out other players whether it’s through trades or sending them down to the minors. If young players deserve to be here they’re going to be on the team.”