32 Thoughts: Jim Rutherford unloads with blunt truth about Canucks

Vancouver Canucks president Jim Rutherford holds a press conference amidst many rumours, to address his current roster ahead of the deadline, his current head coach Bruce Boudreau, and what his outlooks are for himself and the team going forward.

• When will Penguins retire Jaromir Jagr’s jersey?
• David Pastrnak, Bruins grinding towards extension
• Why are the Ottawa Senators considering rental defencemen?

As a media member, you can’t ask for anything more. We complain when we get cliches, we can’t moan when someone airs their blunt truth.

Jim Rutherford dug in like a major-leaguer facing prime Bob Gibson or Randy Johnson. No matter how high the heat, he took his swings. Whether or not you liked the responses, you were getting “According to Jim” — and we’re not talking Jim Belushi.

“I thought we were tanking, (we’re) pretty close to the bottom.” I mean, no one says that.

We will see Tuesday how the Canucks’ coaches and players felt about Rutherford’s commentary. But this is what we learned from the president of hockey operations:


There’s a segment of the fanbase that wants a full tank and if there’s ever a year to try, this is the one — with Canucks’ fan Connor Bedard as the Powerball prize. But the organization wants zero part of it. That’s been the modus operandi for years, whether you like it or not.

But there will be changes.

“We have to do major surgery,” Rutherford said. “We’re going to have to do some things that I didn’t think we would … have to do when I first got here.”

Elias Pettersson is untouchable. It would take a monstrous offer to get them to think about Quinn Hughes. Other than that, Vancouver will consider everything.

Including the captain.


Because of what happened last summer with J.T. Miller — the Canucks doing a complete 180 over approximately 48 hours to get an extension done — I’ve refused to believe the same thing can’t happen with Bo Horvat.

Rutherford didn’t just throw cold water on that theory, he drowned it.

“We, I believe, have taken our best shot,” he said. “The contract we have on the table for Bo I think is a fair contract for what he’s done up until this year. But it’s certainly under market value for what he’s done this year.”

Horvat, on pace for a career-high 57 goals, is unquestionably an $8-million player. He’s a top-line centre. But the Canucks won’t go past Miller’s $56 million total. They’ve decided breaking the cap logjam starts here. He understands why Horvat hasn’t signed and there are no hard feelings, but the captain has to be incredibly disappointed with how this turned out.  

To this point, Vancouver has not allowed any teams to speak with the pending UFA. We will see if that changes.


A few of us have argued this isn’t fair to Boudreau, the Canucks should go to an interim coach rather than make him float in limbo. When TSN’s Farhan Lalji said the coach was in a “challenging position,” Rutherford replied, “Yeah, well, we all are.”

And then: “Bruce is our coach, now.”

My theories are: that the Canucks did not want to do this on the road (Jeff Marek brought up Gerard Gallant’s firing in Florida, and how badly that unfolded while the Panthers were in Carolina). Also, I believe Rutherford wants to lay out what he’s thinking when it’s all there, and the organization was forced to be camera-front Monday because of Tanner Pearson’s surgery complications (we will get to that). So, even though he spoke, he’s not yet ready to explain why he will eventually make the change to Rick Tocchet. 

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Pettersson is the future captain, and eligible for a large extension this summer although he’s not unrestricted until July 2025. A lot can happen between now and then. I’ve seen a lot of situations that look one way, only to end up completely different. So, I hesitate to make any prediction on this one.

“We have regular communication with him and his agent to make sure he’s comfortable,” Rutherford said. “And I don’t have any concerns.”


Rutherford’s been around for eons. When I first spent any real time around him (more than 20 years ago), someone who knows said, “Before he’s done, he wants to run a team in Canada.” I’ve always remembered that, and I do believe this is very meaningful to him.

“I’m disappointed in the job I’ve done,” he said early in the question-and-answer about the team, but added he isn’t going anywhere (unless his health dictates otherwise, hopefully not).

“I really like the market, I get it that people are upset … but what a great hockey market.”

People are weird about legacies. I’m from the “once you’re gone, people move on” school, but it really matters to some. We’ll see if his Vancouver vision works, but I do believe being successful there is a huge motivator for him.


1. Before Rutherford’s on-ice State of the Union, he was flanked by head team physician Bill Regan and health and performance consultant Dr. Harry Sese for an update on injured forward Tanner Pearson. Initially, the winger, who injured his hand Nov. 9, was expected to be out four weeks. Last Thursday, the team amended that to the rest of the season. Pearson was scheduled for another surgery on Monday (I believe that’s his fourth) and, according to several sources, there will need to be at least one more.

The doctors were tight-lipped about specifics, although the complication is believed to include an infection. “On a personal note,” Dr. Regan said, “I’d have any of the surgeons involved in (Pearson’s) care operate on any one of my family members with no hesitation. Having said that, in Tanner’s case, there have been two setbacks stalling his recovery.”

It’s important to recognize, without knowing all the facts, we can’t be sure if this is a case where a procedure unfortunately went wrong, rather than something much worse than that. The NHLPA has begun its own investigation, and we will see where that takes things. There have been some questions about whether it makes sense that Dr. Sese runs Human Performance on a part-time basis, but, whatever the case, hoping for a full recovery allowing Pearson to resume his career.

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2. Thought it was important Rutherford stated no issue with Quinn Hughes’ initial comments on Pearson. People shouldn’t be punished for standing up for friends.

3. Not sure the timeline on Tocchet, but not convinced it will be this week. As mentioned on Monday’s podcast, Sergei Gonchar is on the radar, but not sure if that will be a full-time assistant position or a hybrid/consulting role.

4. Finally on Vancouver: as Rutherford mentioned, negotiations are underway on an extension for Andrei Kuzmenko. While other teams indicated they’d love him as a rental, the Canucks made it clear they intend to keep the winger.

5. Vegas’s Mark Stone has said in the past he’s considered some of the reporting on his injuries to be way, way, way over the top. So, I tend to be pretty careful. He’s listed as week-to-week, but we should get some indication in the next 7-10 days about this one and the severity of it. Hopefully, it’s nothing super long-term.

6. Speaking of Vegas, wondering if we see Laurent Brossoit in net soon. After a very rough start at AHL Henderson (22 goals in his first seven games), he’s found his way back from offseason hip surgery (24 in the last 12).

7. The morning of the (tremendous) outdoor game at Fenway Park, we sat down with Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque for the podcast. He was an outstanding guest (no surprise), but I wanted to highlight something he discussed. Right before the world was shut down by the COVID outbreak, he travelled to Czechia to see old friend Jaromir Jagr. “We had drifted apart, really,” Bourque said. “I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t like Jaromir when he was with the Bruins, the latter part of his career. I thought he was arrogant, I thought he was pompous. I didn’t like his personality. I don’t know if that got back to him or not, but we drifted apart.”

The Penguins, wanting to gauge Jagr’s interest in a jersey retirement, asked Bourque when he’d be talking to the future Hall of Famer. Bourque went to Prague, where Jagr had a car service waiting at the hotel for the trip to Kladno, where he plays. Bourque watched a game, and the two hammered out their differences afterward over a couple of beers. “We had an unbelievable talk,” Bourque said. Of course, Jagr wore his hockey underwear to the meeting. There’s no other way to go.

8. Jagr, who will be 51 on Feb. 15, is still going, with 40-year-old Tomas Plekanec also on the team. “He knows his name is so tied to that team, not just as an owner, but for the sponsors,” Bourque said. “Because once he leaves, the big sponsors leave. That’s part of why he’s hanging on. But, also, I wanted to plant that seed with him, that you are loved in Pittsburgh. I just want you to close your eyes for a second and imagine what that night’s going to be like. You know Mario is going to be there. That night of putting No. 68 up in the rafters right next to 66.”

Was he amenable to it? Will it happen? “Yeah, it’s going to happen.” Bourque said they talked in late December. “I said, ‘Hey, the Penguins are thinking maybe April. He said, ‘I haven’t retired yet.’ That was his thing, once (he) retired, (he’ll) be all for it.”

Bourque added what Jagr really wants is for the Penguins to come to Prague one more time. “He said, ‘I would love to have that moment with the team here, do a puck drop, announce my retirement then and maybe a couple weeks later, come back to Pittsburgh and put the jersey in the rafters.’ That’s his vision, his dream.” We should do everything we can to make it happen.

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9. Something to look at with the Matt Boldy extension: $25.4 million of the $49-million value will be paid from 2023-24 through 2025-26. With investing, it’s always better to get as much up front to get it working for you, but this is a little deeper. In the first three seasons of Boldy’s new contract, escrow is capped at six per cent in the NHL/NHLPA CBA. Who knows what it will be in a new CBA to be negotiated for 2026-27? I’m sure there are others, but I really noticed this one. Can’t imagine it’s the last we’ll see.

10. Boston and David Pastrnak are grinding away. As reported on Saturday, some progress. While the Pavel Zacha extension is not directly related, it shows the philosophy. Don Sweeney is trying to settle all business (although not at a baptism, but before the trade deadline). 

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11. With the hope that Evander Kane will be back Tuesday against Seattle, it was interesting Edmonton didn’t put anyone on waivers Monday afternoon. Mattias Janmark and Klim Kostin earned their roster spots, so the Oilers could have surprised us with an unexpected name. They need the cap space to activate Kane, which means they have another move up their sleeve, or, unfortunately, there’s another injury. We will find out soon. 

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12. I don’t think it ever got to Erik Karlsson, but I do think the Oilers and Sharks had legit conversations about the revitalized defender.

13. Last summer, I thought there was a high probability John Klingberg would end up an Oiler once the calendar flipped to 2023. He was interested in northern Alberta at the time, but the salary-cap pieces didn’t fit. There was a thought it would be revisited. I’m not expecting that anymore, although I do believe he ends up elsewhere.

14. One executive said that when his team called Minnesota about Matt Dumba, GM Bill Guerin’s response was, “Make it make sense for us.” Guerin is trying to win, and, as a 1,263-game NHLer, knows how making a trade that hurts the team will play in the room. So, it’s got to make them better, or give him the assets to make them better in another move.

15. I’m not sure Jakob Chychrun makes sense for the Wild as a potential replacement. They’ve been very careful about adding term. It’s a tough fit for them in salary-cap jail. (Horvat would be perfect for the Wild, who are looking for a scorer. But he’d be perfect for half the league.)

16. It seems counterintuitive, but Ottawa has considered rental defencemen. First, it gives a look at someone you might want to extend. Second, I think they consider finishing as strong as possible very important to their young, core players and their market.

17. Halfway through the season, and Tampa Bay-Toronto is all but a lock as a first-round matchup. Six weeks to size up each other and think about anything you might need to beat this opponent. The Lightning are interested in a Luke Schenn reunion. And I think they are also looking at a forward with an edge in the Coleman-Goodrow-Gourde-Hagel-Paul tradition.

18. This doesn’t count Monday’s game, but Seattle is shooting 11.2 per cent at five-on-five. The NHL has kept that stat only since 2009-10, but if this pace continues, it would be a record. Previous high is 10.7, by Toronto in lockout-shortened 2012-13. Full-season record? St. Louis last year, at 10.6. No wonder the Blues had six guys set career highs in points.

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19. Jared McCann has 49 goals in 114 games with the Kraken, including 22 in 40 this season. By the time he was 25, he’d been traded three times and exposed in an expansion draft. 

20. One friend of the blog said he saw a wagering website featuring seven teams with shorter odds to win the West than Winnipeg. Seems very wrong. 

21. Matt Duchene told our Christine Simpson, “I kind of have a target date of when I’d try to play until. I really admire guys who play at 40 years old, so that’s my goal. I’ve never said that in public before. I’d love to play until I’m 40.” 

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22. Another note on Nashville: Cody Glass gave a lot of credit to Mark Borowiecki for helping him with the mental side of the game. Glass admitted it was a huge problem for him in Vegas, that he’d make a mistake, couldn’t get over it, and be overwhelmed with thoughts that he was going to the minors. 

23. Vladislav Gavrikov is the Blue Jacket getting the most attention, but they’ve talked with a couple of teams about Gustav Nyquist

24. Forgot to include this last week, but Marek reported NCAA Michigan goalie Erik Portillo — drafted 67th by Buffalo in 2019 — is likely headed to free agency this summer. With Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen gravitating toward the No. 1 job and Devon Levi at Northeastern, there may be less youth around Portillo if he goes elsewhere. Of course, Buffalo could also use him as a trade chip.

25. The Sabres are also trying to find Vinnie Hinostroza a place to play. He’s been limited to 19 games, with eight assists.

26. Couple of crazy recent wins for Pittsburgh. Monday, they almost blew a home game to Anaheim, only to have Bryan Rust tie it with 25 seconds remaining in regulation and Jake Guentzel win it in overtime. Last Tuesday, they were down 3-0 to Vancouver 7:05 in. They won 5-4. That was the day after the team landed in Montreal at 4 a.m. from Arizona to attend Kris Letang’s father’s funeral. That wasn’t lost on one exec, who said, “The Penguins had every reason to pack it in (against the Canucks). Of course, they didn’t.”

27. In his NBC Sports Chicago interview with Pat Boyle, Patrick Kane told a good story about Connor Bedard from last summer’s BioSteel camp. “There was one play in camp, he had a two-on-one with (Connor) McDavid and he looked off McDavid and took a shot,” Kane said, laughing. We were all laughing on the bench.”

He added Bedard was very noticeable, even among this group of players. “He moves so well laterally. Everyone talks about his shot, his ability to shoot from different angles and off a different foot each time. But, man, the way he moves laterally is what gives him that space to be able to do that, so pretty impressive. Everyone’s wondering how is he going to do at the next level, how’s he going to be. From what I saw … he’s going to be special.”

28. Mike Murphy was drafted by the New York Rangers in 1970, and spent the last 50-plus years as a player, coach and, for the last two decades, in the league’s hockey operations department. Murphy retired as a full-time employee on Jan. 1, although he’ll remain in a consulting role. On Marek’s Monday show, he told the genesis story of the NHL’s Situation Room — stemming from a 2003 Detroit game in Calgary.

“There’s a puck that gets very close to the goal line, but it doesn’t go over, and they call it a goal,” Murphy said. “So, 30 seconds later, after the ruling, the phone rings. It’s (then-Red Wings GM) Kenny Holland. Kenny says, ‘Guys, we’ve got to change this, this is the wrong call. You saw it. I saw it. We’ve got to have a full-time video room of people who are there all the time.’” Twenty years later, the NHL is expanding its current space in Toronto to create an even larger footprint for the operation. 

29. Hated to see a potential first NHL goal for Bobby McMann erased last week in Detroit on a kicked puck. Letter of the law was absolutely correct, but he wasn’t even trying to score. He was trying to send it to his stick, so he could shoot properly. Would have been an awesome moment for the 26-year-old, who finally cracked the NHL while his father tagged along on the dads’ road trip.

Possible solution: in 2016, the WHL eliminated “distinct kicking motion” from its rule book. As long as the puck was outside the crease, a score off a player’s skate became a goal. That eliminated the need for a referee and/or video-goal judge to decide. I like it. I’d like to see the NHL consider it.

30. Canucks fans loved Gino Odjick, for a lot of great reasons. Always thought the most impressive thing about him was how he stood up for Trevor Linden when Odjick felt the former captain was being mistreated during the Mike Keenan era. He knew it would get him sent packing, but he did it anyway. Protected teammates on the ice and off. Also loved how he went to get a hot dog and missed his draft selection, not thinking he’d go as high as he did.

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31. Connor Hellebuyck co-authored a children’s mental-health book with Thom Van Dycke, titled: Is Something Wrong With Weasel/Bucky Beats the Blues. The message is simple, but important: find “a trusted grown-up” to speak with when feeling sad or “blue.” It is being launched by the Jets’ Project 11 — created in honour of the late Rick Rypien, who wore that number.

Ten thousand books will be provided to Grade 2 children free of charge. (Hellebuyck donated a book to each student in Grades 2 and 3 in the Michigan elementary school he attended.) It can be purchased in Jets stores and the online team store for $11.37. All proceeds go to Project 11. The Jets, Hellebuyck and the agency that reps him, Alpha Hockey, shared all costs. Read it last Friday. It’s extremely well done. 

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