Trevor Linden is the future of the Canucks; is John Tortorella still part of it?

Trevor Linden made a good impression in his first press conference as the Vancouver Canucks’ President of Hockey Operations. He apologized for lying in his interview with Global TV, he was humble in discussing his lack of experience and need to surround himself with intelligent, experienced people, and he looked comfortable handling every single question that came his way.

The same can’t be said for Francesco Aquilini, who didn’t look at all comfortable in front of the cameras, awkwardly reading from a prepared statement before answering the media’s questions.

Apart from thanking Mike Gillis for “his years of service” three times — it was literally the exact same wording, like he had practiced saying it in front of the mirror the entire previous night — he also gave a particularly convoluted answer when asked about John Tortorella that seemed to imply that Tortorella wouldn’t be with the team next season.

“Mike [Gillis] hired Tortorella, and I’m responsible for that, and that’s why we have a change in direction today,” he said, which would seem to throw Tortorella’s future in some serious doubt. Can he be part of the change in direction if he is the reason it’s necessary?

Not that Francesco’s statement is that easy to parse, of course. As Harrison put it over at Puck Daddy, “So if Mike hired him, then why are you responsible for it, and if you’re responsible for it, then why was Gillis fired, and if hiring Tortorella was a fireable offense, why wasn’t Tortorella fired, and what’s the Caramilk secret?”

It doesn’t appear that communicating with the media is a particular strength for Francesco and that reputation isn’t aided by the text message he sent to a Globe and Mail reporter prior to sending a legal letter alleging defamation.

“I read your article,” read the text message, “You are a prick.” (These are the sorts of messages we get from our most unhinged readers. To think one of them owns the Canucks… yikes.)

From that article, it appears that Tortorella was indeed hired by Gillis, albeit after the Aquilinis sat in on all of the coaching interviews and loved Tortorella the most:

The Aquilinis’ statements skirt how the hiring played out. Mr. Gillis last year had invited the Aquilinis into interviews with various coaches. The family, according to a person with direct knowledge of the events, was particularly taken with Mr. Tortorella, who had been fiery in the past. They saw a coach who could revive an underperforming hockey team. The Aquilinis wanted Mr. Tortorella, and Mr. Gillis and the other hockey executives came to the same conclusion.

Aquilini was also asked whether Linden would have a free hand in making decisions and he was quick to say he would. So, if Linden is free to make his own decisions on hockey operations, whether to keep Tortorella or not will be his call or that of whichever General Manager he hires.

But it was speculated prior to this that the Aquilini family was enamoured with Tortorella despite the train wreck of a season, with many fans wondering if a commitment to keeping Tortorella would be required of any new President or GM. Francesco’s statement in Wednesday’s press conference changes things, suggesting that he might not be as big a fan of Tortorella as originally thought. Without pressure from above to keep Tortorella around, it’s a lot easier to make a clean sweep of personnel and bring in all new people.

As for Linden’s views on Tortorella, he was diplomatic. On the Team 1040 after the press conference, he noted that he didn’t know him or his systems. He also said that him getting hired prior to the end of the season allows him to conduct exit interviews, which means the one with Tortorella will likely be extremely important.

It was unusual when Gillis kept Alain Vigneault as the Canucks head coach when he was hired, but it turned out to be the right decision, with the Canucks winning two Presidents’ Trophies and getting to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup under his leadership. Most new GMs like to bring in their own man as head coach.

14 comments

  1. peanutflower
    April 9, 2014

    “Their own man”? who does Linden have as “his own man”? He doesn’t even have any post NHL hockey experience.

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    • Jason
      April 9, 2014

      He means someone that he hired himself. Someone he personally interviewed and picked in a process. Not someone that was originally there or someone he didnt pick for the job

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      Rating: +10 (from 10 votes)
    • Ham Danhuis
      April 9, 2014

      The comment was that most GMs have their own man. Linden isn’t the GM.

      This raises an interesting point; wouldn’t Linden hire a GM first, before the coaching issue is addressed? I would think that the GM should be responsible for deciding who the coach will be…or at least be involved in that decision.

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    • Steve Bernier
      April 9, 2014

      “Most new GMs like to bring in their own man as head coach.”

      Linden is the President.

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      Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
    • Pinner
      April 9, 2014

      It’s the GM who will have his own man, not Linden, president of hockey ops. And “his own man” doesn’t mean his henchman, like Rocksteady to Shredder; it means the coach of his choice following an interview and selection process.

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    • jrc
      April 10, 2014

      You’re right. No experience relevant to running the business end of hockey. Certainly no experience as NHLPA president or as a successful business owner/executive in his own right.

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  2. iain
    April 9, 2014

    did Francesco misplace his razor this morning? what is it with middle-aged guys wearing grizzled stubble? and a suit? it might look good on Bruce Willis in his Die Hard shtick, but on a billionaire in a five thousand dollar (I’m speculating here, I admit) suit? MG rocked this look for a while too – and now look where he is.

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    • Doop
      April 10, 2014

      In fairness to Mr. Aquilini, it’s pretty clear that he’s suffering from the intractable emptiness of an existence spent in a weird liminal part of reality where e.g. if a guy WERE to criticize his style directly he’d have the unique privilege of choosing between either A) changing his outfit and shaving or B) literally crushing the aforementioned guy to death under millions of hundred dollar bills–where the consequences of either option are zequally negligible–leaving, as you might expect, very little cachet with existence as a concept or grooming habits besides

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      • iain
        April 10, 2014

        or crushed by a single Ningi.

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  3. BBoone
    April 9, 2014

    I can’t imagine a better hire than Linden.All his hockey experiences will come together in a great skill set for the job. Tony G seemed bent out of shape today on team 1040 tripping on about himself as the only human being on this planet who has any perspective on Trevor ” he’s not ready ‘”Linden . Linden is the right guy in the right place at the right time. Is there any credible insider knowledge that Bob Nicholson is in the mix for GM ? He has the skill experience respect and network to perfectly complement Linden.

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  4. Brent
    April 9, 2014

    No, Tort’s is gone, based on Aquilini comment. Plus the fact he is suing people who said it was his decision.

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  5. chocoball
    April 9, 2014

    wut happened to the supposed bob nicholson hiring?? i remember reading a few months back that the rest of the nhl snickers that the only prerequisite for working in the canucks’ back office is having played here…. why won’t they hire some more laurence gillmans….ie, real hockey executives…

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  6. CoolerHeads
    April 9, 2014

    So if Mike hired him, then why are you responsible for it, and if you’re responsible for it, then why was Gillis fired, and if hiring Tortorella was a fireable offense, why wasn’t Tortorella fired, and what’s the Caramilk secret?

    Wow, spot on.

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  7. Pavo
    April 9, 2014

    Only 1 comment so far?

    Either the comments gizmo is acting up again or we’re all too depressed to say much.

    As for Aquilini’s text – yikes indeed!

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