Canucks’ Rutherford keeps diversity in mind in the hiring process

VANCOUVER – For an older, white man who in appearance and experience seems to embody the National Hockey League establishment, Jim Rutherford has some progressive ideas on building his management team with the Vancouver Canucks.

Rutherford told Sportsnet in an interview before Christmas that he admires the diversity of the Seattle Kraken, which under CEO Tod Leiweke filled many positions with women and people from different ethnic backgrounds, so the NHL’s newest organization would reflect the community it serves.

After being hired by Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini to be president of hockey operations, Rutherford told reporters at his inaugural press conference on December 13: “Our society is constantly changing and I would like to see a more diverse staff, if possible. . “

A few days later, the 72-year-old’s first appointment was assistant general manager Derek Clancey, a highly respected “hockey guy” whose 16 years with the Pittsburgh Penguins meant he started there before Rutherford arrived as general manager in 2014 and orchestrated two Stanley Cups .

Rutherford had an eye for Clancey when he said yes to Aquilini, and the Canucks had – still have – urgent needs in their front office. Clancey, 52, is now in charge of professional and amateur scouting, among other duties, but does not qualify in any way as a minority employee.

However, in his interview with Sportsnet, Rutherford reiterated his desire to hire people with different backgrounds and experience in hockey.

The Globe and Mail reported before Christmas that the Canucks were looking at a trio of female candidates for another assistant GM position: Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford and Angela Ruggiero.

“My feeling is that if you can build a front office with people who grew up playing hockey or in the game, not even necessarily playing, but as part of the game, then you get different voices, different opinions,” said Rutherford. “You have a better chance of getting different ideas. That’s really where I come from in terms of having people from different (backgrounds) coming through the system. ”

In Pittsburgh, Rutherford helped mentor future NHL GMs Jason Botterill, Bill Guerin and Tom Fitzgerald. He said he is confident in hiring and teaching people who understand the game and are willing to work hard even if their resume is not comprehensive.

“You talk about resumes and comparing resumes and comparing people, you have to do that all the time,” Rutherford explained. “Even when I talk directly to some of these people, they will say, ‘Well, I did not do this, I did not negotiate contracts.’ None of us had done anything at some point in our careers. I mean … any person who has any job whatsoever – in this case we’re talking about an NHL hockey team – at one point neither of us had ever made a trade. None of us had ever made a contract none of us had ever dealt with the salary cap.You have to start some time.

“Part of being in Vancouver and taking this job is mentoring people. I’ve mentored some people who’ve become GMs, some guys who started out as young coaches. I think it’s an advantage for our organization to bring in certain people who may not have much experience but they are smart and know the game.And their input will be heard.As every day goes by they will learn things.I mean I have done this for a long, long time, almost forever, and I learn new things every week.

“Our game is constantly changing; you must be willing to learn. So for people who come in who have no experience, they will be like people who have experience: they will learn, right? But the important thing is to hire people who are willing to do it, work hard, have some background in hockey. I think it will really strengthen our organization. ”

Rutherford would not confirm that he has spoken to Botterill, Hefford or Ruggiero, but said he has so far spent much of his time as Canucks’ president on the phone seeking out and talking to potential employees.

He said the next general meeting is likely to oversee the salary cap and player contracts, but he envisions a management umbrella with three assistants working under a yet-to-be-hired general manager who will report to Rutherford.

He hopes to begin personal talks for the leadership position in January, though the current resurgence of COVID-19 complicates the process and he will wait as long as necessary to get the right GM.

Meanwhile, Rutherford wants to expand Canucks’ analysis department and hire a replacement for former director of hockey and analysis Jonathan Wall, who was fired by Aquilini along with assistant GM Chris Gear the day after Rutherford was hired on December 9th.

Rutherford praised the work of Canucks senior analyst Aiden Fox, a possible successor to Wall, and also raved about player development director and minor-league GM Ryan Johnson, whom he did not know before coming to Vancouver.

Rutherford has already promoted the career of Canuck Stan Smyl to vice president of hockey operations and said he is grateful to inherit the special advisers Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

“I like a lot of people who are still there, so I do not anticipate the need to make changes to the people who are in the office now,” Rutherford said. “I have to keep building the structure of hockey operations, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

With Rutherford’s ideals of diversity in mind, here are 10 potential candidates for leadership. The Canucks’ next GM might even come from this group.

Patrik Allvin

With an extensive scouting background, the Swede has been with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the past 16 years and was promoted by Rutherford to the position of Assistant General Manager in 2020. Allvin was briefly the temporary GM after Rutherford retired, but lost the full-time title when Ron Hextall was hired. NHL insider Frank Seravalli reported last week on Sportsnet 650 that Allvin, 47, is the frontrunner to be named Canucks GM.

Jason Botterill

The 45-year-old crashed and burned as a first-time GM with the Buffalo Sabers. But he remains respected for his broad experience, including cap management, and was so respected by Rutherford that he was previously an associate GM in Pittsburgh. Botterill, who is currently top assistant to Seattle’s GM Ron Francis, may not be available for the Canucks until after this season – and not at all unless he comes as the new general manager.

Jennifer Botterill

OK, so siblings on this list are not named Sedin. Before Globe reported Canucks interest in the iconic triple Olympic champion with Team Canada, Botterill was hailed by a rival NHL manager as an ideal candidate for the Canucks. The 42-year-old has an honors degree in psychology from Harvard and has won praise for his sharp insight as a study analyst for Sportsnet and Hockey night in Canada.

Cammi Garnet

The greatest female player in American hockey history, Hall-of-Famer, has spent the last two years working for Kraken as a professional scout, meaning she was instrumental in their expansion process and knows the league intimately. Granato, 50, lives in Vancouver with her partner, hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, so she understands the market and has seen the Canucks just as much as anyone else over the past few seasons.

Mike Grier

The 46-year-old Detroit native played more than 1,000 games in the NHL after becoming the first black American player to come all the way through the league through American hockey channels. After retiring as a player, Grier worked as a professional scout for the Chicago Blackhawks and assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils before the New York Rangers hired him last spring as a hockey operations consultant under the new GM Chris Drury. Grier’s brother, Chris, is the general manager of the Miami Dolphins.

Craig Heisinger

When we asked around the league for a manager who qualified to be an NHL GM, but who is rarely mentioned, the Winnipeg Jets assistant GM’s name appeared a few times. Heisinger’s name is rarely mentioned because the 59-year-old Winnipegger loves his hometown and is deeply loyal to the Jets and owner Mark Chipman as senior vice president of True North Sports and Entertainment. But Heisinger’s impressive experience includes working with the Canucks, as the franchise’s minor league team was Manitoba Moose.

Ryan Johnson

Johnson, 45, is in his ninth season of Canucks hockey activities and has been the team’s director of player development since 2016. He is also the general manager of its American Hockey League franchise, a title he carried from Utica to Abbotsford, and has a ton of operational know-how. Johnson is a tireless collaborator who cares passionately about his players and he has a bright future as NHL manager. When Rutherford talks about hiring an entry-level GM he can mentor, he could refer to Johnson.

Chris MacFarland

None of these GM candidate lists ever show up without the Colorado Avalanche’s assistant GM and right hand man to executive VP and GM Joe Sakic. MacFarland, 51, spent 16 seasons working his way up through the Columbus Blue Jackets’ hockey activities before moving to Denver in 2016. With a business degree and experience in law school, MacFarland has worked in all aspects of hockey management. He is so highly regarded in the NHL that the New York native can choose his next option.

Alexandra Mandrycky

Mandrycky, another growing hockey ops star with Seattle Kraken, was an analyst pioneer before putting her industrial engineering degree to work by joining the Minnesota Wild in 2015 as a data analyst. The Kraken wanted her so badly that they hired the 30-year-old from the Atlanta area in 2019 – before Leiweke named Francis his GM. Mandrycky is Seattle’s director of hockey administration.

Scott Mellanby

We do not include Mike Gillis on this list, but the former Canucks general manager gave Mellanby his start in management as a specialist consultant in Vancouver. Mellanby traveled to try to train as an assistant at St. Louis Blues, before joining the Montreal Canadiens hockey ops in 2012. He was named assistant GM in 2014 and has since been trimmed by general manager Marc Bergevin to be his successor. But the 55-year-old withdrew from the organization a month ago when it became clear he would not survive the regime change that led to Bergevin being fired and Jeff Gorton being installed as vice president.

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