“You’ve been keeping a whole bunch of secrets,” laughed his mother, Edna, who didn’t get a heads up about her son’s new job.
A year later and Linden still calls his parents in Medicine Hat occasionally on his drive in, but there are no secrets. There’s no hiding the success Linden has had in his first year on the job.
Look no further than the NHL standings. Vancouver is back in the playoffs after a year removed; this will be the 27th time in franchise history the Canucks compete for the Stanley Cup and having already clinched has Linden feeling a sense of relief.
“Making the playoffs is no small task, there’s a lot of teams that are going to miss, a lot of good teams, it’s hard to get there and once you get there, there’s a bit of relief for sure,” said Linden.
Vancouver’s road back to the post-season began with Linden’s hiring, he then entrusted Jim Benning as general manager and the pair hired Willie Desjardins as head coach.
An argument can be made that both Benning and Desjardins should be up for GM and Coach of the Year, but that’s another discussion for another day.
All three have helped the Canucks rediscover that winning feeling through hard-work and dedication.
It’s amazing how much an organization can change in a year.
“It really comes down to that, I’m happy for the guys who have come in and worked so hard,” said Linden. “Jim had a vision and had a difficult job to refigure this group and bring in some new faces and change the dynamic of the team. Willie came in and he and his staff have done a great job getting guys back and getting guys playing at their highest level and really believing in themselves and that’s made a huge difference.”
Linden is only a few years removed from fighting through an 82-game schedule himself, he knows how grueling it is, so of course credit goes to the players themselves.
“It’s a grind and they’ve battled hard. There are days where things haven’t looked so positive, but they’ve always bounced back and that’s the resiliency of this group, it’s been really impressive.”
My conversation with Linden was brief, but he managed to dole out credit for the team’s success to nearly everyone in the Canucks organization, except himself.
Edna would be proud.
Linden said he’s actually grown to understand the struggle of having to watch games, so he can relate to his mother better now than ever. It’s tough being a fan.
“There’s a bit of helplessness for sure,” Linden laughed. “It’s hard when you’re removed and you’re watching and you want them to do well so badly and there’s nothing you can do. I understand how my mom feels now; it’s hard to watch. I always wonder why I’m so exhausted the next day, but it’s tiring.”
And the toughest, most tiring part of the season hasn’t even begun.
“Don’t forget,” added Linden, “it’s also the most fun.”