When Trevor Linden
first arrived in Vancouver as the second overall choice of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, he was pegged as the franchise's offensive savior, expected to score goals by the bushel.
Twenty years later, when Linden pulls on a Canucks jersey, there remain expectations; but they are markedly different.
Rather than ring up points on the score sheet, he's expected to give pointers to the team's younger players. For a franchise icon like Linden – he was the club's all-time leading scorer until passed by Markus Naslund
in December – it can be a difficult shift in focus, but he's handled it with class.
His teammates and coaches have noticed, as have the members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association that follow the Canucks. The PHWA named him the club's nominee for the Bill Masterton
Memorial Trophy, given to the player that best exemplifies sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to the game.
"I have a lot of respect for the writers, they work hard at what they do," Linden told NHL.com. "To have their respect and that type of tip is definitely a nice gesture."
According to those with knowledge, it's a gesture well-earned.
"Throughout a player's career, their role evolves," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
. "Trevor is an important part of our team because he is a good sounding board for coaches and players, he has strong on-ice leadership and he brings a wealth of knowledge to our hockey club."
Linden may have just five goals and nine points in just 52 games – he's been a healthy scratch 23 times – but he's just as important a piece of the Canucks' run at a playoff spot as top scorers like Naslund and the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel.
"It's obviously important to have a player of Trevor's stature in the locker room, especially because of the leadership contribution he brings to the team," said Vigneault. "Trevor sets an example for our younger players and the experience he brings to high-stakes game is immeasurable to this team."
Helping in ways other than scoring is something that comes as second nature to Linden. He's been helping players on all teams for most of his career, starting with his long tenure with the National Hockey League Players' Association.
Starting as the Canucks' player representative in the 1990-91 season, he served on the executive committee from 1998 to 2006. Linden was one of the people who helped settle the lockout that forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
"I think it started early in my career," Linden said of his involvement with the union. "I think when we looked around the room at player reps, it was the guys that cared about what was going on. It was a big-time commitment. I just think that it was the opportunity to be involved with something different, the business side of the game. Just try to balance what was best for the game and what was best for the guys. Try to make the best decisions on behalf of the guys."
Besides his work with the union, Linden is active in a number Vancouver-area charities, mostly those that help children. He started the Trevor Linden
Foundation to raise money for children's charities in 1995, and this summer hosted the third annual Cadillac Fairview Trevor Linden
Golf Classic to raise money for the B.C. Children's Hospital.
Linden won the King Clancy
Memorial Trophy in 1997 for his charity work.
"Most of the work I do is with kids," he said. "It's always been, I think for hockey players in general, it's a pretty easy link to make. There's a natural connection there. I think in Vancouver our team is very community-minded and it's been that way since I've been there, and that's how it gave me my start in helping out wherever I can."
That help also extends into the Vancouver locker room.
"Time changes things," Linden, now in seasson No. 19, said. "You go from being the main cog in the offensive wheel to a lesser degree. I do enjoy working with the guys. I enjoy younger guys. I really enjoy the enthusiasm and how they see things in the game. If I can make things smoother for them, I do enjoy working with them. I try passing things on to them that I've learned over the years."
It's a situation where he can do for younger players like Alex Edler and Mason Raymond
what players did for him when early in his career.
, Doug Lidster
, Barry Pederson
, Rich Sutter was a guy that helped me out," said Linden. "There was a lot of guys. I remember being there, so it's easy for me to be there for those guys.
"There's some technical aspects of the game, little things that can help, then there's things that have nothing to do with the game, away from the game, that can be helpful in another way. There's a combination of things. I get asked a lot of different questions about a lot of different things from guys. It can be nothing to do with the game or very game-oriented."
Everything he does, though, is appreciated.
"Trevor helps us as much on the ice as he does off ice," said Vigneault. "Off-ice, he leads by example, both at the rink and away from it. On-ice, his knowledge of the game is at the upper-end among NHL players and his eye for the game comes in handy in certain situations."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.