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Linden leaving Canucks surprised coach, organization

'Plan hasn't changed' after president of hockey operations departs

by Mike Battaglino / NHL.com Staff Writer

Trevor Linden leaving the Vancouver Canucks was unexpected, coach Travis Green said Thursday, but he, general manager Jim Benning and ownership remain "on the same page."

Linden, who played 16 seasons for Vancouver and had his No. 16 retired, left the Canucks on Wednesday after four seasons as president of hockey operations.

"I think everyone's surprised that it's happened," Green said in audio provided by TSN 1040 Vancouver. "It's not up to Jim or myself to sit here and say what happened because we don't really know the specifics. When you're talking about a leader on a group and a president and an owner, they obviously have their own discussions.

"The one thing about Trevor, if he would have had a problem or anything, he would not have been airing it out with us, or with Jim for that matter, if there was something bothering him."

 

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Benning said he did not hear of any disagreements between Linden and chairman Francesco Aquilini prior to the unexpected announcement.

Linden oversaw coaching, scouting, player development, and minor league affiliations and operations. He has not spoken to the media since he released a statement that said in part, "I am going to step back from the spotlight for a while and enjoy the summer with my young family."

Vancouver has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once in the past five seasons, not in the past three, and has not won a series since reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, which it lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

Video: Chris Johnston on Linden's resignation, trade rumors

In five NHL Drafts under Linden, including 2018, only forwards Brock Boeser (62 of 71 career NHL games last season) and Jake Virtanen (140 NHL games) have become an NHL regular with Vancouver. In the three drafts prior to this year, other than Boeser, only forward Adam Gaudette (five games), out of 21 picks, has played in the NHL, according to Hockey-reference.com.

"A rebuild is a long, slow, gradual process," Aquilini tweeted Wednesday. "Everybody needs to be united behind the same vision and pulling in the same direction."

Forward Elias Pettersson (No. 5 pick, 2017 NHL Draft), defenseman Olli Juolevi (No. 5, 2016 NHL Draft), forward Kole Lind (No. 33 in 2017), and goalie Thatcher Demko (No. 36, 2014 NHL Draft) are expected to play in the NHL soon.

"Our plan hasn't changed," Benning said. "We're still going to be about drafting good players, developing them, and then when they're ready to play in the NHL, give them the opportunity to be successful. So that part of it hasn't changed. Now that's been our plan for a while and that hasn't changed."

Benning said the Canucks and Quintin Hughes, the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, were trying to determine if the defenseman should play at the University of Michigan this season or sign a professional contract. Hughes on Saturday said he would be returning to college.

"We're all on the same page," Green said. "... We all agree that our young players coming into the lineup are going to be very important to us moving forward, and know where we're at with some guys, and we're excited about it. And I think with good reason to be excited."

Linden hired Benning to replace Mike Gillis prior to the 2014-15 season, and Benning signed a new contract this February. Green was hired before last season, replacing Willie Desjardins.

Benning said Aquilini told him he is not looking to hire someone to replace Linden and that the GM would be in charge of hockey operations.

"I'm excited about the group of young players that we have coming to training camp," Benning said. "I think they're a group going forward that we can win with."

Linden, a center, retired after playing for Vancouver in 2007-08. In 19 NHL seasons, he had 867 points (375 goals, 492 assists) playing 1,382 regular-season games with the Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.

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