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THE MOJ: Canucks getting paid to win and their coach may pay the price

As the early season results mount in Vancouver, Boudreau’s seat getting hotter — his fault or not
Referee Kendrick Nicholson picks up a Vancouver Canucks jersey that was thrown onto the ice by a fan as the team plays the Buffalo Sabres during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, October 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The disaster that was the Vancouver Canucks home opener left the fans angry, the head coach frustrated and the president of hockey operations pulling no punches when assessing his team on Hockey Night in Canada.

Jim Rutherford’s appearance on After Hours following the Canucks 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres this past Saturday clearly put all members of the organization on notice that the team’s performance to start the season was unacceptable.

Even Bruce Boudreau, whom Rutherford has a good relationship with dating back to their NHL playing days, didn’t escape Rutherford’s criticism. One of the jobs of any coach at any level is to have his team prepared to play and Rutherford’s assessment was blunt when that subject was broached.

“We didn’t have a very good camp and it’s carried over into the season. We have a lot of bad habits,” Rutherford told Hockey Night.

Rutherford then went on to criticize another area that the head coach has significant influence in – namely team defense.

“When we talk about defence it’s just not the guys playing defence it’s a team defence and those guys aren’t getting enough support.”

Rutherford even downplayed using injuries as excuses, and again, took aim at the team’s defensive structure.

“I believe if our team has a real strong structure you can play through those things,” said Rutherford, whose team has used 10 defencemen through seven games.

Although never mentioning his head coach or Boudreau by name, Rutherford made it very clear that more was expected not only from the players but also from the man behind the bench.

Boudreau is in an interesting position in that he was inherited by Rutherford and Canucks GM Patrick Allvin, being appointed as the head coach on Dec. 5 while Rutherford was hired a few days later on Dec. 10. Allvin didn’t join the organization until Jan. 26. Usually a president is brought in, who then hires a general manager who then in turn hires a coach. That clearly wasn’t the case in Vancouver.

When asked why Boudreau wasn’t extended after last season in which he coached the team to a 32-15-10 record, Rutherford indicated that he was out of the loop on the hire.

“He came here and it was my understanding that he was going to get a contract for just last year. He got a contract really for two years and so he’s still got his contract. It wasn’t about that we extended him one year, it’s just that we lived by the contract he had. As I look at it now, it was the right thing to do. He’s got to work through this with his team, and at the appropriate time, we will talk to him about what his future is.”

Even though he wasn’t his hire, Rutherford was on board with the move given those comments. The same cannot be said for Allvin. As with most GM’s, Allvin would love to bring in his own guy but his authority is obviously superseded by Rutherford, who didn’t want to terminate Boudreau after his success of last year. And given Boudreau’s success, letting him go would have been a public relations disaster.

Boudreau does have some rope to play with but with every loss that rope becomes shorter. The follow-up 3-2 loss to Carolina on Monday saw the Canucks at least compete but you don’t get paid to compete – you get paid to win.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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