VANCOUVER — Jim Rutherford says there are some big decisions looming for the Vancouver Canucks, but the president of hockey operations has crossed one large task off his to-do list: hiring a new general manager.
The Canucks on Wednesday named Pittsburgh Penguins assistant manger Patrik Allvin the 12th GM in the franchise's history.
"Obviously it's a big honour for me, taking on this opportunity," Allvin told reporters on a video call. "I'm extremely excited and honoured and proud to be part of the Vancouver Canucks going forward."
The 47-year-old three-time Stanley Cup winner has been with the Penguins for the past 16 seasons and was the director of amateur scouting before he was promoted to assistant GM in November 2020. Hailing from Leksand, Sweden, Allvin is the first Swedish general manager in the NHL.
The move to Vancouver reunites Allvin with Rutherford, who served as Pittsburgh's GM from 2014 to 2021 and led the team to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and '17.
“I’ve known Patrik for a long time and how he works and that he was a legitimate candidate," said Rutherford, who was named the Canucks president of hockey operations and interim general manager in early December after the club fired head coach Travis Green, general manager Jim Benning and several other front-office staff following a dismal start to the season.
Rutherford spoke to a number of people about the GM vacancy and narrowed his list down to five candidates for in-person interviews. While all of the interviews went well, he said, Allvin stood out.
"He’s a very smart guy," Rutherford said. "He knows players, he knows how to evaluate players, he knows how to find players, he’s well-connected in Europe where we’d like to get into that market a little bit more and try to get some more players out of there. He has a lot of good things going for him and we already have the working relationship, we know how that’s going to go.”
The history and current status of the Canucks were intriguing to Allvin, but it was something else that really drew him to the job.
"I’ve got to be honest — the reason I’m here is excitement to work with Jim Rutherford again," he said. "And I know how he emphasizes hiring good people. … I believe that Jim has done a good job building the staff and I look forward to meeting all of them here.”
Rutherford added to his staff Monday, hiring former player agent Émilie Castonguay to be the franchise's first female assistant manager.
He previously tapped former scout Derek Clancey to fill another assistant GM role, named Canucks legend Stan Smyl vice president of hockey operations and announced that former Canucks stars Daniel and Henrik Sedin would continue in their roles as special advisers to the general manager.
“We could possibly still add some people. We’re trying to make it as strong as we can," Rutherford said, adding that there may be an expanded role coming for Ryan Johnson, the club's director of player development and general manager of the American Hockey League's Abbotsford Canucks.
With new faces in the front office, Rutherford and Allvin said the Canucks need to look for ways to improve their roster.
Allvin spent nine years playing professional hockey in North America and Europe before breaking into scouting with the Montreal Canadiens in 2002. He said his scouting experience taught him that you need to be open minded because players and the game are constantly changing.
“I think in order to be successful, you’ve got to be able to find players outside of the first round in the NHL entry draft," he said. "You need to compliment the organization with college and European free agents and that’s something I’m looking forward to.”
The Canucks also need to work on growing and developing players, Allvin said.
"I think that’s the key in today’s game. I think that’s something we want to emphasize her going forward to be successful," he said, noting that the strategy was successful when he was in Pittsburgh.
It's important to remember, too, that every player has their own development curve, Allvin said.
"It’s not a sprint to get to the NHL, it’s a marathon," he said. "So you’ve got to support them with the right people and coaches and development staff and help every single to maximize their chances to become a full-time NHL player.”
With the NHL trade deadline under two months away, Allvin has little time to evaluate the Canucks' current roster. Rutherford has been on the job slightly longer, but noted that a COVID-19 outbreak and a number of postponed games have limited his ability to do an in-depth analysis.
The president of hockey ops said he's impressed by how the team handled adversity after being left short-handed in several recent games. Several players have entered the league's COVID-19 protocol in recent weeks, including all-star goalie Thatcher Demko, backup Jaroslav Halak and a number of high-scoring forwards.
The undermanned Canucks went 0-1-2 on a three-game homestand, but the players and staff should get a lot of credit, Rutherford said.
“They showed a lot of character and gave everything they had and scratched and clawed to actually get a couple of points," he said.
There are some good things going on in Vancouver, Rutherford said, and work needs to be done to improve the team going forward.
“Some big decisions are coming up. But now that we’ve added some more people to hockey ops we’re now in a stronger position to make those decisions.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press