Canucks hire Jim Rutherford as president of hockey operations

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Jim Rutherford is back in an NHL front office.

After abruptly leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins a year ago, Rutherford was hired on Thursday by the Vancouver Canucks to be their new president of hockey operations as the team continues to overhaul its management and leadership hierarchy. Along with his role as president of hockey operations, Rutherford will also assume the role of interim general manager while the team continues its search for a replacement for Jim Benning. Rutherford will play a part in that search.

It is reportedly a three-year contract for Rutherford in Vancouver.

The Canucks are off to a wildly disappointing start this season that has them near the bottom of the NHL standings.  That start resulted in the recent firings of Benning and head coach Travis Green.

Bruce Boudreau was already hired to replace Green behind the bench.

[Related: Canucks fire general manager Jim Benning; search for new leadership]

“It is time for a new vision and a new leader who will set a path forward for this team,” said Canucks chairman Francesco Aquilini in a statement released by the team to announce the hiring. “Jim has tremendous experience building and leading winning organizations and I believe he will help build the Vancouver Canucks into a team that can compete for championships again.”

Rutherford has won three Stanley Cups in his career as a general manager, winning it with the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2005-06 season and then helping to build back-to-back Stanley Cup champions with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder for the 2019 class.

[Related: Canucks hire Bruce Boudreau as head coach]

The interesting thing here is going to be how long this “interim” GM thing goes on, and whether or not somebody else is hired to fill that role. When Rutherford was initially hired by the Penguins prior to the 2014-15 season it was made clear he only intended to do the job for a short period of time before passing the torch on to one of the Penguins’ many assistants at the time (most notably Jason Botterill or Bill Guerin). He ended up staying on the job for seven years before abruptly resigning just seven games into the 2020-21 season for reasons that we still do not know (and that he has never revealed). Winning back-to-back Stanley Cups certainly played a role in that change, and Vancouver probably does not have a Stanley Cup or two on the horizon anytime soon, but will a similar change in plans play out here? It would not be the first time.

It is also worth asking what sort of a green light Rutherford will have for roster changes in the short-term. He is not really known for his patience and has never met a potential trade he did not love. His tenure in Pittsburgh was defined by bold moves, aggressive moves, and acting quickly to correct moves that turned out to be mistakes. The Canucks’ record the past few years, including this season, speaks for itself. The team is not good enough and needs changes on the ice as much as it needed them off the ice.