While he may be the team’s general manager, Vancouver Canucks fans haven’t heard much from Patrik Allvin.
Instead, the spokesperson for the Canucks’ management group has been president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford. That hasn’t always worked well, with Rutherford’s public criticism of Bruce Boudreau’s coaching and admission that he was talking to other coaching candidates fueling what he called “speculation” about a coaching change.
Allvin was on hand on Sunday, however, when the Canucks introduced their new head coach, Rick Tocchet. What he showed is that he still doesn’t have a great grasp on the Vancouver market.
"I believe the fans want to see a team that competes every night."
When asked about the anger currently bubbling in the Canucks’ fanbase and about how the team hopes to win back the fan’s trust, Allvin was vague in his response.
“I believe the fans here and the city of Vancouver is missing a banner up in the rafters,” said Allvin. “That’s what they’re waiting for, right? And winning hockey games. I think that’s what the fans want to see. I believe the fans want to see a team that competes every night and plays the right way.”
Allvin is not wrong that fans are desperate to see the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, even if he phrased it in an odd way — the banner in the rafters isn’t exactly the point, though being able to say, “Take a look at banner” in the future might be enjoyable.
But, because Canucks fans want to win a Cup so badly, what they want from the Canucks right now is a clear plan of how they’re going to get there. That’s what Allvin and the Canucks’ management group have failed to articulate and Sunday’s press conference was another missed opportunity to relay that message.
Instead, Allvin talked about the fans wanting a team that “competes” and “plays the right way.”
For nearly a decade, the fans have seen a management group try to ice a competitive team that “plays the right way” every season. It’s led to missing the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons and one of the worst prospect pools in the NHL.
Even when Allvin suggests that fans want “winning hockey games,” he’s not exactly right. There’s a segment of the fanbase that would prefer the Canucks lose games right now to ensure a better position in what is expected to be the strongest NHL Entry Draft in years.
"If each individual gets better every day, then the team's gonna get better."
Allvin might have a better idea of what Canucks fans actually want if he hadn’t skipped out on the team’s season ticket holder town hall event at the last minute earlier in January. Season ticket holders were promised they would get a Q&A session with Allvin but it was changed to vice president of hockey operations Stan Smyl, who wasn’t able to answer many of the questions fans had.
When asked directly on Sunday about the current negativity from Canucks fans and why fans should be confident in the team’s vision and process, Allvin’s response didn’t exactly do anything to boost that confidence.
“I don’t really know what you’re referring to, I guess,” said Allvin. “What’s the end result, it’s winning a Cup, right? As I said earlier on, when you’re walking into this building, I haven’t seen a banner up here yet.
“I believe that the quality of people that we have brought in here will make life easier for the players to feel comfortable every single day they’re walking in here, so they can perform. It’s not about me or [Tocchet], it’s about the team and this organization. We need to provide the players all the solutions and all the tools to make them better. And if each individual gets better every day, then the team’s gonna get better.”
This bears a passing resemblance to a plan, though not a great one.
There are two primary issues here. One is that the Canucks’ off-ice work hasn’t really done all that much to make the players feel comfortable — or “safe” as he put it at another point during the press conference. The Boudreau fiasco has distracted from the legitimate concerns over how the Canucks handled Tanner Pearson hand injury and subsequent surgeries — how comfortable can the players feel when they just saw one of their teammates go from being out 4-6 weeks to their season coming to an end?
Beyond that, the Canucks’ upgrades to the team’s locker room and facilities have been underwhelming and surface-level at best. Then there’s the palpable discomfort from the players surrounding how the Boudreau situation unfolded.
The second issue is that improving individual players will only get a team so far if those individual players are not good enough. Some players simply have a lower ceiling than others, while older veterans have likely already hit their ceiling and won’t be getting better every day but will inevitably get worse over time.
"Brick by brick."
The closest that Allvin has come to articulating a plan is his go-to phrase in interviews and press conferences, which also showed up on Sunday: “brick by brick.”
It shows that he favours a methodical approach to building a team, continually adding pieces until the team is better. From other comments, it’s seemed clear that those “bricks” mainly mean adding players under 26, like Ethan Bear, Riley Stillman, Lane Pederson, and Jack Studnicka.
As a metaphor, it’s a useful one. For instance, continually adding bricks to a building with a shaky foundation just results in the whole thing falling apart.
Or, one might add a lot of one particular type of brick — let’s call them wingers — while neglecting another type of brick — say, defencemen — and end up with a lopsided building that isn’t actually good for anything.
Or, one might keep adding bricks with no blueprint and end up with nothing more than a pile of bricks.
What fans want — more than a team that competes hard and plays the right way — is confidence that the Canucks’ management has a blueprint, that there’s a long-term plan in place to deliver a Stanley Cup to Vancouver. The Canucks’ actions so far have given no indication that such a long-term plan exists.
In fact, Rutherford’s own words show that there’s a clear disconnect over even the definition of “long term.”
“The trades that we make is trying to get players 26, 25 years or younger and bring this team together within the next year or two,” said Rutherford a week ago. “This was never going to be a quick fix. There's a long game here.”
The simple truth is that Canucks fans have little to no confidence in the organization right now. The trust between the fans and the team has been broken and that’s something that will take time to repair.
It will take a lot longer if the Canucks continue to misunderstand their fans.