While the news leaked Tuesday night, the Vancouver Canucks officially hired Patrik Allvin as the team’s new general manager on Wednesday. In a morning Zoom call, president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford introduced Allvin to Vancouver.
“He and I worked together for seven years in Pittsburgh and I really learned to respect him not only as a person but as a great hockey guy,” said Rutherford. “He’s worked in all aspects of hockey operations, he brings a lot of experience. He brings a winning culture to Vancouver by being part of winning three Cups in Pittsburgh. I look forward to working with him again.”
"Being up against the cap...is not a good thing."
Rutherford made it clear that Allvin has his work cut out for him immediately, with a quote that sounded like a direct shot at the previous Canucks regime, which went all-in on a team that wasn’t anywhere near a Cup contender.
“We have to add more players to get to where we want to get to,” said Rutherford. “That's something that's going to have to be decided here leading up to the trading deadline. We’ve got to figure out a way to get a little cushion on the cap.
“Being up against the cap and a team that’s not in the playoffs at this point in time is not a good thing.”
With two months until the NHL trade deadline, Allvin will be called upon to make some tough calls on which players to keep and which need to be traded in order to create the team that he envisions.
“Some big decisions are coming up,” said Rutherford. “But now that we’ve added more people to hockey ops, we’re now in a stronger position to make those decisions.”
Along with the short-term considerations of the trade deadline and creating cap space, Rutherford also laid out a vision for the future of the Canucks — in fact, it was essentially a checklist.
Rutherford’s focus as president of hockey operations will be to improve the team in several areas: he wants to create a new practice facility, improve development camp, bring back the rookie tournament, and upgrade the facilities in both Abbotsford and at Rogers Arena. All of those are things that could potentially attract players to the organization and once again make Vancouver a destination for free agents.
Allvin is aiming for European and college free agents
As Rutherford conducted his search for the right general manager, Allvin was one of five candidates that he interviewed in person.
“All the interviews were very good — very, very good, all five candidates — but Patrick did stand out,” said Rutherford. “He's a very smart guy. 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 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.”
That wasn’t the only time Europe was mentioned during the media availability with both Rutherford and Allvin. Of course, Allvin is just the second European-born general manager in NHL history after Finland’s Jarmo Kekäläinen with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Allvin also repeatedly mentioned pursuing European free agents, as well as free agents out of the NCAA.
When asked what the team needed to become a Stanley Cup contender, Allvin emphasized depth and brought up Europe as one of the key ways to improve the team’s depth.
“One year in Pittsburgh, I think we ended up with five or six players that started the season in Wilkes-Barre ended up with their names on the Stanley Cup,” said Allvin. “It's a very, very competitive league and you need good depth. So, for us to become a consistent playoff team and a consistent contender, we need to build up the depth of the organization. And that's through the draft and signing of European and college free agent players.”
The Penguins saw some success with college free agents like Zach Aston-Reese and Conor Sheary. The Canucks have definitely dipped into college free agents in the past, with Chris Tanev the biggest success story. Adding a few more European free agents to the mix to round out the team’s depth and potentially find a few hidden gems could be the key to quickly improving the team without breaking the bank.
Scouting for talent: "You've got to be open-minded."
Allvin was asked about scouting and the draft, something he is very familiar with from his years as a scout with the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins and director of European and amateur scouting with the Penguins.
“This is a humble game — the players change and the game is changing consistently,” said Allvin. “So, you've got to be open-minded, and you've got to look for talent, and you've got to trust your scouting staff and the people that work for you.
“We want to play a fast and skilled game and in order to be successful, you've got to be able to find players outside the first round in the NHL Entry Draft. You need to complement the organization with college and European free agents.”
Allvin mentioned being “humble” and “open-minded” a couple of times in regards to scouting, which is intriguing. It suggests a willingness to think outside the box when it comes to finding talented players. The Canucks have people within the organization that approach scouting from a different angle, such as Ryan Biech. It would be interesting to see the Canucks take more of an interest in analytics when it comes to the draft and also free agency.
Prospect development: "You've got to support them with the right people."
Beyond the scouting, however, there is the need to develop prospects, which has been a weakness for the Canucks in recent years. Very few players have spent a significant amount of time with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate and graduated to the NHL. Really, it’s just Thatcher Demko, and goaltenders take a very different development path from skaters.
That’s the opposite of how the Penguins have operated, regularly graduating impactful players like Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Teddy Blueger from the AHL to the NHL.
“I do think that's the key,” said Allvin when asked about development. “To establish a culture for the younger players down in Abbotsford, set the standard, and have a lot of homegrown players...I think that was something that we've been successful with in Pittsburgh.
“I think every player has their own path. There's not a sprint to get to the NHL, it's a marathon. You've got to be patient with the players and you've got to support them with the right people, coaches, and the development staff and help every single player to maximize their chances to become a full-time NHL player. And I think we have tremendous people here — Ryan [Johnson], and Henrik and Daniel Sedin — to be around those young players so they can learn.”
The Swedish connection
Allvin seemed eager to work with his fellow countrymen, the Sedins.
“What they've done for the Vancouver Canucks and the city of Vancouver, I definitely want to have them on board here,” said Allvin. “I got an opportunity to meet them out in Vancouver for a two-hour lunch and I was really, really impressed with them as people. What they talked about in terms of culture and identity and standards, that's something that I truly believe in and I'm very excited to continue to have them on board here and I really envision them to be a big part of this franchise moving forward.”
As for the team’s current Swedish star, Allvin had fond memories of Elias Pettersson from when he was director of European scouting for the Penguins.
“I remember meeting a 17-year-old tiny kid for lunch in Sundsvall, Sweden. I think he had schnitzel and he was going to buy a draft suit after,” said Allvin. “Obviously, he is a high-talented player. Very impressive transition from the SHL in Sweden to the NHL.
“I still think there is a lot of room for him to grow. I'm pretty sure that he has even more potential to become a better player, a better leader and all that with more maturity and guidance here in the next couple of years.”
The ultimate goal: "Bringing a Stanley Cup to the city of Vancouver."
Overall, it was an impressive debut for Allvin but words are one thing and actions are another. Allvin said his next steps will be to meet with everyone on the team and get to know everyone, from players to staff, then spend some time evaluating before making those “big decisions” Rutherford talked about.
“I always trust my staff and treat them with respect,” said Allvin. “Somebody’s got to make the decisions and that’s going to be the general manager but there’s no egos around here. We all work for the ultimate goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to the city of Vancouver.”