There's No Place Like Home
| The city’s most talked-about contract was quietly signed Tuesday morning putting an end to a summer of heated public debate.
And no, it had nothing to do with garbage collection or Swedish furniture.
General manager Dave Nonis announced Tuesday that the Canucks re-signed veteran winger Trevor Linden.
“It took a little longer than we hoped, but there were other issues that came into play and dragged it out a little bit longer,” said Nonis. “At the end of the day we wanted to go through the process to make sure everybody was comfortable with their situation, and in the end it turned out positively for everybody.”
Editorial pages, call-in shows, and hockey blogs have been rife with speculation about the 37-year-old winger’s status with the team ever since the playoffs wound to a painful close last spring at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Anaheim Ducks.
A MATTER OF SCHEDULING
According to Linden, the long wait to sign a new deal was less about sticky negotiations than it was about convenience and schedules.
“There was no real push or pressure,” he said. “We had some dialogue throughout the summer and I was away for most of July and we were just trying to put the schedules together.”
Linden will enter his 16th season with the Canucks on October 5th. His 1,081 games and 721 points are both franchise bests in a city that’s embraced him like a lost son since the first day he pulled on a Canucks jersey as an 18-year-old back in 1988.
Despite the city’s love affair with Linden, Nonis said the deal was a pure hockey decision.
“It didn’t have any impact on getting him signed and I don’t think it ever should.”
“From a hockey perspective – and I know Trevor wouldn’t want it any other way – [the decision to resign] has to be based on his ability as a hockey player.”
If last season was any indication, Linden’s new contract should have been as easy to get done as both sides make it sound.
Linden played 80 games for the Canucks last season in a variety of roles, including stints as the right-handed trigger man for the Sedin Twins on the top power-play unit. He posted 25 points (12-13-25) and 34 penalty minutes, but saved his most impressive numbers for the post season.
Linden scored a pair of game-winning goals in the playoffs, including the deciding goal in the Game 7 victory that vanquished the Dallas Stars.
He finished the post-season tied for the team lead in points (7), and managed to tie Pavel Bure for the franchise lead in career playoff goals with his 34th.
“I think that Trevor’s play improved dramatically as last season went on, and at the most important time, in the playoffs, he was a vital cog on our team,” said Nonis. “I know how much he wants to help our team win and he’ll do his best to contribute on any given night.”
At 37 years old Linden will embark on his 19th NHL campaign when camp opens September 12th in Victoria. Clearly he has plenty left to give.
“I look forward to contributing in a lot of different ways. I think through the course of a season and a team takes different contributions from different people at different times and it’s a long season.”
ROLE-ING WITH THE PUNCHES
Much has been made about Linden’s possible role on this year’s squad. Nonis said that would be left entirely up to the coaching staff, but added that he felt “it would move along much like it did last season,” which saw Linden average 16 shifts and just over 12 minutes a game in a third or fourth line role.
“I’ve always felt that I contribute in many different areas and I look forward to doing that,” said Linden. “For me personally I don’t want to limit myself to any one thing. I’ve always thought of myself as a good all-around player.”
Well ensconced in the city that he’s called home for more than a decade, and with memories of difficult stints back east in Long Island, Montreal, and Washington still lingering in the back of his brain, Linden wasn’t about to sign a deal in any other NHL market.
“Obviously, this is the place I want to be, and the thought of playing elsewhere didn’t feel right. So it’s great to be back.”
“I like our team and we’ve made some great changes in the last couple of years. I look forward to another really good season.”
Linden said he was well aware of the intense scrutiny his contract negotiations garnered this summer.
“Wherever you go you get asked all the time about what’s going on and when you’re going to sign - that could get a little tiring. All the people were very supportive, but it’s hard to answer questions when you don’t always have any answers to give them.”
“But I think that’s the joy of playing in Canada and living in Vancouver year round. I’ve always enjoyed that, and when things are going good it’s great, but there are some difficult questions sometimes.”
Linden has begun working out with teammates at the Burnaby 8 Rinks practice facility. On Tuesday, he skated with Brendan Morrison, Mattias Ohlund, Matt Cooke, and newcomer Aaron Miller.
With arguably the best goaltender in the world guarding the crease, and a defence that’s considered top three in the league, Linden believes the future is as bright as it’s been.
“I definitely think we’ve put some building blocks in place for the future. I think we went through a pretty good change last summer, kind of re-organized and re-shuffled, and we’ve done some real positive things. It’s up to us to keep building off that.”
“It’s a long season and you go through many different phases and ups and downs. You need things to go right but there’s definitely a foundation there.”
Ask A Player
Linden was appointed to the Order of British Columbia in 2003 and won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 1997 for his humanitarian contributions to the community.
“I think that my base concern was that I wanted to be a welcome addition. I didn’t want anyone to feel that it was not something they were completely comfortable with. I just wanted to make sure everyone understood where they stood and how this was going to work.” - Trevor Linden
“Trevor deserves credit on two fronts: one is his ability to play and the other is what he does in this community. For me, that will go a long way past the point when he quits playing. He’s always going to be recognized as a great person in this community.” – Dave Nonis