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The Search Begins...

Francesco Aquilini and Chris Zimmerman are on the prowl for someone to step into Vancouver's big shoes

Tuesday, 15.04.2008 / 4:22 PM / Features
By Jeff Paterson
Everyone knew the Vancouver Canucks would be active in the National Hockey League’s free agent market this summer. But few figured the club’s most important off-season signing would be the guy leading the charge into the free agent frenzy. But that’s where the Canucks find themselves after Monday’s dismissal of Dave Nonis and Tuesday’s word from ownership that a formal search for the team’s new general manager is now underway.

As is the case any time a top job in the NHL becomes available, the rumour mill immediately starts churning out possible candidates. But it sounds like the Canucks ownership and senior management group plans to take its time to consider its options in an effort to find the best man for the job.

“Our job as owners is to provide leadership and find great leadership. That’s our responsibility to bring someone in who’s capable and can do the job and execute the plan that we set out to do and give him the resources to do it,” said Canucks majority owner Francesco Aquilini on Tuesday as he addressed the media for the first time since Monday’s decision. “Leadership is vision. You have to have a vision of where you want to go. You have to have the support group around you to get you there. You have to have the ability to execute. Leadership is a buzzword that a lot of people use, but at the end of the day, it’s about quality people who are committed to what they’re doing, people who serve the organization, people who care and people who can get the job. That’s what it comes down to – just getting the job done.”

INSIDE THE BOX
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca
Aquilini spoke frequently of leadership and what it means to him and his family. In that regard, there is a strong sense the next Canucks general manager will have previous experience in that capacity at the NHL level although Aquilini said that wasn’t imperative.

“Someone who can step into the big shoes and set out a strategic plan. Someone who has experience and who can get the job done. That’s really what it comes down to.,” he said. “[If hadn’t been an NHL GM before] they would have to have extensive experience and really understand the game.”

The long list of candidates will likely include the usual suspects, but could be expanded to include high-ranking NHL executives or player agents looking to make the jump into an executive role with a team. It’s hard to imagine the Canucks thinking too far outside the box when looking for the person that’s going to get them where they want to go.

And despite reports that ownership wasn’t thrilled with the style of play the Canucks employed this past season, Aquilini downplayed that on Tuesday.

“The style of play I like is winning and whatever that takes,” he said. “I think we’ve got the best goalie in the world, we’ve got a great foundation. I think we can build on it. And it’s going to be the challenge of the new GM to provide that.”

The Canucks should have no trouble finding credible candidates who are drawn by the opportunity to work with Roberto Luongo as the cornerstone of the franchise. With some tweaking to the roster and the green light to be active in free agency, the Canucks have the potential to ice a strong line-up immediately. And a new general manager may also choose to put his immediate stamp on the hockey club by swinging a trade or two.

In a perfect world, the Canucks would have their new general manager in place tomorrow. But things don’t work that way and the organization will take all the time necessary to identify the proper people and hire the best of that bunch.

“The timeline is as soon as possible. The important thing is to get the right person,” says Canucks President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Zimmerman. “But we certainly understand the demands of getting somebody in place quickly during an off-season that is critical to the future of the team.”

At his exit meeting with the media a week ago, Dave Nonis had promised there would be changes to the Vancouver Canucks. Little did he know at that time, that he’d be among them.

In that regard, what was already going to be a very interesting off-season in this city, just got more intriguing. And it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down for a while because the on-ice changes can’t happen until the Canucks find the new man who’s going to make them.