This guy or this other guy: John Tortorella or Mike Gillis?

Many saw Mike Gillis’s layered and intriguing comments during Thursday morning’s Team 1040 radio interview as an ultimatum of sorts, directed either at Francesco Aquilini — either my way, or John Tortorella’s way, some suggested he was implying — or at the coach himself (in which case, swap “Tortorella’s way” for “the highway”).

There’s definitely some merit to this reading. “When you have an entire team’s level of performance drop off there has to be reasons for it,” Gillis said, before pointing to reasons that seemed systematic. He talked about the team getting away from the way he wanted them to play — the way he built them to play. He referenced the change in Alain Vigneault’s coaching style when the new GM arrived on the scene six years ago, implying that a similar adjustment was necessary here.

Ray Ferraro felt Gillis was drawing a line in sand. Via the Vancouver Sun:

“That is as big a distancing from the coach as I’ve seen,” Ferraro said in an interview Thursday. “That’s pushing you to that side of the room and I’m on this side of the room and whoever is making the decision upstairs, you’ve got one or the other.

“I see it as totally unlikely that both are gone and totally unlikely that both are back.”

Thus, it’s one or the other. Gillis or Tortorella? That’s a tough call for Canucks’ ownership, and one that shouldn’t be made alone. So we’ve decided to pitch in and help, with another edition of This Guy or This Other Guy?

***

 Gillis got his team to a Stanley Cup Final.

 Tortorella got his team to a Stanley Cup Final, and won it.

 Tortorella has a weird tendency of running his stars into the ground. Brad Richards has found new life under Alain Vigneault. Meanwhile, the Sedins have all but lost theirs. They are corpse twins now, which is a pretty good idea for a movie.

 Speaking of mismanaging players, one year ago, Mike Gillis had Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Now the Canucks have Eddie Lack, Jacob Markstrom, Shawn Matthias, Bo Horvat, no jobs, no hope, and no cash.

 The Luongo situation was exacerbated by John Tortorella’s inexplicable decision to start Eddie Lack for all games after the Olympic break, when Luongo returned from Sochi tainted with Olympic gold, including the Heritage Classic, thereby turning it into a sideshow.

 Tortorella wouldn’t have had the opportunity to turn it into a sideshow if Gillis had managed to fully sort out that situation months earlier.

 Under John Tortorella (ella, ella), the Canucks have forgotten how to score, which is less than ideal, because wins are awarded to the teams that score the most.

 Mike Gillis assembled this team, so he should be the one that pays for their ineptitude and regression this year.

 But Gillis assembled a team to play a certain way, and Tortorella has them playing a different way. It seems weird to be coaching a different team than the team you have, but what do I know? I never played the game.

 Gillis’s drafting record is less than stellar. He hasn’t drafted a single Sidney Crosby comparable, and that’s super easy to do.

 Gillis almost never blows up at anybody.

 That’s boring.

 Mike Gillis has never tried to karate his way into the Calgary Flames locker room.

 Frankly, Mike Gillis has never tried to karate his way into anywhere, and that’s just a waste of karate skills.

 Consider: if Tortorella really was an Aquilini hire and not a Gillis hire, do we really want Francesco Aquilini making any more hires?

23 comments

  1. Canucklehead
    April 4, 2014

    -1 for Torts on the Stanley Cup – ya he won it but it was in the dead puck era. Hockey was different then. His style then does not fly now.

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    • JDM
      April 6, 2014

      I don’t think you understand his style then OR now, but in particular, everyone has delighted at pointing out that Torts’ style in Tampa was “safe is death”, aggressive offensive hockey. Largely as a result of having three of the top scorers in the league at the time on his club.

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  2. Amor de Cosmos
    April 4, 2014

    If you get rid of a GM first the coach will likely leave soon after anyway (AV was an interesting exception) as the new guy will want to bring in his own man. That’s a major disruption and generally means radical changes on and off the ice. Is that really necessary here? If not then I think, for continuity’s sake, you hold your nose and give MG a final attempt to kick the can.

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    • Mt
      April 4, 2014

      It is also possible that the owners are attached to Torts and a new GM would get him with the team.

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      • Amor de Cosmos
        April 5, 2014

        Sure, we can’t know the personal dynamics at play, in whatever the decision turns out to be, and they’re probably the most important factor. However setting them aside — because we have to — there are five options for Aquilini: a) fire Gillis, b) fire Torts, c) fire them both, d) reshuffle their roles, e) do nothing. Measured on a metric of overall club disruption, ‘a’ and ‘c’ are likely to be the most chaotic for the club with, IMHO, ‘a’ being worse of the long term. The least disruptive is ‘e,’ but that would buy a world of pain from fans and media. For them — us — a sacrifice to the hockey gods is required, preferably one that will also improve team play in the short term. If Aquilini cares about that, then Torts is the guy with the bag over his head. Personally I think he’ll go that route, unless, as you suggest, he’s enamoured of Tortorella’s style, or wants to hedge his bets, in that case he might go with some version of ‘d.’

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  3. Goon
    April 4, 2014

    To be fair to Torts, his style also put the New York Rangers on top of the eastern conference in the regular season and took them to the Eastern Conference Final only two years ago, so he is capable of coaching successfully in the modern NHL.

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    • BBoone
      April 5, 2014

      You have made a specious ( deceptively attractive) argument. The Rangers , with youth, a great goalie and money were poised to be an elite team when the Johnald took over. A more competent coach may have already won the cup with that team. His top offensive players all regressed ( just like here ) and his players ran him out of town. This year the Rangers have now bought into AV uptempo style , are playing great hockey and are a decent long shot to win the cup. Moreover all the players like playing on this team and are saying so. Fortunately Laforgorella’s performance in New York foreshadowed this disaster in Vancouver and he has nowhere to hide. This emperor clearly has no clothes. Hopefully this will be his last year ever coaching in the NHL.

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  4. mb13
    April 4, 2014

    The one thing I don’t understand is Tortorella is hired. Everybody knows how he coaches. If anybody should have been fully aware of how this team would be coached by Tortorella, it would have been Mike Gillis (assuming they, you know, talk to one another about things like, oh I don’t know, strategy.

    So my questions… very sincere:

    - Was this coaching regime never given a chance to succeed? The coaches clearly have a philosophy on how the game should be played – and clearly were not given the horses to play that style. Of course – that is impossible in 9 months. It would probably take 1.5 to 2 years to get enough Tortorella type players here. In other words, can you evaluate fairly Tortorella’s influence on the team when he was given a 5 year mandate (contract) and the team was admitedly in a re-set in his first year.

    - was this GMMG’s way of making a statement from the outset? I don’t agree with this hire and i’m not going to rearrange the team to fit this coaching style. Reminds me of the Chelsea-PSG match on Wed… the commentators were talking about Mourinho starting a midfielder at striker and that he probably did it to make a point to the Board of Directors… buy me a real striker because I don’t have one. Is GMMG purposely making a point by losing this battle (season) to win the war (ousting Torts and getting autonomy over hockey operations)?

    - if the ownership insists on giving the coaches another year – will Mike Gillis resign? If he does resign, how can the Canucks possibly hire a competent GM in the future if that person knows ownership is meddling to the point the previous GM resigned? If ownership vows not to meddle, they might as well vow not to meddle with the current guy (devil you know…) than an outside hire?

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  5. akidd
    April 4, 2014

    that tortorella hiring was a stunner, it made no sense. super defensive coach, collapsing five guys in front of the net hired by gm who has explicitly stated many times that he prefers an attacking style. (plus the other obvious misfits with the market(yells to motivate, overplaying top players, lack of experience with the west, etc, etc.) how does that happen?

    the only explanation was that it was aquilini’s hire. it was the old ‘pull up the bootstraps’ solution from ownership. iron mike wasn’t available so he went for torts. gillis wasn’t extended yet so he caved. (and maybe stevens had a terrible interview.)

    it’s almost like gillis let it happen on purpose because:

    1) he gets aquilini to back off.
    2) he burns a year that wasn’t going to be competitive anyway.( one more year for the young guns to mature and one more high draft pick.) with a convenient scapegoat on the ice(torts) and off the ice(aquilini) to shoulder the blame for wasting impatient fans’ time. pretty shrewd, i’d say.

    i like gillis. he’s smart. he’s right. the canucks need to play an aggressive style. that’s how the team’s built. that’s what the fans want to watch.

    this has me more optimistic than in a long time. it’s all becoming clear. tortorella gets fired, aquilini sheepishly backs off the hockey ops, gillis gets to hire his own man for the first time, maybe the players are even more receptive to the new guy after their torts experience, we see at least three rookies, and maybe more. and they get ice time.

    no more goalie controversy, refreshed competition with youth, and a return to skilled hockey. and hopefully some inspiring coaching. it’s gonna be beautiful. not right away of course. not the winning anyway. but give it a bit and with some good fortune it could be pretty sweet. and it will be entertaining from the get-go. i’ll fast-forward to october right now. burn a summer for it. anyone with me? shall i hit button?

    big changes needed to be made from last season. gillis said he was going to make them. and it looks like he’s making them. i’ll never get this hockey year back again but whatever, it’s almost over. better than a cheap patch job.

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    • Llaplander
      April 4, 2014

      I like the way you have put the position. I also would like it if it was true. I have a belief that many of the earlier trades where we traded off possible young guns for what turned out to be deadwood looked good at the time when we were dealing with a coach that did not like to play young players (AV).
      I liked AV as a strategist, not as a coach. Having the Sedins start in the offensive zone and rest them when the start was in the defensive zone just makes sense. Understanding that 1/2 your games are not 2 hour trips and everyone needs rest – these are the things he did well. What he could not do was line matching. Or ‘Ride the hot goalie’. Or play rookies in protected minutes UNLESS he is arranging a trade. Or changing up a power play when it wasn’t working.
      Torts has many different problems and unless we want to trade the Sedins for some good 3rd liners we won’t be able to make a team he could use within the next 2 to 3 years. It still wouldn’t be good, but it would be better than watching great possession players playing dump and chase hockey.

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      • Ed of Monton
        April 5, 2014

        Trade the Sedins, good idea, one is no good without the other. Keep Gilles and Torts, try to keep a goalie if he does well. Hang tough for a couple of years. Bunch of bleeding hearts in Vancouver and I am talking the fans. Come to Edmonton where the real men are, we constantly lose but fill the arena. I guess we are just used to it. Trade you coaches in a heartbeat. Least John has guts, charisma. Eakins looks like he is going to cry, win or lose.

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        • shoes
          April 6, 2014

          Edmonton ….where the real men are, with real hairstyles, etc. LOL

          Please an Oiler fan giving the Canucks advise on sticking with a coach after having 5 in 6 years over there. hahahahaha

          Torts hire was a huge mistake, and while he might appeal to the victory starved mullets, you can have him. Please. His style is brutal and he ruins all but the grinders, which he just doesn’t play much. Not impressed and will celebrate once if he is fired and twice if he is hired in Edmonton.

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    • Pavo
      April 4, 2014

      Aah – that’s a beautiful dream, akidd.

      Nightmare would be Gillis leaving and Tortorella staying. Not because I consider Gillis to be the best thing since sliced bread, but because that would mean that Aquilini is effectively running operations and any new GM would merely be a puppet … ughh!

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  6. garth
    April 4, 2014

    is that the only photo on record in which gillis is smiling?

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  7. Jake
    April 4, 2014

    Gillis should go, because he kneecapped the team long before Torts showed up (after Viggy had to take the fall for not having a complete team to play with). And every other GM in the league hates him, since they remember getting screwed by him back when he was a talent agent.

    Gillis will not go, because he’s tripled the value of the team during his tenure.

    I’d like to see what Tortorella can do next year.

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    • Pavo
      April 5, 2014

      Tortorella will finish the job he started this year. He has already broken the team into pieces. Next year he’ll pound it into dust.

      But you know – just because he gives such candid interviews, we’ll go ‘Aww – so refreshing compared to weasel-words Gillis. Now let’s give him another year to wreck our prospects too!”

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  8. Clutch Fan
    April 4, 2014

    It looks really bad right now.. dislike the whiney tone of Gillis talking to the media about his coach while season is still going on, stinks of politics… my emotional feeling is that ownership should deep-six both of them for under-performance, but maybe the rational thing to do is to keep both (unless an awesome coach and or GM comes available this off season), and see how team does first 10/15 games of next season… and fire one or the other then (probably better to fire Gillis first)…

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  9. Mt
    April 5, 2014

    I’m not entirely convinced that MG’s comments were directed at Torts as much as at the owners. We can’t know what goes on behind the scenes so its speculation but, hey, here’s some speculating: ownership, like so many others, insisted after the loss to Boston that they need to be more like Boston (or at least the public perception of Boston–a grinding hockey team) and need a tough coach to turn them into that. Gillis may have been somewhat on board or just going along to keep his job, who knows. But now, with little to lose (his job might not last anyways) he has the gumption to say ‘I know how to win; I won before; let me do it my way.”

    Basically he’s saying ‘it’s my way or the highway’ not to the coach but to ownership.

    Even if Gillis was completely into the transition away from what he now claims to have known all along to work, he is now taking the opportunity to say that he wasn’t into it and that he has known better all along so let him run the ship.

    Another thought is that this is (also) directed at other owners. If he’s likely to get canned this communicates to the hockey world that his vision brought the team presidents trophies and a SCF game 7 and it was someone else’s vision that brought the poorer results. The obvious subtext is that Gillis=winner, somebody else (ownership)=loser. So hire Gillis if you Need a new GM next year.

    Just a thought or two.

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  10. Snepsts
    April 5, 2014

    Late to the party, but in a way, I think Gillis is referring generally to his own reaction (or possibly the Aquilinis’) after the cup run. Gillis bought into, or devised a statistics-driven team that was based on skill and puck possession, not “grit” or “toughness” or “driving the puck to the net”, whatever those terms mean. However, it cost the Canucks a cup, because essentially, the game is reffed with one eye open come playoffs, and the Canucks went into the finals with a reputation the refs were not prepared to adjust to; in other words, they reffed very conservatively. So, after that massive letdown, the wheels came off the bus. Gillis lost his mandate, I suspect the Aquilinis got very heavily involved in trades and team management, and Tortorella was supposed to be a shake-up that resulted in a new, more traditional grittier team. Note the presence of Sestito in virtually every game this season.

    Gillis is saying, yes we can adjust, but just as much to the Aquilinis as he is to Torts he is also saying, I created a team that made it to the cup finals…and you guys have run it off the rails and out of the playoffs. And it was Torts’ system that ramped up the injury parade, if you ask me. Also, Torts ran Luongo out of town by not playing him in the Heritage Classic.

    So you can’t really blame Gillis for throwing him under the bus – but I still think that this was more of a message up than one down.

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    • shoes
      April 6, 2014

      Sestito in every game this season for about 3 minutes of ice time with the twins and kesler getting over 50 minutes in some games…..hence the unbalance and injury and fatigue.

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      • John in Marpole
        April 7, 2014

        “…kesler getting over 50 minutes in some games…”

        Never happened, not even once.

        He _has_ been over-played, but you are doubling the amount of icetime he gets on average, plus some. No need to do that to make the point that he is tired.

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  11. Andre
    April 6, 2014

    Iain McIntyre argued, correctly IMO, that the scoring draught began after the 2011 season. All the big guns were silenced during each subsequent Stanley Cup playoffs.

    This is a situation that has not been remedied by GMMG and he bears most of the responsibility for it. He has to go.

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  12. 5minutesinthebox
    April 6, 2014

    Credit should be given where it is due in regards to the last 3 playoff series the Canucks have played in.
    Thomas had arguably one if the greatest performances ever in a finals series.
    Quick and the Kings were an absolute force and rolled over everyone. We just happened o be unlucky enough to draw them first.
    Niemi boasted a near .940 sv % against the Canucks and played the Kings to 7 games. You can look at the LA and SJ series as just being unfortunate we had to face them first.

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