Canucks respond to the cries of their angriest fans, fire Mike Gillis

Late in the third period of Monday night’s 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, with the Canucks just licking the metaphorical stamp on their mail-in of a game that would have kept their playoff hopes alive, the fans in Rogers Arena erupted in the loudest chant we’ve heard from them in years.

“Fire Gillis!” they shouted.

Less than 12 hours later, Canucks’ ownership has caved to their demands. Mike Gillis has been relieved as both President and GM of the Vancouver Canucks.

That was easy. And it probably explains how Tortorella got his job, along with a five-year contract. You just chant something loudly enough, and the Aquilinis will give it to you immediately. (“Hire Tortorella! Five more years!”)

The news was first broken by Renaud Lavoie, who may be wiretapping the phones at Rogers Arena, and confirmed almost instantly via a release:

Canucks Sports & Entertainment announced today that Mike Gillis has been relieved of his duties as President and General Manager.

“On behalf of my entire family, I would like to sincerely thank Mike Gillis for his hard work and the many contributions he made on and off the ice during his tenure,” said Francesco Aquilini, Chairman, Canucks Sports & Entertainment. “The Vancouver Canucks had success under Mike’s leadership, and we nearly reached our ultimate goal; but I believe we have reached a point where a change in leadership and new voice is needed.”

“I also want to thank our fans for their support for the Vancouver Canucks through a difficult and frustrating season,” continued Aquilini. “We haven’t met their expectations or ours. We are committed to bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver for our fans and we will continue to do everything possible to reach that goal.”

Man. Just when he was starting to turn things around, beard-wise. Turns out Gillis wasn’t kidding when he said he wasn’t sure that he’d be here next year.

We’ll have more on this in the coming days, but my kneejerk reaction is this: kneejerk reactions are stupid, and the Aquilinis have made one here.

The Canucks have been an 100-point club in every year save 2013-14. Yes, it’s been a truly bad year, but it’s been Gillis’s first truly bad year. Those happen. But teams recover, and his track record until now, which includes all manner of difficult and unprecedented accomplishments out of this team, is hardly fireable. Some fans may think otherwise, but some fans are at their emotional zenith right now after a year that’s been beyond belief.

It’s important to let the fans know you’re listening, but kowtowing to them when they’re as irrational as they’ve ever been is a sign of weak ownership.

This ownership group just listened to these guys, and now this same ownership is now in charge of bringing in someone else — presumably someone who won’t have the backbone to tell them when they’re making silly, over-emotional, kneejerk decisions, as you could argue Gillis was intimating in that fated, final radio interview. Presumably, someone about as ill-suited to their team as the last guy they signed off on, John Tortorella, who remains in power.

(Good news on that front: the Aquilinis are upset about the swirling reports that Tortorella was their meddlesome hire. Upset enough to sue for libel, according to Jason Botchford. Upset enough to claim, in the suit, that the purpose of reporting this was to “incite ridicule for making bad or embarrassing judgments.” The implication that Tortorella’s hiring was bad judgment suggests he won’t be in Vancouver much longer, either.)

Mike Gillis did an admirable job as the GM of the Canucks. It wasn’t all perfect, and he deserved his spot on the hot seat, especially after the last two seasons, which have been bumpy. But he also deserved more time. Jonathan Willis puts it well:

 

The fact that the ownership group couldn’t see that gives me little faith in their decision-making, which is concerning since, with Gillis gone, they’re calling all the shots.

52 comments

  1. rvtBC
    April 8, 2014

    Well said. Some rational thought and discussion on the issue – finally. It irks me to see how the Aquilinis appear to emerge through this fiasco largely unscathed.

    Sure, Gillis made some regretful decisions with the benefit of hindsight but he did (does) have some good, fresh ideas, knows the game and, you’d think importantly from an owner’s perspective, took heed of his owner’s direction. Can anyone seriously say, especially seeing how the Acquilinis have reacted to things over the past year and a bit, that they don’t have their fingers in things that fall within the scope of the GM’s duties? Hey, this is just my opinion on things – please don’t threaten to sue me Acquilinis!

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  2. Brent
    April 8, 2014

    Some people will be happy and some people will be sad. I wouldn’t say he was a terrible GM, but he did make some questionable trades/decisions. Obviously the goaltender trades lately are a black mark. Having two #1 and getting Bo, shawn and having to pay 15% of Luongos contract was somewhat sub-optimal. But some great acquisitions as well, Tanev, Santorelli, Stanton. Some less optimal ones, Ballard, Dimiti. Complaining about Cody and admitting they shopped him was stupid and makes all the other GM’s not trust who he is offering.

    Lets see what goes down the next couple of days. Be interesting to see who is Pres and or GM. Can we lure Yzerman away from Tampa? that would be an upgrade! Any word from Lavoie yet? Maybe I should get on twitter…..

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  3. Bob
    April 8, 2014

    I have a problem with this view.
    If you think the issue just started this year and Mr. A is reactionary jerking to missing the playoffs this year, then you are sadly mistaken
    The issue is the trajectory which the team has been moving in for the past 3 years, which has been solidly negative and increasingly so. Gillis not only has not been able to keep the Canucks as the elite team he inherited but is also handicapping the future of the team through poor drafting, bad trades, and (increasingly, with some degree of hindsight) bad contracts.

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    • nick
      April 8, 2014

      That’s a very limited, unsupported view you have there, Bob.

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  4. Dan C.
    April 8, 2014

    So infuriating. I thought Mike Gillis should AT LEAST get another position within the organization. I know it is quite an insult to demote an exec who held such a high position, but Gillis’s assets (particularly overage talent acquisition) should have been retained. At least the Aquillini’s had enough sense to keep Laurence Gilman; that man is a cap wizard.

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  5. arjay
    April 8, 2014

    Perfect! Not only do the Aquilini’s destroy their team by hiring the absolute wrong guy for the job over MG’s objections; they deny it to the ground going so far as to threaten legal action against the reporters’ who dared to offer up the obvious comment. The fact that Torts is still the Coach makes it crystal as to who hired Torts (hint; it wasn’t MG)

    Glad I ain’t a reporter as I have been posting since Day 1 that the Torts honeymoon would end very quickly, that the owners were meddling in matters where they had zero experience, and that MG’s body of work as PRESIDENT was right at the top of the table for the past 6 years…..even his peers agreed as they selected him GM of the year. The club rose to #2 in NHL revenues and #4 in franchise value during Gillis’ tenure here.

    No exec can prevent injuries and in 2012/13 the team had no kes, no 3rd line ctre and the early exits were predictable despite some small attempts to get a rental centre at the deadlines.

    This year is entirely on the owners and Torts….Gillis was the “lame duck” GM in the middle.

    He had ZERO leverage in unloading the Aquilini-mandated contract for RL b c they refused to eat any of his salary (until this year). Due to a reduced cap structure for 2014, Cory had to be unloaded; a move forced by the Aquilini’s refusal to eat any of the salary from the contract they awarded to RL……… And Gillis nailed a blue chipper in return for a blue chipper….from Lamorello no less!!!

    Also, how much drafting success can one expect when in 6 years your highest pick was no. 10 followed by #22 and lower? Still, MG nailed some decent prospects from the low end of the drafting position they had and by trade and some good free agent signings like Tanev, Corrado, Richardson, Santorelli and more Gillis stocked the team with decent talent given the reduced cap.

    The owners ruined those efforts by forcing the coaching debacle. Just look at Gillis’ face when he makes the announcement that “When WE decided to hire John…..” so obvious it was NOT his pick (Stevens in LA was).

    So, 6 years of elite hockey destroyed in 8 months by the wrong coach and the meddling owners (who are entitled to destroy their business anyway they choose of course). I imagine there is already a line-up at the Rog to renew seasons tix now that everything is peachy in Nuck-Land as that dreadful GM has been fired!!!

    Now, the ENTIRE accountability for the franchise is on the owners and the “real circus” is about to begin…..sure, the successor will inherit most of the groundwork Gillis left but will also (at least as of today) inherit Torts’ coaching this team which is not built to play his style of hockey but appears to be blessed by the owners.

    And, just as I predicted Torts would ruin this team, the owners will now destroy what was a solid, if not elite, hockey team. It only stands to reason that no credible upwardly mobile GM would come near this toxic waste dump of meddling ownership and a throw back coaching style. And, if they wish to hire a solid exec he will likely insist on his own coaching staff….so, where does that leave the Aquilini’s re getting an outside hire? Looks like Lawrence Gilman , who is under contract may get the hot seat by acclamation.

    the real Gong Show is just beginning.

    Good luck, Mike…..this will be one of the best days of your career in hindsight…..and one of our worst.

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    • iain
      April 8, 2014

      wow, you’re so smart. maybe the Aq’s should hire you.

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    • PK
      April 8, 2014

      The Canucks “Harold Ballard” era begins.

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    • A Train
      April 8, 2014

      Feaster. They’re gonna hire Feaster. Mark it.

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      • Pavo
        April 8, 2014

        That’s my fear. Feaster has already expressed an interest in the job, citing how he and Tortorella worked so well in Tampa.

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      • OMG
        April 8, 2014

        If they hire Feaster – they will be NO doubt that the Aquilinis have no business running an NHL team and the Canucks will be the absolute laughing stock of the entire league and deservedly so.

        Unfortunately, having bought a share of season tickets, I’m going to the game vs. Colorado and I’ll lead the chant “Fire Feaster” if they do pull the trigger so quick on hiring him as a replacement.

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    • peanutflower
      April 8, 2014

      Aside from your exuberance of mis-used apostrophes, I tend to agree with much of what you say. and I agree with PITB. I think this is a terrible move by the Aquilinis. (note: no apostrophe). I guess time will tell if we’re heading into another 80s-like decade.

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      • arjay
        April 8, 2014

        thanks peanut flower…i guess in my “exuberance” I missed the spell check on “Aquilinis” vs “Aquilini’s” ….good catch. and, on your post, unless the move today is the start of a clean sweep of the coaches then we can really only assume that the Aquilinis were suckered by MG. He demanded full sway, they reacted to the demand by being macho and firing him…..he walks away with about 9 MM of their dollars………guess the Aquilinis really showed him!!

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    • Jayden
      April 9, 2014

      I support Bob views whole heartedly. The biggest blunder was his first 1 … offering an insane contract to a over-hyped goalie who is an above average goalie, but he was put on the pedestal and irrationally compared with the elites. Luongo was a very good goalie, but doesn’t deserve that contract and certainly doesn’t need the pressure.

      Gillis inherited a very good core and has never been able to improve upon it. Ernoff

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    • Jayden
      April 9, 2014

      But wait … didn’t the Aquilini’s HIRE Mike Gillis? Using your logic then … didn’t the Aquilini’s build the Canucks into an elite team?

      Agreed that MG can’t be faulted for injuries, but neither can Torts or Aguilini’s.

      There are a long list of misses by MG that you are very conveniently overlooking: the biggest is the 10 yr Luongo contract, then trading away 2 starting goalies for a prospect. Don’t forget about miss handling of youth, namely Hodgson. After admitting to the “pump and dump” … no other GM in the league was willing to trade with MG.

      You want more … Erhnoff, Ballard, no movement long term for Sedins …

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    • Travis
      April 10, 2014

      This team played horrible under AV at the end getting him fired.
      Torts never had a chance with this roster.

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  6. iain
    April 8, 2014

    the obvious inference here is that the aquilinis are fans first and foremost. and i think we can now see the foolishness of allowing fans to actually RUN a hockey team.

    on another note, bet Dave Nonis is feeling a tad insecure right about now……

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    • Pavo
      April 8, 2014

      The real irony would be if the Leafs were to fire Nonis and hire Gillis!

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  7. Earl
    April 8, 2014

    Gillis was good at the softer things that made Vancouver a player friendly environment, but his judgment of playing talent was deficient. He probably would have made an excellent AGM but was clearly in over his head in the GM’s chair.

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  8. dbushik
    April 8, 2014

    Well, there is also the issue of his horrible handling of the goaltender situation. You can say this is “knee-jerk”, but Gillis totally is responsible on that one.

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    • peanutflowe
      April 8, 2014

      how do you know that? I’m betting he is not totally to blame on the goalie issue.

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    • Pavo
      April 8, 2014

      I’m getting a little tired of this narrative.

      A lot of reports and speculation out there that Aqualini was responsible for that contract.

      And then only TWO years into it, Roberto wants out. Yes, people can blame AV starting Schneider over him in the playoffs, but the cynic in my feels Roberto was opportunistic in asking out. It was well known for a long time that his wife wanted them back in Florida, and surprise, surprise – that’s the only team he wanted to go to.

      Pretty hard to trade a goaltender who only agrees to waive to one team – one that cannot afford him to boot – until it is too late.

      That the Canucks managed to eventually not only offload that contract, but get some players in return, is a minor miracle.

      If you want to whinge about Gillis’ mistakes, the Booth and Ballard trades are much better bets.

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  9. Amor de Cosmos
    April 8, 2014

    A couple of years ago it was still possible to believe the Canucks were building a kind of west coast Red Wings. A club that had solid management with a consistent philosophy everyone bought into, from top to bottom. An organisation that drafted well, nutured players and brought them up when they were ready, while easing out vets when their time was done. One that, year to year, had a consistent style that was successful. Yes there’d be down years but they’d be outnumbered by the competitive ones. That’s done now.

    I’m no particular fan of Gillis, he made mistakes no doubt, but the timing of this is all wrong. Wrong, in that the season’s not over, there’s not even a facade of objective reflection about it. Even if it wasn’t knee-jerk it sure looks like it. But, more importantly, it all but ensures the club will be a mess for at least two or three years, particularly if there’s an extra level of management in the mix. A hands own owner, talking to a president, talking to a GM, talking to a coach he hasn’t hired. What could possibly go wrong? This isn’t a “reboot” anymore, it’s going to be a major rebuild. It won’t be quick, and it’s my guess it won’t be very pretty either.

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    • Lemming
      April 8, 2014

      One of Gillis’ biggest failures was his initial promise to build up talent from within with the draft, prospects, and a solid development program. He then went on to trade any prospects the Canucks had who made the NHL away, or trade away all the draft picks.

      I hated Grabner for Ballard at the time, and I just feel vindicated now. Everyone at the time said that was a great trade, but I’m so glad Grabner proved them wrong and showed everyone what a terrible asset manager Gillis is.

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      • Gored 1970
        April 9, 2014

        The Canucks had two fast yet soft wingers in Grabner and Raymond and neither was very responsible in the defensive zone. The Canucks felt there was only one space for that type of player on their roster so they kept Raymond traded Grabner for what was considered at the time a good defenceman in Ballard. It didn’t work out but on paper it was a good trade. How have you been vindicated? Grabner has 26points in 64 games – not exactly a scoring machine. Raymond is still the better player with 45 pts.

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  10. bluemoonjones
    April 8, 2014

    Like a lot of us, I’ve been a ‘nuck fan a long time, and the simple fact of the matter is that up until January 1st, 2014, the preceding 5 years had been about as fun of a time to be a ‘nuck fan as there ever was. And when I think back on that ’09-’13 period I’ll always think of AV as the coach and MG as the GM. Because, well, they were…

    Thanks for your role in those good times, MG, and best of luck to you on down the road…

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  11. shoes
    April 8, 2014

    The only way I will accept that this firing is a good move is if Torts, Sully and Gully are gone after the final meaningless game. They have turned our PP, our D and our offence into the laughing stocke and while it is expected that the Sedins production would drop, this falling off a cliff for the entire team has got to be on the coaches……

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    • jayden
      April 9, 2014

      IMO Torts didn’t loss he room … he hasn’t been here long enough for that. The GM lost the players since its the GM who couldn’t bring in any meaningful help since the Hodgson “pump & dump” fiasco.

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  12. Canuck Alex in NYC
    April 8, 2014

    It’s starting to look more and more like we have the hockey-equivalent ownership of a Jerry Jones in Dalls or Dan Snyder in Washington: wealthy patrons with ample cash and large egos, but little sense when it comes to stepping aside and allowing the executives they hire to handle hockey decisions when things don’t work out as planned.

    Gillis modernized the way this franchise is run and ran it better than anyone prior to him. I’ll admit his disposition and seeming inability to form relationships with any GMs outside the state of Florida were concerning, but unless ownership already has a plan in place to replace Gillis with someone (or people) with equal competence in running a hockey club, the way it ought to be run in the modern era, then we have seriously been downgraded. “The mob is fickle, brother”…. Canucks fans will have gotten what they deserve if our next few seasons result in further deterioration.

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  13. Chris the Curmudgeon
    April 8, 2014

    I fail to understand the point of firing Gillis today. I am (was) most definitely not a fan of Gillis’s recent work, but I think GMs should be fired in the off-season. Not like he was going to do anything in the meantime. Also, as much as I wanted Gillis gone, I have to agree with the Bulies on this one: the Aquilinis seem like loose cannons right now, and if there’s anything worse than having a questionably competent GM in charge, it’s having a loose cannon owner who endorses Tortorella.

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    • peanutflower
      April 8, 2014

      Must be the Italian thing.

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    • Zach Morris
      April 9, 2014

      Season ticket renewals are down, and today is the last day to renew. Change was needed to get butts back in the seats!

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  14. MB13
    April 8, 2014

    Wow – this team is now verging on joke status.

    This move must be more politically motivated than on merit. That’s usually a sign of a well oiled machine.

    Shoes – looks like another year of Torts behind the bench could be here. I doubt the owners buck up for that contract.

    I think I’ve asked this before but nobody could tell me… whatever happened to Tom Larscheid?

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  15. the olde coot
    April 8, 2014

    The wrong one’s gone, the question’s why
    They did not fire the other guy!

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  16. whisky jack
    April 8, 2014

    At bottom line the answer’s clear:
    It’s Acquilini’s money, dear.

    Whisky Jack

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  17. Doop
    April 8, 2014

    I miss Cory Schneider.

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  18. Doop
    April 8, 2014

    Please not Burke please not Burke please n

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  19. Scooper
    April 8, 2014

    Trade gillis for nonis

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  20. jyrki lumme
    April 8, 2014

    THANK YOU PITB for, once again, being a voice of reason. What a mess Aquillini has created. It’s gonna be difficult to clean up this horrible situation created by “the Italian Jerry Jones” anytime soon (what decent exec. would want to be GM here?). Thank you for being a voice of reason amongst the many, many misinformed Canuck fans who thought MG was our biggest problem, and thank you MG, for the best 6 years in franchise history and for the not-insignificant role you played in it. In the end, MG DOES get the biggest ‘thank you’/severance package, in that he just ‘earned’ himself $8 mill for NOT being GM for the next 4 years. I’m sure MG is terribly upset, as he laughs all the way to the bank, stroking his glorious neck beard…..

    ……….and with that, suddenly, several years of Aquillini-induced darkness descended upon fair Nuxville, and there it remained, like a plague, until their saviour, Connor McDavid (acquired in the 2015 Edler trade) helped our oppressed soldiers finally reach the playoffs, after several years of futility, in 2018……to be continued….

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  21. jeff
    April 8, 2014

    I’d like to state here that if Tortorella is retained and Feaster hired as GM, I can be found initiating a new riot outside the Rog shortly thereafter. You’re all invited.

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  22. RevTrev
    April 8, 2014

    I hear what you are saying and yes Gillis did some things well but the trades and resistance to pull the trigger at the right time cost Gillis his job.

    You tell me if the Rangers traded Lundqvist or the Kings traded Quick or the Habs traded Price wouldn’t the fans be upset? Yes, and rightly so.

    So think of 2010 the Bruins have Tim Thomas and Rask and they traded them both in one year don’t you think Boston would go crazy!

    Vancouver trades both #1 goalies in Luo & Schneider get traded in one calendar yet for little in return and Gillis is deemed as a good GM or that he did a good job?

    Not to mention, the horrific Hodgson for Kassian trade.

    Also, since Gillis has taken over not only did we go to the Cup final which he can deserve some of the credit for both Luongo and Kesler have both asked for trades.

    Actually with all the difficulties I’m surprised Gillis has had this job for this wrong. If I made as many mistakes at my job as he did (especially at a multimillion dollar level), I would have been fired a long time ago. I believe they made the wrong decision a year ago by letting go AV and not Gillis.

    It was a great move by Vancouver because it needed new leadership. The morale, as demonstrated at the game with the fire Gillis chant, is very low. Fans are not happy and neither should the owners be.

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    • BBoone
      April 8, 2014

      You are way over selling your point with ” the horrific Hodgson – Kassian trade”
      Any knowledgeable hockey person knows that that trade was a big win for the Canucks.
      you are bang on with last year. Yes they should have kept AV and fired Gllis.

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      • Jayden
        April 9, 2014

        Wow … that’s a very very limited view on Hodgson/Kassian trade. So you are basing this conclusion on how many quality games by Kassian? 3 or 4?

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  23. lol_gillis
    April 8, 2014

    Mike Gillis did almost nothing useful as GM. He just inherited a good core from Burke/Nonis.

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    • Pavo
      April 8, 2014

      So how did Burke & Nonis do in Toronto?

      It seems that the other great team built by that brilliant duo has also missed the playoffs. Bet Gillis is to blame for that too!

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    • akidd
      April 8, 2014

      it was such a good core that they missed the playoffs the year before gillis was hired.

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  24. Norm
    April 8, 2014

    Very good move !! releasing that loser. Try to get back Coach AV and make him the GM would be a very good move . The players love him and will do anything to be his friend. And you are on the way to the Cup AGAIN.

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  25. akidd
    April 8, 2014

    wow! i guess the aquilinis didn’t like the finger of blame being pointed towards them. if tortorella truly was gillis’ first choice then maybe gillis deserves to be fired. otherwise, he didn’t. except for a couple of bad trades(ballard, booth) he did fine. more than fine really. considering the p-cups and and division wins.

    crazy times. if tortorella stays we are doomed. it would mean that the aquilinis are pretty darned thick. fire the guy who’s presided over the most successful period ever in canuck history and keep the guy who coached the most disappointing season ever. bizarro land.

    what’s next? hire a new gm who was a popular hockey player but has little or no experience in the front office?

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  26. buhg
    April 8, 2014

    Fire torts

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  27. Towel Power
    April 8, 2014

    I think the Aquillinis should stick to building very cheap and poorly constructed condos, that’s about all they are good at…

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  28. Smokey
    April 8, 2014

    Mike Gillis is like the trust-fund kid who inherits a profitable business and runs it into the ground. Did Gillis bring in the Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Luongo, Schneider, Vigneault, Edler, Bieksa? Nope. Which key players did he add to that core, long-term like? Hamhuis, Higgins and that’s about it. He was also needlessly abrasive, cranky and difficult, and completely failed to understand the concept of “buy low, sell high” in favour of the exact opposite approach. His drafting has been dismal, and of all his trades the only one that was a clear win was the Ehrhoff trade, which is negated by his subsequent failure to sign Ehrhoff or replace him with a comparable player. He’s had a few good signings but just as many stinkers. With the exception of the Cup run, when he added some key pieces, the team’s success during Gillis’ reign has been despite him, not because of him. And yet the media in Vancouver still rush to excuse his shortcomings after they couldn’t wait to run Vigneault out of town and are now trying to do the same to the new coach, less than a year later. Ed Willes is probably crying himself to sleep over his good buddy’s getting canned instead of Torts.

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    Rating: +5 (from 11 votes)
  29. BBoone
    April 9, 2014

    If you look around the NHL it is clearly not easy to build and maintain , year after year , a top drawer team.EX GMMG had a lot of good GM skills and did a lot of good things. I have been a fan since the WHL days of the fifties and sixties, , buying 75 cent tickets as a kid to sit oolong the boards , no glass and a disclaimer on the ticket to the effect that they were not responsible if you got a puck in the face. It seems that some people forget this years Canucks are by no means the first joke NHL team in Canucks history. Indeed at one point it was the norm. I am assuming that the new President / GM , either one or two people , will be an adult and a professional hockey man and will promptly remove the Johnald. If Tortorella is kept on as coach I will finally move on as a Canuck fan ( move along here, nothing to see, move along here ) and spend that time doing other more constructive things.

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    Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)