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!”)
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:
If Mike Gillis is the standard for firing an NHL GM, how many GM’s in the NHL should follow him to unemployment? 10? 20?
— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) April 8, 2014
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.