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In two years, Gillis has gone from top dog to embattled GM

Aug 13, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

Mike Gillis

It seems like a long time ago now. But in reality, it’s only been two years since Mike Gillis was named the NHL’s top general manager for helping the Vancouver Canucks capture the Presidents’ Trophy and come within a game of winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

Back then, Gillis was frequently lauded for his progressive ideas. He often referenced Moneyball. He hired a sleep doctor. The Canucks even had something called a mind room.

Gillis also made some pretty adept hockey moves. He got Christian Ehrhoff out of of San Jose for next to nothing. He picked up Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre at the 2011 trade deadline. He signed the likes of Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Mikael Samuelsson.

A former agent, Gillis also proved a convincing negotiator, locking up key Canucks like the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler to below-market contracts while getting his core players to buy in to a team-first attitude.

“That’s what we need everybody to do,” said Kesler back in 2009. “If we’re going to win the Cup, we need guys to take pay cuts. The way the salary cap is now, you really can’t get what you’re worth now if you want to win. Everybody in this locker room knows that and for us to be a great team going forward, we’re going to have to take a pay cut.”

That was then. Today, it could be argued that no GM’s stock has fallen more than Gillis’s. Two straight first-round exits and suddenly nobody’s talking about sleep doctors anymore. Instead, it’s the ham-fisted way he handled the Roberto Luongo/Cory Schneider saga, that dumb Keith Ballard trade, and, really, we could go on and on here. So let’s — because on top of all the bad moves he’s made, plenty of people call Gillis a whiner, too. When they’re not calling him arrogant and unwilling to admit a mistake, ever.

“From my perspective … it’s been a terrible season for us,” Gillis said in May after the Canucks were swept by the Sharks. “We’re going to have to reinvent ourselves and do things differently in order to be successful. The macro look at this team is that changes have to be made.”

So out went head coach Alain Vigneault and in came John Tortorella (a hiring, by the way, that many felt had ownership’s fingerprints all over it.)

But despite Gillis’s call for a “reset,” the Canucks’ core remains awfully familiar — the Sedins, Kesler, Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Alex Burrows and Luongo.

Where Gillis can perhaps (or perhaps not) find redemption next season is in the club’s pool of prospects. Because we forgot to mention, he’s also been lambasted for his draft record and for trading Cody Hodgson to Buffalo for Zack Kassian.

If Kassian can realize his potential….if draft picks Brendan Gaunce, Bo Horvat, Nicklas Jensen, and/or Frank Corrado can make an impact…if free-agent pickups Kellan Lain and/or Joacim Eriksson pan out…well, if anyone knows sports fans have a short memory, it’s Gillis.

More Canucks day on PHT:

Young guys will be key for Canucks

Agent: KHL teams interested in Tanev

  1. kaptaanamerica - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    The trades Gillis made were influenced by AV. Frankly though, I like the Kassian trade for Hodgson. You can’t find power forwards with skills like Kassian, but you can find small offensive centres. No one gives up Kassian like players in trade usually. You can see what they are signed for on the free market. Ridiculous deals like what Clowe and Clarkson got are proof of that.Hodgson for his part has one of the worst numbers in the league for goals against and his defensive liabilities are noticed even in Buffalo.

    The trade I hate is the Ballard deal. Giving up a first, Grabner and Bernier based on AV’s input. I would have like the deal if it was Raymond, Bernier and a 2nd or 3rd. Grabner should never have been moved.

    • ikillchicken - Aug 13, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      To be fair, it’s easy to say we never should have traded Grabner in retrospect. But this is a guy who played so badly that Florida waived him and he was claimed by NY.
      Ultimately, a late 1st and a questionable prospect was a pretty reasonable deal for a top 4 D man. The problem was that Ballard wasn’t anywhere near that good. The only thing top 4 caliber there was his paycheck.

    • davebabychreturns - Aug 13, 2013 at 10:35 PM

      Gillis’ trades were influenced by AV?

      If he was making personnel decisions that weren’t the best ones for the franchise regardless of the coach then he should be fired.

      Thankfully we’ve no actual indication that this was the case, and your theory has no more legitimacy than Brough’s contention that Gillis is “embattled” – although at least in that case if you choose to take certain Vancouver sportswriters at their word, it could be said there is some proof of that one.

      IMO the worst aspect of the Ballard deal was failing to cut bait and get out of the cap commitment after the first or second season. I don’t know if there was simply no other takers out there but it was pretty clear Ballard would have to be rebuilt from the ground up here and it was a very long shot to ever pay off (and of course it did not). If it could have been the difference between keeping a Christian Ehrhoff around or adding another veteran center with Manny and Kesler both injured heading into this season or even just meant more money available to make other moves now rather than spending on a compliance buy out.. the writing was on the wall with the Ballard trade for far too long.

      But I don’t think his acquisition cost was that bad. Grabner is still not a top six forward (despite running very hot for a year or so) and has even said he never would have put it together if the Panthers hadn’t waived him. The first round draft pick was a bit costly but that’s the price of doing business at the NHL level and Ballard looked like a player that would be worth the risk – like I said, when it became clear he did not come as advertised the Canucks should have got out if at all possible.

  2. blomfeld - Aug 13, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    With the exception of Davebabychreturns, all of the comments above are the words of docile, obedient, sheep who will follow their shepherd’s ‘every’ command as they make their way to the slaughterhouse.


    blomfeld – May 22, 2013 at 11:39 PM


    People forget that Gillis was a ‘premiere’ jerk during his days as a player agent, despised by pretty much most of the league’s GM’s. Then he sniveled into the Canuck GM gig while furtively conspiring with the Aquilinis right under Dave Nonis’ nose like some brazen rat. And listening to him on TEAM 1040 ever since, his demeanor and personality have always oozed with unabashed arrogance, disdain and contempt. They said once that “all roads lead to Rome”. Well I would submit that today, all of the Canuck’s problems lead to none other than Mike Gillis.

    • kaptaanamerica - Aug 14, 2013 at 7:13 AM

      You’ve already worn out your welcome with fans of other teams with your ridiculous comments, including kings fans as seen before. Calling people names and comparing them to sheep just confirms your lack of any real input.

      • ikillchicken - Aug 14, 2013 at 9:03 AM

        I’ll also point out the fact that he goes out of his way to give davebabychreturns a pass and yet insults me despite the fact that we are saying almost literally the same thing. So clearly he’s just babbling nonsense.

    • davebabychreturns - Aug 14, 2013 at 9:27 AM

      Blomfeld that’s ridiculous. Not much else to say, really.

      • blomfeld - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:23 AM

        ** special video selection for Kaptan America & Chicken Killer **

    • badintent - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:23 AM

      Hell yeah but a big assist to Burke the Jerk. He borrowed Burke personality to the T. with a curtsy to Hazel Mae.No lawsuit for me. ha

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