Skip to content

Here’s a list of the big mistakes Gillis made with the Canucks

Apr 8, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

Mike Gillis AP

For all the good Mike Gillis did during his tenure as general manager of the Canucks — helping them to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final being at the top of the list — he made a number of key mistakes.

Those mistakes ultimately got him fired today. We’ve listed his biggest blunders below:

— In Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, the Canucks once had two of the top netminders in the NHL. Today, they have neither. A number of factors conspired against Gillis during his attempts to trade Luongo, but it was Gillis who signed Luongo to the problematic contract in the first place. Without that front-loaded, salary cap-manipulating contract — one Gillis should’ve known could be an issue down the road, given Gary Bettman’s distaste for deals with that sort of structure — Luongo would’ve been much easier to move, and for a better return.

Keith Ballard and David Booth were both acquired in trades with Florida. The former became a compliance buyout after playing sparingly for former coach Alain Vigneault; the latter could be a compliance buyout this summer. Enough said right there.

— It won’t be fair to judge Gillis’s draft record in its entirety for a few more seasons, but as of right now, not one of the 37 picks the Canucks made under his watch is a major contributor on the team. Vancouver hasn’t had many prime picks because of its regular-season success, but then, neither have the Blackhawks, and they’ve still managed to uncover players like Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger.

— Gillis admitted last week that the Canucks “deviated from some of the things that made us successful,” which is another way of saying he overreacted to painful playoff losses, misread the direction the league was headed, and abandoned his “fundamentals and principles” in the face of wide-spread criticism. “We just have to be committed and have the guts to be able to carry it out,” he said, rather tellingly.

— Related to the above point, after firing Vigneault, Gillis hired John Tortorella as the team’s new head coach. And don’t be fooled; this was not solely an ownership hire. Gillis, along with the rest of the hockey-ops department, was on board. It was a gamble that obviously failed to pay off. The Canucks have not responded to Tortorella’s approach, tactics-wise or motivation-wise. For Gillis, the only head coach he’s ever hired became a big part of his downfall.

  1. stcrowe - Apr 8, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    The Hodgson-Kassian trade is another. Was he the one that gave up on Grabner? if so, that is another one.

    • hosewater2 - Apr 8, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      Yes, he gave up Grabner in the deal for Ballard.

      Jury still very much out on Kassian/Hodgson. And don’t forget, Hodgson asked out via his Dad and agent.

      • thomasvanek - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:11 PM

        The dad thing turned out to be false and He only asked out because he was getting 3rd line minutes when he was playing better than that.

      • ikillchicken - Apr 8, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        Was he playing better than Kesler or Henrik at the time? No? Then he didn’t merit more than a 3rd line role did he?

        Regardless of how well Hodgson was supposedly playing at the time, throwing a hissy fit because he hadn’t unseated one of the best top 6 center tandems in the league at the time was just childish.

      • kaptaanamerica - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:40 PM

        are you insane?? Henrik was a Hart trophy winner and Kesler won the Selke..!!!!! This guy can’t even be the 2nd line centre in Buffalo…

      • kaptaanamerica - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:42 PM

        earlier comment directed @thomasvanek fake… (also the trophies were won in the season prior to hodgson getting traded, which just shows how mental that comment by vanek is)

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:31 PM

      Are you whatever they are calling people these days who in past years were called ‘retarded’ or “mentally deficient”? Hodgson for Kassian a mistake??? wrong. wrong. wrong. Mayor of wrongville type of wrong. Hodgson can’t even be a centre in buffalo, has no defensive sense, can’t skate fast enough to play centre and is being moved to the wing. So you think a small, skilled winger, with limited speed is better than a power forward, with as much skill, who is getting better year by year???

      The Canucks play in the western conference and in case you didn’t notice the top teams have big skilled wingers in the Pacific Division in particular and are starting to in general as well…

  2. djshnooks - Apr 8, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    As a Sabres fan, we have long felt we won that Hodgson – Kassian trade, by a mile.

    But did we really? Hodgson is the same kind of player we have in Ennis and others…Kassian is what they seem to lack and have been looking for in Stewart, Foligno, Girgensons, and a few others.

    But now Hodgson is being moved to the wing, he hasn’t seemed to improve and he doesn’t look like a true 1/2 line center. Maybe it’s the lack of talent around him…but idk if this trade is as lopsided as it has seemed since it happened.

    Canuck fans…would you rather have Hodgson back or keep Kassian?

    I just don’t see where he fits now as a center, with Buffalo having…

    Ennis, Grigorenko, Girgensons…as well as the chance at Bennett or Reinhart. Maybe Ennis and Hodgson will make better wingers…which would be a blessing.

    • hosewater2 - Apr 8, 2014 at 4:02 PM

      Both are good at what they do, Kassian has looked great recently. Not sure why this trade is perceived as lopsided. Hodgson still can’t play defense and Kassian is still undisciplined at times.

      I don’t think either will be superstars, and I don’t think the trade is lopsided.

      Again, Hodgson asked out, any GM gets their hands tied by that request.

    • pigeonbutt - Apr 8, 2014 at 4:33 PM

      I reacted negatively at first and have moved from considering it to be a wash to suspecting it might actually have been a positive move for us as well. This local blog post sort of addresses the point (that said obviously written from a Canucks slant).

      Kassian has easily been on of the team’s best, if not the best forward the last month for Vancouver. He’s one of the few guys who actually looks like he plays with energy (something this team lacks to a shocking level). Yeah he can still make bone-headed plays but not as frequently and his compete level is definitely more consistent.

      He is turning into a wicked play maker with surprisingly good vision and hands. Not as much of a crash the net power forward as we first thought but still utilizes his body to defend the puck until a good play is available. Has displayed incredible patience to make a play that seems doomed work.

      He is criminally under employed by Torts as well. He may have 14 fewer points than Hodgson but he plays around 14 minutes a night under his hot streak and far less to begin the season. He also gets zero PP time, another baffling Torts-ism.

      One of the few bright spots for Vancouver this season – I think both Buffalo and Vancouver may go down as winners.

    • rabidbillsfan - Apr 8, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      I’m still not sold on the fact that Hodgson is going to fail to live up to expectations. 40 points for a kid who has played with numerous different line-mates, been moved all around, and has had 2 different coaches isn’t to bad. He works hard, he creates pretty well, I’m not sure he will ever be a Selke candidate, but he’s only 24. The only reason Ennis is centering the Top line is because his Rapport with Stafford is the best, there isn’t another threat on this team to pair with Cody at this time. I know Tim is dedicated to the re-build, but bringing in a guy, even if you have to overpay a bit, just to pair with Hodgson would do wonders. You can throw Stewie and Foligno in there to pave lanes to the front of the net and find Hodgson a finisher, and I bet he can continually put up 60+ points. Kassian probably won’t last in Van anyways, AV didn’t like his style, and it showed in his production. He has seemed to improve under Torts, but we all know he won’t be there much longer. If he can prove he can play under control and help his team more than hurt it, he might have a chance in VAN, but I bet he’s somewhere else when he realizes his potential.

  3. bigtganks - Apr 8, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    Goalie situation, atrocious trades, contract extension for the Sedin twins way too soon (you didn’t see Naslund or Linden get extensions like that), couldn’t draft, couldn’t scout, was an arrogant a** and upset everyone he dealt with because of his personality.

    Lastly, what did him in… that atrocious goatee.

  4. blomfeld - Apr 8, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    How about ‘interviewing’ Elaine for four days straight in a Vegas hotel room ?

    Regardless, look for Torts to now become Coach and GM … yes sir ! … well, at least for the foreseeable future eh ? Things are definitely starting to look ‘up’ here in Canuckle Land ! :)

  5. soro17 - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    – Keeping the scouting staff largely intact from the Burke / Nonis days. They were terrible then and terrible now.
    – Acquiring former Florida Panthers. Once lousy, always lousy.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:50 PM

      Canucks have been brutal under Ron Delorme’s scouting watch. They need to poach some guys who know how to find players from teams like detroit, chicago, san jose, LA, etc…

  6. m1k3g - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    His handling of the Luongo/Schneider thing is going to go into the ‘What not to do’ book for GM’s. That saga was ridiculous.

    How do you go from having two of the top goaltenders in the league to having neither in the course of less than a year?

    • einjzmolf - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      But.. but.. Bo Horvat, yo!

      • m1k3g - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:25 PM


  7. drewsylvania - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    How do we know Gillis was on board with the coach trade?

  8. govtminion - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    No mention of the failure to trade Kesler? It’s not his biggest gaff, but it sure belongs on the list at least.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:52 PM

      Really? the guy was getting shiite offers. nothing solid for a selke winner. you must be in the buy low, sell lower mode of investing…

  9. slaugin - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    I honestly think he wanted to trade Kesler but was stripped of the power to do so because of Ownership. Ownership knew he was going to be fired by then and didn’t want him to screw up the return

  10. hsnepsts - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Also bad:
    1) Roy trade. dropping decent future assets on a rental when the team was obviously going nowhere in the post season.
    2) Choosing Raymond over Grabner, then losing both.
    3) Letting so many assets leave as UFAs: Ehrhoff, Salo, Samuelsson, Mitchell, Lapierre, Raymond. I probably need some correcting on these. For me, a well managed good team uses the fact that they are a good team to make players look better than they are, then trades them with time remaining on their contracts, so the team doesn’t bleed assets. Gillis never did this.
    4) Signing so many no-trade clauses.

    Kassian-Hodgson was okay.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:54 PM

      raymond sucks. not keeping grabner was the mistake. lappy needed to go. richardson and matthias are both better than lappy. salo would break something every year and is now out of the league with another injury.

      Ehrohh, Mitchell were mistakes. Samuelsson was better value than booth. but he was getting old. should have let him play one more season and then let him go.

  11. blackheart78 - Apr 8, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    I know Mike Gillis by no stretch was a good gm but you could look at just about any gm in any sport and pick at out the bad moves.

  12. pugsley927 - Apr 8, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    at least you don’t have to worry about burning down your city after another playoff failure.

  13. slaugin - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    KapptainCanuck is pissed. But mostly right

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kane (1893)
  2. P. Kessel (1447)
  3. M. Richards (1242)
  4. N. Backstrom (1152)
  5. M. Giordano (1109)