While Mike Gillis was the GM of the Vancouver Canucks, the team prospered. He took over a pretty good roster (Luongo, the Sedins, Kesler, Schneider, Bieksa, Edler, Burrows), and mostly managed not to mess things up – something many GMs aren’t able to claim after trying to put their fingerprints on their new franchise. They had a .627 winning percentage over his six years, made playoffs five times, won two President’s Trophies and lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Then, things started getting ugly.
The hiring of John Tortorella was the launchpad on which the Canucks season failed to take off before crashing into the Pacific. I like Eddie Lack, but the goaltending situation went to pot (though some would argue that ownership had some hand in that). There was some disagreement about the playing style of the team, and with it came passive aggressiveness in interviews until it became clear that someone had to go. With four full years and eight million left on Tortorella’s deal, Gillis was sort of the odd man out. And once you know you’re going to fire a guy, you might as well do it. No point in waiting for some imaginary milestone. Cut the tension early, get looking for a new guy, and let him start to prepare for the draft.
There’s also this sentiment:
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
It is remarkable that some GMs are just allowed to lose and lose. Expectations, man.
You don’t have to like what Gillis did with Cody Hodgson (thought I’d say that trade is far from settled), but you have to like the D-corps he solidified. Adding Dan Hamhuis was a nice touch. You have to acknowledge that he’s done well to keep the Sedins affordable. You have to acknowledge that, at least, Gillis wasn’t a bad GM.
It seems like the Canucks are looking for someone to come in and accept Tortorella without asking questions who the fans will be happy to see, which could partially explain the Trevor Linden rumors.
At any rate, this is the first year in which the Canucks have been a trainwreck for awhile, and the standard had risen to a level that made that impossible to tolerate. I’d say Mike Gillis was just a product of Sports. It’s cyclical. Hirings and firings aren’t necessarily merit-based, and if you haven’t been fired in the NHL before, you likely aren’t good enough to stick around the NHL for enough time. Because given it, almost everyone gets the odd pink slip.