Gillis in full defence mode of his fallen Canucks | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaGillis in full defence mode of his fallen Canucks

Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | 04:22 PM

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Vancouver Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis addressed the media Tuesday after the Presidents' Trophy winners were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press) Vancouver Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis addressed the media Tuesday after the Presidents' Trophy winners were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

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Vancouver Canucks general manager Gillis defended his decision to trade Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian, his head coach Alain Vigneault and the character of his hockey team in his season-ending address. He also believed his team experienced a mental letdown after their emotional 4-3 win in Boston on Jan. 7 against the team that beat the Canucks in the final 10 1/2 months ago.
All elite-level hockey teams as well as its good players go through ups and downs. All good teams sometimes don't matchup well against seemingly inferior opponents. All good teams can't afford to miss a key component like Daniel Sedin for the first three games of a playoff series.

This was part of the message delivered by general manager Mike Gillis, less than 48 hours after his Vancouver Canucks were upset by the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Gillis defended his decision to trade Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian, his head coach Alain Vigneault and the character of his hockey team in his season-ending address. He also believed his team experienced a mental letdown after their emotional 4-3 win in Boston on Jan. 7 against the team that beat the Canucks in the final 10 1/2 months ago.

"I really felt the game in Boston, for some reason, was such an emotional and challenging game," Gillis said. "It was almost like playing a Stanley Cup final game in the middle of the season and from that point on I don't think our team ever really collectively got their emotions together.

"Heading into the playoffs we won a lot of games at the end that I thought our team was somewhat indifferent in and met a team in the playoffs that was very well coached. They played hard. They won some games that could have gone either way and suddenly you are down 3-0 in a series and it's very difficult to climb your way out of it."

The 53-year-old Gillis didn't sound like a general manager who was considering the drastic move of firing his head coach. But he also didn't guarantee Vigneault would be return for a seventh season behind the Canucks bench.

Gillis and Vigneault each have a year remaining on their contracts. The general manager will first meet with Canucks ownership to review all aspects of the back-to-back Presidents Trophy winners before he begins tweak and tinker his roster.

"My future will be discussed first," he said. "I am the president of this team and the general manager, it is my responsibility what happens on this team. So before we get to anybody else we are going to discuss my role and how I have done.

"Then we will move onto every element of the organization, like we do every year. It's not going to change. Everyone will be evaluated on what they have done, how they have performed and we'll make decisions after that."

Two of the biggest offseason decisions that face Gillis will be whether to retain Vigneault, and to deal one of his goalies, Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider. Luongo said that he is willing to waive his no-trade clause if he is asked by the Canucks.

Gillis hinted that he's comfortable in having both goalies back next season, but he could use one of them to fetch assets to improve the team, like a wing to play alongside Ryan Kesler or a power-play quarterback.

In hindsight, it's easy to pick apart some of the moves Gillis, who was named NHL GM of year for 2010-11, has made in his four seasons at the helm of the Canucks. His best move was the free-agent signing of Dan Hamhuis. But ... 

  • Should he have signed Luongo to a 12-year contract?
  • Should he have given up on shutdown defenceman Willie Mitchell after his concussion? Instead, Gillis acquired Keith Ballard for a price that included speedy Michael Grabner, who has scored 54 goals in the two seasons since he departed Vancouver. 
  • Should he have surrendered leadership and a valuable power-play guy in Mikael Samuelsson in his early-season trade for David Booth, who didn't produce down the stretch?
  • Was it wise to give up on Hodgson, even though he was unhappy in Vancouver, to make the trade with Buffalo for Kassian? This, after all, was a trade that has more to do with the Canucks future, and not what the club was capable of this season or next.

Hodgson was valuable to the Canucks in a limited role. In fact, in that impressive outcome in Boston, Hodgson scored the game-winner and set up another. Both goals came on the power play, an area the Canucks struggled in against the Kings.

"There clearly were issues that were ongoing," Gillis said. "I spent more time on Cody's issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years.

"We made a determination that he didn't want to be here. We built him into something we could move. There were six young players that I would have traded him for if any of them were ever made available. One was made available at the trade deadline and it was Zack."

"I don't regret that trade. I'd do it today"

So where does Gillis go from here? He wants to continue to build an offensive-oriented team, even though four teams that have advanced to the second round in the West are defence-first clubs. Gillis would welcome a challenge from two or three of his young prospects with the Canucks AHL affiliate in Chicago at training camp in the fall, but he also would like to add youth, size and strength to his roster.

In the meantime, he made it clear that he doesn't believe the Canucks situation is as dire as fallout from the first-round loss has been among reporters and fans. But the loss hurt. It was evident on Gillis' face and in his words.

"I think we have one of the best organizations in the league based on how we work together," he said.

"I feel like we're Columbus right now. We got 111 points this year. I believe that all the players on this team are still in their prime. We're continuing to move to get younger to help support these guys. When this window closes, and I don't know who has the crystal ball on that one, we'll be ready to move forward.

"Sometimes a week and a half costs you. Seriously, I'm extremely disappointed. Everyone in this organization is extremely disappointed. I look forward to the changes we'll make."

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