That was an ugly scene in Vancouver at the end of the Canucks' lacklustre 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
Disgusted and disgruntled that their team only mustered three shots on goal in the second period on 20-year-old rookie John Gibson, who was making his NHL debut, most of the fans had abandoned the Canucks and left Rogers Arena early. Then, as the final seconds ticked down, those who remained chanted "Fi-re, Gil-lis. Fi-re, Gil-lis."
The Canucks' faithful got their wish less than 24 hours later when Mike Gillis, who left his press-box perch before the final horn sounded on Monday, was fired as the Canucks' president and general manager.
But don't kid yourself, this decision already had been made in the days leading up to the manic Monday evening, when Vancouver officially was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since Gillis became the Canucks GM in 2008.
The Aquilini brothers, Vancouver's ownership, are bottom-line businessmen. They saw an increasingly frustrated fan base. They saw the team's ticket-season renewals had taken a hit. They had to swiftly salvage the situation, especially with the season-ticket renewal deadline set for Wednesday. They had to make sure those season-ticket holders sitting on the fence had something to sway them.
Gillis angered locals
The Acquilinis had to make this choice. Gillis made some good moves, some bad moves and some questionable moves in his time with the Canucks. But his time was up. He had angered the locals with his aloof manner and the backward steps the franchise had taken on the ice in the last three seasons.
He then sealed his fate with his radio interview last week on Vancouver's Team 1040, when he sent a message to the ownership that he wasn't happy with its decision to hire John Tortorella as head coach last spring. Gillis told the Aquilinis that it would be him or Tortorella.
That doesn't mean Tortorella's tenure in Vancouver will continue. That decision will be made by Gillis' replacement on another day. All indications are Trevor Linden will be Gillis' replacement.
TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger reported on Twitter on Tuesday morning that Linden would be the club's new president. Interestingly, Linden was on with Global television's Steve Darling in Vancouver to conduct a scheduled interview shortly after Dreger's tweet.
Linden denied the speculation. But what was he supposed to do? The dismissal of Gillis had not yet been announced. The timing and stage was not suitable.
Darling asked the 43-year-old Linden, who retired a couple months after Gillis was hired in April 2008 and has run a chain of health clubs as well as being involved in real estate dealings since his playing days ended, if he had talked to the Aquilinis about becoming the Canucks team president.
"No," Linden replied. "Look, I've spoken to [them], I know them from when I played, I know the brothers and such."
Linden interested in GM job
Linden later was asked if approached, would he be interested in the job as president?
"I've always said to people, if the opportunity is right and the time was right, I'd have to seriously consider it," Linden said.
Linden, a former Canucks captain, is about as popular a person as they come from the Canucks' past. But just like Gillis, Linden will be under the microscope.
He will have to win over the fans with his first major decisions, like the new general manager he'll bring in and whether Tortorella will remain as head coach.
The usual suspects like Jim Benning, Paul Fenton, Jason Botterill, Rick Dudley and Ron Hextall will get plenty of attention, but current Canucks vice presidents Lorne Henning and Laurence Gilman also deserve strong consideration.
This is a frustrated fan base. They have watched the Canucks go from being one victory away from winning the Stanley Cup 34 months ago to a team that was ousted in the first round of the playoffs in 2012 in five games, and swept out of the opening round in 2013, to no post-season this year.
It will be interesting to see what direction the Canucks go with the volatile Tortorella. His time in Vancouver has seen him storm the Calgary Flames dressing room, keep his No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo on the bench for the Heritage Classic game, overuse his best players which was a factor in the Canucks' dismal 12-22-4 record since the calendar flipped to 2014.
For now, Tortorella stays. He has three games remaining in the first of a five-year contract. But what will be an interesting off-season in Vancouver already has begun.
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