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Playoffs 2013Canucks GM Mike Gillis admits team needs retooling

Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 | 07:36 PM

Categories: Hockey Night in Canada, Playoffs 2013, San Jose Sharks, VAN vs SJ, Vancouver Canucks

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Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis addresses a news conference in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday to discuss his team's plans moving forward. (Andy Clark/Reuters) Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis addresses a news conference in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday to discuss his team's plans moving forward. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

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It's a direction Mike Gillis would prefer not to take, a road the Vancouver Canucks' general manager doesn't want to venture down, but on Thursday he admitted his team needed a retooling after being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks.
By Jim Morris, special to CBC Sports

VANCOUVER -- It's a direction Mike Gillis would prefer not to take, a road the Vancouver Canucks' general manager doesn't want to venture down.

Gillis also knows he lives in a world of adapt or perish. Or, in his particular case, find a way to win or be fired.

In the blinding spotlight of his team being pushed and shoved out of the first round of the NHL playoffs for a second consecutive season, Gillis admitted Thursday the Canucks need a retooling.

"Five years ago we came in here and reset this organization," Gillis told a news conference. "We are going to do it again.

"We are going to have to re-invent ourselves and do things differently to be successful."

The Canucks being eliminated from the playoffs in four straight games by the San Jose Sharks was a fitting end for a "messed up year from top to bottom," said Gillis.

"It's been a terrible season for us."

Gillis likes the Canucks to play a game built on speed and finesse. He favours skill over size. He prefers flow instead of clutch and grab.

In Gillis's opinion, the game is no longer played that way. The free-wheeling style that emerged after the 2004-05 lockout has disappeared. The cycling game played by Daniel and Henrik Sedin has slammed into a roadblock of uncalled interference penalties and big bodies guarding the net.

"When I took this job we decided on a style of play that resulted in great success," said Gillis, who was hired in 2008 to replace the fired Dave Nonis. "Certainly the landscape has changed. We have to address those changes moving forward. We have no choice.

"It's not something I necessarily, principally agree in. But that's what we face. We have to make the changes and adjustments that are necessary to compete for a Stanley Cup. It's my intention to do it, recognize what is going on and make sure we have a team that is better equipped."

Changes at the core

Gillis doesn't see a complete overhaul of the Canuck core, but there will be changes.

"I think we need to supplement the core group that is here as best we can and then look at the possibilities," he said.

"I think there's a couple of significant changes we have to consider. . .We need to get younger. Use this core group to build around."

The Canucks need players willing to crash the net, score the ugly goals that win playoff games. One player who fits that mould is 20-year-old prospect Nicklas Jensen, a forward with a six-foot-three, 186-pound frame.

Look for players like forward Mason Raymond and defenceman Keith Ballard to be gone next year.

Henrik Sedin, the Canucks' captain, accepts changes will happen.

"If things aren't going well for a few seasons there are going to be changes," he said. "I know our owners and our management are not happy being an average team."

Defenceman Kevin Bieksa thinks the Canucks still possess the same talent that took Vancouver to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins.

"I'm still a firm believer in what's going on here and the players we have and the staff we have," he said.

"I don't feel the window is closing. The core group is in the prime of our career."

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Vigneault's future in doubt

Coach Alain Vigneault's future remains in doubt. Gillis said that decision will be part of a "thorough review" being conducted.

Since being named the Canucks' coach in 2006, Vigneault has guided Vancouver to two Presidents' Trophies, a Stanley Cup final and six Northwest Division titles. He was the NHL coach of the year in 2007 and his regular-season record of 313-170-57 is the highest winning percentage by any Canucks coach.

It's also been under Vigneault's watch that the Canucks are 2-12 in their last 14 playoff games and lost six straight games at home.

"Most of you know I don't make decisions based on immediate emotion or pressure," said Gillis.

"Alain is a very good coach. He has an incredible record here in the last five years. Like everybody in the organization he will be evaluated, like I am evaluated. Decisions will be made when we present a plan to ownership."

Not a lot went right for Gillis this year. He had to deal with the NHL lockout, the shortened season, and his failed attempt to trade goaltender Roberto Luongo. There were injuries to players like David Booth and Ryan Kesler, then goaltender Cory Schneider missed the first two games of the playoffs with a groin problem.

"It's the most challenging season of my tenure here," said Gillis.

Follow Jim Morris on Twitter @jememorris

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