Strombabble: Gillis Drops Sexy Quote, Doesn’t Actually Tell Us Anything

Roberto Luongo is sick of this shit (probably).
Image uncredited via UpMagazine.

This week Mike Gillis sat down with Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun, who has been producing some extremely interesting and unique sports writing over the past couple of weeks, for an extended conversation, "that was set up before the Canucks’ two opening-weekend losses." Cole pulled some really interesting context out of Gillis on a wide variety of subjects: the Canucks’ scouting apparatus, the impact of injuries, the club’s lack of high-end prospects in the pipe-line, tanking and of course the Luongo trade.

Amidst the candid din, alas, it’s this sexy quote that’s getting all of the attention this morning and it’s not hard to see why:

We have a potential deal in place with one team that has to do something with another player that they have — and it’s not who anybody thinks it is — and so we have to wait. (But) we’ve been offered packages that don’t fit what our plan is, what we need.”

Potential deal in place! Mystery team! Why, that reads like HockeyyInsiderr’s "trade market" slash fiction Twitter account in early July!

Let’s get into it briefly on the other side of the jump.

Over the course of the past seven months I have obnoxiously covered every possible angle of the Luongo-trade saga. In part this was because every time I attached "Strombabble" to a post it would guarantee several thousand readers, but that editorial decision was partly informed by a more honest sentiment as well. I’ve found that when I’m blogging as often as I am at this site, it’s important to stay on top of topics and write regularly as they develop. It’s like, if you play around with a concept long enough and explore every conceivable nook and cranny: you’ll usuaully come out of that process with a better understanding of the structure of the thing, its limitations and the issues at play.

Except on the Luongo trade, the more I’ve written about it, the more I’ve felt like I am completely lost in the woods. Eventually lines like:  "how the fuck should I know?" began to creep into the posts and I figured, fuck it, I’m going to just let this play out and try not to write about it so often. Then Gillis gives Cole a quote like that, and obviously we need to jump in.

The first thing to examine is whether or not we should read that Mike Gillis quote as an exceptionally candid one or an example of a team executive negotiating through the media (we should note that Mike Gillis described leveraging the media to put "pressure" on potential trading partners as "nothing new in this business" just last week!). 

The thing is, who is Mike Gillis negotiating against or putting pressure on in this quote? Maybe he’s "baiting" the likes of Dave Tallon or Dave Nonis but that seems like a stretch. Really he’s just pointing to a "mystery team" (go mystery team!) that is only identified as "not who anybody thinks it is." So that gives me pause because clearly this isn’t, say, Mike Gillis calling up the Vancouver equivalent of Damien Cox and leaking the details of Toronto’s most recent ask so it can be savaged in the press.

Also, for what it’s worth, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons says he can "confirm" that the "deal in place" isn’t with the Maple Leafs:

Frankly, I think we can read Gillis’ comments as candid, but in saying that I’d remind you that Mike Gillis has a particular flair for being "candid" without actually revealing much of anything. I’d say this quote qualifies. It’s sexy and all, but in no way does it help us see the forest (or the trees for that matter) on the Luongo trade saga, and trying to read between the lines here is a fools errand.

There’s some more revealing nuggets, however, on drafting, player development and the impact of star veteran players on the "culture" of an organization if you check out Cam Cole’s partial transcript of the conversation over at the Vancouver Sun site.

  • Sounds like a quote from a desperate GM trying to drum up interest in a goalie whos asking price is too high. Some think its Philly who wants him and has to deal with Bryz, and I doubt that even Snider will blow 45 million on dumping his space cadet.

    Vancouver should of dumped his 5+ million dollar salary in the off season when there was a market, that could easily paid for a 1st or second line winger in free agency. Know Gillis can hardly afford to play him, cause if he gets injured what value he has goes down the tubes faster then Manti Te’o draft status. The quote looks like hes drumming up something that isn’t there.

    Ive read a number of blogs, and the conscensus is that Luongo is a salary dump, Vancouver is not getting top flight prospects for a guy whos got a contract that hinders a team cap picture down the line.

  • I don’t think Luongo’s just a salary dump (though I agree that he’s not going to fetch a top-flight prospect in return) and I don’t really think MG is trying to drive the price up with this quote. It’s possible but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  • First of all, it’s great that you’ve covered this so well!

    But second, Gillis probably feels some heat and needs to explain why no deal has been done. Kinda like the comments he made last year after the Hodgson trade. I wonder if the mystery player has a no movement clause? Or not back from Europe (is Visnosky back yet?)…

  • Gillis does not have a perfect record but he is right not to trade Luongo unless it makes Vancouver better now or in the future. Dumping salary might be a consideration after this season(Ballard and Booth seem like better candidates for buyouts) but having a top goalie tandem in a short season is a significant weapon for a team whose window is shrinking. Trading Luongo for Bozak would have been a horrible error.

  • I don’t see how it benefits Gillis to talk about “good pieces” being offered for Luongo when they are not.

    The easiest thing would to be quiet about it so you don’t look bad if it ends up being a salary dump in the end.

    So, would Gillis risk his reputation just to bait teams through the media or is he legitimately being offered something good. Common sense says you don’t risk your rep for something so minor.

  • I assume he’s just making it up — either out of an effort to bolster value, or just to amuse himself. Why would he tell anyone this if it were true? And throwing out the “not who you think it is” is a way to prevent any conflict with teams rumored to have interest in real life.

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    First off, I congratulate you on not bowing to the morality police. There’s a reason all the best shows on TV are on HBO and Showtine. :þ

    Second, I may be wrong, but I can’t recall Gillis using the media through misinformation in the past. He’s been guarded and let things out as he feels necessary, but has he ever said anything that turned out to be blatanly false or deliberate misdirection as a way to manipulate events?

    If not, why would he start now? It’s out of character. Gillis is being patient, and he should be. You don’t give away all-star goaltenders. Somebody will need him soon enough. Until then, he’s a great insurance policy for Schneider. Do I have to keep reminding everyone how it wasn’t too long ago that Boston spent the entire summer trying to move an overpaid, veteran goaltender to make room for the young, talented starter-in-waiting…

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    My darkhorse guess? Tampa, with the complication being convincing Ryan Malone to waive his NMC. This is all speculation, but I think it’s safe to say the Lightning are feeling the financial effects of the lockout. I don’t think it’s a stretch thinking that Jeff Vinik could have told Yzerman to make sure the team makes it back to the postseason so they can reap that revenue and try and make up some of their losses. What’s Tampa’s one big hole right now? Goaltending. I know they just got Lindback, but he’s a not a sure thing and would have a lot to learn playing behind Lu for a few years. If Tampa had a good goaltender last season there’s no way they miss the playoffs. We know Lu would for sure waive to go there, and we know that Gillis has been targeting players with size up front, leaving me to believe Malone is a candidate. It fills needs for both clubs.

    Though I’m probably completely wrong and it’s the Islanders or something.