Breaking Down Mike Gillis’ Trade Deadline Resume

Mike Gillis would like to explain his relatively conservative trade deadline history to you.

With the trade deadline readily approaching, we’ve kicked our all-encompassing preview into high gear. Already on this platform, we have taken an inventory of what the team has and what it needs,  we have "Strombabbled", and we have looked at some of the "BOLD MOVES" from the Gillis era (i.e. acquiring Keith Ballard, buying David Booth’s services, and trading away Cody Hodgson).

In anticipation of the April 3rd deadline, it’s time for us to take a look at what Mike Gillis has managed to do during his tenure as GM of the team on that very day. As you’ll see, there’s no doubt that there have been good moves, there have been bad moves, and there have been moves that nobody really cares about. But can we sum them all up in an attempt to grasp his general strategy?

Read on Past the Jump for More.

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Friend of the blog The Stanchion (Wyatt Arndt) recently took a look at the full trade deadline history of the Vancouver Canucks franchise. As you’d expect from something that spans 33 years, it turned out to be quite an extensive list. Fortunately for us, we only care about the past four years. 

The Whatever

In 2009, the Canucks made what may have wound up being the most irrelevant transaction in the history of the NHL trade deadline when they claimed Ossi Väänänen off of waivers. With moves like that, it’s hard to believe they didn’t make it past the 2nd round. To be fair to Gillis, he did get Jason LaBarbera and his handlebar moustache for a 7th rounder shortly before this deadline. I’m reaching. 

The Good

In 2010, the Canucks acquired Andrew Alberts from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 3rd round draft pick. Stop snickering. Alberts, despite the obvious limitations he has, has managed to suit up for the team 132 times since then. When you’re a team in the position that the Canucks have been in over the past few seasons, all you can really hope for is to acquire cheap depth without losing anything overly meaningful in return. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Austin Levi (the player taken with the 3rd round pick) will be coming back to haunt Mike Gillis. They also got rid of this guy for a conditional 6th rounder, while swapping Pierre-Cedric ‘Can you tell I’m French? Labrie for Peter Paul Yan Stastny. Whatever.

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The following deadline, in 2011, was quite possibly the most profitable one in the team’s history (with 1991 being the only other one meriting a discussion, really). To sum it up, they somehow turned Joel Perrault, Evan Oberg, and two 3rd round picks into Chris Higgins, Max Lapierre, and MacGregor Sharp (real person?).

Oberg is currently playing in the AHL, while Perrault is in Finland. Meanwhile, Lapierre and Higgins quickly became fan favourites, en route to becoming key pieces key pieces on a team that was 60 minutes away from winning a Stanley Cup. While both have had their struggles this season – making their future in Vancouver somewhat unclear – there’s no denying what a coup this deadline proved to be for the Canucks.

The Bad

Last season, it looked like the only move the Canucks would make was the acquisition of Sammy Pahlsson for Taylor Ellington and two 4th rounders. But then, just before the buzzer, news broke that they had essentially sent the disgruntled Cody Hodgson (along with the forgettable Alex Sulzer) to Buffalo for Zack Kassian, and Marc-Andre Gragnani.

I won’t go into too much depth analyzing Hodgson vs. Kassian here, because Thomas Drance did such a thorough job of it yesterday. I will however point out that I’m putting this trade in the "bad" column for Gillis, despite the fact that I was a fan of it when it happened. Fortunately for me, I have the luxury of flip-flopping, and using hindsight to change my opinion. While the story (especially the one told by the underlying numbers) is layered, the circumstances that have developed over the past month or two have made it rather difficult not to wonder about the ramifications of this trade.

The Canucks, a team that is hoping to contend for a championship this summer, is currently trotting out Jordan Schroeder, Andrew Ebbett, and Max Lapierre down the middle. Instead of having a player who could make that entirely bleak situation look significantly more pleasant, they have themselves a player who has oscillated between being in the trainer’s room and being stapled to the bench during games in recent weeks. Meanwhile, I know they’re different players, but it’s tough not to get lost gazing at the centre of the universe these days as the Maple Leafs are being rewarded for the patience they had with their uber talented, oft-scrutinized young forward (Nazem Kadri).


A few days ago, Jason Botchford wrote an article imploring Mike Gillis to "wake up", and do something. The ‘Shap Crew’ on Twitter seems ready to explode, moreso than ever, as the "#boldmoves" movement is well underway. And while it’s a nice thought, I just don’t see it happening. Gillis has proven to be a generally conservative GM – with the exception of last year’s deadline, where his hand seemed to be forced – who is more than willing to bide his time, until things can happen his way. If he was going to make a move just to make a move, succumbing to the pressure and scrutiny, wouldn’t he have moved Roberto Luongo for peanuts months ago?

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The Vancouver Canucks certainly have some serious holes that need filling. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that April 3rd will be the appropriate time to do that. We have already seen bit players, despite their copious amounts of grit and heart, be moved for hefty prices. This team’s organizational depth in the lower levels is already spotty at best. I find it hard to believe that the smart move is to further damage it for a short-term gain that promises nothing. Ultimately their best bet is to hope that they’re able to pair the return of a healthy Ryan Kesler with some tinkering here and there.

A bold move on April 3rd would be nice. Just don’t expect it. But hey that’s just this man’s shap.

  • Fred-65

    “Gillis has proven to be a generally conservative GM”

    that’s an understatement. maybe he’s just despised by other GM’s after years of screwing them, or maybe it’s time to get rid of the entire Pro Scouting staff who advise him. Maybe rather than go through academic head stands and arithmetic calculation he should just develop a gut feeling for whose a player worth bringing in.

    What ever the case he brought in some real duzies. Pauhlson, Sturm, Ballard Booth. They provide a clear insight to the mans thought process. It’s not a pretty picture.

    Maybe if Ray Shero put on evening classes he should enroll 🙂