Mike Gillis’ record (Part II): a look back at 2009

2009 was another step forward, or so we thought. 

It was Mike Gillis’ second summer in charge. What was orginally a risky hire had paid off – Gillis signed free agents that worked, the team made the second round of the playoffs for the just the second time in more than a decade, everything looked on the upswing.

It was a summer that featured another decision to let a long-time face of the franchise go, while minting gold in a trade that can only be described as alchemy.

Yesterday, we looked at Mike Gillis’ first summer in charge and found that he mostly did a pretty good job.

So, how did he fare in the summer of 2009?

Inventory – Forwards

That’s a pretty solid core group. Mats Sundin’s mid-season arrival shuffled the chair arrangements around for a while, but once the playoffs got rolling, this group scored in bunches. Alex Burrows began his partnership with the Sedins, while the RPM line showed glimpses of dominance. But there was still lots of icetime being thrown at Ryan Johnson, and Taylor Pyatt’s production came to a halt. 

While the twins were very clearly first line players, I’m not sure anyone was prepared for the season Henrik Sedin was about to author:

Inventory – Defence

The core was there in 2008-09; Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler were clearly talented on attack, while Sami Salo’s two-way game remained vital. Willie Mitchell was proving to be a great addition by Dave Nonis (his season-ending concussion in the 2009-10 season at the hands of Evgeni Malkin exposed a gaping hole on the back end), while Shane O’Brien was useful enough on the third pairing. Finding better depth defencemen than Rob Davision, Lawrence Nycholat and Ossi Vaananen (yes, him) was next on the list.

Off-Season Needs

Finding new balance on defence, especially in the face of the impending loss of Mattias Ohlund was a priority. Adding to the now-solid forwards core would be essential, especially as it looked like Mats Sundin would not return. 

The second-round loss to the Blackhawks in 08-09 was disappointing, especially after the stellar sweep of the Blues in the first round of the postseason. The Canucks had seemed so close to taking the next step, Gillis needed to make another bold addition or two.

Gillis’ Moves

The 2009 free agency period featured more tough decisions on another Canucks lifer. Mattias Ohlund’s price tag turned out to be far more than the Canucks could consider (and more than Tampa should’ve considered). Before the salary cap era, Ohlund would’ve been back, but with younger dmen in the fold and a need to open doors for cheaper depth meant he was gone. Taylor Pyatt was also on the move. The winger had had his moments, but with the team moving to an up-tempo game, his average wheels weren’t needed. Pyatt was also still dealing with the death of his fiancee, so his desire to move elsewhere was understandable.


Christian Ehrhoff

Few acquisitions have been as well-reviewed as Gillis’ feat of magic in adding Ehrhoff for two of Nonis’ disaster picks – Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi. San Jose had cap problems and wanted to acquire Dany Heatley. The Canucks were only too happy to help out. Ehrhoff was a master on the powerplay and was a fine partner for Alex Edler.

Brad Lukowich

Added to the Ehrhoff trade as a salary dump, Lukowich accepted a demotion to the AHL and few expected him to be come back to the NHL. But an injury crisis saw him recalled; Lukowich did what he had to do, and then scored his first goal in two and a half years. It was off of some spectacular Sedinery… 

Andrew Alberts (picked up mid-season) – Again, the injury crisis that seemed to last all year meant that Alberts was brought in as yet another depth defenceman. His post-acquisition adjusment was rough; many fans soured on him, but he redeemed himself as a capable, big body, willing to chip the puck out of the zone to avoid trouble. To this day, he remains a solid piece. He proved to be a solid pickup, especially given the forced circumstances. 

Free agents

Aaron Rome

Everyone’s favourite. He played solid, low-event minutes, much to the consternation of many. He was exactly what you are looking for in a 6/7 dman. 

Lawrence Nycholat

The Canucks liked his potential as a depth guy so much, they brought him back after losing him on waivers the year before. He didn’t suit up again, though, spending most of the year in Manitoba.

Mikael Samuelsson

A true money-puck signing, Samuelsson had been a solid role-player in the Mike Babcock system. Gillis and company saw second-line potential at worst, Sedin beneficiary potential at best. And for most of two seasons, he was that. He was vital on the powerplay and as a positive-possesison player and of course he single handedly lit up Jonathan Quick in the 2010 postseason.

Tanner Glass

Oh man. Ol’ Tanner, the smartest fourth liner you’ll ever meet. He did nothing particularly well, but he didn’t complain and he didn’t make the fans mad until the day he couldn’t hit the net. A fourth liner is there not to hurt the team as much as anything, and in his adequacy, Glass was that

Andrew Raycroft

Razor had been run out of Toronto on a rail. He’d ridden an outrageous start in Boston all the way to the Vezina but the narrative said he bombed thereafter. The truth was he was never really that good, got saddled with out-sized expectation, slumped and only barely recovered in Vancouver. Being a useful backup would be only a one-year thing it seemed.

(Oh, what the hell, go enjoy his great moment again. And, yes, for the record, the two Canucks fans at end, banging on the glass? Yes, I know those guys.) 

Mathieu Schneider

Brought in with some fanfare, Schneider was meant to play a depth role, while turning the powerplay into a mean operation. Turned out that Schneider thought he was going to play every day (or something) and fell out with the coaches and with management. He was sent home, convinced to go to Manitoba for a time and then finally shuffled off to Phoenix. The whole episode stunk. 

Matt Pettinger

After crashing out following the Matt Cooke trade – Dave Nonis’ worst? – the Canucks brought him back a year later, basically because there was no one else around to play for them. He mostly played in Manitoba, made a cameo appearance at the beginning of the season and was recalled at the end of the year to be a black ace. 

Draft Picks

Gillis’ second draft featured three players already playing NCAA hockey, and one college-bound teenager.

The 2009-10 season is also notable as the beginning of the Cody Hodgson mess. Hodgson hurt his back while working out in the summer and didn’t resolve his injury for a year. He struggled in training camp, Alain Vigneault questioned his fitness and his attitude and the battle was on. 

On the other hand, there was the development of Michael Grabner. The young Austrian finally made the jump to the NHL and he proved to be ready. Dave Nonis’ off-the-board selection in 2006, Grabner played a useful depth in 09-10 role and, in tandem with Mason Raymond, would force a dilemma for the 2010 off-season.

Jordan Schroeder made the lineup this year, showing flashes of what he could be, but lots of questions remain. He’s an NHLer, but will it be with the Canucks? 

Once he was drafted, Anton Rodin was thought by many to be a true darkhorse, but he flamed out in Chicago. He could skate, had great skill, but never added the strength needed to survive the grinding North American game. 

Kevin Connauton‘s development looked to be on the up and up, many thought he might end up with the big club this year but the Canucks soured on him. He was traded to the Stars for Derek Roy. 

Jeremy Price went to Colgate, played four impressive years there and signed with the Canucks in March. He finished the season in Chicago and the Canucks will have to make a decision on his future by August 15th or he’ll become an unrestricted-free agent. 

Peter Andersson. The big Swede struggled out of the gate but eventually found his groove in Chicago and was quietly impressive for a Wolves club that mostly frustrated. He’s got plenty of upside and could be a darkhorse at training camp in September. 

Joe Cannata. Cannata is currently number four on the Canucks’ depth chart, but with Roberto Luongo likely to be moved this summer, he’s well positioned to handle the bulk of the team’s AHL netminding next year. He even sat on the bench for the Canucks at the end of the season and in the playoffs.

As a seventh-round pick, Steve Anthony was always going to be a longshot and he never progressed. 

Final Assessment

Some very astute summer pick-ups – Samuelsson and Ehrhoff being the highlights, with depth additions like Tanner Glass, Aaron Rome and Andrew Raycroft proving to be solid. But there’s also the mostly-crap draft class and the Mathieu Schneider and Cody Hodgson messes. The team was dumped out of the 2010 playoffs by the eternal villains from Chicago; the second year in a row. 

Then there are the steps forward in 09-10 by the Sedins (Henrik won the Art Ross and the Hart), Ryan Kesler (his first 70-point season) and Mason Raymond (25 goals, 53 points…more on that tomorrow). Should Gillis get credit for not tampering with the core? Probably not.

The team moved forward, it was the second-highest scoring unit in the league. Everything was coming together…

  • I don’t know if that is a mostly crap draft class.. Schroeder is an NHLer, Cannata will be, Connauton will be, Andersson looks like he could be and Price has a chance. That could be 5 NHLers, almost certainly 3. That’s pretty good!

    • I guess it all depends on what makes a ‘good’ class – simply playing NHL games? Producing a star? Two stars?

      Right now, it doesn’t look like much beyond Schroeder and one of Andersson or Cannata. Connauton does have a window in Dallas, but his defensive flaws remain.

  • As opposed to his first year of transactions at the NHL level, where Gillis spent $16.5 million on an adequate (but overrated) return, this is where Gillis actually made one excellent (Ehrhoff) and one solid under the radar (Sammuelson) transaction. Of course, these were both merely short term acquisitions.

    But we also saw the downside of Demitra (injury-prone and getting older) as well as year 2 of 3 where draft picks have provided very little value to the Canucks (including trading picks) to date. And as is the trend with Gillis’ drafting, nobody from the draft class looks like a future core player.

    As for the depth guys, some worked (Rome, Glass) some not so much (Schneider) as is the case with Gillis and most every GM.

    Also of note was the absolute brutal play and production from Andrew Alberts. A complete waste of a 3rd round pick, he was nowhere near capable of filling in for Mitchell. And, sure enough, the Canucks gave up a ridiculous amount of PP goals in the playoffs.

    The key though, as was the case all the way to the cup run, is that the Burke/Nonis & Nonis players were starting to enter their primes.

  • I just drown out NM00. He’s like Fox News, he’s got his talking points and he’s stickin’ to ’em.

    ‘Twas a memorable year, to be sure. I still wish we’d kept Ehrhoff, though not necessarily for 10 years like Buffalo decided to go with. I think 4 or 5 would have been plausible, in my opinion, though. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two years the Sedins were absolutely lights out were also the two years they played with a certain smooth-skating German (and I’m not talking about Sulzer).

    • Is this not a site that tries to deconstruct false narratives? Such as the idea that Mike Gillis is a good GM because the record has been good?

      I’ll give credit when it is warranted (Ehrhoff, Sammy). But when the depth chart at every position (G, D, F) is weaker than when Gillis was hired, let’s not gloss over his mistakes and give him too much credit for the good stuff; such as being blessed with a solid base devoid of scary contracts.

          • Mantastic

            I, too, would like to see a new thought to push the conversation further along.

            Clearly I think Gillis’ body of work is underwhelming. I back this up with the evidence of his poor transaction record (in my opinion) and the fact that the organization is in a worse spot now than they were 5 years ago in terms of contending.

            If you disagree, backing up your thoughts with evidence would help to push the conversation further along.

            It appears the majority of non-trolling commenters on here are pro-Gillis. So obviously I’m going to stick out by going against the grain.

  • Yes, let’s look back at gillis.6 yrs ago or so his team lost to the hawks in the 2n round. A yr later Roberto sid he was happy to play the hawks again..and again, they choked. The next yr they play the hawks again and were up 3-0 to the hawks, and choked 3 games in a row to have burrows clinch it for them on a flukey rolling puck goal. they then breezed to the finals where they were exposed by boston, and in the 7th game, no one on the team showed up. Riots in ensued. Next year gillis traded some satellite players away and did practically nothing and got roasted by the kings. the following year they got burned by the sharks.
    Now…does that sound like success to anyone here? If it does, then this franchise is the most successful franchise in the league. I predict the team will move in a few decades more rather than really do what it takes to win. The fanboys then will have no one to blame but themselves for supporting such con of a team.

  • Mantastic

    C’mon, let’s keep to the topics at hand. NM00’s been making some reasonable points, others too. No need to call anyone out just because they like to reiterate. There’s a huge difference between being contrarian/going against the grain and being a troll. Thankfully we haven’t seen the latter on these latest threads (yet).

    Great piece so far. I’m not looking forward to the next segment, you know where it starts with Sturm and ends with Roy…

  • NM00, do you truely believe that our depth chart at forward is really worse now than when Gillis took over? I wholeheartedly disagree. And for all the misgivings about our prospects, the depth of our farm certainly eclipses what it was when Gillis was fired.

    Mantastic, I am quite high on Cannata. As a 23 year old rookie he did very well in the AHL. He was never allowed to get into a rhythm as Climie was played a ridiculous amount of games in a row. When he did get the chance to start, he was lights out. His numbers were dragged down by a few times where he replaced Climie on off days for the wolves, but a .912 sv% isn’t that bad. He was also completely dominant on a bad team in the NCAA.

    Connauton was acquired because Dallas was high on him and I see him playing part time next year in the NHL and full time the year after. He has great offensive ability, and brings thins to the table that Dallas is in need of. His defense has been improving and he still has a high ceiling.

    I would be willing to bet that both will play full seasons in the NHL.

    • antro

      “NM00, do you truely believe that our depth chart at forward is really worse now than when Gillis took over?”

      “And for all the misgivings about our prospects, the depth of our farm certainly eclipses what it was when Gillis was fired.”

      I respectfully disagree with both points.

      For starters, the Sedins will be 33 at the start of next season. They were turning 28 when Gillis was hired.

      Behind that, the forward depth is awful. Specifically the Gillis-acquired forward depth.

      When Gillis took over, Kesler & Burrows were bubbling as quality 3rd liners and Raymond, Grabner, Hansen were all quality homegrown players working their way through the system.

      When the West Coast Express was aging, the Canucks manage to successfully retool because the Sedins were there to take over, Kesler also emerged into a core player and Nonis pulled off a brilliant trade to acquire arguably the greatest Canuck of all time in Luongo.

      The depth chart now is, at best, a bunch of complimentary players devoid of impact talent. Other than the players acquired by Burke & Nonis.

      There is a reason our prospects are not well-regarded within the industry. It is Gillis’ backwards ‘Moneyball’ approach to drafting. It has lead to a number of guys who may be able to help the NHL team to some degree, but zero core players.

      With all due respect, you are overvaluing our prospects.

    • Mantastic

      what kind of ceiling do you think KConn has? 3rd pairing specialized ZS is the best he has in my opinion and others. again not proving much in the AHL, it’s hard to imagine him getting BETTER and playing in the show, which is much more difficult to play better defensively.

      Cannata, is what a projected 2nd/3rd string goalie at best? He can’t beat out Climie which isn’t even a NHL starter or backup speaks volumes of his actual talent. Goaltending prospect projections are random at best. saying Cannata is a sure fire NHLer is really ridiculous thing to say at this stage of his career

  • antro


    I agree that you make some good points. (And I’m glad that you are making them!.) But I don’t find your evidence convincing, because it would take a far more comprehensive look at GMs in general and what they have done, how often they go wrong and go right, etc in order to make a good case that Gillis is below average, despite the fact that the team has never done as well as during his stewardship. I mean, that’s a pretty big claim to make given the success of the team. A list of “bad moves” doesn’t count as evidence. Especially, since you don’t have any systematic way for connecting those “bad moves” to performance. They just seem bad to you. Why is never clear (based on advanced stats, counting numbers, or ?).

    For example, Thomas Drance has often looked at the deals that MG has made from the point of view of when they were made, and shown why they were reasonable bets at the time, even if they didn’t necessarily work out. Booth is one of those moves, where those who look at his underlying numbers have generally seen him as a favourable move (the more general impression could turn itself around, mind you, if luck goes his way next year). (Ballard is another, although I also don’t understand why Gillis didn’t cut his losses earlier on this one.) I’ve never seen you refute any of those articles, which are pretty systematically argued.

    To the argument that Gillis hasn’t found pieces that will be core, we don’t yet know whether Kassian, Jensen, Gaunce, or Corrado (maybe a few others) will grow into more dominant players. They are all very young. Remember how long Kesler and esp. Burrows took. Or the Sedins for that matter! Btw, I’ve seen a lot of systematic evaluations of drafting, and how many players move on to the NHL, that show that Gillis and Nonis are pretty much average.

    So, if you want to move the conversation forward, maybe explain your criteria for evaluating player moves as “bad.” Don’t just state they are bad, and then repeat righteously that you have presented evidence, and everyone else hasn’t. That’s not evidence of anything except–as you state above–your own opinion.

    And, hey, if you are good enough at presenting your position, maybe Drance will take you on as a writer!

    • antro

      I just recently started getting into advanced hockey stats. I am well-versed when it comes to baseball so I can follow along and appreciate the logic behind them. But I am simply not familiar enough to use them as “evidence” in hockey.

      So if I am significantly undervaluing a Gillis acquisition, please let me know. But I don’t believe one has to be familiar with advanced stats to make an argument when it comes to either baseball or hockey. And other than semantices (i.e. is Tanev a core or secondary player?), I don’t think I’m way off in how I’m valuing these Gillis acquisitions.

      For example, I’ll fully acknowledge Manny was an astute pickup that allowed the Canucks to exploit zone starts. But I still consider him a secondary player. After all, it was still far more about what the Sedins did than what Manny did.

      And I’ll fully acknowledge Booth is a great puck possession player.

      But I’d also argue there was a reason that Florida gave him up basically for free. The same goes for Buffalo with Bernier, Carolina with Alberts, Florida with Ballard & Buffalo with Kassian (we know enough about why Gillis gave up Hodgson).

      Remember, none of these were rental players. And I’d argue in each case that these opposing teams were not out to lunch to give up those guys. And based on the poor outcomes, I’d say Gillis’ process needs be questioned, irrespective of what people were saying at the time.

      A GM should be judged on both process and outcome. After all, Gillis biggest “process” blunder in my mind (aside from his draft philosophy) was offering Sundin a 2 year contract and, as far as I know, willing to give him 2 years right up until the day he signed.

      That “process” mistake would have pretty much meant the end of the Sedins in Vancouver. Or it would have meant absolutely no cap space to acquire Ehrhoff & Sammy. Either outcome likely would have precluded a trip to the SCF and more pain for the franchise in general.

      • JCDavies

        “After all, Gillis biggest “process” blunder in my mind (aside from his draft philosophy) was offering Sundin a 2 year contract and, as far as I know, willing to give him 2 years right up until the day he signed. ”

        I don’t consider this to be as big a blunder as you do. Sundin didn’t cost the Canucks anything beside money and they have lots of that. 1-2 years is a really short term and there were lots of cap-circumvention measures available if they needed them.

        I’m much more concerned with Gillis’ lackluster track record with trades. Trading away players without getting value in return is a huge issue. CA has done a pretty good job explaining the logic behind Gillis’ moves and why they were good ideas at the time, but at some point the Canucks need to find a way to get more out of their trades.

        • JCDavies

          “Sundin didn’t cost the Canucks anything beside money and they have lots of that. 1-2 years is a really short term and there were lots of cap-circumvention measures available if they needed them”

          To be clear, as a one year deal the Sundin contract was fine.

          However, that second year would have been a disaster. How exactly could the Sedins (or Ehrhoff/Samuelsson & additional depth) been fit in with Sundin on the books for $10 million in 2009-2010?

          Go back and look at the roster and how the cap dollars were allotted. It would have been very, very difficult to fit in the Sedins’ combined $12.2 mill cap hit with Sundin on that roster.

          And if the Sedins had somehow been squeezed in (hard to imagine, though), Ehrhoff ($3.1?), Sammuelson ($2.5) and a fair amount of additional depth would have been a non-starter.

          • JCDavies

            I understand what you’re saying about Sundin, but in the old CBA their were plenty of options to get around the cap and out of big contracts. I don’t know what the new CBA will look like but in the past these types of moves didn’t bother me all that much. Good GMs find ways to make these moves fit within the cap. I believe that player assets are more valuable than money assets and that losing players for little or nothing is a bigger issue.

  • I’m on my phone so forgive my relative brevity!
    @NMOO if you look back at the time that Gillis got here, the bottom six was certainly below average.
    I will do a full comparison later, but I don’t see an argument that the bottom 8 (2 spares) was better back then. Sedis et al. Are not “depth”.
    Also, zero skating prospects from 07 are in the NHL now (maybe one dman played a handful of games).

    Quickly, mantastic, I think Connauton has a ceiling of second pairing, top pp unit. Realistically a 3rd pairing pp specialist, agreed. Still NHLer.

    On the contrary, Cannata played as well as Climie for much of the year. Also first pro year while Climie is a veteren. Bet Cannata starts majority of games next year (assuming lack in NHL). Again, apologies for brevity, back to work for me!

    • Mantastic

      i hope you understand the chances of any prospect hitting their ceiling are not great. multipled the fact that KConn has not put up numbers to support that role in the AHL i find it extremely hard to believe he would be able to do it in a much harder and difficult league.

      you really over value your prospects.

      • Mantastic

        “i hope you understand the chances of any prospect hitting their ceiling are not great.”


        The fact is that every system has interesting prospects like KConn.

        This is why I like to listen to what the scouting world says about our prospects.

        And…it’s not good, specifically in terms of potential impact players like Schneider, Edler, Bourdon & Hodgson.

  • Sorry, I would have elaborated if I had the chance, but I don’t believe that KConn will hit his ceiling, just that if everything goes right he could be a second pairing dman. You don’t believe that he will make the NHL on a bottom pairing? I understand that, that is why it is called the ceiling, or upside.
    I do believe he will be an NHLer in the next two years and that was my original point, just that he would stick on an NHL roster.
    I agree, we have a definitely lack of Impact players.
    The only ones that have a reasonable chance of becoming an “impact” player are Lack, Jensen (if you consider 25-30 goals an impact player), and Corrado. Corrado could be a bit overhyped at this stage by Canucks fans and it is more likely he settles in as a steady player, without making a huge impact.
    Lack is really the only one with the potential to make a Schneider/Edler impact and even that is doubtful, especially with his hip injury.

    • Mantastic

      like i said before, i think his ceiling is a 3rd pairing d-man with a lot of OZ starts and that it is very unlikely he will hit that ceiling, given his numbers clearly support that in the minor leagues.

      and goaltending projections are witchcraft at best.

    • Mantastic

      If Jensen is an occasional 25-30 goal guy who plays well on both sides of the puck, that will be a good player. That’s pretty much his “ceiling” mind you.

      But that’s still more or less in the same boat as guys like Grabner, Raymond, Hansen & Higgins.

      Sure you want your system to be producing those kinds of wingers. But they certainly aren’t building blocks.

      A guy like Grabner, for example, hasn’t hit the 40 goal ceiling people spoke of when he was in our system. He was always a high risk/high reward guy.

      He hasn’t hit his ceiling, but has still become a useful player.

      This is my issue with Gillis’ draft philosophy. He wants “something” out of draft picks as opposed to gambling on impact the way Nonis used to.

      When Gillis drafted Hodgson he spoke of “hitting a double instead of a HR.”

      He has yet to take a defenseman in the 1st round, likely because there is a lower probability of getting “something” out of the pick.

      It’s the “Moneyball” philosophy of drafting college baseball players because of their track records. Limiting the risk is limiting the reward.

      Exhibit A: the Canucks farm system.

  • Mantastic

    Hodgson was the highest draft pick the Canucks have had in the past decade, and he’s widely considered a good player starting to really find his way in the hockey world. He’s the best Canuck draft pick since the last lockout.

    Another was Bourdon, RIP. He was starting to look pretty good too.

    Other than that, it’s mostly been lower first round picks, which turn more and more into crapshoots the further down you go.

    So no, Gillis hasn’t been able to draft and develop a lot of core players. Those players are usually in the top 5 to 10 players of the draft.

    I will agree though, that trading away Grabner was a mistake. I said it from the moment I heard about it. I was appauled all we could get was Ballard (who I’d never thought that highly of, despite what so many people seemed to say about him. I just never saw anything that good about him when I saw him play). On top of that, we gave up a 1st round pick?

    Easily one of the worst trades by Gillis, possibly his worst overall.

    I don’t think Gillis is the greatest GM ever, but I don’t think he’s close to the worst. You can say he’s never traded for or drafted a core player, but he’s never had the assets to trade for that core player without overpaying, and aside from Hodgson never really had any decently high first round picks. He has to find talent in unusual places.

    As for later draft picks, most of the time for most teams, they don’t pan out. Corrado is the kind of player that comes out of the late rounds of the drafts only every so often. I agree though, it would be nice to have Gillis make a few picks trying to hit a home run rather than just a double.

    The point I was trying to make earlier, by the way, is that I’ve read NM00’s “evidence” (i.e. opinions) that Gillis is such a bad GM about 20-30 times. I just got tired of reading it is all. I think you make some good points, but to me, it just gets lost in the noise of “zomg the depth the trades the drafting”, all of which I think Austin pointed out feels very unsupported so often. You never explain how it’s worse, you just claim it is, hence the comparison to Fox News, who never explain with a logical argument how something is bad, they just say it is… though I guess it’s unfair, since unlike Fox News, you don’t make up evidence and yell it at people.

    • antro

      Schneider wasn’t a top pick. Neither was Edler.

      Neither was Kesler, though that was a stacked draft.

      Raymond & Hansen weren’t high picks and have been decent secondary players.

      Burke made a great trade to get one of the two high draft picks to secure the Sedins. Of course, half of that duo was part of the reward for sucking.

      Nonis made a great trade to acquire Luongo.

      Gillis’ one great trade was for Ehrhoff. As good as he was, he was only in the fold for 2 years and he’s not Luongo or a Sedin.

      A large reason Gillis doesn’t have “assets” to trade is his poor drafting.

      Not to mention giving away Hodgson for too little, Grabner for a poor return and, in all likelihood Luongo.

      If he keeps giving away assets, draft picks on poor trades and his draft picks don’t produce good value, this franchise is going to turn into Calgary in a few years. Unless he can do something like sign Malkin as a free agent.

      I’m not sure what “evidence” is needed to prove the trades for non-rental players Bernier, Alberts, Ballard, Kassian & Booth have not worked out to date.

      I’m not sure what “evidence” is needed to prove the Ehrhoff trade worked out very well for 2 years of value.

      I’m not sure what “evidence” is needed to prove the rental trades for Higgins and Lappiere were solid, while the one for Roy was terrible and the one for Clarkson would have been worse. Unless Gillis magically found cap space to sign Clarkson and even then it’s debatable as to whether or not it was worth it.

      How many of these moves are actually open to interpretation?

    • JCDavies

      “I will agree though, that trading away Grabner was a mistake. I said it from the moment I heard about it. I was appauled all we could get was Ballard (who I’d never thought that highly of, despite what so many people seemed to say about him. I just never saw anything that good about him when I saw him play). On top of that, we gave up a 1st round pick?”

      Grabner was the third piece – the throw-in part – of the trade.

      The Canucks were in the unfortunate situation where they had three wingers (Raymond, Samuelsson, and Grabner) and only space on the roster for two and all three would’ve had to clear waivers. With only 20 games of NHL experience, and the possibility that teams may be able to acquire him for free on the waiver wire, Grabner had almost zero trade value at the time. They weren’t going to get much for him.

      In hindsight, trading a young, skilled player when his value was at its lowest might not have been the best course of action but keeping Grabner would’ve meant trading Raymond or Samuelsson. It would be pretty difficult for a team that is competing for the cup to sell their fans on trading a top-6 winger that just put up 30 goals or a 24 year old winger that just put up 25 goals so that they could keep a player – a promising player mind you – that had played a total of 20 NHL games. Also, if the Canucks kept Grabner and he had a setback they wouldn’t have been able to send him to the AHL without losing him; he would’ve been stuck in the press box.

      • JCDavies

        “In hindsight, trading a young, skilled player when his value was at its lowest might not have been the best course of action.”

        In hindsight? I’d argue it was and always has been poor process.

        • JCDavies

          You are focusing on half of one of my sentences. The rest of that sentence and the rest of the paragraph are important parts of my argument.

          The point was that there weren’t any really great options available to the Canucks and Grabner at that point. The Canucks were going to lose somebody and public opinion was going to be negative regardless of who they chose to let go.

          • JCDavies

            What would have been wrong with keeping him on the roster and, you know, allowing him to develop?

            Look, I get that the Canucks would have lost him if he didn’t make the team out of training camp.

            It’s also an indictment of Florida because if anyone could give him a chance, it was them.

            But the so-called “moneypuck” move would have been to trade Raymond at his peak value and give his spot to Grabner, right?

            Gillis bought high on Raymond and sold low on Grabner. Do you disagree?

            I don’t believe Gillis cares too much about “public opinion”. Nor should he.

            The saying goes something like “if you do what the fans want, you’ll be sitting with them soon enough”. That’s probably a terrible paraphrasing job 🙂

            As an isolated incident, it’s not the end of the world.

            But when it’s part of a growing trend of giving away assets (draft picks on poor trades, Hodgson for too little, probably Lou for a song) it is worrisome.

          • JCDavies

            I agree with pretty much everything you said. I was just trying to point out the difficult situation the Canucks were in.

            Grabner had little trade value and they basically got nothing back for him, it wouldn’t have been a risky proposition for the Canucks to hold onto him and make a move at a later date (what are they going to lose?). If they lose him to waivers, so be it.

            The real move probably should have been to trade Raymond because he actually had some value but not many teams trade away affordable 24 year old wingers coming off a 25 goal season.

  • antro


    I think it’s great you are getting into advanced stats in hockey, and this is a good blog to learn from. I encourage you at some point to go back and read some of the stuff written by Gabe Desjardins (aka Hawerchuk), one of the progenitors of advanced stat hockey blogging. A real powerhouse, who set up behindthenet. His blog used to also be called behind the net, but with a different url ending.

    I’ll just touch on one thing you write, in response to someone else:
    “When the West Coast Express was aging, the Canucks manage to successfully retool because the Sedins were there to take over, Kesler also emerged into a core player and Nonis pulled off a brilliant trade to acquire arguably the greatest Canuck of all time in Luongo.”

    The Sedins were taken 2nd and 3rd overall, after a season that Canucks were 2nd to last overall (for the second straight season, if I’m not wrong). Kesler at 13th a few years later. You can’t blame Gillis for not tanking to get good players through the draft.

    Here’s where Gabe Desjardins made one relevant point (the guys at coppernblue sometimes refer to this as well, especially Zona): he didn’t have any examples of teams that managed to retool and become competitive without sucking a few years and getting excellent talent through the draft. Desjardins doubted it could be done. Because the players that end up being paid less than their wins above replacement nearly always go at the beginning of the draft.

    • antro

      Kesler was 23rd overall; but that was an absolutely stacked draft.

      One Sedin was acquired by a great Burke trade to get the 2nd high pick. Sure, tanking helped for half of that duo.

      I’m not and never have blamed Gillis for not tanking. His draft positions have been comparable enough to Nonis. And Nonis’ highest pick was Bourdon (RIP).

      But Gillis has given away a ton of draft picks on poor trades.

      As for the idea that team’s cant retool without tanking, we have an example here in Vancouver. Yes, one Sedin was the product of a high draft pick. But the other was acquired by a great trade.

      Luongo was also acquired by a great trade. The core has also been supplemented by Schneider, Edler and the rest I have mentioned.

      Have a look at San Jose, specifically their forward group since I like to think of Thornton, Marleau & Pavelski as somewhat comparable to the Sedins & Kesler.

      SJ uses one of their rare high picks (9th overall) on Couture. They also use a quality prospect (Charlie Coyle) and a somewhat disappointing high draft pick in Setoguchi to acquire Brent Burns.

      Not to mention SJ’s brilliant trade deadline in which they more or less maintained their chances of winning this year while adding futures to the organization.

      Of course tanking is a large part of the NHL. Everyone and anyone would have taken Crosby 1st overall. But if Gillis isn’t making the kinds of moves to keep the Canucks as a sustainable contender, why would anyone want him as GM?

        • JCDavies

          Every GM does it.

          It’s okay when there is a franchise changing trade for Luongo.

          It’s okay when one hits on draft picks (Edler, Schneider, Grabner, Hansen & Raymond).

          If the hits outweigh the misses, all is good.

          When Gillis’ only significant “hit” has been 2 years of Ehrhoff, it’s not enough to balance out the numerous misses, specifically for non-rental players and the draft having produced very, very little value to date.

  • JCDavies

    @NM00 et al.

    I don’t think SJ has significantly retooled. They’ve got one player who has emerged, and it took about 3-4 years. I see you don’t like Kassian, and that’s fine, but I don’t think we can yet close the book on him. Maybe trades haven’t been Gillis’ strong suit, but once again there’s a really important piece of the story missing. GM’s have changed as they got use to managing a cap. Burke was always going on, as GM of both the Ducks and Leafs that it’s a lot harder to do trades. Look what Burke gave up for Kessel–wouldn’t you prefer Seguin and Hamilton?If Mike Keenan or Don Maclean were still GMs, then I would agree with you (or Rick Dudley). GMs are super cagey about evaluating players now, and are valuing youthful contracts a lot more. The only time they throw stuff away is when they gear up for the playoffs ( a la Iginla, Jagr, Morrow, Roy). Edler was nabbed as teams were strengethening their European scouting. I doubt guys like him go under the radar as much anymore. This is a changing management environment, and you are attacking Gillis as if it were still 1999.

    One thing I would agree with is the NTCs he keeps handing out. That seems to be a matter of the convenant with the players, and it really is tying his hands. He could do something like name 7 teams for possible trade, etc or some kind of out. But what do you lose when you do that, it’s difficult to say.

    • JCDavies

      I agree with everything you said. Regarding my comments on Gillis’ trades, I was trying to point what I consider to be one of his weaker track records and one that he needs to improve. I do recognize that the new hockey environment has made trading player significantly more difficult.

      I will add that part of making trades is identifying which players to trade for before the trades happen. I’m not sure Ballard was ever a good fit for the Canucks’ system or if any incarnation of that trade might would have worked out well for the Canucks. To really excel at trades, the Canucks will need to be better than average at evaluating players at the NHL level.

    • JCDavies

      “I see you don’t like Kassian”

      I like Kassian just fine. But he was never worth Hodgson. His value now is obviously lower than Hodgson’s considering Kassian could very well spend time in the minors AGAIN next year.

      “Maybe trades haven’t been Gillis’ strong suit, but once again there’s a really important piece of the story missing. GM’s have changed as they got use to managing a cap. Burke was always going on, as GM of both the Ducks and Leafs that it’s a lot harder to do trades. Look what Burke gave up for Kessel–wouldn’t you prefer Seguin and Hamilton?”

      Strawman & non-sequitar. Gillis does not deserve praise because he didn’t trade Kessel for lottery picks.

      You can bash Burke for that trade. He deserves it. It was a dumb risk to take without some kind of protection for top 5 or 10 picks. But that has absolutely NOTHING to do with Gillis’ poor trade record aside from Ehrhoff.

      “Edler was nabbed as teams were strengethening their European scouting. I doubt guys like him go under the radar as much anymore. This is a changing management environment, and you are attacking Gillis as if it were still 1999”

      Edler was drafted in 2004.

      What does a “changing management environment” have to do with an overwhelming number of trades benefitting the opponent and a backwards draft philosophy leading to a weak system devoid of impact graduates and prospects?

      Of course the cap makes trades more difficult. But it does not justify making so many poor trades. One has nothing to do with the other.

      “I don’t think SJ has significantly retooled.”

      Just look at their roster. They’ve done a very good job integrating prospects and using others for trade (i.e. Brent Burns).

      Mind you, much of that comes prior to 2008, but the Canucks drafted fairly well (considering their lack of high picks) in the 2000’s prior to Gillis’ arrival.