Mike Gillis’ record (Part III): a look back at 2010

Mike Gillis’ best summer is surely 2010. In 2008 he got his feet wet and returned the Canucks to the postseason, in 2009 he’d made more decisions in re-shaping the team (and he’d also convinced the Sedins to re-sign for below market value). Saving money in 2009 allowed him to bring in key free agents in 2010.

In the 2010 playoffs, the Canucks had again run into the Blackhawks brick wall. The Hawks were again too much to handle and the Canucks’ penalty kill had been a miserable failure all playoffs.

The first key acquisition of Gillis’ tenure, Pavol Demitra, went out with a whimper. Injured for most of the year, his greatest moments came in the Olympics, as he drove Slovakia into the semifinals. It was an against-all-odds performance.

At the same time as Demitra was starring on the international stage, Shane O’Brien managed to turn his greatest opportunity into nothing. Injuries had offered him increased ice time, but over the two week break for the Olympics, O’Brien reportedly partied it up and packed on the pounds. He became a lesson for Canucks management on the importance of off-ice culture.

How to re-shape the third and fourth line? How to find and keep as many NHL-capable defencemen as possible? What to do with a pair of young forwards? Those were the questions facing Mike Gillis as the 2010 off-season began.

Inventory – Forwards

Here we are. The Sedins have reached the pinnacle; they are among the game’s best. Henrik wins the Art Ross and the Hart. Daniel, despite missing nearly twenty games with a broken foot, returns with a vengance, scoring at a clip (4.0 pts/60 min) even better than his brother’s (3.9 pts/60 min). It was a season for the ages.

Mikael Samuelsson proved to be exactly the player the Canucks believed he could be, bagging 30 goals while moving between Henrik’s and Kesler’s wings. On top of this, Pavol Demitra’s battles with injury opened a door for Mason Raymond, who bagged 25 goals in a contract year. Coupled with the NHL-arrival of Michael Grabner, Mike Gillis had to choose which young winger made more sense – the cheaper but still mostly-unknown Grabner, or the apparent known quantity of Mason Raymond. He’d choose the latter.

In terms of deployment, the Canucks are starting to move towards the offensive-zone/defensive-zone setup that has become most familiar. Ryan Johnson is the enabler, while the Sedins get matched up to the opposing team’s weaker forwards.

There’s the fourth line, though, in the bottom left, bleeding shots against weak opposition. The Darcy Hordichuk era was done.

Inventory – Defence

The mid-season loss of Willie Mitchell was huge in 2009-10. He played the toughest minutes on the blue line. Coupled with the leg injury suffered by Kevin Bieksa and the Mathieu Schneider mess, the Canucks found themselves handing regular minutes to Aaron Rome, late-season acquisition Andrew Alberts and Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner. It was not the safest way forward. Shane O’Brien suddenly was the fourth dman, which you know Alain Vigneault wasn’t altogether that comfortable with. Evan Oberg was the club’s top prospect but clearly terrified the crap out of the coaches, who allowed him only to take a few strides away from the bench on each of his 18 shifts.

Willie Mitchell’s defensive heavy-lifting skews the chart somewhat, Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler’s strong two-way play gets shaded down visually as a result.

Aaron Rome was the weakest of the Canucks’ regulars.

Off-season needs

Ryan Johnson taught the Canucks one thing – the theory would work if they found a better player. Taking draws wasn’t as important as being able to get the puck out. Johnson was hustler, a battler, but he was maxed out as a hockey player by the time the 2010 postseason roled around. To be effective on the penalty-kill and in the bottom-six the Canucks needed better.

Ever-improved defensive depth would be essential. If there was one thing Mike Gillis said he learned in the wake of 09-10, it was that you can never have enough defencemen. Everyone figured he’d go after at least one. He surprised us all and got two.

And there was no need to find a backup goalie to replace the departing Andrew Raycroft – Cory Schneider’s time had arrived.

Gillis’ moves

Unlike the previous two summers, there were no long-time greats hanging around. Former Gillis client Pavol Demitra’s contract was up and the team decided to go in a new direction. It didn’t make sense to keep the oft-injured Slovakian around to play on the third line, especially given the salary he might demand. Resources could be allocated better.

Willie Mitchell proved to be a big dilemma. His concussion symptoms had kept him out through the playoffs and the salary he’d command were he healthy would not have fit the new salary structure that emerged with the signing of Dan Hamhuis.

He also chose to keep Aaron Rome and Tanner Glass around.

Trades

Most figured that one of Grabner or Raymond would be moved out. Grabner had one year left on his ELC, while Raymond was likely to get 2 million-plus. Gillis chose to move Grabner and re-sign Raymond. Hello Keith Ballard. It was a hefty price to bring in the highly-rated Florida blueliner, Grabner, the disappointing Steve Bernier and a first round pick going in the other direction. The Canucks also received Victor Oreshkovich in the deal. Of course, Ballard didn’t turn out to be quite what was expected, but he was a lot easier to deal with than Shane O’Brien.

On the eve of the season, in a series of moves that were motivated by cap space as much as anything, the Canucks traded O’Brien to Nashville for spare parts (Ryan Parent and Jonas Andersson) and Darcy Hordichuk to Florida. Both had no clear role to fill on the team.

During the 2010-11 season, Gillis added Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre. In the wake of Manny Malhotra’s injury, Gillis went all-in on his checking lines, adding a pair of unwanted toys in Lapierre and Higgins. Both excelled in the Canucks’ system.

Free agents

Manny Malhotra

Alongside signing Dan Hamhuis in 2010 and bringing in Christian Ehrhoff in 2009, Malhotra is one of Gillis’ signature moves. Before his devestating eye injury in March 2011, Malhotra was playing the best hockey of his life. He was eating massive defensive minutes and driving a top-notch penalty kill (remember, they were murdered short handed in the 2010 playoffs). Malhotra’s signing and subsequent usage changed the way many in the NHL understood the game.

Dan Hamhuis

Gillis’ true coup in 2010 was not just signing Hamhuis, but landed the Smithers native for below market value. Hamhuis had declined to re-sign with Nashville and had been shuffled over to Philadelphia ahead of the free agency window. Paul Holmgren so coveted the chance to negotiate with Hamhuis, that he gave up a gently used Ryan Parent, only to hear ‘we want to test the market.’ He then flipped Hamhuis to Pittsburgh for a pick, and Shero heard the same refrain. Hamhuis proved to be an outstanding addition to a solid group of defencement.

Hamhuis’ loss in the final vs Boston in 2011 is oft cited as one of the reasons that the Canucks collapsed in the final.

Raffi Torres

Torres added sandpaper, goal scoring and controversy to the thrid line. Matched with Malhotra and Hansen, this trio proved a vital counter-punch to the top line work of the Sedins and the Kesler line. Call it a hattrick of great signings.

Jeff Tambellini, Joel Perrault, Peter Schaefer

In an effort to find the magic bullet for the fourth line, Gillis brought in former first rounder Tambellini, ex-Canuck and Senator Schaefer and ex-Coyote Joel Perrault. All three spent time on the fourth line carousel, but only Tambellini would stick around for the whole season.

Bill Sweatt, Chris Tanev

Sweatt had refused to sign in both Chicago and Toronto, but still showed huge potential. Chris Tanev, we know his story. A late growth spurt took him to RPI and then a contract with the Canucks. By the end of the season, he was taking shifts on the Canucks’ third pairing.

Lee Sweatt

Bill’s brother was brought into play a depth role; he played three games, scored a great goal, broke his foot and then was never seen again. He’s retired and trading securities in Colorado.

Eddie Lack

The Stork went undrafted, but caught the attention of scout Lars Lindgren. We have Lindgren to thank for finding Wyatt Arndt an internet friend.

Draft picks

No picks until the fourth round; all the other ones were moved in trades. Patrick McNally left Harvard in a cloud last fall, while Adam Polasek and Alex Friesen spent time in the AHL and ECHL this season. Both are long shots at this point and Polasek is likely to be remembered as "the guy the team drafted ahead of Brendan Gallagher – come on!". Jonathan Illhati and Sawyer Hannay weren’t signed.

Final Assessment

The core lead the charge in 2010-11. The Sedins had their second straight epic season, Ryan Kesler hit everything that moved and scored 40 goals. The defence was rock solid and so was the goaltending. It was all going so well…

Going into the 2010-11 season, many picked the Canucks as Cup favourites. They had a bevy of NHL defencemen (they were so deep, most expected that Kevin Bieksa would be moved to get the team under the cap, hello Laurence Gilman), their scoring forwards were in their prime and they had what looked to be the best goaltending tandem in the league.

Mike Gillis put his stamp on the team in the summer of 2010. He’d added pieces to the team each summer since he was hired, and each subsequent season the team was better. He convinced players to sign for less than market value, to believe in the concept he was assembling. In 2010, he found a pair of role players and they didn’t just fit the puzzle, they made the puzzle bigger.

  • One comment…. If Hodgson is a double, Kassian is a homerun swing.
    The results haven’t been there yet, but according to your philosophy… He certainly should have made that trade.
    Kassian’s upside is a dominating physical 35 goal player.
    Hodgson might be PPG a couple of times in his career but only when in a Sedin-like role. Kassian is risky and might take longer but he is certainly a home run swing.

    • I don’t know about a homerun considering the projections on Kassian when Gillis acquired him. He’s still a winger and, in my book at least, it takes a lot to be an impact winger. If he turns into Bertuzzi than, yes, that would be a homerun.

      I get what you mean, though.

  • JCDavies

    Nice discussion…

    Something more to think about: the argument about drafting really misses the point. Evaluating drafting is extraordinarily difficult. We have tiny sample sizes (made worse by the fact that the Canucks, like other contenders, routinely give up draft picks in trades) and after the first few picks, the draft is little better than a crapshoot anyways (note, this is where the Canucks have drafted the last god knows how many years.) Moreover, it takes (reasonably) a minimum of 5 years to evaluate a team’s performance on a given draft.

    I think strong statements to the effect of “Gillis’ drafting sucks” or “Gillis has drafted well” can’t really be supported, and especially not with the subjective evidence dominating discussion. No one is making a convincing argument.

    The transaction record is probably a better way to evaluate Gillis at this point. Through 2010, he could do no wrong.

    That changes of course…

    • JCDavies

      It is too early to make “final judgements” on a lot of Gillis picks. It’s too early to make final judgements on Nonis and Burke picks too.

      But it doesn’t mean it’s too early to note what a pick’s present day value is.

      For example, both Jensen & Corrado’s values are higher than when they were drafted. This is good.

      On the flip side, well, all of 2008 – 2010 as far as I’m concerned.

      And probably a bigger issue to me is the trades for non-rentals, many of which included draft picks. With that many poor outcomes, people should be questioning Gillis’ process.

      • JCDavies

        Fair statements.

        I’d caution against judging Gillis on the early draft performance though…

        He was (probably) using Nonis’ scouting staff and methodology with few tweaks in those years. As you’ve noted, the farm and developing players he inherited were bloody impressive. Given the difficulties of assessing draft performance and a solid data point indicating that the scouting team knew ehat it was doing, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for him to have kept things going the way they were.

        I’m just saying that it’s all fuzzy and hard to call.

        Agreed on the transaction record. I hate seeing draft picks and prospects go. The trades in the last three years all seem to have made sense at the time (in particular, I believe that Drance described Roy as “nails”), but have not panned out. That’s on Gillis.

        • JCDavies

          It isn’t just about the scouts, though. The GM sets the organizational philosophy.

          People would complain about Nonis going off the board with his picks; but I think it’s fair to say he was looking for impact.

          And considering Gillis hasn’t exactly drafted top prospects, I think his draft philosophy has to be questioned. Everything from only drafting forwards with 1st rounders to avoiding the WHL to selecting a lot of older/college players.

          I like Roy the player, irrespective of his playoff performance. But, common, a 2nd round pick and an okay prospect for KConn is way too much for a rental player, imo.

          Clarkson for a 1st would have been an even bigger disaster.

  • antro

    @NM00:

    Last point, tho’ it’s been fun!

    I don’t have anything against what scouts say, and yes, the canucks generally don’t have a good prospect system by a lot of evaluations. But, I wanted to know how you were evaluating that the picks that Gillis has made are poorer than the average GM, given draft position, etc. You don’t seem to get this. To say that a GM is doing poorly at drafting takes a lot more evidence than you can muster (namely, looking at what proportion of NHLers come from different draft positions as a whole, not just Canucks, and then seeing if the Canucks are substantially worse; or using comparables, etc). So, maybe, I should just say, you may be right, but you don’t have evidence for it, as you claim.

    “Established NHLers don’t get sent down to the minors towards the end of the year.”

    It was one game, widely reported to be a run-in with AV, and it ended pretty quick.

    “This is a non-sequitar. What exactly is your endgame by trying to take me to an unfamiliar area?”

    This is just hilarious. Now I know that you aren’t really that serious. You said “oh, it’s just semantics”. I said, “no, there are people who have done this systematically, and this isn’t just a question of semantics.” (I’m paraphrasing, yes?) So you say “non-sequitar”. And then, you have a paranoid reaction: “what exactly is your endgame…”

    ARE YOU SERIOUS???? My endgame is to steal all your marbles and make you the laughing stock of the playground…;)

    Have a nice day!

    • antro

      “I don’t have anything against what scouts say, and yes, the canucks generally don’t have a good prospect system by a lot of evaluations.”

      Oh my god there is finally some substance in what you say. If you had said this 20 comments ago instead of going off on tangents we both would have saved time.

      “But, I wanted to know how you were evaluating that the picks that Gillis has made are poorer than the average GM, given draft position, etc.”

      If you notice, I was comparing him to Nonis since they had somewhat similar draft picks.

      Nonis had top prospects the industry liked. Which, as you finally, finally, have come to acknowledge means something.

      “Paranoid reaction” is your interpretation. I am not quite sure why you feel the need to projection your feelings onto me 🙂

  • antro

    @NM00:

    “What does this have to do with what I am saying? You asked for a comparable. Do you think Bernier then is worth more or less than Kassian now?”

    Again, your qualitative evidence, as you yourself call it, isn’t convincing. You say you follow baseball sabermetrics, and maybe you do, but I can’t help but feel you don’t get it. I presented you with a credible method for finding a comparable, one widely used btw, and you tell me “well, I’m just gonna go with the first guy that springs into my head, because someone else called him a powerforward, and he was drafted more or less in the same position.” REALLY?! That’s what you got?! Then you tell me that we can be “logical” about it.

    Again, you want to make big claims about Gillis’ drafting, and when confronted with arguments that question the basis you use for these claims, you say, “well, I read it somewhere.” This isn’t the “logic” of someone who understands sabremetrics.

    • antro

      I will repeat:

      My criticism of Gillis’ use of draft picks isn’t just the lack or regulars produced to date.

      1. The farm system is poorly regarded. When Edler, Schneider & Bourdon (among others) were prospects, the Canucks had a fairly well regarded farm system considering their draft positions.

      2. Gillis has given away a lot of draft picks on poor trades for Bernier, Alberts, Ballard, Kassian & Roy. And it would have been another if he had his way and got Clarkson. Remember the good old days when Gillis didn’t like giving up draft picks on rentals?

      3. I believe Gillis’ draft philosophy is backwards and will not produce impact talent. Impact talent is important not just for the NHL team, but to use in trade should a quality player (i.e. Brent Burns or Jeff Carter) become available.

      “I presented you with a credible method for finding a comparable, one widely used btw”

      In how many languages can I say “I am not familiar with this?”

      You asked for a comparable. I gave you Bernier. If Bernier then is worth more or less than Kassian now on the trade market, shouldn’t your credible method be able to point us in the right direction?

  • antro

    @Mantastic:

    It’s been a long time since someone on an analytic site has admitted that “producing points” is what he or she uses to evaluate players. If you don’t know why that’s a problem, then I don’t know why you even bother noting that Hodgson gets soft minutes. You clearly don’t understand what kinds of context are necessary to “producing points.”

    How do you refute Drance’s example of Hodgson’s poor WOWY?

    • Mantastic

      yes, COHO is the anchor in the line that features VANEK and POMINVILLE. HOW IS THIS A SHOCKER? advanced stats mean absolutely nothing if they don’t actually translate tangible numbers. I.E. Booth. and it’s not like Kassian is killing his advanced stats either, look at his wowy with the twins vs burrows. you’re WOWY arguement doesn’t support you’re actual arguement the kassian-coho trade

  • JCDavies

    @NM00

    “As to my point about “what scouts say”, that is not meaningless. The entire concept and predictive nature of the draft is premised on “what scouts say”. ”

    If you follow advanced stats in baseball, as you say you do, it is well known that baseball scouts essentially work as PR reps for their teams and hype their own players and and hide their flaws. What scouts say isn’t meaningless but needs to put in proper context on a case-by-case basis and should be supported by stats. It is no different in hockey.

    • Mantastic

      I am not talking about what Canuck scouts say.

      The MLB equivalents are Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law etc.

      Your example has nothing to do with what I am talking about.

      • JCDavies

        Some of those sources are better than others at sorting through good and bad information but they all get most of their information from team scouts and team scouts always have an agenda.

        Team scouts try to inflate the value of their own prospects and lower the value of other teams prospects (at least the ones the might want to acquire for the right price).

        There is no way for Keith Law and those organizations to physically watch every player so they fill in the gaps by talking to scouts. So yeah, scouting reports do need to be put in context and should be supported by stats.

        • Mantastic

          “There is no way for Keith Law and those organizations to physically watch every player so they fill in the gaps by talking to scouts. So yeah, scouting reports do need to be put in context and should be supported by stats.”

          I don’t disagree. In regards to baseball, though, stats only tell a certain part of the story when it comes to prospects specifically.

          For example, Keith Law has talked about how batspeed cannot be quantified. It actually takes a pair of eyes. The same can be said about a pitcher’s stuff, a position player’s tools etc.

          Anything this subjective is prone to bias, of course.

          Where statistical information can come in handy, for example, is K/BB ratios in regards to future plate discipline. One could make the argument that JP Arencibia was always “overrated” as a prospect because he simply never controlled the strikezone. That is an example of statistical data being used to supplement a player evaluation.

          Of course, there is also stats gone bad. I refer you to the quote by Voros McCracken on the Mariners defence:

          http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/sloan-analytics-cuban-mccracken-jedlovic/

          Since I like to compare Gillis to former Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi, I’d argue the Blue Jays’ Moneyball draft philosophy was off the mark.

          They drafted almost exclusively college players for so long based on the premise that college players had statistical track records. As Keith Law has said, other teams caught on and by the time the Jays’ turn to draft came, better college players were off the board.

          And what you saw was a lot of players who can play at the MLB level, but a system that was devoid of star talent for nearly a decade.

          But don’t tell antro. He’ll force me to quit my job and perform a study!

          • JCDavies

            “Anything this subjective is prone to bias, of course.”

            “Of course, there is also stats gone bad”

            Absolutely. I see scouting reports and stats as two tools that organizations should be using to support each other.

            Keith Law is one of the better sources, he even brings his own radar gun to every game because he doesn’t trust anybody else’s.

            Ricciadi was awful, there was no way firing that many scouts was going to be good for the team in the long run.

          • JCDavies

            “Absolutely. I see scouting reports and stats as two tools that organizations should be using to support each other.”

            I could not agree more. All types of info should be used in the decision making process.

            Back to the Blue Jays. Their prospects under Ricciardi were never well-regarded.

            Which is part of the same reason I place an emphasis on what scouts say about our prospects. Edler, Schneider, Bourdon (RIP) and Hodgson were all well regarded prospects.

            Just looking at the history of the NHL draft, it’s quite clear that there is a correlation between what scouts say and how impactful a player will be.

            This is my fear with Gillis. It’s why I keep bring up the “trying to hit a homerun instead of a double” quote.

            His apparent goal of trying to get “something” with his picks as opposed to gambling on potential stars like Nonis used to scares the hell out of me.

            Gillis talks a good game so, like Ricciardi, perhaps he will keep his job for 8 years when it was clear after year 5 or 6 he was simply not a good talent evaluator.

          • JCDavies

            “This is my fear with Gillis. It’s why I keep bring up the “trying to hit a homerun instead of a double” quote.

            His apparent goal of trying to get “something” with his picks as opposed to gambling on potential stars like Nonis used to scares the hell out of me.”

            I wasn’t aware of that quote until you brought it up and that isn’t something I think Gillis should be doing. Gillis also talks in a vague circular manner, often spending the length of an entire interview saying nothing of value, so without seeing or hearing the quote it is hard for me to put into context.

            I think there is something else going on with Gillis’ drafting, however. In baseball if you need players to contribute to the big club immediately, you draft college players and if you have a lot of depth you and would like to delay the arrival of prospects to the majors you draft high school players. I think Gillis was doing some of that here.

            When some of those players were drafted, the Canucks had quite a bit of depth and didn’t really have room for many young players on their roster. I think Gillis drafted players that were committed to colleges so that they would turn pro at a later date and he could delay the start of their ELC.

            There is the associated lowered upside/risk that comes with this approach but I think it is one of the factors, along with the Moneyball approach you mention, that explain the drafting of college players.

  • antro

    “That’s [Bernier] about as good as I can do for a “comparable” right now. And I might be way off. If you have a better comparable, let me know!”

    I don’t know if that’s a good comparable, because, if you use Reynold’s methodology”

    What does this have to do with what I am saying? You asked for a comparable. Do you think Bernier then is worth more or less than Kassian now?

    “I do appreciate that you are admitting that it may be more complicated to establish Gillis draft (and in this case traded draft) than you initially claimed. I honestly don’t know that anyone has gone through Gillis’ draft picks carefully enough to present a convincing picture.”

    Honestly, if you can’t accept largely qualitative evidence here we are simply speaking different languages. I appreciate your desire to have quantitative evidence here, but we can (hopefully) think about this logically.

    But we know Gillis’ draft picks have produced some games from Hodgson, some games from Schroeder, a cup of coffee from Sauve, Jensen & Corrado.

    Via traded draft picks, 5 years of Gillis has produced some games from Kassian, Bernier, Alberts, Ballard, Higgins, Lappy, Pahlsson & Roy. I may be forgetting someone here so let me know if I have.

    Everytime I hear about the Canucks farm system, it seems they are ranked 20-something and they do not have any top 50 prospects in the industry. If you have reputable evidence to the contrary, please share as I’m not fully invested in NHL prospect porn.

    Based on the 3 paras above, what exactly makes you feel good about the manner in which Gillis has used his draft picks? What would even make you feel average?

  • antro

    @NM00:

    “Honestly, though, does it matter? Do you not have a general idea of what I mean by “impact” and “core”? What purpose does it serve to exchange definitions when you and I will disagree on the meaning? This is just semantics.”

    Yes it matters. I haven’t simply disagreed with the definitions you offer. I’ve given you specific examples of analytical hockey bloggers who have tried to produce a robust and predictive means of evaluating these questions. “Impact” isn’t nearly as rigorous as establishing wins versus replacement and figuring out which players are truly elite for what they are paid. And then I ask you, who are you using? To say “scouts” doesn’t say much to me, because the whole point of trying to use a more robust analysis is to go beyond, or at least help assess, the impression formed by just watching a player play. There’s still a lot of old school scouts, but this is changing.

    Btw, I’d argue that Kassian is also established as an NHLer (I thought he looked pretty good towards the end of the season, but this is only an impression). The fact that Hodgson was on the first line is only because Buffalo is a much weaker team.

    So can we at least agree that it isn’t that easy to make claims about Gillis’ drafting right now?

    • antro

      “Impact” isn’t nearly as rigorous as establishing wins versus replacement and figuring out which players are truly elite for what they are paid.”

      This is a non-sequitar. What exactly is your endgame by trying to take me to an unfamiliar area?

      “Kassian is also established as an NHLer.”

      Established NHLers don’t get sent down to the minors towards the end of the year.

      Btw, I’d appreciate if you address this point:

      As to my point about “what scouts say”, that is not meaningless. The entire concept and predictive nature of the draft is premised on “what scouts say”.

      Frankly, if and when hockey evolves to where baseball is and there isn’t as much of a divide between scouting and statistical analysis, this conversation would be easier.

      It’s easier to believe Keith Law, for example, because he is both a scout and sabermetrically-inclined. And he believes farm system & top prospect rankings matter in baseball. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to believe he’d say the same about hockey.

  • antro

    @Mantastic

    “please look at past history of trading prospects and draft picks…”

    For what?

    “this has nothing to do about advanced stats…”

    Why not? How do you refute what Drance wrote about Hodgson’s season in Buffalo, esp. his WOWY?

    Hate to quote myself, but: How do you know that this trade is “straight up bad for the canucks”? On what basis? Neither you nor NM00 has remotely come close to clarifying this except by vague principles about draft position.

    • Mantastic

      to refute your basis of being able to flip prospects for higher draft picks.

      kassian is a PROJECT and COHO is a TANGIBILE ASSET I’VE SAID THIS BEFORE. however soft his minutes are he still produces points and KASSIAN IS A PROJECT, who has done NOTHING yet, what part of that do you not understand?

      ever hear of the saying a bird in hand is worth more than 2 in a bush?

  • antro

    @NM00:

    “That’s [Bernier] about as good as I can do for a “comparable” right now. And I might be way off. If you have a better comparable, let me know!”

    I don’t know if that’s a good comparable, because, if you use Reynold’s methodology, you have to go to his draft year, normalize the points (b/c that’s all we have, not b/c it’s the best measure), and see if he’s w/in 90%-110% of Kassian’s draft year. I can’t tell you that off the top of my head, but I’m also not the one making big claims about Gillis’ record on the draft.

    I do appreciate that you are admitting that it may be more complicated to establish Gillis draft (and in this case traded draft) than you initially claimed. I honestly don’t know that anyone has gone through Gillis’ draft picks carefully enough to present a convincing picture.

    Actually, I’ll admit that in the course of this discussion, I’ve become more dubious of Gillis’ trading record, thanks to your criticism. But at the same time, I don’t think you can compare what Burke or even Nonis did with Luongo to today, because the landscape has shifted so much in player evaluation.

  • antro

    @NM00:

    “Again, if you believe Kassian can be traded for a 10th overall pick there is no convincing you.”

    Actually, the reason most of us read Canucksarmy is that there *is* convincing us. But your bald statements that it is the case, without offering any basis at all, isn’t convincing. Sorry!

    Let me give you an example. Right as we speak, Scott Reynolds of coppernblue is doing a thorough job finding comparables for all the top draft choices in this year’s draft. Look at how he shows what a comparable is. Then the comparable can be tracked through NHLe for the Draft + 1 year, Draft + 2 year, etc. If you find the right comparables for Kassian, and then show us that Kassian is behind them in his development, and that typical 10th choices would be ahead of this, we’ll be convinced!

    But, yeah, being systematic takes a lot of work. Which, to go back to my opening statement, is why we are such grateful readers of Canucksarmy.

    • Mantastic

      “If you find the right comparables for Kassian, and then show us that Kassian is behind them in his development, and that typical 10th choices would be ahead of this, we’ll be convinced!

      But, yeah, being systematic takes a lot of work. Which, to go back to my opening statement, is why we are such grateful readers of Canucksarmy.”

      I completely appreciate the work done by CanucksArmy.

      As I hope you can appreciate, I have neither the time or knowledge to complete such a study.

      As for Kassian, let me put it this way. By no means is this a perfect comparable…

      Buffalo traded project power forward Steve Bernier for a 2nd and 3rd round pick to Vancouver.

      It’s fair to assume that Buffalo traded Bernier for the best offer they could receive, right?

      Considering Bernier’s pedigree (mid 1st round pick) and what he had done in SJ & Buffalo, do you think he was worth more or less than Kassian right now in trade? I’d argue Bernier wasn’t worth less and possibly a touch more, but what do I know?

      If you believe Bernier then was worth as much as Kassian now in trade (and you may not), then I think you would agree that a 10th overall pick is worth more than a 2nd and 3rd round pick.

      That’s about as good as I can do for a “comparable” right now. And I might be way off. If you have a better comparable, let me know!

    • Mantastic

      a you are overvaluing Kassian and you are also undervaluing a 10th overall pick. you NEVER see developing players being flipped for slightly higher picks, they always get flipped for lower picks or other prospects. you also don’t see low ceiling prospects go for 1st round picks either. it doesn’t matter if the players are doing better than expected, it’s the market that determines the price. and no one pays 1st rounds for non-established mid-ceiling or lower prospects.

      Kassian is a project player, it would take years for him to ever hit his ceiling, if he ever gets there. That’s how it goes for powerforwards. Gillis kassian-coho trade was straight up bad for the canucks. you trade a tangible asset in Coho (however soft his minutes were, he still put up points in his ELC) for a project player who is younger with more question marks.

      • antro

        Nothing of what you say seems very systematic to me. Show me in terms of advanced stats and/or comparables. Otherwise you’re just blowing smoke. Have you read what Sabres people think of Hodgson. Apparently his backchecking isn’t getting any better. Do a search.

        Here’s what Drance recently wrote:
        “(*) Hodgson has put up points on a pretty woeful team, but his WOWY’s are – let’s figure out a polite way of putting this – inauspicious. For example, in 133 even-strenght minutes this season when separated from Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson has two assists and a 39.7% Corsi For Percentage. He’s not a guy who, at this point in his career, drives play or offense on his own.”

        How do you know that this trade is “straight up bad for the canucks”? On what basis? Neither you nor NM00 has remotely come close to clarifying this except by vague principles about draft position.

        On the question of evaluating draft picks, @NM00 writes (in response to me):

        “I look at the body of work while placing a premium on impact. Impact players are the hardest to find on the free agent & trade market; therefore, I don’t believe in attempting to hit doubles instead of going for homeruns.

        I also place a premium on what scouts are saying about prospects. Being well thought of as early as possible by the industry is key.”

        Sorry to be blunt, but this is meaningless. What in the world is an “impact player”?! Give us a criterion! For example, Desjardins and others like Tom Awad tried to come up with a metric in terms of wins over replacement, and then there were special players (like Luongo, Drew Doughty, Crosby) who were never paid equivalent to what they provided in terms of wins over replacement.

        Neither Mantastic nor NM00 have given us any well-substantiated criteria for looking at draft picks before they become established. Tell me which scouts you are talking about and what their methodology is. I’ve noted Scott Reynolds’ methodology which is fairly current among a lot more good analytical bloggers who have tried establishing equivalences and comparables, which are predictive to some extent (remember there’s always a margin for error). Nor have either of you looked at Gillis’ drafting record in light of the general potential to find NHLers through the draft (which, statistically speaking, goes off a cliff after the first 20 or so picks). There are a lot of bloggers who have looked at this question systematically.

        I say it again: these are woefully unconvincing claims!

        • antro

          For the record, I am by no means a fan of Hodgson. He is my “double instead of a homerun” example I often use.

          But considering Hodgson is a regular and Kassian may still need AHL time next year, doesn’t that tell you something?

          I’ve given a Bernier example. I’m obviously not equipped in terms of time and knowledge to do one of these studies.

          I have given my baseline for impact players in the past, though probably not to you.

          Above average starting goaltender, top 3/4 defenseman, top 1 or 2 line centre, top line winger on a contending team. Aside from goalies, ascribing “impact” to one of these is subjective. And these players are on a continuum. One person’s impact might not be another’s.

          Honestly, though, does it matter? Do you not have a general idea of what I mean by “impact” and “core”? What purpose does it serve to exchange definitions when you and I will disagree on the meaning? This is just semantics.

          As to my point about “what scouts say”, that is not meaningless. The entire concept and predictive nature of the draft is premised on “what scouts say”.

        • Mantastic

          please look at past history of trading prospects for draft picks… this has nothing to do about advanced stats… and i have clearly explained why the coho-kassian trade was bad, and you are incredibly dense if you think you can’t teach someone to back check

          one thing you can do, teach someone to defend, one thing you can’t do, teach someone to score at the nhl level

      • JCDavies

        THANK YOU.

        Of course we can’t prove what Kassian is worth. But let’s be realistic guys.

        If Gillis could trade Kassian for a 10th overall pick he should be all over it. He’s a prospect arguably in a make or break year with the organization.

        Mind you, a 2013 10th overall pick is not worth as much as a 2008 10th overall pick since the latter should be helping the NHL team by now.

  • antro

    @NM00

    I’m starting to think that you are actually Thomas Drance impersonating a critic to get us all going, and write lots of comments…what Drance won’t do to increase his web stats!

    Okay, at this point, you aren’t the least bit consistent. On the one hand, you admit that the core players from the Burke/Nonis era (gathered over almost a decade) were mostly available due to poor draft position, and that for the best team Canucks ever iced, the GM had a hand in 7/20 roster positions, including 2 “core” (though what that means, I don’t know, it’d help if you stuck to top 6 forward or top 4 D). This in 3 years of managing. And on the other hand, you say that he didn’t do enough to replenish a non-existent prospect cupboard, and everything you approve of was b/c he was busy trying to find pieces to complement a cup contender. And you are comparing Burke/Nonis’ draft picks when they were fully mature to Gillis’ picks when they are in their late teens-early 20s (btw, one point, if I’m not mistaken, Sauve almost made the team, and looked like he would be a contributor soon, but then was hit by a car, and lost about a year, and never was the same). Explain to us how you evaluate draft picks, on what basis (or the people you are reading evaluate them)?

    Drafting is not science. Yet, very few regulars come out of the later rounds, because teams are making fewer mistakes (and there are always a few first round busts, and late round boons). And you can’t trade for top picks today the way Burke did a decade ago–unless your Brian Burke and you give away two for someone like Kessel!! I guess that’s Gillis’ fault for not having a disgruntled Kessel on his hands.

    I have no idea on what basis you make the following claims: “Kassian (via Hodgson) could not be traded for a 10th overall pick. Sauve could not be traded for a 2nd round pick. Schroeder could not be traded for a 22nd overall pick. Rodin could not bring back a 2nd round pick. Connauton might be able to bring back a 3rd round pick; but he was traded in an ill-advised trade for a rental.” What is your criterion, except gut instinct? Look at Jensen’s NHLe for scoring (see behindthenet blog, where he adjusts at 57% of total scoring, at least for 2009), which means that he had 13 NHLe points over 50 games, or 22 over 82. As a 19 year old. This isn’t perfect, but he also was the 2nd most prolific scorer under 20 in the SEL. There’s also context: he played for a poor team, that went through a coaching change. Do a search on CA’s many posts about him. He’s not worth a late first rounder?

    Look, I completely agree that the Ballard trade was awful, although I remember a lot of people approving at the time. And maybe the moneyball thing to do this off-season is to take Schneider and Edler to the trade market. But you still haven’t made your criteria clear for any of your judgments.

    Finally, many of us actually complain a lot about Gillis. It’s just the exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims you make that seem a little too much. Which returns me to my original thought: are you Thomas Drance in disguise?

    • JCDavies

      “Okay, at this point, you aren’t the least bit consistent. On the one hand, you admit that the core players from the Burke/Nonis era (gathered over almost a decade) were mostly available due to poor draft position.”

      Nope. One Sedin. That’s it. Two other high draft picks (Sedin #2 and Lou) were acquired via trade. And Bryan Allen, for example, was not worth anymore in that Lou trade because he was a former 4th overall pick. That ship had long sailed.

      Kesler, Bieksa, Edler, Schneider & secondary guys Burrows, Raymond, Hansen & Grabner (among other I may be forgetting) were not high picks. Kesler, though, may have gone #10 – #15 in another draft as it was stacked that year.

      “the best team Canucks ever iced, the GM had a hand in 7/20 roster positions, including 2 “core” (though what that means, I don’t know, it’d help if you stuck to top 6 forward or top 4 D). This in 3 years of managing.”

      He added to the bottom of the roster, yes. The Canucks weren’t icing 7 forwards. Good for Gillis.

      “Explain to us how you evaluate draft picks, on what basis.”

      I look at the body of work while placing a premium on impact. Impact players are the hardest to find on the free agent & trade market; therefore, I don’t believe in attempting to hit doubles instead of going for homeruns.

      I also place a premium on what scouts are saying about prospects. Being well thought of as early as possible by the industry is key.

      “NHLe for scoring (see behindthenet blog, where he adjusts at 57% of total scoring, at least for 2009), which means that he had 13 NHLe points over 50 games, or 22 over 82. As a 19 year old. This isn’t perfect.”

      Are NHL equivalencies predictive? MLB equivalencies, for example, aren’t exactly gospel as AAAA players outperform legit prospects all the time.

      And are NHL equivalencies better than what a scout says about a prospect?

      “It’s just the exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims.”

      With what do you disagree? I have probably been hardest on Gillis’ first 3 drafts, trading record & what I consider to be a poor draft philosophy in general. Be specific about a point with which you disagree and I’ll gladly address it.

  • Ok, that makes sense.

    Fair enough, but here is some Gillis specific credit. He was instrumental in creating a culture that overcame the rain and travel that repelled players from Vancouver. This was a mix of a winning team, improvements to the staff and environment (dressing room, training, sleep doctor etc.) and what were likely positive reviews from players coming out of Vancouver.
    Yes, this is a big market team but how many other big market teams have been able to acquire as many sought after, young, FA’s as the Canucks? Lack, Tanev, Sweatt and others were all being pursued by the majority of the league and they chose the Canucks. That is, in part, due to the changes that Gillis has brought about.

    Tanev is still quite young and D-men don’t peak till at least 25-26. He is 23. Right now, he is not a core player but with more opportunity, I could see him being a number-3 dman… A “core” player on an above average team.

    Lack is a consensus top-tier goalie prospect. Especially before his injury. Tell me 4 goalie prospects that you would rather have (I don’t count Bernier, Bishop or others that have spent a while in the NHL as prospects). I would take Lehner and Markstrom for sure, but it would be debatable for anyone else. Goalieguild has him at number four, behind Lehner, Markstrom and Khudobin. (Justin Goldman [ http://www.linkedin.com/pub/justin-goldman/6/244/844 ] did this: http://www.thegoalieguild.com/periodictable/ )
    He is large, has good fundamentals, and exceptional reflexes for his size. Yes, there is risk but he has a very good chance at becoming an above average NHL starter, which is definitely a “core” player.

    Schneider and Lack don’t always compare stylistically, but the numbers hold up fairly well.

    I have given credit to Gillis for guys like Tanev, Lack, Billy Sweatt among others.

    But it’s not something that has to go away if Gillis were to be fired. The Canucks are a big market cap team irrespective of the GM. All big market teams should be battling for undrafted college and European free agents.

    Subban is 22nd on Justin’s list, btw.

    Yes, Gillis is a mixed bag, but I don’t think he has made any obviously (at the time) poor decisions. Or at least not enough to be fired.

    Most cup winning GMs either build their team over a very, very large number of years (Holland), or inherit most of the “winning” core. Gillis should actually be commended for not doing too much with the roster he inherited. He could have easily made many more changes and brought in “his” guys. Instead he realized he has been given a good core to work with and just tried to add to that.

    In 2008-09, the team did fairly well and did not give Gillis any reason to doubt the core. In 2009-10, they lost in the second round again but there were signs of growth and they certainly did not need to blow it up.
    2010-11 was obviously great.
    2011-12 was an interesting season, and that was the first year where you could make an argument for bigger changes but it was a fair call to stick with it for a year.
    At this point, you can tell that this team is not at the level of cup contention and would not beat any of the four teams left in a seven game series.
    Until now, his patience and lack of big moves has been a virtue. Not any more.

    And no, Kassian couldn’t get the 10th pick, but that could change as early as next year.

    I don’t think that Gillis can get that much better in terms of the bets he is making, but I do hope the results start to become more consistent.

    • “Subban is 22nd on Justin’s list, btw.”

      I noticed that. And it makes me question the methodology.

      How many GM’s would actually prefer Lack to Subban? I’d certainly take Subban without thinking twice.

      “Tanev is still quite young and D-men don’t peak till at least 25-26. He is 23. Right now, he is not a core player but with more opportunity, I could see him being a number-3 dman…”

      I could see Kassian being Bertuzzi down the road. It doesn’t mean it’s even remotely realistic or probable.

  • JCDavies

    At the moment, it does look like all four of Gillis’ first round draft picks will play in the NHL. I don’t know how often GMs go 4 for 4 but it doesn’t sound like the Canucks have completely screwed up the last five drafts.

      • JCDavies

        Even first round picks are risky propositions. Expecting a GM to get four NHL players out of four draft picks is probably unrealistic and unsustainable. Gillis has made his fair share of mistakes at the draft but credit should be given where it is due.

        • JCDavies

          I’m not expecting a GM to hit on all his 1st round picks.

          I have consistently said I am okay with busts as long as there are some impact hits and secondary hits.

          It’s why I criticize Gillis’ JP Ricciardi approach to drafting.

          “Gillis has made his fair share of mistakes at the draft but credit should be given where it is due.”

          What exactly should I be crediting. He hasn’t produced a single NHL regular yet and the farm system is poorly regarded within the industry.

          And even moreso than the drafting, it’s wasting draft picks on poor outcome trades for non-rentals (Bernier, Alberts, Ballard & Kassian) with which I take issue.

          As well as this past trade deadline (2nd & KConn for Roy and a willngness to trade a 1st rounder for Clarkson) that scare the crap out of me. That is just moral hazard.

          • JCDavies

            “What exactly should I be crediting. He hasn’t produced a single NHL regular yet and the farm system is poorly regarded within the industry.”

            Nonis was gone before most of his players became NHL regulars, these things take time …

            You seem to like Nonis’ drafts quite a bit but with your line of thinking he also should have been fired for not producing NHL regulars fast enough.

          • Mantastic

            Nonis was GM for 4 drafts and 3 actual NHL seasons. Gillis has been GM for 5 drafts and 5 NHL seasons.

            Edler was becoming a regular (with considerably higher upside than a Tanev or Corrado).

            Schneider took as long as he did in large part because of Gillis taking forever to decide on a goaltender.

            Hansen, Raymond, Grabner were all bubbling. We’ll never know on Bourdon (RIP) and obviously that is not Nonis’ fault.

            So Gillis had more to work with than the next GM would if Gillis were fired tomorrow. And Gillis has had an extra year.

            My criticism of Gillis’ use of draft picks isn’t just the lack or regulars produced to date.

            1. The farm system is poorly regarded. When Edler, Schneider & Bourdon (among others) were prospects, the Canucks had a fairly well regarded farm system considering their draft positions.

            2. Gillis has given away a lot of draft picks on poor trades for Bernier, Alberts, Ballard, Kassian & Roy. And it would have been another if he had his way and got Clarkson. Remember the good old days when Gillis didn’t like giving up draft picks on rentals?

            3. I believe Gillis’ draft philosophy is backwards and will not produce impact talent. Impact talent is important not just for the NHL team, but to use in trade should a quality player (i.e. Brent Burns or Jeff Carter) become available.

            I don’t think Nonis was a god even though I’m sure it comes off that way. I just believe he was making the right transactions to build a sustainable contender around the Sedins & Lou. I also believe he is far more responsible for the Canucks’ renassaince than Gillis.

            If Gillis keeps doing what he’s doing with the draft and trades, the Canucks will be the Flames. You know, unless Malkin decides to play in Van City or something else completely unrealistic.

  • I am assuming he didn’t take 2011-2012 as they are too early to tell.

    As far as Chicago not using our prospects enough, that isn’t as much of an issue as some might think ( http://canucksarmy.com/2013/4/12/the-week-of-a-canucks-bandwagoner ). The team wasn’t that great, and veterans were leaned on to score and the coaching could be an issue…. But they were played a reasonable amount of games.

    That being said, a farm team of our own will be significantly beneficial. It will allow us to sign only the veterans that fill holes in our prospect depth and are beneficial to the development process.

    To be completely honest, I didn’t think that many players played on the Moose for 2007-08. That being said, I meant to only count the players that finished the year with the Moose and didn’t graduate mid-year (i.e. Raymond only played 20 games for the Moose in 07-08).

    • JCDavies

      The Wolves were trying to win games and sell tickets (and rightly so) while the Canucks were trying to develop players that can contribute at an NHL level. The goals didn’t really match well at times. Perhaps now that the Canucks own an AHL team they will be willing to sacrifice some wins, if necessary, to get players some experience in key situations.

  • @NMOO

    “The “poor” farm system that Gillis inherited was the foundation for one of the best teams in the league for maybe a 3-4 year period”

    Really?

    The Canuck prospects who played on the Manitoba Moose during 2007-2008 and moved on to the NHL were Michael Grabner, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Rick Rypien and Cory Schneider. If you wanted to stretch it, you could add Edler and Bieksa, but they only played 1 and 2 games respectively. There were no prospects from the Burke/Nonis years who came after that. This was the foundation?

    I agree that Gillis’ challenge in the next little while will be to replenish an aging core, but that is easier said than done. Since you refer to Detroit as a model, which future core players did Detroit draft beteen 2008 and 2010? And why do you want to use a 3 year sample?

    It may be that none of Gillis’ drafts/acquisitions go on to be core players, but it is too early to tell with some of them and it appears to me that, at the very least, he has done a better job of developing a future supporting cast. Even if I am on crack.

    • The only core players Gillis acquired on the cup run team were Ehrhoff & Hamhuis.

      The Sedins, Kesler, Bieksa, Edler & Lou were all brought in by Burke & Nonis. Even the secondary group of players (Burrows, Raymond, Salo, Schneider, Hansen) were mostly inherited.

      The Canucks made the finals because Gillis inherited a solid base and he made a couple of good defenseman additions and a couple of good secondary additions to the forward group. That’s it.

      Which is fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But it’s not fine that his draft picks and trades (aside from Ehrhoff) have provided very little value to the Canucks.

      • Gillis inherited a team with a bottom half of the roster that was a mess and a spent Naslund, Morrison and Ohlund with little in your so called foundational farm system to replace them. The team missed the playoffs in 2008 for good reason.

        Higgins, Malhotra, Samuelsson, Torres,Glass, Lapierre and Rome may not have been core players but they were useful pieces along with Hamhuis and Ehrhoff and an improvement on what Gillis was left with. That is 9 of 18 skaters added by Gillis or half the team. None of them came from the farm system inherited by Gillis. Without those additions there is no cup run in 2011. Arguably, if Malhotra doesn’t basically lose an eye and if Hamhuis doesn’t get hurt in game one of the final, the Canucks would have won.

        Relatively few drafted players from 2008 and 2009 are making significant contributions to their teams as of yet and only Drew Doughty of the final 4 teams. So I think we still have to wait on those drafts to see how they turn out, including Hodgson/Kassian.

        Gillis has made some decisions that haven’t worked out but most of them were reasonable at the time, so give credit where credit is due.

        • You are massively, massively overrating the importance of the guys at the bottom of the roster that Gillis added.

          Please don’t turn this into a strawman about “depth doesn’t matter”. It absolutely does. But without the core, the depth is pretty meaningless.

          You act as though Nonis or any other GM couldn’t have added depth pieces to the bottom of the roster once the core hit their primes.

          This is like believing Scott Hatteberg was the star of the Oakland A’s (ignoring Zito, Mulder, Hudson and the other stars) and Lyle Overbay was the star of the Blue Jays for a while (ignoring Halladay, Wells, Rios, Delgado & Green).

          And let’s not ignore the “depth” pieces that have not worked out very well: Ryan Johnson, Darcy Hordichuk, Alberts (due to the cost for a utility defenseman), Pahlson. Ballard has been relegated to depth status. And a massively overpaid one at that which in no way balances out the “good” that Hammer has provided.

          Gillis, like pretty much every GM, has had a mixed bag of hits and misses in terms of depth pieces. I don’t see the point of giving him too much credit or too much grief over the depth. Sometimes it works (2011) and sometimes it doesn’t (most every other year).

          “Relatively few drafted players from 2008 and 2009 are making significant contributions to their teams as of yet and only Drew Doughty of the final 4 teams. So I think we still have to wait on those drafts to see how they turn out, including Hodgson/Kassian.”

          Another strawman. My argument was that the “Canucks could not recoup the value on a single top 3 round pick from years 2008 – 2010.”

          If you believe Kassian could net a 10th overall pick in the upcoming draft, there’s no convincing you.

          All of these “Gillis isn’t that bad” claims lack compelling evidence. Show me the Gillis-specific good? “Signing the core he inherited” and “signing BC-born defenseman” is not that much better than drafting Crosby 1st overall. Any GM would have signed the core and I’m quite sure every GM would have gladly accepted Hamhuis agreeing to a discounted contract after spurning a number of other suitors.

          Put up the “good” against the “bad”. Unless one believes Gillis has magical powers to influence the W-L record, his transaction record is hard to defend.

          Let’s hope he gets better in year 6 or he runs out of chances.

          • But you are completely missing the point. What did that core ever do before Gillis put the pieces in place around them? Nothing. Most teams in the NHL have a solid ‘core’ of players, but finding the right complimentary depth that will put a team over the top.

            You just cherry pick everything that Gillis has done wrong and refuse to give him any credit for what he’s done right.

            Has he been perfect? No, of course not, and no one has claimed that he has been. But he has done more for this team than any other GM, whether you choose to believe it or not.

            While the likes of Burke and Nonis sat idly by through most off seasons and trade deadlines, Gillis is at the very least extremely active in attempting to bring in the complimentary players this team needs in order to succeed.

          • antro

            “But you are completely missing the point. What did that core ever do before Gillis put the pieces in place around them? Nothing. Most teams in the NHL have a solid ‘core’ of players, but finding the right complimentary depth that will put a team over the top.”

            The core were not in the primes. As we have seen the last 2 years, Gillis’ wizadry in terms of finding the right guys at the bottom of the roster has not been working.

            “You just cherry pick everything that Gillis has done wrong and refuse to give him any credit for what he’s done right.”

            Ehrhoff, Manny, Sammuelson, Hammer (aided by geographical advantage), Garrison (aided by geographical advantage). Convicing the owner to spend more on undrafted free agents like Tanev, Lack & Sweatt.

            Is that enough “credit” for you? I’ve consistently given him credit for the above, though I’ve qualified it when warranted.

            If you want to take it further, I could add Torres, Higgins, Lappy & Rome…but then I’d have to add Bernier, Hordichuk, Oreskevich, Alberts and other poor moves. Again, like every GM, Gillis has hit or miss with the 10-14 forwards and 6-8 dmen.

            “Has he been perfect? No, of course not, and no one has claimed that he has been. But he has done more for this team than any other GM, whether you choose to believe it or not.”

            You seem to be hinting at something here. Do you believe that Gillis is a “winning GM” who just “knows how to win” because he is a “proven winner”?

            If that’s what you are hinting at, I’m surprised this idea would even be considered by an analytically-driven site. Sabermetrically-inclined baseball fans, for example, would roll their eyes at the idea of a “winning GM”.

            If Gillis was a magician, though, why didn’t he throw fairy dust on the team the last two years in the playoffs?

          • JCDavies

            “Sabermetrically-inclined baseball fans, for example, would roll their eyes at the idea of a “winning GM”.”

            What do you mean by this? Clearly, some GMs are better than others.

          • Mantastic

            Of course.

            I mean that sabermetrically-inclined baseball fans typically judge a GM more on his transactions since they are tangible as opposed to intangible things that a GM may or may not be doing to influence the W-L record.

          • “Please don’t turn this into a strawman about “depth doesn’t matter”. It absolutely does. But without the core, the depth is pretty meaningless.”

            And as we know, without the depth, the core is pretty meaningless as well.

            “My argument was that the “Canucks could not recoup the value on a single top 3 round pick from years 2008 – 2010.””

            This isn’t an argument. It’s just an opinion which you may or may not be qualified to give, but where does it lead? For example, with the benefit of hindsight, the same could be said about the vaunted Detroit Redwings in most years but especially 1998 and 1999 when they took Datsyuk in the 6th round and Zetterberg in the 7th. Don’t we have to see how these players develop given their young age? Kassian could still become a very good player. So could Cody Hodgson, who you seem to like, even though he ended the year on the 4th line of the 12th place team in the eastern conference because his team gave up more scoring opportunities when he was on the ice than it created.

            And by all means, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good argument.

            You know.

            You stated that “The “poor” farm system that Gillis inherited was the foundation for one of the best teams in the league for maybe a 3-4 year period” when the farm system had only Hansen and Raymond who became contributing skaters during the cup run.

            You also stated that “The Canucks made the finals because Gillis inherited a solid base and he made a couple of good defenseman additions and a couple of good secondary additions to the forward group. That’s it.” when he actually added half the team.

          • “And as we know, without the depth, the core is pretty meaningless as well.”

            And as we know, depth guys are much easier to find & keep than core players.

            “My argument was that the “Canucks could not recoup the value on a single top 3 round pick from years 2008 – 2010.””

            This isn’t an argument. It’s just an opinion which you may or may not be qualified to give, but where does it lead? For example, with the benefit of hindsight, the same could be said about the vaunted Detroit Redwings”

            Stop right there. There is zero reason to believe the Canucks can beat industry projections like the Red Wings or, for example, the Atlanta Braves when it comes to pitching.

            Of course I can’t “prove” that the top 3 round picks from 2008-2010 could be recouped. But unless one is being willfully ignorant, which pick from 2008-2010 could be recouped?

            Again, if you believe Kassian can be traded for a 10th overall pick there is no convincing you.

            “You also stated that “The Canucks made the finals because Gillis inherited a solid base and he made a couple of good defenseman additions and a couple of good secondary additions to the forward group. That’s it.” when he actually added half the team.”

            If you want to believe that the Canucks are going to continue to be a good team by finding guys like Oreskevich, Rome & Lapierre to fill out the bottom of the roster, be my guest.

            If you look at all 5 years, Gillis (like all GMs) has been hit or miss on depth guys. For as good as Manny was for 1 season, Booth has been useless for almost 2 seasons. For as good as Samuelsson was for 2 seasons, Bernier was underwhelming for 2 years.

            And Ballard as a $4.2 million utility defenseman…well, I hope that speaks for itself.

  • Almost all of the Canucks prospects in Chicago were considered to have taken a step back this season, but it was also well documented that Chicago was not really willing to play the Canuck prospects that much. We’ll never know how much that affects their development, but I’m actually excited that the Canucks have their own AHL franchise now.

    I’m hoping it will really focus much more on development and getting the Canucks prospects into more leading roles on the team, and have a big emphasis on development, rather than being relegated to depth roles behind a bevy of AHL regulars.

  • For Gaunce and Jensen, yes, they have gained expected value but Corrado has certainly gained more value than anyone here could possibly have expected.
    Also, who from the 2007 prospect pool was part of the “foundation”? I don’t count Hansen as a prospect but you could.
    Some, not all but some, of the poor drafting has been made up by the signings of Lack (probably worth a first round pick), Corrado (a second round pick) and Tanev (probably another second). All without the use of draft capital. And more recently, McEneny is probably worth a 6th round pick by now after a fairly strong season as a un-drafted FA.

    Possible young core players: CoHo (inflated numbers, but still did well on the first line in Buffalo) and Lack (assuming no long term hip effects, projects as well as Schneider did) could both have a Schneider/Lack impact. The next tier down, but still “core” (depending on definitions) includes Tanev, Corrado, Jensen and, less likely, Gaunce.

    If you are looking at a “hint” of a core player, you have to admit that both Lack and Tanev provide that.

    • Well this series is up to year 3 of the Gillis tenure. Hence, my focus on the first 3 drafts.

      I have given credit to Gillis for guys like Tanev, Lack, Billy Sweatt among others.

      But it’s not something that has to go away if Gillis were to be fired. The Canucks are a big market cap team irrespective of the GM. All big market teams should be battling for undrafted college and European free agents.

      Lack and Tanev as core players? Really? Maybe Tanev keeps beating the projections and can be a lower end 2nd pairing defenseman (largely because of the scarcity of RH defenseman). I guess that could be a player bordering on “core”. He’d have to be better than a 4th defenseman on an average team to be a core guy for me, though.

      As for Lack, I really don’t see the obsession. The comparison to Schneider seems awkward. Schneider was widely regarded as one of the top 2 or 3 goalie prospects (along with Raask & Bernier if I’m not mistaken) for a long time before 3 elite years in the NHL.

      Could Lack be one of the many goalies to come out of nowhere and be an above average or better starter? Sure. But so could any of these young goalies in the minors.

      I’m not sure how many reputable scouts would put him in the same boat as a Markstrom, Lehner or Subban in terms of upside.

      If a goalie isn’t in that 1st boat of goalie prospects, I’m not sure how much he should be valued. And even that 1st boat of goalie prospects aren’t without risk.

  • pheenster

    NMOO blames what he says are 3 years of poor drafting for the current state of the Canucks but conveniently ignores the fact that Gillis’ 5 years of drafting from 2008 to 2012 have produced, either directly or indirectly, Kassian, Schroeder, Peter Anderson, Joe Cannata, Niklas Jensen, Ludwig Blomstrand, Frank Corrado and Brendan Gaunce, all of whom are either contributing now or remain legitimate to good prospects.

    Maybe Gillis couldn’t trade Sauve for a second, but my guess is that Corrado, taken in the 5th, is worth at least a second now and that Jensen and Gaunce are each worth more than a late round first. And Kassian may well be worth a tenth pick.

    The proposition that Grabner is a quality complimentary player on a good team is debatable.

    From 1999 to 2007, Canuck drafting produced the Sedins in 1999, but nothing from the later rounds,Kevin Bieksa in the 5th round in 2001, Kesler from 2003, Cory Schneider, Edler, and Jannik Hansen from 2004, and Mason Raymond from 2005. Does he not remember Patrick White and Taylor Ellington from 2007 taken before David Perron and P.K. Subban? Or Nathan Smith ahead of Steve Ott, Justin Williams and Niklas Kronwall in 2000? Or Marc Andre Bernier ahead of David Backes and Colin Fraser in 2003.

    When you look at teams like Boston, it is players from the draft years before Gillis arrived on the scene who are now in their primes and providing major contributions. It takes time to replenish a prospect pool that was as poor as the one Gillis inherited.

    • pheenster

      “Maybe Gillis couldn’t trade Sauve for a second, but my guess is that Corrado, taken in the 5th, is worth at least a second now and that Jensen and Gaunce are each worth more than a late round first. And Kassian may well be worth a tenth pick.”

      All of Jensen, Gaunce & Corrado’s values have gone up since the time they were drafted. So, yes, all 3 of those players could be traded for more than the cost to draft them.

      But that’s how it should be. A 2011 1st round pick that has held value is worth more than a 2013 1st round pick. The player is further along in his development and closer to contributing to the NHL team if he hasn’t already.

      While I would still prefer to see a future core player as opposed to a platter of contributors, the 2011 draft looks good so far. But, again, 2011 is Gillis’ 4th draft and there still isn’t a hint of a future core player like Schneider or Edler. Aside from possibly CoHo…

    • pheenster

      ” It takes time to replenish a prospect pool that was as poor as the one Gillis inherited.”

      The “poor” farm system that Gillis inherited was the foundation for one of the best teams in the league for maybe a 3-4 year period. A poor farm system with middling graduates is what the next GM would inherit if Gillis were fired today.

      But, hey, how can I argue with the notion that Kassian could be traded for a 10th overall pick. He can’t, by the way. He’s worth less than Steve Bernier when Buffalo traded him at the moment. This could change, of course. But his value right now is nowhere near a 10th overall pick.

      Kassian & Schroeder haven’t even proven they are NHL regulars considering they both spent time in the AHL this year.

      There is absolutely no sugarcoating how little value (both in terms of selections and traded picks) those first 3 drafts have provided Vancouver to date.

      There is no sugarcoating the fact that the chances of those first 3 drafts providing a core player are slim to none.

      A realistic projection would have Kassian possibly turn into a secondary player and Schroeder have a Kyle Wellwood-like career.

      There is a reason our farm system is not well regarded in the industry. The Vancouver Canucks are not the Detroit Red Wings or Atlanta Braves. They have not shown an ability to beat the industry projections.

  • pheenster

    This was the best Canucks team ever. It was good enough to win the Stanley Cup. But it just as well could have been eliminated in round 1. That’s just the way the playoffs go.

    Manny was an excellent signing. Hamhuis was a great signing, though I’d argue any Canuck GM could have signed him to his heavily discounted contract. Many teams wanted him and the Canucks got him because of geography moreso than anything to do with the GM.

    Torres, Higgins & Lapierre were also good short term acquisitions.

    However, this was also the culmination of 3 years of poor drafting combined with poor trades (aside from Ehrhoff & rentals).

    As it stands, the Canucks could not recoup the value on a single top 3 round pick from years 2008 – 2010.

    Kassian (via Hodgson) could not be traded for a 10th overall pick. Sauve could not be traded for a 2nd round pick. Schroeder could not be traded for a 22nd overall pick. Rodin could not bring back a 2nd round pick. Connauton might be able to bring back a 3rd round pick; but he was traded in an ill-advised trade for a rental.

    And 3 poor trades for Bernier, Alberts & Ballard gave away numerous top picks and a quality secondary player in Grabner. Needless to say, none of the assets lost in acquiring those 3 players can be recouped as their values have all bottomed out.

    If people are wondering how the depth has eroded, the use of draft picks from 2008 – 2010 both on selecting players and on poor trades is by far the biggest reason.

    Also of note, for 3 years the Canucks have been spending $8.7 million of their cap on Hamhuis & Ballard.

    Any way you slice it, $8.7 million is not a bargain on a #2 defenseman (Hamhuis) and a utility defenseman (Ballard).

    Whatever surplus value Hammer has provided has been undercut (and then some) by the cap suckage known as Ballard.

    People can say “Gillis didn’t know he was getting Hamhuis”. However, this does not preclude trading Ballard AFTER acquiring Hamhuis. Or trading Bieksa. Though I’d argue having 4 left shot defenseman (Ehrhoff, Edler, Hammer & Ballard) might not have been the best idea.

    Gillis’ endgame with those moves is curious as it never made cap sense to have an expensive 5th defenseman.