Canucks problems extend beyond Gillis and Tortorella – Weekend Watchability Index


Unfortunately, you can talk more about the soap opera in the Vancouver Canucks front office more than you can talk about the actual Vancouver Canucks games on the ice. There appears to be a variety of conflicting views between ownership, management and coaching, and those rumours about ownership trying to bypass Mike Gillis into hiring John Tortorella as coach doesn’t bode for the future for several reasons—the first of which being that you never want the owner making the on-ice decisions.

Dimitri, who is a Cowboys fan, surely can relate.

You don’t want to let the manager off the hook for anything, and ultimately would hope that Gillis has the authority to put his foot down and say “no, we aren’t doing xxxx”, whatever xxxx may entail. This isn’t a problem just in Vancouver. You often hear about how pressure from ownership forces managers into decisions they may not otherwise make. You don’t want to let Dave Nonis off the hook for signing David Clarkson, but “ownership was offering me a five-year extension to get it done” is a pretty good excuse, and if last summer’s bizarre UFA spree was all it took for Nonis to get into the good books of one of the most powerful sports executives in the world, well, I’d have signed David Clarkson too.

Fans are in a position we’ve never really been in before. There’s a point in Moneyball when Michael Lewis describes how a baseball blog reacted to the Chicago White Sox trading Ray Durham to Oakland for a minor leaguer in 2002, calling White Sox general manager Kenny Williams an “A’s fan”. Right now, fans are armed with tons of statistical information and have the ability to watch every single game from the junior ranks to the pro ranks, if you’re willing to shell out enough cash. You’re never going to get a fan who doesn’t in some way disagree with the moves an executive is making, no matter what information you’re going to use.

20 years ago, I’d say that fans had to trust management to make the right decisions, and you cheered on the players you had, and you really wanted your team to get the stars you saw come through town twice a season. Today, any average Joe can sit in his basement and give it enough thought to pick which players will produce more than the players the manager chose to go with, without regard for office politics.

In a way, a fan can conceivably construct better teams in his basement than an NHL general manager, which is probably why there’s so much anger when things go completely haywire. We’re at a point when casual fans are demanding the heads of Gilis and Tortorella, and not without basis either. It’s very easy to point to mistakes made by both men that were preventable, and a better course of action could have made the team better.

But you can’t account for the barriers that get in the way. Read enough business books and you’ll learn that the business world is lecherous and rewards luck rather than skill. In hockey, we get to see it when a player who has high shooting percentages and PDO in his free agency year cashes in more than the player who got unlucky in that regard, and the hockey world is not introspective when Clarke MacArthur or Mason Raymond out-produces Mike Ribeiro to a considerable extent the next season for a much cheaper salary. In the office as well as the ice, the focus is on the past and maintaining present relationships rather than the future success of the team.

You can listen to Gillis yesterday over and over and come to the conclusion that the Canucks on the ice are in better shape than the Canucks off the ice. We can agree that certain correctible things can put the Canucks back in a playoff spot: less reliance on Tom Sestito, a PDO correction to the mean, a better distribution of games between the two young, big, Swedish goalies on staff and just one young scoring winger. I don’t think the team is that far off, despite the group looking hella flawed right now, there’s a playoff team in here.

So, who knows. Based on what’s been said, I don’t think Mike Gillis is back and I don’t think John Tortorella is back, but I don’t think that those departures will correct whatever is wrong with the team. No matter who the next GM is, if he’s an old school ex-jock or a young, handsome and smart programming geek, it won’t matter if ownership still thinks they can interfere with the direction of the team.

Thank Pavel there are 29 other teams in the league we can watch.


The Canucks are completely out of it, but hockey is still a fun sport to watch, and the watchability index ranks the games played between Friday and Sunday based on the quality of teams in the game, impact on playoff races, as well as the potential for wild, high-scoring contests.

Dallas vs. Tampa Bay – Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific

THE HOOK: It looks like the fight between Dallas and Phoenix for the final playoff spot is going to come right down to the wire. This being Canucks Army, where we’ve pretty well adopted Jamie Benn as our own and despise the Canucks big rivals Phoenix, obviously we’re pulling for the Stars here. The Bolts are just as fun to watch as ever, a little deeper than the Stars and are fighting for home ice in the first round against Montreal. Both teams have been high on my GameCentre priority list this season and are playing for something that matters.

Winnipeg vs. Toronto – Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific

THE HOOK: Toronto makes me simultaneously love and hate hockey. I despite the jock favouritism surrounding the organization, but the drama this season has just been off the charts, with huge win streaks and losing streaks marking several wins and losses for the analytics crowd at points throughout the season. The drama was amped up against Boston Thursday when Jonathan Bernier was hurt and the Leafs had to let James Reimer out of his cage. They’ll have to turn to Reimer against his hometown team and you get the sense every game from here on out could be curtains for Toronto. I think every team wants to be there to deliver the final blow.

Chicago vs. Columbus – Friday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific

THE HOOK: This could be interesting. The Blue Jackets facing Chicago while on the second half of a back-to-back with their starter playing in the first half doesn’t look good on paper, until you consider that the Blackhawks are also a tired group, are without their two best players and have to play this game on the road. Both teams are pretty up-tempo and the playoff chase is just about when everybody in the hockey world jumps on Columbus’ bandwagon.

Just one thing… don’t call them #LUMBUS anymore. That was 2013, when the Jackets were underdogs, not good, and winning because of a hot goaltender. The Jackets have much better skaters this time around, can win without Vezina-calibre goaltending, and just might make it. They’re a team to be taken seriously if they can pull out that second Eastern Wild Card spot.

Pittsburgh vs. Colorado – Sunday @ 5:00 p.m. Pacific

THE HOOK: I was considering omitting this game from the list because neither team has much to play for from here on out and I think these two teams have the 29th and 30th ugliest regular sweaters in the National Hockey League. Also, Evgeni Malkin and Matt Duchene are out of each team’s respective lineup, and neither ROOT Pittsburgh or Altitude Sports are remotely watchable feeds. You know what? Skip this one altogether. There’s probably some good Sunday night TV, and that Islanders-Blue Jackets game will be in the third period as this one starts.

The Watchability Index unfortunately does not take into account injuries, nor broadcast quality. This will change for next year.

Detroit vs. Montreal – Saturday @ 4:00 p.m. Pacific

THE HOOK: This will be Pavel Datsyuk’s first game back from injury against a team that doesn’t play in Buffalo, and we couldn’t be more thrilled at the prospect of Detroit getting healthy at the right time. The injuries up front this season have made the Red Wings use some of their awesome young AHLers Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco and you have a tough time seeing either of them back in Grand Rapids while the Wings push to clinch that playoff berth.

Montreal, like Tampa Bay, is in that dogfight for second in the Atlantic, so if the Toronto-Winnipeg game isn’t your cup of tea, I daresay this game should be a little more interesting if you want to fire up the old machine and its glorious free streaming service.

Additionally, with Douglas Murray suspended for three games, the Canadiens may actually play well.


Calgary vs. Florida – Friday @ 4:30 p.m. PST

Buffalo vs. Philadelphia – Sunday @ 4:30 p.m. PST

Buffalo vs. Detroit – Friday @ 4:30 p.m. PST

  • argoleas

    On what basis do you believe that Canucks ownership “meddles” any more or less than the 29 other ownerships in the NHL?

    Is it because a few “insiders” have emphasized these rumors as an after the fact explainer for why this season has gone to hell?

    The key here is that these “insiders” have this information because somebody wanted these “insiders” to have this information.

    If you don’t believe me, ask the guy who wrote this story:

    “No matter who the next GM is, if he’s an old school ex-jock or a young, handsome and smart programming geek, it won’t matter if ownership still thinks they can interfere with the direction of the team.”

    Now that we’ve gone fully into accepting these “rumblings” as 100% true, let’s consider the following.

    The Aquillinis “intervened” a few years ago and accepted the sunk cost known as Brad Lukowich’s contract in order to land Christian Ehrhoff.

    We can infer that Doug Wilson would have preferred to dump salary on an Eastern conference team since the chances of it coming back to bite him were slimmer.

    But the best option for Wilson to dump salary was to give Ehrhoff to one of his biggest rivals.

    Why is that example of ownership intervention oft-overlooked in favour of the nefarious, puppet master characterization where Aquillini’s sole purpose in life is to step on all of our dreams?

    Instead of taking what the used car salesman said during yesterday’s all too public “Dear Diary” entry at face value, we should ask ourselves what Gillis had to gain by airing his dirty laundry in public?

    Job #1 for a general manager is self-preservation.

    Just ask Mark Cuban…

    • I don’t think my pieces here are incompatible with one another. This isn’t Mike Gillis leaking his thoughts about the team, this is Mike Gillis going on radio and saying that the team has drifted away from where he wants to play and that everybody on staff is uncertain about the future.

      Had an “insider” reported a couple of extra details, it doesn’t really mean anything without Gillis’ radio quotes. He’s accountable for those, but those that talk through insiders aren’t.

      • From where are you getting all this (excessive) ownership intervention stuff?

        And why are you ignoring the very real possibility that an executive is simply trying to deflect as much resposibility as he can from his own mistakes?

        And speaking of the “drifting away from the things that made us successful” stuff, why take an admitted flip flopper at his word?

        An admitted flip flopper who claims that Eddie freaking Lack should be in the Calder conversation if he had more run support.

        As an analyst, are you not offended that he is insulting you by focusing on pitcher wins as opposed to the things that are actually within a pitcher’s control?

        Yesterday was simply Gillis trying to control the message. Nothing more.

        • It’s not “flip-flopping”. There’s also nothing really wrong with flip-flopping, unless you’re writing political attack ads. It’s a sign of progress to change your opinion of something when you get more information.

          Ever played 2048?

          You go for a little bit, are in a great position, and then a couple of moves later you think “heh, maybe should have done that differently” but there’s no Undo button. You just sort of drift away from the good position you were in, due to overthinking something or not paying close-enough attention to what made you successful.

          It’s not flip-flopping to think that maybe you made a made a mistake. It’s difficult to point to what exactly that mistake is or was. All you can hope for is to not make it again.

          • “It’s a sign of progress to change your opinion of something when you get more information.”

            While I don’t disagree, since it has nothing to do with the original point, why do you simply take him at his word when his actions do not show any signs of progress?

            A big part of an executive’s job is selling gullible fans on their nonsense…

            And, again, from where are you getting all this (excessive) ownership intervention stuff?

            “I don’t think my pieces here are incompatible with one another.”

            That goes with saying.

            Yet you have not given any reason why you seem to be accepting these rumblings at face value while telling your readership something else not too long ago…

    • jung gun

      First of all I don’t care what 29 other owners and franchises do, I buy Canucks tix, gear and the pay per view to watch the Canucks.

      Any owner of any business that isn’t a start up “should” hire people they are confidant in and allow them to do their job. If the GM prefers another coach and you disagree then fire the GM and bring in someone that has the same POV as you do. As an owner or a boss you can’t have your head guys second guessing themselves or trying anticipate what the “boss”wants.

      Ask any doctor that has to make life and death decisions and the good ones will say, “if you are wrong, be wrong with conviction” make a choice and commit to it. This whole season seems that there is no continuity. The coach is teaching a style that isn’t instinctive to our group of players. What’s next, bring in Torts players and mix the. In with the run and gun AV Canucks?? That would be a disaster. Fire Torts give him a severance package and get a coach that will do the job.

    • andyg

      You don’t like this article do you? I hear one of the owners now has a office across the hall from Mike.

      Maybe they will keep Torts,fire Gillis and run it themselves.

  • “Yesterday was simply Gillis trying to control the message. Nothing more.” – NM00

    Is there something you don’t like about Gillis controlling messages? Or did you just disagree with his message and those of Cam’s, and therefore counteracted with a message of your own? And were you in control of that message or did it sort of get the better of you?

  • jung gun

    General question for the community: what do you all think about the possibility of Horvat being Kes’ LW next season? From watching highlights and clips of his games, he displays pretty high intelligence and anticipation, as well as a crisp, quick pass that seems to find seams. If either Burrows or Kassian is on the RW of that line, I can see potential for both a defensively responsible line that’s capable offensively. It might not usher in another 70+ point season for Kes, nor bring Kassian’s game to a 55 point level, but it could develop into that sort of line within a couple years. It would also free up Kes to take draws on only his strong side, switching duties with Horvat whenever suitable.

    I’ve heard counterarguments to bringing Bo up from juniors, but I’m not sure they’re all that strong, considering overage seasons are generally easy for talented players, not to mention untalented players, and not very indicative of future success – hello, Top Sixtito. Also, he isn’t eligible to play in the A, so he’d either have to make the jump, play in juniors, or go overseas, which might be a reasonable option, but seems to labour development because of the adjustments to style – playing tendencies, ice size – which to me suggests that he would be better suited to play in the NHL with talented pros. Obviously, in an ideal world, he’d play for at least another year with the Comets, but that isn’t an option this year, so this is an option I see as feasible.

    As another option, we could dip into the free agent pool, and I’d offer suggestions, but I know very, very little about what’s available this summer. Does anyone else know what options we’ll have?

    I also think that Mattias is a solid 3rd line centre between Higgins and Hansen, making a reasonably fast, hard hitting, semi-skilled line that can cycle down low, apply some pressure, wear down defensemen, and pop a few goals in by crashing the net and making plays from behind it, which is why I don’t think Horvat should be the centre for any kind of Preparation – H line. That’s because the minutes would be limited, the players are less skilled, and he could be better utilized to develop his offensive upside.

  • argoleas

    Either it’s the owner or Gillis, it doesn’t matter at this point, the problem starts at the top down. The quitters on the team tuned out and got AV fired a couple of years back, but it seems now that AV was not the real target. Gillis being the sneaky bench warmer that he is saved his skin by throwing AV under the bus and now is prepping to do the same to Torts. This ship keeps on sinking and at least the captain on the titanic stayed on the boat to save passengers before going down with the ship. Gillis grabbing all the life preservers and pushing any man, woman or child out of the way in order to save his own useless skin. Gillis knows this is truly his last stand, can’t see any sane owner in the NHL who’s dumb enough to ever hire him and Gillis knows this.

    Clearly, clearly the owners have no intention of building a tea to even compete for the cup judging by the fact that this club does really nothing but sit on their ass most of the time. Wonder why Torts is playing Lack so much? Because Torts wants to show Gillis or the owner how stupid it was to trade a future goalie like Scheinds away for nothing. So obvious Gillis thought Lack would be a star and no amount of talk will convince ppl like Gillis how wrong they are unless you do what they want and let them fall on their own feet.

    Gillis is the worst GM of all time, and just another Canuck side note of a long long line in the abyss that is the Canucks junkyard. 2 presidents cups in 44 years? Not good enough, try harder or don’t try at all. Canucks need to stop hiring talkers like Gillis and the Sedins and the D. The time for talk is long over.

    • argoleas

      Worse than Milbury or Snow? And that is just two I can think of right away.

      A team’s success is not just measured in cups won. It is a business above all, and the team has had lots of successful seasons since the early 1990s. I dont buy this junk yard line crap one bit. Your criticism is so over the top its not even worth wasting oxygen on it.