First domino to fall: Mike Gillis fired


The fans that chanted “Fire Gillis” near the conclusion of last night’s home defeat to the Anaheim Ducks – putting a firm seal on any sort of outside shot the team had at a playoff bid – got what they wanted today.

According to reports, General Manager Mike Gillis has been let go by the Vancouver Canucks after 6 largely successful seasons on the job. But this is a “what have you done lately for me?” business, and things had completely gone off the rails for the franchise that was one win away from being a Stanley Cup Champion less than 3 years ago.

With the team mired in a tailspin, there’d been all sorts of rumblings floating around for a while now that Gillis wasn’t long for this job. While it was believed that he may’ve helped alleviate some of that tension with his inspiring interview on Team 1040 last Thursday, apparently it wasn’t nearly enough to save him from getting the axe.

The best head coach, goaltender, and GM in franchise history have now all become casualties in the span of 10 months now, as the soap opera in Vancouver continues to drag on without a sign of slowing down. This is surely the first domino to fall in what will be a long, and absorbing summer for the team.

The attention now shifts to coach John Tortorella, as it’s still unclear whether this news affects him in any way. When this news broke I was actually in the process of reading Jason Botchford’s Provies from last night, which have been the best source of insight into this entire ordeal:

“If the owners do fire Gillis, they will be hoping a new general manager would be willing to keep Torts.

That’s a big ask. Not only would the Canucks have to find someone willing to work with the Aquilinis, they would need to find someone willing to work with Tortorella. That’s a helluva frightening double bill right there.

Of course if Gillis goes, the Aquilinis would be doing it knowing a new GM may want his own coach. But that’s only if they don’t have a successor picked out already.”

One potential candidate that’s surfaced and would likely be OK with keeping Tortorella around for another kick at the can is Jay Feaster, which is as alarming as it sounds. The two have a working history from their days back in Tampa Bay, but that’s about the only positive I can think of. I’m not sure going after Calgary’s sloppy seconds is the right way to approach this delicate matter, personally.

As John Shannon alluded to in that tweet, though, I’d imagine that the Aquilinis will approach putting this convoluted puzzle back together piece-by-piece. The first play could involve bringing Trevor Linden into the fold in a president role, which is a headline that quickly got bumped down to being the second biggest piece of news around these parts today. While Linden quickly squashed those rumours on Global TV this morning — where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and that connection between the former player and the team makes a whole lot of sense.

After that, it appears that they’ll bring in the new GM, who they’ll entrust with handling the coach (hopefully in a different way than they did the former decision maker, if all of the reports are true). While we collectively pray that the guy I mentioned earlier isn’t actually in-play for the role, a name that would garner legitimate interest is Markus Naslund, who has some real managerial experience in Sweden

If nothing else, next year’s campaign of “WE’RE BRINGING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER” would surely be a hit with the fans. Based on the total clusterf*ck that this entire season has been for the Canucks, the franchise really could use any sort of PR help it could get right about now.

This’ll all take some time to play out, though. Especially considering all of the questions that need to be answered:

Will Gillis finally shave and take another job as a GM elsewhere? Or will he just continue to cash cheques, grow out his goatee, and snidely end every tweet he sends out with #stillonpayroll? How long will it take for the fans to turn on guys like Naslund and Linden if they’re brought in for management roles? Will they forego the alumni route and just promote cap magician Laurence Gilman instead? And what’s the buffet scene like in Vancouver (fine, Jay Feaster asked me to throw that one in there..)

While the team couldn’t help itself from casting Mike Gillis’ corpse to the side of the road as soon as it could, we’ve got the full summer to dissect and debate potential candidates and courses of actions as each little inkling become public knowledge.

Anyways, I’ve gone ahead and attached some further reading and takes on the Gillis firing, in case you’d like to continue reading up on it. I’ll also be joining Stephen Quinn on CBC Radio’s “On The Coast” later today at roughly 3:15 PM PST if you’d like to tune in and hear my thoughts, again, on the matter.

  • The Benevolent Orca

    Most interesting discussion. I think after reading some of the arguments here my thinking has changed. I used to think Burke was a great GM and always would have accepted him back into Vancouver. I still think he’s done a lot of good work but he might be a bit over rated.

    I always thought that he inherited a good core from Murray but made some shrewd moves to put them over the top. After this discussion it seems he got lucky.

    He took advantage of brotherly love and signed Scott. He took advantage of his relationship with Pronger (Burke drafted him essentially), who knows if there were other teams that Pronger was willing to go to. Lastly, he got lucky that MacLean was trying to make hockey work in Columbus and needed a big name.

    Maybe the same could be said for Gillis’ time in Vancouver. He got lucky with signing Hamhuis. He took advantage of his relationships with players and got them to sign in Vancouver to help mentor the younger guys (at least Demitra if not Sundin). He took advantage of a GM trying to clear some cap space and acquired a defender who changed things up for the Canucks.

  • pheenster

    Does anyone remember when Steven Bellringer was the GM, or at least part of a weird triumvirate with Steve Tambellini and Mike Penny? Only, that Mike Keenan was secretly… NOT A SECRET AT ALL… the real GM? It was that weird Quinn-Burke interwar period, when the times were good, and then very bad (the good part being the fun we had making fun of former BC Gas executive ‘The Gas Man’ Stephen Bellringer; the bad being Mike Keenan being the real GM.

    I like to think of that to remind me how bad things have been. Then a day like today doesn’t seem so bad at all. It seems like a summer breeze by English Bay in July — a minor, but needed blip in otherwise awesome world.

    The Canucks will bounce back. The NHL, in its cyclical nature, demands a down time in Canucks fortune. Now is time to decide how this team will move forward.

    Please, oh please, show Torts the door next. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He can’t get this team out of this funk. But do the right thing: can him after this week. We need to have someone run this terrible powerplay in to the ground. And he’s the master.

  • JCDavies

    Could you write an article about Dave McNab potentially becoming the next GM. He’s a fascinating guy and he’s also a local! In my mind, he would be our best option.

  • andyg

    Are you seriously discussing whether he was one of the best GM in our history?

    Only in Vancouver would the fans run a GM out of town and then sit around and discuss how he was the best GM we ever had!