Time Has Made Mike Gillis’ Draft Record Look Better – But It’s Still Bad

Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SPORTS

The emergence of several players after Mike Gillis was fired, including Bo Horvat, Ben Hutton, and Brendan Gaunce, and even strong AHL showings from Jordan Subban, Alex Grenier, and Joe LaBate have served to dull the pain from a decade of poor results during the Ron Delorme era, the pinnacle of which coincided with Gillis’ reign as GM.

A short time ago, Anton Rodin made his debut with the Vancouver Canucks, and in doing so he was the eighth Mike Gillis-drafted player to make his NHL debut after Gillis was fired. The addition of Rodin and core players like Horvat and Hutton to the Canucks lineup make Gillis’ draft record look vastly better than it was, and some have speculated recently that his drafting might be better than we thought.

Well, that’s not really the case. Vancouver’s draft history over the last fifteen years has been so abysmal that anything looks good. Even with these new young players brightening the ranks, Gillis’ draft record is still not good. And I have evidence.

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Note: the NHL data in this article was gathered on January 23rd, making it about nine days out of date. Though the all-star break occurred in this period, a few games have been played by each team. This moves the exact numbers by a small amount, but would not affect the results as a whole.

Drafting by Volume

Gillis ran six drafts from 2008 to 2013, calling a total of 37 names. Already we can spot a problem: since 2005, there have been seven rounds in each draft, with every team receiving a pick in each round. Over the course of six drafts, that would equal 42 picks – meaning the Canucks have five fewer picks than they were given automatically, before factoring in trading away and recouping picks, or compensatory picks for coaches and unsigned draft picks. In this six-year period, only two teams (Philadelphia and the New York Rangers) made fewer selections.

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Naturally, the first thought would be: “well, the Canucks were one of the best team in the league at the time, they were trading away picks to stay competitive for the playoffs”. That is, of course, true – between 2008-09 and 2012-13, only the Chicago Blackhawks tallied more points in the standings.

However, the line of reasoning that tells us we should expect so little draft picks in the name of being competitive doesn’t exactly stack up with the data. While there is a statistical relationship between the two, there are teams that were having as much or more success than the Canucks that were also accumulating more draft picks.

Standings Points vs Number of Draft Picks

In this chart comparing total standings points (2008-09 to 2013-14) and total number of draft picks (2008 to 2013), you can see teams with approximately the same amount of standings points as Vancouver (like Washington and Detroit) with several more draft picks, and the same can be said of team with more standings points: San Jose.

And just take a look where Chicago is – the Blackhawks won two Stanley Cups in this stretch (and another shortly after it) and trail only San Jose in standings points (by 1), and yet they had more draft picks than anybody.

It’s been established time and time again that the best and safest way of drafting is to go into the draft with as many picks as possible. Over stretches of decades or more, the difference in the percentage of success per draft pick varies very little from team to team. The “best” drafting team in the league has only roughly a 20 percent advantage on the “worst” drafting team in the league (this is a lesson for the current Canucks management group as well). The best way to succeed is to stack the deck.

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Mike Gillis and his staff did not do that. Chasing a Cup, they dealt their selections and failed to recoup them, while also failing to grab the greatest prize – one that would have bought them forgiveness for all of this.

To make matters worse, Gillis’ staff whiffed on a large percentage of the picks that they did keep, especially in the early going. At the time of his termination, no team had fewer draft picks that had reached the 50 NHL game plateau, though a couple of others were tied with Vancouver.

NHL Draft Picks WIth 50+ GP After 2013-14

The only two players at this time meeting the threshold were Cody Hodgson (211 games) and Jordan Schroeder (56 games). Gillis had already traded Hodgson for Zack Kassian, and his successor neglected to qualify Schroeder following the 2013-14 season. Hodgson is already retired, while Schroeder is barely clinging to an NHL spot in his home state of Minnesota.

Gillis was rightfully criticized at the time for leaving the cupboards bare, so to speak.

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Since then, the Canucks have had no less than eight former Gillis draft picks – Bo Horvat, Ben Hutton, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Alex Grenier, Alex Friesen, Joe LaBate, and most recently Anton Rodin – make their NHL debuts, while another – Jordan Subban – was just recently on an NHL roster, though he didn’t get to play.

Only three of those aforementioned players have taken part in 50 NHL games (Horvat, Hutton, Gaunce), while two others that had previously made debuts passed the 50 games mark as well, bringing the total to seven. An improvement of five players in this span is nice, but as you can see, it hasn’t really moved the needle in the big picture:

NHL Draft Picks WIth 50+ GP

Only Toronto now has fewer 50-game players from the 2008-2013 drafts – given that this was the Nonis era for the Leafs, that’s not really an accomplishment that warrants bragging. Not that one should ever be tempted to brag about being second worst at anything.

The linear trendline slicing upwards across the graph is telling us that there is a very strong correlation present. It’s one that we hammer again and again – more picks are predictive of more NHLers. The colourful chart below demonstrates this as well. It contains the total number of picks that each team made between the 2008 and 2013 draft, and the number of players that crossed various thresholds. Colour scaled from highest (green) to lowest (red), there’s an obvious distinction between the teams that picked more and the teams that picked less.

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The chart also contains standings points, playoff appearances and rounds won, so you can get a feel for the general inverse relationship between team success and the number of picks, as well as just how ridiculously impressive and usual it is that Chicago has had as many picks as they’ve had.

Team Table

Note the particularly dark redness of many of Vancouver’s columns – they rank worst in terms of number of 10-game, 25-game, and 200-game players, and are down near the bottom in every other category. They may have pulled out of last place in terms of players that made at least one NHL appearance, but having players like Yann Sauve, Alex Grenier, Anton Rodin and Joseph LaBate play just a handful of games, with futures unknown, doesn’t really count as successful drafting. Nor does Alex Friesen’s single gratuitous game, which, aside from probably been a thrill for the player himself, might as well have not even happened.

Here is a summary of Gillis’ draft picks that have “made the NHL”, along with each of their games played and point totals.

Gillis Draft Picks

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Three of the top four players in terms of games played are no longer with the Canucks organization. Cody Hodgson is already retired, so he won’t be adding anything to his resume. Prior to that, he became Zack Kassian, who became Brandon Prust, who became a UFA.

Kevin Connauton never even played a single game for the Canucks, having been included in the Derek Roy deal before making his debut. Roy also left as a UFA. Jordan Schroeder wasn’t tendered by the new regime, while Frank Corrado was lost on waivers. Nicklas Jensen became Emerson Etem, who was also lost on waivers. So not only did the Canucks not get value out of their draft picks while they were here, they didn’t get much of anything in return for them either

Note that both regimes are responsible for this second point, as Jim Benning’s crew has shuttled off many assets without getting a return – of course that could also say something about the “assets” that Mike Gillis left him with.

Value per Pick

The current regime has also been negligent about stocking up on draft picks. Many of Jim Benning’s staunchest defenders will point to his draft history (which I won’t be reviewing here) and claim something along the lines of “he may not have a lot of picks, but he’ll be able to get more out of the ones he has”.

The one comment I’ll make on that is that the rate of success between the best and worst drafting teams is not that significant and that harvesting picks is still a smarter method.

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In terms of Mike Gillis’ record, though, he went in the complete opposite direction. Not only did he not compile that many draft picks, he made poor selections with the ones he had. This is first illustrated in the following graphs which present numbers of draft picks against total games played.

NHL Games Played vs Number of Draft Picks

Here Vancouver sits well below the trendline, indicating a below average return on the few draft picks they made.

Another colourful chart drives this point home. Again you’ll find Vancouver down here the bottom (this chart is sorted by percentage of draft picks that played 50 NHL games), and again you’ll find many of their columns in dark red.

Team Table Rates (50)

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You’ll see the same trends in this graph of the number of picks against the total number of points. Again, Vancouver was unable to gain an advantage – the points per game of their draft picks are about league average, which combined with their poor return in terms of games played, results in a poor return in terms of points accrued.

NHL Points vs Number of Draft Picks

Again, only Pittsburgh has collected fewer points from players drafted in this time frame, and they won a Cup in 2009 and were in the Finals in 2008 (not to mention winning again in 2016). Like the Canucks, they were pushing all in, but the difference between winning and losing a championship makes Pittsburgh’s situation a lot easier to swallow.

Recouping Draft Picks

We’ll allow ourselves to throw some blame towards Ron Delorme, whose challenges are well chronicled here, for the lack of success from the players chosen. In fact, the 2013 draft in which Eric Crawford took over appears to be the most successful of the group. Mike Gillis bears responsibility in both letting Delorme run the show for as long as he did, as well as in failing to recoup the draft picks he traded away while chasing a championship.

In fact, I could make the argument that Mike Gillis and Lawrence Gilman’s contract wizardry ended up hurting them in this regard, in a very strange twist. They massaged the salary cap to the point that they hardly needed to remove any core players following their big run. Compare that to a team like Chicago:

  • They received a 1st and a 2nd round pick in Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager trade, and a 2nd round pick in the Andrew Ladd trade in 2010.
  • They received a 1st round pick for Troy Brouwer in 2011.
  • They received 2nd and 3rd round picks for Johnny Oduya in 2012.
  • They received 3rd and 5th round picks for Michael Frolik, and a 2nd and two 4th round picks for Dave Bolland in 2013.
  • They received a 3rd round pick for Brandon Bollig, and a bevy of prospects for Nick Leddy in 2014.
  • They received 2nd and 3rd round picks for Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen, and two 2nd round picks for Andrew Shaw in 2016.

Comparatively, the nearly three years that Gillis remained with the Canucks following the 2011 Cup Final, they accumulated the following picks:

  • A 4th round pick for the negotiating rights to Christian Ehrhoff.
  • A 3rd round pick in the trade of Mikael Samuelsson for David Booth.
  • A 1st round pick for Cory Schneider (which of course became Bo Horvat).
  • A 5th round pick for Rafael Diaz.

The Canucks didn’t need to get rid of core players like Mason Raymond, Dan Hamhuis, Sami Salo or Chris Higgins, or even role players like Raffi Torres, Max Lapierre, Manny Malhotra or Aaron Rome. Without being forced to remove them, they eventually lost every single one of them to free agency (again, the current regime bears responsibility for a couple of these names).


Again, the point of this article is not to drag Mike Gillis’ reputation through the dirt. He presided over the most successful era in franchise history, building the teams that won the only two Presidents Trophies in franchise history, maximizing value by exploiting the Collective Bargaining Agreement and pushing the bounds of sports science in ways that have since been adopted by organizations like the Chicago Cubs.

But the man flat out could not draft hockey players. Or at least, the group he created and managed couldn’t.

Recent NHL debuts, and the blossoming of certain Gillis-era picks hasn’t changed the fact that, by and large, the Canucks were one of, if not the worst drafting NHL franchise between 2008 and 2013. We’ve just been so accustomed to terrible that were impressed by below average.

We can only hope that the current regime, one that hasn’t been shy about shifting blame in regards to the state of the franchise on to their predecessors, has learned something from the mistakes of the Gillis regime. Early returns indicate that Benning’s group certainly seems to be better and getting NHL players from their draft picks, but their volume of draft picks at the previous and upcoming drafts indicate that they haven’t learned that lesson yet.

  • Pat Quinn Way

    Markstrom – our next number one goalie

    Tanev – our top shutdown defenceman

    Horvat – our top ‘all star’ centre

    Hutton – equal top offensive defenceman prospect

    all Mike Gillis signings

    two presidents trophies

    one western conf championship

    five division titles in five years

    playoff hockey five years straight

    stanley cup final (seven games)

    These are the only ‘stats’ and facts that matter to me.

    Thank you Mike Gillis for your wonderful service and the great exciting hockey you gave us.

    Jim Benning – thanks for absolutely nothing in your three years (and counting the days until you are gone).

    • I am Ted

      It’s people like you that make stupid people look smart. Really. Gillis was gifted almost all key players. Horvat looks to be a good pick. Tanev was a good free agent signing. Hutton has taken a step back this year and hopefully he can rebound and become a top 4 guy (I think your head is in your ass if you are already labeling him a top offensive d-man).

      Hey idiot, the Markstrom deal was primarily put together by Lu’s agent.

      Jeremy, it’s great to see someone else who acknowledges giving out NTCs and term for slightly cheaper contracts has proven to be an issue because you can’t flip these guys when their value is high for high picks and so on. I am amazed at how ignorant Canucks fans can be. WTF did you think was going to happen when you hand out NTCs and keep players beyond their prime and can’t get good assets in return?! Just amazing. PQW, I thought NoMind00/JD Burke was an idiot. I think you might be running for that title.

      Gillis would be a nightmare if he stepped into the mess Benning and Linden inherited. If Benning was gifted Lu in his prime, Sedins hitting their prime as well as Kesler and a pretty solid young D-corp…well, yeah…

      I lost a lot of respect for Benning after not getting assets for Hamhuis and not tanking for Matthews at the end of last season.

      Yeah, Gillis…he put together that team. Holy crap you’re an idiot.

        • I am Ted

          Miller has a partial no trade and I don’t know Eriksson’s no trade details. I never wanted him to begin with. I thought he was a $5 mill guy and for no more than 5 years. So, no, I don’t like that move either. It seems like a desperation move but it does bring in a solid player to help compete.

          Benning is far from perfect but he is far better at adding talent than that moron Gillis.

      • crofton

        When will people like you come to realize that “tanking for Matthews” would not have worked and will never work again thanks to the Edmonton Rule and the lottery. The ONLY time a tank was guaranteed to work (as in get to pick 1st) was when the team finishing LAST actually drafted FIRST. And I guess you have forgotten already, Vancouver finished 3rd worst last year but thanks to the lottery, drafted 5th. Tanking is a fool’s errand.

    • Killer Marmot

      In the future, you might find it’s Stecher or Juolevi, not Hutton, who is the top offensive defenseman for the Canucks.

      And Tryamkin who is the shut-down defenseman and an awesome weapon on the PP.

      And Boeser who is the all-star centre.

      And Demko who is the dominating goalie.

      In which case, I expect you to send a nice “Thank you” note to Benning. Maybe with little hearts on it and stuff.

  • Bud Poile

    Gilis inherits a young core of stars and rides them into the sunset,leaving Benning with Hutton,Gaunce and Bo.

    When we consider Bo was gained by losing an NHL starting goaltender (and one in which the Canucks spent many years grooming),we can see Gillis never left one top-nine forward for Benning,no top-four d men and no starting goaltender.

    I enjoyed this article as the fan base can now witness the task Benning was fully given,without me being the bearer of the obvious.

    However,the author’s quote: “The one comment I’ll make on that is that the rate of success between the best and worst drafting teams is not that significant and that harvesting picks is still a smarter method.” does not apply in the case of Benning.

    Benning traded picks for roster players,as ‘Killer Marmot’ points out.

    Benning’s drafting success rate is not a “team” record,it’s his record as he has only been here for three drafts.

    Benning pulls five NHL’ers-and may end up with six-in his first draft.That’s drafting excellence.

    The picks/players he traded were for NHL players that became Canucks roster players now.

    Gillis screwed up so completely and now the unrepentant CA Gillis supporters and Benning bashers get to enjoy their moment of shame.

    • Dirk22

      You can see the smile on Dud’s face from here as his favorite target is being painted in a lesser light. If only he could just enjoy that without having to resort to the usual Dud propaganda:

      “When we consider Bo was gained by losing an NHL starting goaltender (and one in which the Canucks spent many years grooming),we can see Gillis never left one top-nine forward for Benning,no top-four d men and no starting goaltender”

      So Bo doesn’t count because he was acquired in a trade, and Tanev and Hutton are figments of our imagination. Even Kassian was playing top-9 minutes back then – and still is.

      “Benning pulls five NHL’ers-and may end up with six-in his first draft.That’s drafting excellence.”

      Really Bud?

      I know this is exciting for you, but why diminish your time to shine with all your little fibs. Anyways, whether you like Gillis or not, or think that Benning is a better GM than he, the fact is Gillis got fired. So if you didn’t like what he did, that’s all done now and it has nothing at all to do with Benning’s incompetence.

        • Pat Quinn Way

          Hey Bud – serious question, could you tell us if you were a Vancouver Canucks supporter between 2008 to 2013 and also, were you cheering for the Canucks during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final…?

      • Freud

        A very complex piece that somewhat explains the moving parts in drafting and how luck plays a pivotal role.

        But in Bud’s dumbed down world, the guy who wins more coin flips in more chances somehow has a talent over the guy who wins fewer coin flips in fewer chances.

    • Dirty30

      God you’re stupid. “Not one top nine forward”?

      Two Sedins you idiot — what are they? Fourth liners?

      Kesler, Burrows, Hansen, and even Higgins were all top nine.

      No top four Dman? Elder, Tanev and Hamius … plus the first guy Benning traded (Garrison) for that putz Vey.

      And the one guy who did draft well for Gillis — Eric Crawford — is the first guy Benning fires.

      And the team could have gone with Lack or signed a decent back-up for a fraction of Millers cost.

      It is so painful reading your hysterical ranting and lunatic ravings.

      • crofton

        Since you like to pass along the idiot mantle….the point was Gillis didn’t draft a top 9 forward that is still with the team. “When we consider Bo was gained by losing an NHL starting goaltender (and one in which the Canucks spent many years grooming),we can see Gillis never left one top-nine forward for Benning,no top-four d men and no starting goaltender.” He didn’t draft the Sedins, Burke did, idiot. See how that works? The others I’m too lazy to check, but he didn’t draft Higgins and I don’t think he drafted Burrows or Kesler either. As to top4 D Tanev yes, Edler, not so sure, never really been sold on him. And they traded to get Hamhuis…so again…what drafts did Gillis leave that are currently playing?

        And Lack? You mean the guy with the 3.79 GAA and the .856 save%? Good grief!

          • crofton

            Try to develop some reading comprehension skills, especially the part of my post in quotation marks. Of course he drafted Horvat, the point was that he was the exception to the top nine forward comment, and it came at the cost of a #1 goalie, and not a draft pick not obtained in a trade.

          • Dirk22

            You’re right – maybe I do need some help with your words – for instance, I’m now trying to comprehend what “and not a draft pick not obtained in a trade” means.

        • Dirty30

          To say that Gillis left nothing simply isn’t true — Benning had assets left by previous managers which happens for every GM. The narrative from Bud that Gillis ruined this team and that Benning is the saviour is, in my opinion, idiotic, simplistic and ignores a lot of facts.

          BTW: “Idiot” was a legal term to describe people who were considered incapable of managing their assets and lives in general. So Benning’s ‘asset management’ and Bud’s mismanagement of facts and reality are indeed, idiotic.

          • Bud Poile

            Gillis left the Canucks franchise and Benning with an empty future.

            Everybody knows that and this article spells it out for you and those of you that choose denial.

            I have never stated Benning is a savior but my God he was handed near squat while Gillis inherited a list of Canucks stars and superstars.Yet,he is vilified here for taking on the task of rebuilding the Gillis gutting of this franchise and that is unacceptable.

            Ignoring all these facts is idiotic and simplistic,indeed.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    I’m concerned about the number of draft picks that Benning and Linden have been bleeding these last few years. Benning seems to offer a second round draft pick in every trade he makes.

    Now he won’t ask players with no trade clauses for trade options, further handcuffing his ability to acquire draft picks for expiring assets.

    At least with Gillis the team was winning.

    • Killer Marmot

      The Canucks have not traded away their future in draft picks.

      Going forward, the Canucks have an extra 2nd-round draft pick either in 2017 or 2018 (Blue Jackets’ choice). And they have traded away their 5th and 6th round draft picks for 2017. Apart from that, they have all of their future picks.

      Since a 2nd-round pick is worth more than a 5th and 6th rounder put together, that’s a slight advantage to the Canucks.

  • Killer Marmot

    We can only hope that the current regime, one that hasn’t been shy about shifting blame in regards to the state of the franchise on to their predecessors, has learned something from the mistakes of the Gillis regime.

    So Davis can blame Gillis for crappy drafting, but Benning can’t? That doesn’t seem fair.

  • Spiel

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the article does not seem to account for the quality of draft picks, just quantity. A team with more 1st round picks or consistently picking higher in the draft should do better, no? All draft picks are not created equal. A 7th round pick has a much smaller chance of being an NHL player than a top 30 pick, and a 30th overall has a much smaller chance of being an NHL player than a top 3 pick.

    An analysis that assigns an expected value to each pick a team used and then looks at what they reaped compared to what would be expected would be much more interesting.

    Sad thing is I don’t think it would make the Canucks look any better.

  • TheRealRusty

    A couple of observations

    1) Strong perennial contenders reload year after year (ie. Hawks). They sell assets that have reached peaked value after each playoff run (non core players) to get draft picks and prospects. They supplement each year with “value” ufa’s, thus ensuring constant renewal of younger prospects and hungrier veterans. What they don’t do is to ride each non core player until they leave via free agency and lose them for nothing. I blame both GMMG and GMJB for not understanding this concept.

    2) The one constant in how horrible the canucks have drafted is Chief Scout Ron Delome.

    3) As a new GM without an extensive background in scouting, Gillis would have trusted the people already in place to provide accurate information from which good actionable decisions can be made. Maybe it took GMMG a few drafts before he realized who he can and cannot trust within his scouting department. Maybe he was insistent on having his own way and finally saw how wrong he had been. Either way it is speculation and we will never know the real truth unless an insider spills the beans. But what we can discern is that there was a marked improvement in years 3-5, but even that was too late to save him from getting fired.

  • TheRealPB

    Good article. I wonder if you might comment on the fact that the only Gillis picks that seem to have made a difference as a cohort are those from his last draft. Does that mean that the scouting was better, that the draft cohort was better or (as I suspect) that the problem with Gillis was not only draft strategy (overage players) but development? Between the mess with AHL farm teams and the general lack of attention to junior players as opposed to pros, there doesn’t seem to be much attention paid to the prospect pool during his tenure.

    The comparison with Chicago is really interesting; their hand was forced in a number of those trades of “core” players, of whom the only true star who showed as much afterwards I think is Byfuglien. All the rest are complementary players who were often overvalued by later teams (Ladd, Brouwer, Bollig and Bickell in particular). That they got such good value in their trades does however show one of the other problems with Gillis which was holding onto such complementary pieces (Bieksa, Kesler) far beyond their highest value and of course making an utter mess of having two star goalies. As much as I love Horvat getting 2 solid prospects in Horvat and Markstrom for two starting all-star calibre goalies is ridiculous.

    • Jamie E

      Great comment and great questions PB. The important question that I think you left unasked is this:

      Did Gillis hold onto complementary pieces too long of his own volition or was a Gillis rebuild plan nixed by a meddling owner as has often been rumored?

      All NHL owners have some say and some involvement in the operations of their teams. I’m not sure the level of involvement that our owners have is entirely healthy, despite constant public assurances otherwise.

  • Killer Marmot

    Early returns indicate that Benning’s group certainly seems to be better and getting NHL players from their draft picks, but their volume of draft picks at the previous and upcoming drafts indicate that they haven’t learned that lesson yet.

    There’s nothing wrong with trading away draft picks to acquire young players. You are still building for the future.

    As examples, both Vey and Baertschi were acquired for 2nd-round draft picks, and Pedan was acquired for Mallet and a 3rd round pick. Vey didn’t work out, but in principle there was nothing wrong with these trades.

    The problem arises when management regularly trades away draft picks for older players, but there hasn’t been too much of that, and they have been balanced by trades where the opposite has occurred.

    • TD

      Killer Marmot makes a great point. CA consistently states a second round pick has around a 20% chance of playing 200 games. The article criticizes Benning for not stockpiling picks. Vey was considered a failure, but he has played 138 games in the NHL. While doubtful, he may end up being a “success” and making it to the 200 game mark. Even considering Vey a failure, Baertschi looks to be a success with 185 games played. 1 out of 5 second round picks apparently becomes an NHL player (200 games). Benning went 1 for 2 with Baertschi and Vey, but he continually gets criticized for trading away picks.

      What lots of these articles don’t look at is the quality of the player. I like Gaunce, but he has no goals this year and is playing on the 4th line. Despite these pedestrian stats, he is considered a success for Gillis in this article. Detroit grabbed Lidstrom with the 53rd pick of his draft, Zetterberg with a 210th pick and Datsuk with a 171st pick. That is successful drafting. You can’t compare getting superstars with top picks to finding them in the later rounds. You also can’t compare a 200 game 4th liner with a top six player.

  • redrocket

    why does it have to be one or the other? gillis and benning are/were in very different situations.

    gillis’ job was to put the team over the top and win the cup. he brought us within one win of that goal, one more win and he’s looked at in a much different light.

    benning on the other hand is tasked with rebuilding the core of an aging team. he’s already rebuilt the prospect pool in goal and on defense, while keeping the team fairly competitive, and hopefully this offseason he adds a few more pieces to the forward side of things.

    maybe i’m overly optimistic but i was happy with gillis during his time on the job and i’m happy with benning as well.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    Good article, though I have to wonder if the draft picks were somehow weighted against “expected success” or some such metric how things would look. Yes, the Canucks traded away some picks during the Gillis regime, but those selections were often in the mid to upper 20’s of each round, so realistically looked at individually represent lower chances of success. In general, the distribution by round and slot of the draft picks actually used by a team would almost certainly contribute to a correlation with eventual success.

    I think your take on the Blackhawks was an especially interesting one. By being salary cap wizards, the Gillis regime was able to keep a lot of their players, but this ended up being inadvertently negative because it lashed them to declining assets and hampered the roster flexibility they would need to refresh the team year after year. Conversely, the Hawks actually screwed up sending off their qualifying offers (I think Dale Tallon missed a deadline one time), and generally made their own lives much harder under the cap, but serendipitously actually helped themselves because it forced them into shipping out higher priced veterans and helped them to keep their roster fresh and the pipeline flowing. Perhaps the last 10 years have been an object lesson on how (and how not) to use your salary cap space, thanks to the Hawks success with fairly steady turnover in their bottom ranks. As I see it, you should only give money and term to the guys who should be on your first unit power play (if it were being run properly). IE: your top line, your best 2 defencemen and your starting goalie. Maybe you pick one more player to commit to (eg: your “Selke” center, as opposed to your “Art Ross” center) The other players aren’t expendable, necessarily, but you should always put yourself in a position to try to replace them through the draft with younger and hypothetically better players. In other words, always, always, pick the best guy available in the draft, don’t pick for defined roles, and let the cream rise to the top, and most of all, never, ever trade your 1st and 2nd rounders, unless maybe you’re a juggernaut going into the postseason as a top contender.

    • DJ_44

      Excellent observations.

      With respect to Chicago, they have been in a luxury position with a young, extremely talented core that will carry the team, regardless of bottom six. Add Hossa and Hjalmarsson, and you have provided yourself the luxury do what they have been doing…..up to the point where the core breaks downs.

      The Canucks, in my opinion, when Benning took over, had a huge chasm to cross to get to that position, so his job has been to try to get to that point. His bridge has been to trade some picks (he is down three in the +/-) for players to bridge the gap, while looking for the next core. He has not gone after rental players; the only asset he was really unsuccessful at moving was Hamhuis, where he was boxed in.

      Goaltending….Defense…forwards. I haven’t agreed with all his moves, but you can see the direction he wants to go.

      It is easy to make claims…..”worth lots” …. 1st rounder, but if you listen to people who know, reality is different.

      I doubt Miller is moved. The market is extremely limited, although that may change with injury.

    • crofton

      I thought the same thing as you re: being salary cap wizards. It ought to confound a few of the “experts” in the blogging and posting ranks when they have spewed about how poorly Vancouver has done since Gilman has been gone. But I do admit, that negative aspect of cap management may have been unpredictable.

  • Fred-65

    If we were to apply the same context to a draft as we do to a trade Gillis would win. The usual way to judge a trade is “who ends up with the best player” and in this case the BEST by a l-o-n-g mark is Horvat. No one else comes close. Plus remember Gillis drafted in a different spot with his continual run of success. Benning has drafted at the # 5 & 6th spot. The highest spot Gillis got was 9th. In addition Gillis of course picked up Hutton, Tanev, and I still have hope for Rodin once over his knee problem. Benning took Virtanen and McCann ….brilliant … Tryamkin might be good but Tanev is better. Boeser ( so we’re told) is good but Horvat is better.

    In addition from a season ticket holders perspective we had years of quality entertainment from the Gillis era. It was good to be a Canucks fan during the Gillis era, you need thick skin to be a fan today

    • Bud Poile

      “….we had years of quality entertainment from the Gillis era. It was good to be a Canucks fan during the Gillis era, you need thick skin to be a fan today.” Fred

      It’s a shame you weren’t aware that the team had no future prospects and no future with no plan,Fred.

      It may have tempered your euphoria had you an inkling what was actually happening in real time.

      • Pat Quinn Way

        Yeah hi Bud – in case you missed it as many here are eager for a reply… could you tell us if you were a Vancouver Canucks supporter between 2008 to 2013 and also, were you cheering for the Canucks during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final…?

        • Bud Poile

          PQW,the poster Biech banned years ago for being a classless clown.I was a Canucks fan before your Momma popped you out underneath that bridge you’re still living under.I was a Canucks fan before your Daddy got loaded up and your poor Mother was left to deal with you.

    • crofton

      I agree, it was better entertainment, but now we’re paying the price of draft picks and prospects traded trying to get over the hump and win a cup. Re: the best player is Horvat…I like Bo a lot but that’s comparing a goaltender to a forward, kinda like apples to oranges. If Bo develops into a 35 goal/90 point centre, you’re hella right, as for now we just remain hopeful.

    • DJ_44

      This it Trump-type facts being presented. Gillis drafted lower down? Fine. Comparing apples to apples, remove Virtanen and Juolevi from the equation (who will both be very good NHL players).

      Benning will have essentially matched Gillis’ output over six draft years in his first draft year (2014).

      With respect to Hutton, who seems like a good kid, but he is not in the top six on the Canucks blueline as far as quality of play. Tanev was signed as a FA (just like Stecher, so we will call both “drafted”, shall we?). I like Rodin as well, there is Gaunce, and …… and ….. and …. Cassels? Subban?

      So you have Bo (a quality pick, no doubt), and then it gets pretty thin pretty quick.

      Wait, is Schroeder still with the Wild?

  • wojohowitz

    Gillis was not brought in to overhaul the management group including the scouting staff but only to replace Nonis as Gillis argued at the time that Nonis would never get the Canucks over the top and ownership agreed with that opinion. The thinking at the time was that the Canucks were very close to a cup and working towards that short term goal was everything. If the Canucks had won that cup then Gillis would be in the ring of honour rather than remembered as an incompetent dimwit.

  • wojohowitz

    The worst trade Gillis made might have been a 2nd round pick to Buffalo for goalie Mika Noronen who played only 4 games for the Canucks. It showed a total disregard for the value of draft picks.

  • LTFan

    The article was interesting and I would say – more or less – fair.

    Quite a number of commentators on CA are quite knowledgeable and certainly have their opinions on the players and management. But what purpose is served by a number of you, when critiquing someone’s comments by trashing the person somewhere along the way, usually at the end of the critique. For me, it takes away from the good comments in most cases. You just have to get a shot in at the other person. IMO it is childish.

    One of the worst is “Hockey Warrior” who fires away at just about anyone and everything that is pro Canucks. I don’t even read his posts anymore.

    So folks, keep commenting, criticizing, praising, analyzing, what the Canucks do and don’t do, but try to refrain from some of the unnecessary comments when you disagree with the other person’s position on the topic.

  • apr

    Very few GM’s can steward a winning team as well as replenish its roster through the draft. Holland, who has been considered the top GM in the league, has been struggling with that. I wonder if their fan base has been clamouring to tank.

    Yes, Gillis was extremely poor at drafting – but I think he was starting to figure it out once he re-arranged the scouting department. The trades for Ehrhoff, Higgens, Lappiere were critical to the team’s success. He could have passed on Vignault. And everyone passed on Lucic, Gallagher, and Benn. Yes, I wish he drafted better – but he did steward the best 5 years of the team’s history – and I think there is a lot to be said for that.

    Anyone hear Benning’s interview? He’s definitely getting better at communicating and seems to me like a person who has a clear vision/plan.


  • Pat Quinn Way

    Let’s face it, every Canucks fan is frustrated, bitter and angry and no one is going to be happy with anything until the Canucks win a Sranley Cup… but will that ever happen in our lifetime?