‘They panicked and have not recovered’: Tony Gallagher on how the Canucks got here

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
1 year ago
Whenever Tony Gallagher comes out of the woodwork to talk about the state of the Vancouver Canucks, everyone tunes in to listen.
And last Wednesday, the legendary Vancouver Sun columnist stopped by Donnie & Dhali – The Team to discuss the issues stacking up around the Canucks franchise, both on and off the ice.

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To someone who’s watched the Canucks since the very beginning, Gallagher has seen all the best and worst times the organization has faced. But even with some lean, lean years in the history books, this season is looking like a potential new low to him.
“We’ve seen it before, maybe not quite this bad. The tradition here is not strong, and that’s a problem,” Gallagher said.
The main problem in Gallagher’s eyes stems from ownership, and their inability to let the Canucks properly rebuild the team in favour of shooting for mediocrity.
“You’ve got to start at the top with the Aquilinis. Their inability to find successful management is quite amazing. And yet, we know they can do it,” Gallagher said. “I mean, they found it early on in their tenure as owners when they brought in Gillis and that crew and they had great success with altering the talent they inherited and improving it taking a serious run at it and then running back, and then I think the ownership panicked a little bit and moved Gillis out of there and there was a lot of public heat on them. That was their first introduction to public heat at the time, around 2014-2015..and they panicked and they have not recovered.”
“The proof’s in the pudding with respect to the ownership. The owners bear the responsibility for hiring the management team. How many times have they appeared in the playoffs? Where are they now in the standings? There’s your answer.”
He then went on to detail how the loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final completely altered ownership’s mindset towards the team and how it should be constructed.
“After the loss in 2011, I think there was a real push from ownership to move away from the speed and skill that Gillis was trying to do and had successfully done. In 2011, the Canucks were so [clearly] the best team in the league, it was ridiculous. But after that, I think there was some meddling,” Gallagher said about the sudden change in philosophy.
“There was a push to make the team tougher like Boston at the expense of speed and skill. And I think the management realized they wanted a little bit of that too, after 2011. But there was some meddling at the time. In the last six years, I have no idea.”
The root of the team’s current on-ice issues is obvious to Gallagher; the lopsided construction path.
“There’s no question that there’s a tremendous imbalance on the team. They have all these forwards making money, they don’t have any defence, and the pressure that’s been put on Demko is remarkable,” Gallagher said.
“The management crew they have is just grasping at straws and virtue signalling, and it’s beginning to reflect on the ice. You’re looking at the product they’ve put in front of you, and you have a massive number of highly paid forwards that have achieved the square root of Sweet Fanny Atom, and yet they’re all getting massive money.”
And Gallagher wasn’t just referring to Jim Benning, either. He has his reservations about the new front office in charge, and what their actual end goal is.
“The first thing I thought was, what on earth does Jim Rutherford want to come out here for? He’s getting longer in the tooth, and I just don’t understand these guys who wish to remain in hockey until their dying breath,” Gallagher said of the Canucks’ President of Hockey Ops.
“Managing the Vancouver Canucks is a massive challenge. You have so many sorts of geographical strikes against the tradition. The fanbase is impatient and has been severely abused over the years. He’s a solid individual, and he has a very good management record. But I just couldn’t understand why you’d want to get involved here.”
Gallagher also questioned Rutherford’s decisions to fill the front office with largely new names, inexperienced in the positions they were chosen for. While he had high praise for the likes of Assistant GMs Cammi Granato and Ryan Johnson, he still felt a lot of the front offices’ work currently revolves around learning rather than fixing, along with wondering what Dale Tallon’s job as senior adviser actually entails.
“Patrik Allvin’s a rookie GM…I don’t know whether he makes any decisions. Emilie [Castonguay] and Cammi are new to the business and Ryan Johnson has got some good young experience under his belt,” Gallagher said. “I don’t know much about Derek Clancey, but Dale Tallon, his senior advisor, I don’t know what the senior advice has been so far, but I’m not sure it’s too thrilling.”
“I’m sure they’re learning on the job and maybe one day, they’ll all be extremely successful. But right now, there’s a pretty high price to be paid.”
If he were to offer some wisdom to ownership on how to turn things around, it would be to make sure they’re listening to the right people when it comes to hockey decisions.
“I would suggest that the people whose advice they sought out at one stage are different from the people whose advice they sought out in a second stage. And they should take note of that,” Gallagher said. “Obviously when the Aquilinis go to make decisions, they need advice from people because their focus is business and real estate… But when it comes to hockey, they need advice, they need help, and where they go for that advice is crucial.”
“So far, the returns on where they’ve gone have not been highly successful or they haven’t paid off very well.”

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