Mike Gillis shows why he should be out of a job
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
Another NHL trade deadline has come and gone. The rumours and whisperings of big-name moves have now either come to fruition or left hopeful fans disappointed and wondering what might have been. The latter category is what Vancouver Canucks supporters fall into—and once again, Mike Gillis has proven himself to be anything but a fan favourite.
This time last year, the Canucks were still only two seasons removed from their Stanley Cup run that ended in defeat against Boston. It wasn’t the strongest roster, but it was certainly a capable one. Toss in the fact that there were two starting-calibre goaltenders on the team and most would have thought it to be a fairly ideal situation. Since both had been coveted by GMs around the league for some time, it seemed inevitable that Gillis would pull the trigger on some major deal in the offseason to bolster the roster for another run. The obvious candidate to get a ticket out of town was Roberto Luongo. Being older and carrying a larger cap hit, Luongo was more or less a foregone conclusion to be traded by most fans. And then Gillis did the unthinkable and traded Cory Schneider. It wasn’t so much that Schneider got traded, though that was a surprise in itself, as was the fact that Gillis got virtually nothing for him. A first-round pick? Not only did Gillis move the wrong guy, he got fleeced while doing it.
Fast-forward to this year and Gillis has made a mess of things again. Yes, he got Luongo out of town, but for what? Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias? Essentially a goaltender who has that magic “potential” label and a career third-liner. ‘Atta boy, Gillis. But more worrying than the lack of a return on Luongo was the fact that Gillis seemed crippled by indecision on what direction this team is going to take over the next few years. They can’t win a Cup with the current squad—that much is obvious. With the knowledge that a Cup is out of reach there are two options: rebuild, or make one last push.
If Gillis wants to rebuild, then holding onto players such as Ryan Kesler (now 29-years-old) is a waste. They can be dealt for younger assets who will help the team in the long run. Having star players with no supporting cast just ensures mediocrity, and no one wants that. Clean out the veterans so there’s ammunition for the next run. Alternatively, Gillis could have also decided that there’s enough talent on the roster to make a push for one more go. If that were his thinking, he would have mortgaged the future to pick up a big name (e.g., Thomas Vanek) in the hopes that it would be enough. Gillis, however, did neither, and sat on his hands.
Now the Canucks are in the difficult position of not being good enough to take the next step but not bad enough to pick up a top draft pick. With aging stars and a significantly less inspiring goaltending duo, the next few years may not be as much fun as the previous ones were.