Gillis the route of the problem
By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
At the year-end press conference, the red-faced, tired-looking Mike Gillis addressed the media with a line of frustration that endured his voice. Question after question, Gillis answered and made excuses for the reasons why the Canucks were stunned in the first round of the playoffs; not once did he accept responsibility for the failings of his team. He blamed it on a lockout season, nagging injuries to key players, and the way that the game has changed in today’s NHL. It was pathetic seeing him shoulder his blame onto mere shortcomings that piled up over the course of the season.
He stated at the trade deadline, after acquiring Derek Roy, that you need great goaltending and a lot of luck to win the Stanley Cup. But looking at the playoffs this year, the four teams in the Western and Eastern finals are the past four Stanley Cup champions. I wouldn’t say that’s lucky, they’re just that good of teams.
The recent firing of Head Coach Alain Vigneault seems to be the beginning of the end of Gillis’ final moves with this organization if he doesn’t turn the team around this season. The expected and predictable decision came nearly three weeks after the Canucks were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the quarterfinals of the post-season which speaks loads in terms of how slowly decisions are made for this team under Gillis’ guidance. His predictability and lack of guts is why the Canucks are in the position they’re in right now.
A new coach should have been a given after the early exit in the first round of the playoffs to the LA Kings last year. A team that finished first overall in the NHL in consecutive years and went to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals loses in six games to L.A. in the first round? That is unacceptable, especially in a hockey-mad city like Vancouver. But Gillis kept Vigneault and look where it led this Canucks squad—another early exit in the first round. A wasted year. However, the blame doesn’t rest in Vigneault’s hands. The man was a class act coach who got the Canucks within one game of winning the Stanley Cup. But after seven seasons players begin to tune out the voice they’ve been listening to for so long. It’s as simple as that. His time had come. Even the greatest coaches of all time go from team-to-team. There just needs to be a change, a new voice in the room with a different approach to the game and players.
For Vigneault’s sake, Gillis didn’t make it any easier on him after the Cup run two years ago, regarding the players he’s been given to play with. Following the dreadful Stanley Cup finals loss, Gillis failed to resign juggernaut defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, pesky-forward Raffi Torres, traded Mikael Samuelsson for David Booth (a complete bust), and shipped out their best prospect in years, Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian (another complete bust). Not to mention the whole Roberto Luongo dilemma, which Gillis failed to take care of last year and this past trade deadline. The truth of the matter is Gillis has made this team worse than they were when they competed deep into the playoffs during that magical 2011 run, so how can you expect them to be nearly as successful when they don’t have the tools? The only effective and strong player that Gillis has brought into this squad in the past two years is defensemen Jason Garrison—and that’s not saying a whole lot.
A coach can only do so much with the same group of players, year after year. There needs to be some sort of gutsy decisions and risks that the GM has to take in order to improve their team. That’s their job.
This offseason Gillis must address the goaltending situation. There’s no way Cory Schneider and Luongo are going to be sharing the same net next season, which means either unloading Luongo and his 12-year contract (another huge mistake by the GM) or trading away the highly sought-after Schneider who could bring in some key players in return. The core needs a shakeup as well, possibly getting rid of Ryan Kesler or Alexander Edler for some young talented players. However, knowing Gillis and his boring predictability, this is very unlikely. I wouldn’t be surprised if all he gets done is the goaltending dilemma come next season.
All eyes are on Gillis, as this seems to be his final straw before getting dumped.
Vigneault to go
By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
The argument is not whether or not Alain Vigneault’s seven years with the Vancouver Canucks was a failure. After all, he is the winning-est coach in franchise history and the recipient of the 2007 Jack Adam Award. He coached two Presidents’ Trophy teams and got the Canucks all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. He has done everything possible, except win the cup and that is why it’s his time to go.
With Vigneault’s leadership, the Canucks have become a tough team to cheer for. An undisciplined team that whines over every call and flail like soccer players at every check. “We deserve it,” felt like the mentality of the Canucks these past few seasons, instead of most other teams’, which is, “we’ll earn it.” They expected everything to be handed to them and that made them consistently lose in the playoffs despite having such an elite team. The Canucks might be straight-A students in the classroom, but out on the playground they are incompetent.
He is always diplomatic and polite, but he never had any fire. In his press conference after game four of the 2013 Stanley Cup quarterfinals against San Jose, Vigneault looked absolutely defeated as he answered questions. Meanwhile, his players were in the locker room complaining about a bad penalty against Daniel Sedin in overtime. It was a pathetic image, far worse than getting swept in the first round.
The Canucks have never been a team with killer instincts. A long history of losing to bad teams and playing well against good teams made Vancouver an incoherent group. Leadership has always been a problem with the Canucks from the days of the soft-spoken Markus Naslund to “unable to do much because he’s a goalie,” Roberto Luongo, and then to the other soft-spoken Swede Henrik Sedin. The team needs a passionate leader that doesn’t only lead by example, but also by exclaiming it. Vigneault was not the type of man that gets his team fired up, he couldn’t rock the boat and he never won a championship.
Vigneault might have squandered the best years of the Vancouver Canucks, and any coach after will be working with the remains of a first-class team, but there are a few Head Coach-calibre candidates out in the market that may be suitable for our deteriorating Canucks squad. Former Rangers bench boss, John Tortorella has a quality that might just force the team to the next level. His fiery attitude is exactly what this undisciplined team needs, and he would do wonders when it comes to short-term goals, such as winning the Stanley Cup.
Another candidate would be Lindy Ruff, who for many years has been waiting to join a competitive hockey team. Renounced as one of Canada’s top coaches year after year, it would be interesting to see what he could bring to a team that has metaphorically been colouring within the lines for so many years.
Vigneault was not GM Mike Gillis’ organic choice. He was the hand-me-down of former GM Dave Nonis, and although they had a successful six-year partnership, Gillis will now search for a coach that can lead with an iron fist and not just a courteous smile.