This is Mike Gillis as a Boston Bruin, maybe 25 years ago. Gillis is the new Vancouver Canucks General Manager and he offers us a rare opportunity to see what someone outside the “old boys network” will do when given the chance.
I’m rooting for him even though Gillis is the man behind the big desk in Vancouver. Reason? He’s unique, it’s evident in all kinds of ways.
Before this week, I was impressed with his measured approach to things. His first move was to hire a capologist (excellent plan when your 23 employees make $57M) and then he hired Scott Mellanby as an assistant. Good idea too, since Mellanby isn’t that far removed from the game and would have the kind of “local knowledge” that gives every golfer a three stroke edge over someone who just stopped in because it was on the way to Grandma’s house.
He then fired the assistant coaches from last season, but retained the head coach through 2009-10. This gives him a chance to search out his real coach and also an opportunity to give the appearance of fairness in regard to Alain Vigneault’s job. I don’t mind the coach personally, but most of my Canuck fans friends think he’d be better off letting the skill players loose a little more. Gillis will give him his 18 months and then probably fire him in time for Christmas 2009.
Gillis then hired Ryan Walter (who may be the next coach) as an assistant coach. This feels like a “Craig Simpson” hire, as in a local ex-player with knowledge, a reputation and let’s face it a bit of an egghead outlook on the game. For a team that has spent much of the last 40 years just sending people over the boards in numbers, an egghead outlook might be a refreshing change of pace.
He then hired Stan Smyl as director of collegiate scouting, which I think is probably the first stroke of pure genius in his GM career. The Canucks should be able to procure a couple of players a year if the steamer still has his eyesight and depending on signing amount these fellows might be able to go straight to the show as $600k depth players. Brilliant idea, and lots of college free agents are NHL players now, plus he can be another set of eyes for the draft eligibles.
He then hired Dave Gagner as director of player development. I don’t know much about Sam’s dad (except he has excellent taste in women) but he has spent the last couple of seasons evaluating and working with talent and that’s a nice foundation for his current job.
At the draft on the June 20th weekend, I felt Gillis’ group did very well. Cody Hodgson is the new Mike Richards, selected a quality D prospect in Yann Sauve and then a very interesting fellow by the name of Prab Rai whose skating alone makes him a quality prospect. The Canucks traditionally draft players who play exactly like their scouting director (Ron Delorme) did back when the Canucks had those awful “V” uniforms.
The he hired a sports psychologist and claimed Kyle Wellwood off waivers in the same week, which I think is comedy worthy of the recently departed George Carlin.
But I think he’s getting schooled this week. By other GM’s, by agents, by Mats Sundin. Here are his moves since UFA week began:
- Offered Mats Sundin 2 year contract worth 20 million
- Signed David Backes to a offer sheet of 3 years woth 7.5 million, Blues matched
- Signed Darcy Hordichuk to a 3 year contract
- Signed Ryan Johnson to a 2 year contract worth 2.4 million
- Signed Nolan Baumgartner
- Signed Alexandre Bolduc
- Signed goaltender Curtis Sanford.
The Canucks need skill players and I applaud their efforts in attempting to acquire Mats Sundin. However, at some point they’ll need to move on here because if Mats decides to play for Toronto in August the Canucks aren’t going to have enough NHL players to compete even with Jesus Luongo.
The David Backes offer sheet was solid, although I don’t think it was dear enough to make the Blues seriously consider declining it. A better team for them to pursue would be the Red Wings (Filpulla) with Patrick O’Sullivan, Steve Bernier, Matt Stajan and Jarret Stoll all interesting candidates.
Gillis has made depth moves, the kinds of moves other teams will make a week or two from now, and he hasn’t done much of anything to improve the club’s top 2lines. Soon to be gone are Naslund and Morrison, and that outcome will leave these players as the current top 6:
- Daniel Sedin
- Henrik Sedin
- Taylor Pyatt
- Ryan Kesler
- Kyle Wellwood
- Alex Burrows
To borrow 2 lines from the classic film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”:
- You’re going the wrong way
- You’re going to kill somebody