Mike Gillis: The Human Rain Delay

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:

  1. Offered Mats Sundin 2 year contract worth 20 million
  2. Signed David Backes to a offer sheet of 3 years woth 7.5 million, Blues matched
  3. Signed Darcy Hordichuk to a 3 year contract
  4. Signed Ryan Johnson to a 2 year contract worth 2.4 million
  5. Signed Nolan Baumgartner
  6. Signed Alexandre Bolduc
  7. 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:

  1. Daniel Sedin
  2. Henrik Sedin
  3. Taylor Pyatt
  4. Ryan Kesler
  5. Kyle Wellwood
  6. Alex Burrows

To borrow 2 lines from the classic film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”:

  1. You’re going the wrong way
  2. You’re going to kill somebody

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35 Responses to "Mike Gillis: The Human Rain Delay"

  1. Islandlife says:

    Of course your interpretation of events is bang on, but the story telling is much more. You could make a living at this kind of thing.

  2. Oilman says:

    The Kings LT – not the Red Wings….an honest mistake seeing they are basically identical organizations:o)

  3. Oilman says:

    1. You’re going the wrong way
    2. You’re going to kill somebody

    3. Those aren’t pillows! (doesn’t apply in any way, but the funniest line in the movie!)

  4. Lowetide says:

    Oilman: Filpulla is in LA?

  5. Oilman says:

    LT….sorry – it’s this damn heat.

  6. Oilman says:

    There was an interesting comment on the TSN panel yesterday that many GM’s were asking St. Louis to wait the 7 days before matching so that Gillis couldn’t dish out any other RFA offers during that period….just to stick it to the new guy. Of course, that sounds like it has collusion written all over it and St. Louis wasted no time in matching.

  7. Lowetide says:

    No worries. I spent part of today wondering why the Blue Jackets had traded David Vyborny with Zherdev in the Tyutin deal with the Rangers.

    It was Fritsche but I kept thinking it was Vyborny.

  8. Oilman says:

    Oh…and one more thing – the Wings losing Filpulla to an offer sheet would probably free up just enough space for them to convince Jagr or Sundin to sign on for a year at around 1/10th market value.

  9. Lowetide says:

    One thing about the Hossa signing that I’m surprised about: everyone is handing them the Stanley.

    They played deep into the spring, celebrated and they have holes. Their goaltending isn’t stellar and even though Lidstrom seems ageless he isn’t and the day he gets hurt that team steps into an elevator shaft.

    Just saying.

  10. Oilman says:

    Yeah….I actually said that to a co-worker today referencing the Cujo taking less money in Detroit so he could go win a cup….now I doubt Hossa spends time in Grand rapids to free up a spot for Gordie Howe – but his name isn’t written on the cup just yet…..the wings just might have to trade for Roloson at the deadline.

  11. rickibear says:

    As Mr. Hitchcock turns to Raffi and says, “I want you to introduce yourself to Mr. Lidstrom on each shift.”

  12. Knamely Lacked says:

    I think it’s only fair that the rest of the conversation be added LT, only because they appear to fit in with what the Canucks have done so far.

    3. He says we’re going the wrong way…
    4. Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?

    I am liking YKOils idea of Tjarnqvist though.

  13. Dennis says:

    A lot of us pegged the Dys to take a run at Carter for an offersheet considering things like they don’t draft well so it’s not like they’ve got their own talented kids, the Flyers were up against it money wise and the Dys had room. But Philly got the jump and Van was shagged.

    When you don’t draft well, you can’t deal two guys for Vishnovksy and when Ryder’s going from the pressbox to four mill a year, what’s a guy to do?

    I guess maybe the easiest awnser is you take that 10 mill earmarked for Mats and you offer it to Rolston and Avery.

  14. PDO says:

    The Wings don’t have goaltending?

    You realized they just signed Conklin.


  15. Jonathan says:

    Sorry, LT, but I really don’t get what you like about Gillis so much. The rant about how he could fix the Canucks immediately, and how Vigneault wasn’t at fault because Nonis was an idiot set me against him from the start- because a) the quick rebuild is lots harder than everyone seems to think it is and b) Nonis screwed lots of stuff up but he wasn’t Mike Keenan or Don Waddell and c) Nonis just got fired; there’s no need to kick him while he’s down.

    Hiring Mellanby was worse than any of the Old Boys Club hirings the Oilers have done; I mean the one thing that a GM with no management experience needs is a lieutenant with no management experience, right?

    Walter is an interesting signing as an assistant coach, but if you’re going to can all Vigneault’s assistants you might as well can him too and have done with it; I really can’t give Gillis credit for waiting for the “appearance of fairness”.

    He dithered on Sanford before taking him back, made two offers that could have effectively tied up his money for the forseeable future (I commented on how I’d wait the full week to match for Backes in St. Louis’ shoes) and while I don’t think the money is out of line for Sundin given the term, you shouldn’t tie your hopes to the most indecisive star in hockey.

    It isn’t just that he seems incompetent. He seems incompetent and conniving.

    Although I approve of the Wellwood gamble.

  16. DeBakey says:

    I am liking YKOils idea of Tjarnqvist though.

    Why not both Tjarnqvists?
    Two steady veterans.
    Ok, one misses the odd game, but still…

  17. goldenchild says:

    Living in Vancouver I can tell you there are a lot of nervous people around these days. I think with good reason.

    Speaking of the Canucks would Naslund not make some sense as option for Hemsky’s left wing? He is fast enough to hang with 10 and 83, plays LW, 1 shot scorer at least he was in his best years which weren’t that long ago and pretty responsible defensively. Scored 25+ last year playing some with the Sedins who aren’t a great fit with him and some with absolute dredge.

  18. Boondock says:

    Does Gillis’ off-season not remind anyone of Lowe’s off-season last year?

    Promise the world to the fans, then spend all your time chasing a few A-list UFA’s who weren’t ever going to sign with you in the first place, thereby missing out on all the second tier of UFA’s, before making a crazy signing just to save face that sets the franchise back a couple years.

    Just waiting for the Vancouver Souray deal. (although after yesterday, Souray @ $5.6M looks better)

  19. Bill Needle says:

    As Mr. Hitchcock turns to Raffi and says, “I want you to introduce yourself to Mr. Lidstrom on each shift.”

    Torres will ignore him, just like the way he ignored MacTavish most of the time he was in Edmonton.

  20. Dennis says:

    I would just like to take the time to curb the growing sentiment that Souray’s contract is getting better.

    The Oilers still have to pay a guy 5.6 mill that’s a third pairing fellow and SP specialist. We’ll see how cheap that guy is if Grebs has a consistent ’09 and then looks to get paid and we have to let him walk because too much money’s tied up on D; some of it to a guy who’s a third pairing defender and ST specialist.

  21. Jay says:

    Thanks Dennis. I don’t know how far the cap would have to increase to justify Soruray at $5.6 mil, but suffice to say we are not close to it right now IMO.

  22. Oilman says:

    dennis, the only way the Souray deal looks good is if it somehow magically becomes a smaller percentage of your total cap hit every year….so if you have to pay grebeshkov $4mil+, but the cap rises $5.5mil, is there a problem?

  23. Doogie says:

    so if you have to pay grebeshkov $4mil+, but the cap rises $5.5mil, is there a problem?

    If you have to pay Grebeshkov $4M+, Garon $4M+, and Horcoff $5M+, and the cap only rises $5.5M, things start to get awfully sketchy, especially with Gagner and Cogliano then a year away from their paydays.

  24. Oilman says:

    Garon gets Roloson’s money and Horcoff gets what an extra 2mil? It isn’t that sketchy

  25. Ribs says:

    The Souray deal becomes magically better when he pots 20 goals and the teams powerplay is top 5 in the league.

    Not saying that it will happen, but it could.

  26. Quain says:

    Souray’s deal looks a lot better if he accidentally kills Robyn Regehr with a slapshot.

  27. CrazyCoach says:

    Hey LT,

    A couple notes to mention. Prab Rai is known in BC hockey circles as having the tinman syndrome. He can skate like the wind, but my guess is Gillis made a pick to appeal to certain fans and the BC boy does good.

    Ryan Walter believe it or not, is a student of the game and has done quite a bit in terms of developing some really good resources for coaches in BC. He’d be a good fit behind the Nucks bench.

  28. Jonathan says:

    I would just like to take the time to curb the growing sentiment that Souray’s contract is getting better.

    It isn’t- but it may be getting more tradeable. All of that is a moot point, though, if Lowe still feels that he’s a key ingredient on the backend.

  29. Doogie says:

    Garon gets Roloson’s money and Horcoff gets what an extra 2mil? It isn’t that sketchy

    Okay, but we still have to replace Roloson, and we might want to resign Cole, depending on how things go. All I’m saying is, there are a number of players who will be due big raises both this coming summer and the next, and how many deals come off the books? Roli, yes. Staios, Pisani, and Moreau, health permitting, will all be resigned, though maybe a bit cheaper, depending on how they play. Most of it’s probably coming out of cap increases, though, and that’s not something you can really budget for. That was more the point I was trying to make.

  30. Dennis says:

    Jon: I thought he was tradeable to NYR – and heard something to that effect on NHL Live the other day — but once they signed Redden and Rozival, that went out the door. So, what’s left? I guess we could go problem for problem with Boyle and TB though I imagine the boys just want to dump salary there so they can use that money to pick up TWO dmen considering they might could use a couple of them;)

    Atl had all kinds of cash to burn but they found a taker in Hainsey. Hawks wanted a PP guy but they got Campbell. So, who’s left? My only guess would be the Sharks. Does that team even TRY to draft defensemen? It doesn’t seem like it and it’s always the weak link on that team year after year.

    Probably a moot point though because it’s gotten lost in the shuffle in the last couple of days but Lowe believed last summer Souray can effectively replace Pronger.

    AS for PP, I think ours kicked ass the last 60 games or so anyway, didn’t it? So he’s here to kill penalties? Wait, the Oilers can ALWAYS kill penalties; it’s practically uncanny.

  31. Oilman says:

    Dennis – I believe the Souray replacing Pronger quote came from Laforge’s mouth….when was the last time you took something Laforge said at face value.

  32. LittleFury says:

    Naslund to the Big Apple. Even with Luongo, the ‘nucks are screaming “lottery”.

  33. Dennis says:

    I thought Laforge said it came directly from Lowe.

    And after offering the moon to Nylander, yes, I can believe stupid Lowe-related comments that come from the mouth of Laforge.

  34. Oilman says:

    If Laforge told me the sky was blue I’d go outside and look for myself – that’s all I’m saying

  35. Jonathan says:

    Does that team even TRY to draft defensemen?

    Well, Vlasic was a nice one, but I think on the whole they have a similar approach to defenders that we have to goalies.

    Anyways, they just blew 5 large on Rob Blake, so I should imagine if Lowe had really wanted to deal Souray (yes, he’s better right now than Blake) he could have. I think the problem is that he doesn’t want to.

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