Last week the Vancouver Canucks’ General Manager, Mike Gillis, opted for the easy choice, the predictable firing of the head coach and his coaching staff. Was that the right thing to do? It might seem a no brainer if you only consider the last two playoffs appearances of the team, when they were humiliated by the Los Angeles Kings and tossed out of contention in 5 games. Or if you take in consideration the fact they’re ousted by the San Jose Sharks in a ridiculously easy swept where the Canucks not only lost all four games but they’ve lost all respectability league-wide, not to mention whatever empathy they might get from their fans in Vancouver.
On the other hand, only 3 seasons ago they were the team to beat, losing the precious Stanley Cup by one game, one miserable game that now seems to have decided the fate of the franchise and whatever bright future they might have one day thought they’d have.
Alain Vigneault, the now former Canucks head coach, held the job for seven years, what seems an eternity in modern hockey era. He won almost everything a man in that position could win: the Jack Adams award, a Conference title, a bunch of Division titles, but in that fatal game seven he didn’t succeed. He set franchise records for most wins (regular season and playoffs), most playoffs appearances, and most titles by a head coach. He has certainly left his mark in the franchise history and it will be a lasting one.
However, you can’t blame Vigneault for not being able to make the trades the team needed, or for not being able to draft legitimate NHLers who could step up and make the big league when the team needed reinforcements for whatever reasons. You can’t blame the coach for not doing the GM’s job. Period. For that, Mike Gillis, you’re doomed. Firing the coach seemed to be the logic door to open for a lost GM who can’t draft or trade appropriately to address the team’s need, even if he had two full seasons to do it.
To make matters worse, Gillis is the one to blame for the Roberto Luongo saga and all the distractions it brought along during the shortened season and the playoffs. I can’t help but wonder how much worse it would have been if the season had been a regular one with 80-plus games.
You can’t blame Vigneault for acquiring underachievers like Keith Ballard and David Booth. You can’t blame coach V for sending Michael Grabner, a 1st round pick and Steve Bernier for Keith Ballard, a defenseman who spends most of the team’s games watching it from outside the ice, who can’t even push for a 6th D-spot. You can’t blame Vigneault for sending natural 2nd liner Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for Zack Kassian, what might be, at best, a 3rd liner tough man. Heck, he would be a 4th liner everywhere else. Ok, you can say in defense of Gillis that nobody could have predicted the Kesler injury and that Malhotra would be forced to retire leaving the team with only Henrsik Sedin and Maxim Lapierre as centers. For that, Gillis is not to be blames. What he’s to be blamed is his inability to address the team’s need for toughness and for a legit 2nd liner center during all the summer and up to the trade deadline this year.
It’s hard to understand how come Gillis would think that diminutive mostly unproductive center Derek Roy would be the answer to the team’s needs. And it’s even harder to imagine how he could possibly think that sending top D-prospect Kevin Connauton plus a 2nd round pick for Roy and his impending UFA status would be an even fair deal for his team. Let’s not even start talking about the multitude of no-trade clauses the team awarded to the core players and how difficult it will make the “reset” of the Canucks to be made.
Yeah, probably coach V days in Vancouver were done and the team needed a coach change, but it certainly need way more a GM change.