Mike Gillis

Here’s a list of the big mistakes Gillis made with the Canucks


For all the good Mike Gillis did during his tenure as general manager of the Canucks — helping them to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final being at the top of the list — he made a number of key mistakes.

Those mistakes ultimately got him fired today. We’ve listed his biggest blunders below:

— In Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, the Canucks once had two of the top netminders in the NHL. Today, they have neither. A number of factors conspired against Gillis during his attempts to trade Luongo, but it was Gillis who signed Luongo to the problematic contract in the first place. Without that front-loaded, salary cap-manipulating contract — one Gillis should’ve known could be an issue down the road, given Gary Bettman’s distaste for deals with that sort of structure — Luongo would’ve been much easier to move, and for a better return.

— Keith Ballard and David Booth were both acquired in trades with Florida. The former became a compliance buyout after playing sparingly for former coach Alain Vigneault; the latter could be a compliance buyout this summer. Enough said right there.

— It won’t be fair to judge Gillis’s draft record in its entirety for a few more seasons, but as of right now, not one of the 37 picks the Canucks made under his watch is a major contributor on the team. Vancouver hasn’t had many prime picks because of its regular-season success, but then, neither have the Blackhawks, and they’ve still managed to uncover players like Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger.

— Gillis admitted last week that the Canucks “deviated from some of the things that made us successful,” which is another way of saying he overreacted to painful playoff losses, misread the direction the league was headed, and abandoned his “fundamentals and principles” in the face of wide-spread criticism. “We just have to be committed and have the guts to be able to carry it out,” he said, rather tellingly.

— Related to the above point, after firing Vigneault, Gillis hired John Tortorella as the team’s new head coach. And don’t be fooled; this was not solely an ownership hire. Gillis, along with the rest of the hockey-ops department, was on board. It was a gamble that obviously failed to pay off. The Canucks have not responded to Tortorella’s approach, tactics-wise or motivation-wise. For Gillis, the only head coach he’s ever hired became a big part of his downfall.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado