Francesco Aquilini

Who will the Canucks hire as their next GM?


After Mike Gillis’ stunning fall from grace — fired 33 months after winning the NHL’s GM of the Year award — there’s now one major question facing Vancouver:

Who’s replaces him?

A shortlist of candidates for your consideration…

Markus Naslund

The former Canuck captain has his No. 19 hanging from the Rogers Arena rafters and boasts some front office experience, having recently resigned as GM of Swedish League outfit MoDo. Walking away from that gig sparked rumors that a move to Vancouver was in the cards but, as of today, Naslund offered no comment as to whether he’d be joining the organization in any capacity.

(It’s worth noting that another ex-Canuck, Trevor Linden, has seen his name appear in connection with a potential front-office gig, though reportedly as team president.)

Laurence Gilman

Gillis’ assistant and right-hand man in Vancouver for the last six years, Gilman has been Vancouver’s “capologist” — the numbers guy, praised for his ability to keep the team under the cap and having negotiated some of the club’s better financial deals. Gilman has extensive NHL front office experience, having served as assistant GM in Phoenix for five years before moving to the Canucks.

Gilman has reportedly been told he’ll be retained Vancouver.

Paul Fenton

David Poile’s assistant in Nashville has long been considered the next quality GM in waiting. The Poile managerial tree has already produced current Pens GM Ray Shero — winner of the 2013 NHL General Manger of the Year Award — and Fenton is largely credited with leading Nashville’s drafts from 2003-08, during which time they selected Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Kevin Klein and Patric Hornqvist.

Jason Botterill

Botterill currently serves as Shero’s assistant in Pittsburgh and, like Gilman in Vancouver, is known as the Pens’ cap specialist and has been instrumental in designing deals to keep a number of Pittsburgh’s high-priced players in place. He was interviewed for the vacant Buffalo GM gig that eventually went to Tim Murray.

Joe Will

The assistant GM in San Jose, Will received high praise from Doug Wilson upon being promoted from director of hockey ops in 2011, and sounds like a jack-of-all-trades:

One of his most important duties involves the tracking, analyzing and projecting of the team’s player payroll relative to the current and future National Hockey League salary cap to give the team the financial flexibility to ice a championship-caliber team each season.

Will also works with the organization’s professional scouts and management team in player research for expansion, waivers, free agency and trades. His expert analysis of economic trends in the NHL has led to the Sharks acquisition and retention of several key veteran players over his time with the club.

The general consensus around Will is that he’s largely responsible for finding value players as well as unearthing talent. The likes of Tommy Wingels (6th round, 2008), Jason Demers (7th round pick, 2008), Matt Irwin (undrafted) and Justin Braun (7th round, 2007) are good examples of that handiwork.


– Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager (Shero) in Pittsburgh.

– Julien BriseBois, Steve Yzerman’s assistant in Tampa Bay.

— Don Sweeney, Peter Chiarelli’s assistant in Boston.

— Jim Benning, another of Chiarelli’s assistants in Boston, that also played in Vancouver from 1988-90.

— Norm Maciver, Stan Bowman’s assistant in Chicago.

— Ron Hextall, Paul Holmgren’s assistant in Philly.

— Mike Futa, L.A.’s director of scouting.

— Jay Feaster, former Calgary and Tampa Bay GM.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).