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.