Mike Gillis has been fired, now what? Canucks GM candidates

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Image: Canucks.com

The Vancouver Canucks might be a boring team to watch on the ice right now, but they might be the most exciting team to watch off the ice.

As you have probably heard by now, the Canucks fired general manager Mike Gillis on Tuesday, one day after being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. That came just a couple of hours after rumours (from credible sources) about Trevor Linden becoming the next president of the Vancouver Canucks.

Wow.

As if that wasn’t enough, rumours have swirled about some other big names, including Markus Naslund, Bob Nicholson and Jay Feaster for the general manager/president role.

Here’s a recap of some of the biggest developments of the day:

Trevor Linden is a legend in Vancouver and my childhood hero. I am a huge Linden fan, but nobody really knows if he would be a good fit as team president. Certainly he is well respected and would be great for the image of the club. Apart from owning/managing some gyms, I don’t think he has a lot of relevant experience for the job. Remember that as team president, he would not be in charge of making trades and drafting, so I think it could work.

Mike Gillis was both president and GM, but many people forget that the previous president was Chris Zimmerman (the man responsible for the failed “7th man” initiative as well as some good things). Zimmerman had a background with Nike/Bauer and his work didn’t seem to have much to do with the on-ice product. My point? There is a big difference between the job of president and the job of general manager. Of course, the degree of involvement in hockey decisions from a team president can vary.

Unbelievable, Linden and now Naslund is in the running? Who else is next? Kirk McLean? Harold Snepsts? Orland Kurtenbach? In fairness, Naslund has general manager experience with Modo in Sweden.

And there it was. The man who oversaw the most successful era of Canucks hockey was unceremoniously dispatched as the team’s general manager after missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

I agree with letting Gillis go, but I think many people have been very unfair in their assessment of him. He made some mistakes, but he did a lot of good things as well. He deserves credit for helping get the Canucks to within one game of the Stanley Cup in 2011.

People are fond of saying that Gillis inherited all his players from the Burke/Nonis regime. The Burke/Nonis regime won 1 playoff series in 10 years and I don’t think Gillis was benefiting from their 14 year plan. Sure, Gillis inherited some good pieces, but Brian Burke also inherited Pavel Bure, Alex Mogilny, Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, Mark Messier (stop laughing), Matt Cooke, Mattias Ohlund and Adrian Aucoin. Not everything Gillis did was right, but not everything he did was wrong either.

Harrison Mooney has sources? I didn’t know bloggers had sources, I should get some.

Ok, this is just getting to be too much now.

Wow. Bob Nicholson (former president of Hockey Canada) would be an excellent choice as president given his connections in the hockey world, the level of respect he has and his managerial experience.

Trevor Linden as general manager is not something that I would do. By all accounts, he is a great guy and was an excellent player. But will that translate to being a great general manager? I would prefer that he gets some management experience before he gets thrust into the top job.

This is my worst nightmare. I think Jay Feaster is one of the worst general managers in hockey over the last 10 years. He won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 with John Tortorella as his coach, so there may be temptation from ownership to hire him (firing Tortorella would cost them a lot of money). That would be an epic mistake given Feaster’s track record since then. If you didn’t like Mike Gillis, you will hate Jay Feaster.

Feaster completely mismanaged his salary cap with Tampa Bay, deciding to spend an absurd amount of money on three star forwards while having nothing on defence and in goal. Feaster then went to Calgary and was in complete denial about the team’s need to get younger and rebuild. Flames fans watched as Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff’s value dropped while the Flames continually managed to be below average and miss the playoffs.

So what should they do, Rob?

I am fine with just about anyone that is intelligent and has respect in the hockey community to become the next president of the Canucks. The most important aspect of that job is hiring the right general manager. Bob Nicholson seems like the best option in my opinion.

In terms of the general manager’s job, I think it is vital to hire someone with some level of NHL management experience, particularly in this market. That would be someone like Lawrence Gilman (who has not been fired by the way) or another assistant general manager like Ron Hextall (Philadelphia) or Jim Benning (Boston).

Selecting someone like Trevor Linden or Markus Naslund as general manager would be extremely risky in my opinion. I would be in favour of either guy joining the organization in just about any position other than general manager or head coach.

The Canucks also have the option of waiting to see if a general manager of some prestige gets let go by another team after this season. George McPhee (Washington), Jim Rutherford (Carolina) and David Poile (Nashville) are the only GMs that could be fired that I would be interested in.

Whatever happens, it is sure to be interesting as we take another intriguing twist in the soap opera that is the Vancouver Canucks.

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
@robthehockeyguy

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