by Scott Taylor
Yesterday, Vancouver Canucks’ President and General Manager addressed the media in his annual post-season delivery. In the wake of a second straight embarrassing playoff exit, he had plenty to answer for. And did so in his typically uncomfortably smug and evasive style.
Unlike seasons’ past, his support of his coaching staff was not explicit - the foregone conclusion being that head coach Alain Vigneault (who was absent from the proceedings) will be replaced in the coming weeks.
Gillis made multiple references to this season being a “messed up” one, negatively impacting his plans in a number of ways. Apparently, the lockout (which was anticipated by everyone) impaired his ability to move Roberto Luongo. Further, the parity induced by a shortened season made for a cluttered trading market with too many buyers and not enough sellers.
These comments, true as they may be, are simply excuses for a job that was not done. Coming from the smug Gillis, this is as close to an admission of guilt as we’ll get.
He spoke of “resetting” the organization as he did when he started here five years ago. The fact is that “resetting” amounted to sticking with the blueprint of the previous regime, retaining the same head coach and core players. The success of the early Gillis years proved it was the right decision, but proving how much credit Gillis should get for it is another matter entirely.
With particular reference to the four game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, Gillis referenced the notion of “luck”. After all, the Canucks were inches from a Jannik Hansen empty net goal that would have clinched game 2 and were then torpedoed by borderline penalty calls that cost them game 4. These points are duly noted but can’t hide the fact that the team failed to win a single game. Nor was there any qualification of their ride to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on Kevin Bieksa’s lottery like stanchion assisted game winner.
There was also reference to how the game has changed and how the Canucks must adapt to that change. Gillis spoke of this new emphasis on size and toughness as if it was some scientific revelation that could only now be completely accepted and acted upon. In fact, it’s been the modus operandi for successful playoff teams more often than not for simply generations. And has been as clear as day to anyone specifically following this team since the flame out Stanley Cup loss to Boston two years ago.
As it relates to the self-induced goaltending controversy, there was finally an admission that Roberto Luongo has “likely” played his last game in this market. And optimistically, Gillis declared that there should be more options available this summer for a Luongo exit. We can only infer that Luongo will now desperately accept a trade to anywhere.
In short, the offerings of Gillis were predictable - long on excuses and short on culpability. There was, at least, an acknowledgement that some significant things need to happen. And whether or not the relative success of the Gillis era accrues entirely to him (or previous management regimes), it appears such success will allow him another opportunity to do what needs to be done.