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Press Round-Up: APR.24.08

Thursday, 24.04.2008 / 11:00 AM / Features
Vancouver Canucks
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Press Round-Up: APR.24.08
THE SUN

Fans get a warm hug from new boss
Iain MacIntyre gives Vancouver’s new general manager full marks for stepping into his new position and immediately reassuring fans that everything is going to be alright.

“During a confidence-boosting press conference, the 49-year-old former player agent promised an orderly, practical and compassionate transition from the regime of Dave Nonis, whose shock firing last week ended a stable 20-year era of Canuck governance initiated by Pat Quinn.

“Gillis's performance quelled some of the unrest caused by owner Francesco Aquilini's sudden firing of Nonis and the bewildering news conference that followed.”

The message from Gillis was that, while he will bring a fiercely critical and radically different background to managing, he will not be filling dumpsters with employees, according to MacIntyre. But the new GM does have a lot of work to do in the weeks to come.

“Gillis's job, of course, gets a lot tougher from here. He has never been a general manager, and the test cases for player agents jumping into GM jobs are alarming for both their volume (two in the last 15 years) and erratic results (Pierre Lacroix followed by Michael Barnett).

“Change for change's sake is never a good thing. It can destabilize a franchise, imperil the trust of fans and lead to rapid deterioration on the ice. All of which is inconsequential if the team had 65 points and its best hope for improvement is to win the draft lottery.

“Gillis said the Canucks are not close to being championship calibre, but later conceded the squad has a strong foundation and "a couple of very good decisions, a couple of very bold decisions might put this team in position to win almost immediately.”

MacIntyre said that Gillis made it clear that he is unhappy with the Canucks’ scouting and player development, but that the former player agent could perhaps bring a fresh approach to finding and raising new players.

All-in-all, Gillis said all the right things on Wednesday.

“The hiring of Gillis ends some of the uncertainty, at least for now. It also allows Aquilini to retreat from spotlight, which he should, and let his hand-picked hockey man take care of the hockey business. That's what this regime change is about -- a relatively new owner choosing his own guy to run the store.

“If things go badly, these are things that may come back to haunt Aquilini. But for now, the Canucks have a clear and powerful direction again, and an intriguing if unconventional new leader.”
THE SUN

Forwards hold them back - Gillis wants players who can score at key moments
A lack of talent upfront is what Mike Gillis assessed as the weakest part of the Vancouver Canucks, according to Brad Ziemer, who believes that finding more offence is a top priority for Gillis. The new general manager did talk about a few of Vancouver’s current forwards during and after his press conference on Wednesday.

“While Gillis said he wasn't prepared Wednesday to do any formal evaluations of current Canuck players, he did offer his opinion when asked if Daniel and Henrik Sedin were front-line players that he would be comfortable building his team around. The twins did not receive what you would call a ringing endorsement from their new boss.

“I think they are front-line players. I don't know if they are players the team will be built around moving forward," he said. “That evaluation process will go on. The coaches have to alert me of their feelings about those players, whether they are confident in their ability to be front-line players.

“Gillis was vague on whether he would continue to pursue Swedish free-agent forward Fabian Brunnstrom. Former GM Dave Nonis was close to reaching a deal with Brunnstrom and his agent, J.P. Barry, before Nonis was fired early last week.

“I am familiar with him [Brunnstrom], but I am not going to answer that question because I don't know what the status is at this particular time,” Gillis said. “I don't know what terms have been negotiated. I have not seen offers or responses from J.P., so I won't comment about that process because it's unfair. But I am familiar with him.

And he did not completely rule out a return of his former client and team captain, Markus Naslund, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“The decisions that we make about any player on this team are going to be based on his utility and his ability to compete and be a valuable asset in winning,” Gillis said. “And that is not going to change for Markus or anybody else. Markus understands that completely.”

Gillis should have roughly $20 million to spend this summer on free agents, Ziemer said.
THE PROVINCE

Decision on Naslund could make or break - Should Gillis bring back ex-client or should he kiss captain goodbye?
Taking a page out of former player agent Michael Barnett’s book might not be such a good idea for Mike Gillis, writes Tony Gallagher.

Barnett, also a former player agent, targeted a few of his former clients as players and the results did not end up in the general manager’s favor. Gallagher should avoid the same fate and tread lightly as he looks to re-sign Vancouver captain Markus Naslund, his former client.

“Naslund is of course a special case and Gillis has a crucial decision to make, but there is also a bottom line to be examined here. Just as there is a tendency to favour ex-clients, which must be resisted, so also is there a tendency to shun ex-clients for those very reasons of resistance, if you catch the drift. To state it more simply, if you could convince Naslund to take a lot less money and perhaps most crucial of all, to surrender the captaincy so as to leave the often burdensome duties to someone else, you'd be nuts to turn your back on his 25 goals.

“On the free agent market, 25 goals will cost you one helluva lot more than Naslund might be willing to take to stay in the city in which he loves to play. And remember, Naslund played a mountain of time on the second power-play unit and never on 5-on-3 situations, so the possibility of him duplicating the 25 again despite being another year older are very much present.

“And who better to convince Markus the 'C' is a chest pain anyway and that the player's own idea of taking his contracts one year at a time from here on in is a very good one? All that being said, it could still almost get to the point where Gillis's relationship with Naslund might be so good that it would actually get in the way of what might be the right decision for the organization.”

Gillis is a bright guy who will take all this into consideration when he makes these inevitable decisions that will come his way. How those decisions pan out down the road will be an interesting, early measure of the GM’s performance.
THE PROVINCE

Well, at least Pavel likes it! - GM's 'a smart guy who knows hockey world'

The Russian Rocket didn’t have a say in the hiring of Mike Gillis, but he would have given him full marks if asked, according to Jim Jamieson.

"I think he's a smart guy who knows the hockey world," said Bure from his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. "He played himself and he was an agent for so many years. I think he's going to do really good."

“Under Gillis's stewardship, Bure finally got his wish for a trade out of Vancouver -- to Florida, in January of 1999, where the tax burden was significantly lower and the sun shines a lot more. Gillis then engineered a five-year, $47-million contract extension for Bure in Florida.

“Gillis also received top value for Canucks captain Markus Naslund coming out of the lockout in the summer of 2005, leveraging a three-year, $18-million deal out of Dave Nonis.”

Bure may approve of Gillis, but a few members of the hockey world do not.

But Gillis can also ignite controversy. His tactics have rubbed some GMs the wrong way, which may come back to haunt him when it comes time to make a trade with the same guys he played hardball with over contracts.

Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe told TSN on Wednesday that he doesn't expect to be doing any deals with Vancouver.

Lowe claimed that last summer he had a contract agreed to by Gillis and his client, Michael Nylander, only to see the player turn around and sign with Washington.

Gillis said that he did contact Lowe to tell him about the player's change of mind – but acknowledged to TSN that the phone call may not have occurred quickly enough.

Past Round-Ups
APR.23.08 - APR.22.08 - APR.21.08 - APR.18.08 - APR.17.08 - APR.16.08 - APR.15.08 - APR.02.08 - APR.01.08More