"It was a messed up year..."
The general manager of the Vancouver Canucks met with the media Thursday, less than 48 hours after his team was swept out of the Western Conference Quarterfinal by the San Jose Sharks; the Norm Jewison Media Room at Rogers Arena was packed to the brim with reporters wanting answers.
The biggest topic of the day was the fate of Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault, who for the time being, remains the bench boss in Vancouver.
Gillis had not spoken with Vigneault since the 4-3 overtime loss in San Jose Tuesday night and he won’t be making any knee-jerk reactions to the Canucks being swept for the fourth time in team history.
Acting on emotions isn’t Gillis’ style.
“We just finished this, most of you know I don’t make decisions based on immediate emotion or pressure,” said Gillis, as part of his 45 minute press conference. “Alain is a very good hockey coach, we’ve had a very good record here the last five years and like everybody else in the organization, he’ll be evaluated like I’ll be evaluated.
“We’re going to do a thorough review of every element of the organization over the next period of time and AV, like everyone else, will be evaluated for this season and seasons past, especially in the playoffs.”
Gillis did not comment further on the future of Vigneault, the winningest coach in team history, instead he shouldered his share of the blame for a second consecutive first-round exit by the Canucks, following a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.
Five years ago Gillis became GM of the Canucks and he began doing things differently in Vancouver. He said he “re-set” the organization then, and believes “it’s time to do it again.”
That process, he explained, begins with him fulfilling his responsibilities as general manager.
“It’s my job to give the coach the best players that we can possibly give him and regardless of what happened, and regardless of what happened in the shortened season, that’s my responsibility and that’s my job.”
How that will occur moving forward remains a mystery, but Gillis said his team needs to get younger. He believes the core of the team is young and either in the primes of their careers or nearly there, and that the base is there for a strong, competitive hockey team moving forward.
It’s the style of hockey being played that may need to change.
“When I took this job we decided on a style of play that resulted in great success and clearly the landscape has changed and we have to address those changes moving forward, we don’t have a choice,” admitted Gillis. “It’s not something that I necessarily principally agree in, but that’s what we face and that’s what we have to do. We have to make the changes and adjustments necessary to compete for a Stanley Cup. It’s my intention to do it and recognize what’s going on and make sure that we have a team that is better equipped.
Gillis continued: “It’s quite clear the league is going in a certain direction that we need to adapt to and it doesn’t just happen in one playoff series, but from that series in Boston there has been a significant change in how the game is played and viewed. We have to recognize it and evolve with it and make sure that we have the personnel top to bottom that’s capable of dealing with it.”
“There are a couple of significant changes we have to make and we’re going to start this week formulating that plan.”
Gillis covered as many topics as reporters were present and the other only truly significant issue to arise was regarding Roberto Luongo.
When asked if he thought there was any chance Luongo would be with the Canucks come fall, Gillis replied, “I think it’s unlikely.”
He also admitted not being sure if starting Cory Schneider in Games 3 and 4 was the correct call to make, but that it was up to the coaching staff and he backs their decisions 100 per cent.
All in all, Gillis said moments before stepping down from the podium, this simply wasn’t Vancouver’s year for more reasons than he could count.
“If you look at this season from my perspective and from the organization, it’s been a terrible season for us. I think the uncertainly of the lockout, the way it ended, having players injured throughout the entire timeframe, it just seemed to be pilling on and pilling on throughout the entire season.
“It was a messed up year from top to bottom. In dealing with a messed up season with the kind of injuries that we had, we tried to evaluate where we were in accomplishing things as we moved throughout the entire season, but I think you can all recognize that nothing happened until the trade deadline and even on the deadline very little happened.
“Our ability to do things in this messed up season was really limited and hindered by a lot of factors. So we tried, we tried to get things done, but for various reasons it wasn’t to our satisfaction and we need to do better.”
Take Gillis' word, the best is yet to come.