Rob The Hockey Guy

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Arguments I Hate: Mike Gillis Inherited This Team

Every now and then I like to dip into one of the prevailing narratives that surrounds the Canucks and disprove it in a little something I like to call: arguments I hate. Today’s argument I hate is that the Canucks have been successful despite Mike Gillis, not because of him.

Under Mike Gillis’ reign as Canucks general manager since 2008, the Canucks have been more successful than they ever have been before. Five straight division titles, two Presidents Trophies, five playoff series wins and an appearance in game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. To refresh your memory, success like that wasn’t exactly commonplace before Gillis’ arrival.

But Gillis has his critics. His critics like to point out that the main pieces of the puzzle were already present upon Gillis’ arrival in 2008. While this is true (the Sedins, Luongo, Kesler, etc weren’t brought in by Mike Gillis), he still had to re-sign them. A decision had to be made to keep every one of those players, just as decisions were made to add pieces like Christian Ehrhoff and Mikael Samuelsson.

But my main issue with this argument that Mike Gillis somehow doesn’t deserve credit for his team’s success is that with few exceptions, every general manager inherits talent.

Here’s a look at every other good team in the NHL and what their general manager inherited:

Stan Bowman (Chicago Blackhawks):

This is an obvious example, but Stan Bowman inherited a team poised to win a Stanley Cup before the 2009-10 season. Dale Tallon was fired because of a clerical error that caused a couple of restricted free agents to get more money than they would have otherwise. Bowman sat back and watched the team he inherited win the Stanley Cup in 2010. The only move he made was to trade Cam Barker for Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy. Bowman has made some good moves since his hiring, but it was previous general managers that brought him Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Keith and Seabrook.

Ray Shero (Pittsburgh Penguins):

Ray Shero has been a good general manager for the Penguins for sure, but look at what he inherited back in 2006. He inherited the best 2 players in the world (at age 19 and 20 respectively), Sergei Gonchar, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Malone, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski, Tyler Kennedy, Max Talbot and Brooks Orpik.

Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles Kings):

Lombardi won the Stanley Cup this past season as general manager of the Kings, and made some key moves that helped. But he didn’t build it out of nothing. Lombardi inherited Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick and was able to get Drew Doughty with a draft pick that I could have made (Doughty was a no brainer pick as #2 overall).

Peter Chiarelli (Boston Bruins): 

Chiarelli is full marks for the team he has in Boston, but many of his key players were acquired by the previous regime. His top two centres, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron were draft picks made before he got there. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Tim Thomas, was also not a Chiarelli acquisition.

Ken Holland (Detroit Red Wings):

Ken Holland is commonly thought of as one of the best general managers in the NHL, and I agree. But when he took over the Detroit Red Wings in 1994, he inherited Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Niklas Lidstrom, Paul Coffey, Slava Kozlov, Keith Primeau, Vladimir Konstantinov, Kris Draper, Darren McCarty, Martin Lapointe and Chris Osgood. Not bad.

The point in showing all of these comparables is not to prove that the most recent Stanley Cup winners are idiots, far from it, they are all likely very smart hockey men. But when people state that Mike Gillis doesn’t deserve credit because most of his core players were acquired by a previous regime, they don’t realize that this is a fact of life. Every general manager inherits either a good group of veteran players or a good group of young players. It’s what that GM does with it that counts.

Brian Burke and Dave Nonis were able to bring in the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo and others. But when Brian Burke was hired as Canucks general manager in 1998, he inherited a team with Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Bure and Alex Mogilny. Other young players like Matt Cooke, Brent Sopel, Mattias Ohlund and Adrian Aucoin were also acquired by Pat Quinn, not Burke.

A general manager gets credit for the moves he makes, but just as important are the moves he doesn’t make. So lets give credit where credit is due.

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15 Response to Arguments I Hate: Mike Gillis Inherited This Team

  1. Jbomb on May 28, 2013

    what Gillis has not done and what the other GMs did that inherited talent is make that move to put his tea over the top. Instead we have a team with no AHL, no prospects, a fading "window," questionable depth, and no cup. He has taken this team as far as it can go and sure it has been a successful run, but it is ultimately like the Burke teams of the West Coast Express era, not good enough.

  2. Matt on May 28, 2013

    Really, he didn't acquire talent to put the team over the top? Gillis took over a team that didn't make the playoffs in 2008, and in two years, he built on what he inherited to put together a team that won back-to-back presidents trophies and went to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. n nSince Gillis took over, the Canucks are one of only ten teams to go to the Stanley Cup Finals and one of only four teams to have won the Presidents' Trophy. The 2010-2011 Canucks are the best team Vancouver's ever had, and Gillis took the foundation he had and added Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, Aaron Rome, Andrew Alberts, Chris Tanev and Keith Ballard on the back end, added Mikael Samuelsson, Manny Malhotra, Chris Higgins, Max Lapierre, Cody Hogson, Raffi Torres, and an assortment of fourth liners to the mix. n nIn other words, your argument is complete garbage. n nWinning the Stanley Cup is about consistently icing a good team. You can't just make a perfect team one year and win it – Vancouver had as close to the perfect team as they'll ever get in 2011 and thanks to bad luck, freak injuries and a hot goalie, they didn't get it done. They continue to ice a competitive team – remember, Gillis doesn't operate in a vacuum, he's competing with 29 other GMs, and he's doing a very good job.

    • Betty on May 28, 2013

      A VOICE of REASON. Well done. I agree . COMPLETELY logical and TRUTHFUL.

  3. NM00 on May 28, 2013

    This entire article is just one big strawman. n nOf course, every GM inherits some pieces. The argument against Gillis is that he has done a terrible job of supplementing the core he inherited with poor drafting, trading and free agent signings. n nFor starters, take a look around the league. Most big market cap teams are able to keep their best players if they choose to do so. It's the reason there is very little supply and a large demand in free agency. This isn't much of a skill. Just look at the history of the Canucks since Burke brought the team back to respectability. They have almost always kept the core players they wanted to keep. n nAny Canuck GM could have resigned these core players. The Sedins, for example, likely would have been extended 11 months earlier to a cheaper contract if Dave Nonis were still in charge. And let's not forget that Gillis got damn lucky that Mats Sundin opted for a one year deal instead of a two year deal. If Sundin accepted Gillis' two year offer, the Sedins would be elsewhere. n nAnd let's not ignore the dumb contract Gillis gave to Luongo, either. n nSecond, the only two current core Canuck players acquired by Gillis are BC born defenseman Dan Hamhuis & Jason Garrison. Hamhuis, for example, took a large discount to play in his home province. Again, this is not a skill. This is a geographical advantage similar to the one the Canucks had with Willie Mitchell. n nThe other core player Gillis acquired was Christian Ehrhoff. A great trade that provided excellent value for two years. But it doesn't exactly make up for a number of other poor trades (Bernier, Alberts, Ballard, Kassian & Roy). n nThe only defense of Gillis is if one believes the GM has magical powers to influence the win-loss record. But if Gillis is such a wizard, he would have thrown fairy dust on the Canucks to get them more than one playoff win over the last 2 years. n nGillis has a terrible transaction record. Period. He inherited a great core and has done a terrible job of supplementing it.

    • Nelly on May 29, 2013

      Your selective recollection is amusing. n n"…… he has done a terrible job supplementing the core"?? How is that accurate? Demitra, Samuelsson, Bernier, Hamhuis, Erhoff, Malholtra, Glass, Higgins, Lapperiere. n nBernier was a smart move at the time. He played with the Sharks vs the Canucks on numerous occasions, and was one guy you hated….big, always in your face, crashing the net, something they desperately need. He had huge potential to develop into that power forward. It didnt happen, but Gillis would have been a fool to pass up on it then. n nDrafting, it takes time for young players to develop, and drafting from the bottom doesn't typically yield great assets. Hodgson was a great pick, but he, along with his high profile father, expected front line minutes as a rookie on a stanley cup caliber team. Bye-bye Cody, for a much needed power forward with attitude in Kassian. Kassian will be good…but again, it takes time. n nTake a trip down memory lane and you will recall the Luongo deal was typical for a franchise marquee player. Luo was "the team" at the time, and signing him to a lower cap hit was the smart play. If only Gillis had the pundits crystal ball at the time. n nDitto the crystal ball on Ballard. Coming off another disappointing playoffs where the canucks slow moving D were dropping like flies, and played with Coach Vs beloved passive-physicality, Gillis goes out and acquires a durable fleet-footed Ballard. He gave up an expendable Grabner (whom V didnt like), and who Florida apparently didn't like, in exchange. Well, V didnt like Ballard either, and the rest is history. n nThe geographical advantage you claim is also a geographical disadvantage….Gillis's team has the absolute worst travel schedule in pro-sports…yet he still managed to sign key players, at discounted rates….that is a skill! n nHe brought in Demitra, who was a "Canuck killer", but who declined rapidly. n nHe brought in Samuelsson, who was excellent, and when healthy, was a difference make, but whos contributions were severely restricted by debilitating injuries Gillis failed to anticipate. n nHe picked up Marco Sturm, a sniper, whos recent season was hampered by knee injuries. It was a chance, but if he fully recovered, it would have given the canucks a 2nd line scorer they desperately lacked, and wouldn't have cost them an asset. Damn that crystal ball.. n nHe packages up Samuelsson and Sturm and sends them off to Florida for Booth. Booth, a high flying power forward, who had grown stale in a non-hockey environment, coming off of serious injury(s). Again, a gamble, but with huge upside. We have seen flashes, but, again with Gillis's inability to predict injuries, nothing consistent. n n

  4. S.F on May 29, 2013

    Ken Holland didn't take over Wings in 94, he took over in 97. In 94 he became assistant GM and before that he was their scout for 7yrs, so he was actually involved in finding some of their star players he then "inherited". n nThe problem with Gillis is he hasn't done anything about the scouting and development, which has been Canucks biggest weakness. And the guys he find that compliment the core are lost after 1-2yrs and he never replaces them with a player of similar style. Remember when Canucks traded Bertuzzi and never got Naslund a new power forward to play with? Canucks need to get a new Samuelsson, a guy that can play with the twins, on the power play and in the bottom six if he has to.

    • Rob on May 30, 2013

      Thanks for that SF. I couldn't remember the exact date, but wherever I looked up showed a combined effort with Devellano, Bowman and Holland from 94-97. I'm not trying to argue that Holland isn't a good GM, clearly he is. My point is rather that every GM inherits players, and the successful GMs usually inherit some pretty good players. n nI still think it's too early to blast Gillis about his drafting. Players take a long time to develop. Gillis has also been drafting late in the draft and has traded away picks while trying to contend for a cup. If you keep that in mind while comparing with other teams, I think you'll find that the Canucks aren't lagging way behind, not yet at least. n nWhen the Canucks traded away Bertuzzi, Naslund's days of being a star were behind him. Finding a big power forward that can score 40+ goals isn't easy to do. They picked up Taylor Pyatt… and that's about all that was available. n nI totally agree with Samuelsson. They need someone to play with the Sedins when Burrows goes cold. Hopefully Kassian develops into that quickly.

  5. Spitballin’ on Canucks fan Dustin Brown, Vigneault’s next destination, and Burrows on Twitter on June 10, 2013

    [...] as Rob the Hockey Guy points out in a quality blog post, it’s an empty criticism, since basically every successful GM since the dawn of time [...]

  6. Old Hockey Warrior on July 16, 2013

    The big gamble on Willis' part is swapping out his head coach this summer. Will Tortorella put the Canucks over the top, or risk burning it all to the ground?

    • Rob on July 22, 2013

      I think you can argue whether or not Tortorella is the best guy for this team, but I don't think you can argue that Alain Vigneault should still be in charge. His shelf life clearly came and went.

  7. Portable Signs on August 30, 2013

    He is a great sports man.

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