Dec 172009

I don’t know exactly what happened between Vancouver Province writer Ed Willes and Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis. I don’t know if Gillis spit in Willes’ coffee or ran over his dog or what. Whatever the reason, it’s obvious Willes has a beef with GMMG. And a beef he doesn’t try to hide either.

Take, as an example, what Willes said in a column this week.

The Canucks are 22 games over .500 since Gillis moved into the big office. They also have a Northwest Division pennant and a playoff series win. That’s all you need to know about his managerial accumen.

And that’s true to a point. But when you look at the roster this season, you wonder what the team’s record would be if Gillis hadn’t fallen into a made bed.

There are currently 13 players on the Canucks’ payroll who were brought in by Gillis and, collectively, their contributions to the greater good have been uneven.

His best acquisition has been defenceman Christian Erhoff who might be the Canucks’ best all-around blueliner. True, Erhoff was the result of the Canucks’ ability to take on his $3.1 million salary–along with Brad Lukowich’s ticket — but Gillis still gets credit for the move.

The rest of the list includes backup goalie Andrew Raycroft, defencemen Shane O’Brien, Matt Schneider, Aaron Rome and Lukowich and forwards Ryan Johnson, Tanner Glass, Steve Bernier, Darcy Hordichuk, Mikael Samuelsson, Kyle Wellwood and Pavol Demitra.

Now, before I go on, I will admit that I agree with Willes that the Canucks could use more production from the bottom-six forwards. What I don’t agree with is his constant insinuation that Gillis’ moves have been nothing but crap.

I think the consensus among Canucks fans is that the acquisitions of Ehrhoff, Schneider, O’Brien, Rome and Lukowich has helped give the Canucks one of the deepest group of defensemen in the NHL. As a group, they’re 6th in the NHL in goals, 1st in assists, 6th in points and tied for 2nd in powerplay goals. Sure, they’ve had their share of shaky moments in front of their goal, but Gillis’ moves to shore up the defense pretty much ensures that the Canucks won’t be calling up a Zach Fitzgerald or Patrick Couloumbe-type anytime soon.

I understand where Willes is coming from in that the forwards – i.e. Johnson, Glass, Hordichuk, Bernier, Samuelsson, Wellwood and Demitra – aren’t difference makers, but let’s put this into perspective.

The first three are fourth-line players, but they’re fourth-line players who do their job well. I don’t get Willes’ comment that “Glass is a nice pickup but, at best, he’s a third-liner”. If the intent was to criticize these pick-ups and compare them to bottom-six pick-ups by the previous GMs, then the more appropriate comparisons would be, say, Glass to Byron Ritchie, Johnson to Marc Chouinard or Tommi Santala, and Hordichuk to Jeff Cowan – I can’t think of anyone who would prefer to have Ritchie, Chouinard, Santala and Cowan in the lineup. If the intent was to criticize Glass for not being a more than a bottom-six forward, then I wonder if Willes expected Marian Gaborik on the fourth line. (For what it’s worth, Glass already has more goals now (4) than Ritchie had all of the 2007-2008 season (3); Glass is also a plus-7 while Ritchie finished a minus-10.)

The other four were acquired to provide more secondary scoring and I would offer that they have. Bernier’s on pace to reach 20 goals while playing mostly on the third line. Samuelsson’s on pace for 20 goals as well. I agree that Wellwood’s had a rough season and obviously Demitra’s still hurt, but remember that both provided some timely secondary scoring last year. In fact, the Canucks had five 20-goal scorers last year. (Giveaway time: If you can tell me the last time before the 2008-2009 season that the Canucks had five 20-goal scorers, I’ll send you a copy of the 2009-2010 Vancouver Canucks yearbook. First correct entry in the comments section wins.) This year, seven Canucks are currently on pace to reach 20 goals.

No one will deny that Gillis “lucked out” by inheriting a core that includes Roberto Luongo, the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler. But while some would like to think about what the Canucks would look like if he hadn’t, I prefer to look at the team as it’s built right now. IMHO, the current version is a playoff team. Not a powerhouse team like San Jose or Chicago, but simply a team that it good enough to make the playoffs (and then hopefully make some noise). Whether or not some would like to admit it, Gillis has done a decent job of building this team and adding depth to the point that they can sustain injuries to key players like they did in the first couple of months of the season, remain in the top 5 in the league in scoring, and not completely fall apart like they did in the 2007-2008 season.

You know, the season when the Canucks had the same core, but obviously not a good enough supporting cast.

Aug 252009

Unlike Richard, I don’t believe that Gillis is spending too much money on too few key pieces. (Hey, just because we write on the same site doesn’t mean we can’t have different opinions.) While I agree that the Sedins and Luongo (current contract and any future contract extension) take up more than one-third of the Canucks’ cap room, I don’t think this necessarily means that he has handcuffed himself financially, and a quick trip down the salary cap era memory lane proves this.

In the 2006/2007 season when the salary cap was at $44 million, the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup with 39% of their cap space dedicated to three players: Scott Niedermayer ($6.75 million), Chris Pronger ($6.25 million) and Jean-Sebastian Giguere ($3.99 million). Add Teemu Selanne ($3.75 million) and Andy Macdonald ($3.3 million) and that’s 55% of their cap space dedicated to five players. The other Stanley Cup finalist that year, the Ottawa Senators, had 36% of their cap space to three playes: Wade Redden ($6.5 million), Daniel Alfredsson ($4.677 million) and Dany Heatley ($4.5 million). Include Jason Spezza ($4.5 million) and Martin Gerber ($3.7 million) and that’s 54% of their cap space dedicated to five players.

In the 2007/2008 season when the salary cap was at $50.3 million, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup with 40% of their cap space dedicated to three players: Nicklas Lidstrom ($7.6 million), Pavel Datsyuk ($6.7 million) and Brian Rafalski ($6 million). Add Dominik Hasek ($4.05 million) and Nicklas Kronwall ($3 million) and that’s 48% of their cap space dedicated to five players.

Likewise, when the salary cap was at $56.6 million last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup with 33% of their cap space dedicated to three players: Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million), Sergei Gonchar ($5 million) and Marc-Andre Fleury ($5 million). Add Evgeni Malkin ($3.834 million) and Brooks Orpik ($3.75 million) and that’s 46% of their cap space dedicated to five players. The finalists, the Detroit Red Wings, had 38% dedicated to three players: Lidstrom ($7.45 million), Marian Hossa ($7.45 million) and Datsyuk ($6.7 million). Add Rafalski ($6 million) and that’s 49% dedicated to four players.

If you haven’t noticed yet, the three previous Stanley Cup winners and finalists all committed big money to a select few players.

This isn’t to say that Gillis’ game plan will guarantee a Stanley Cup to Vancouver, but it at least says it’s possible. However, what will ultimately determine the Canucks’ success are two things: 1) whether or not Gillis committed the money to the right players, and 2) whether or not he can surround those players with the proper surrounding cast.

With regards to the first point, I believe the Sedins and Luongo is as good a group of three players to start building a team around. The Sedins are generally acknowledged as top-20 players in the NHL and both are signed to reasonable cap hits of $6.1 million each. If Gillis hadn’t re-signed them, his alternatives would have been to either start a full-blown youth movement and promote the likes of Kesler, Burrows, Hodgson, Grabner and Schroeder to more prominent roles, or take his chances that he could’ve signed two marquee unrestricted free agents to replace the Sedins. The former would kill the Canucks’ chances of signing Luongo to a contract extension; in hindsight, the latter wouldn’t have been likely considering what the marquee free agents signed for. (Well, I suppose he could have signed any two of Gaborik, Havlat, Hossa, Cammalleri and Gionta during the free agency frenzy, but then the Canucks would still be in the same position cap-wise.)

IMHO, the second point is where Gillis made his biggest strides. Fans can criticize the Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra signings all they want, but both helped provide the Canucks with a legitimate second scoring line. Other Gillis signings, Ryan Johnson, Kyle Wellwood, Steve Bernier, Shane O’Brien and Darcy Hordichuk all had noticeable contributions, unlike Byron Ritchie, Brad Isbister, Tommi Santala, etc. from previous years. (BTW, this isn’t necessarily a criticism of Dave Nonis, but I do want to point out the difference in supporting casts.) Gillis may have committed a large chunk of cap space to the Sedins and Luongo, but he’s also done a very good job of assembling a strong supporting cast with the space he had left.

Aug 222009

Gillis made clear upon his arrival to the franchise that he was a mover and a shaker, while I got the impression some of the things he said were almost a show for the media, other things he said, he’s stuck by.

Gillis has struggled to put his mark on the team, to make that one move that marks the Canucks as Gillis’ Canucks – yet. After suggesting to the media and the fans that he was coming in with a revolving door policy, he’s stayed quiet relative to what we’d come to expect, and now facing the restructuring of contracts, and architecture of the team round a salary cap, he’s handcuffing himself by trying to build a franchise around too many pieces.

In the salary cap era, the team’s that succeed are built around one super star. Gillis is trying to build a Canucks team around Luongo and the Sedins, something that financially is a stepping stone in the road to disappointment and disaster. While the Sedins are not labeled as superstars, they are amongst the league’s top tier of players, and well Luongo has a 30 foot posterization of himself at the NHL store, so I think that speaks for his superstar status.

Gillis has locked up the Sedins for 13 million dollars, and Luongo commands 7.5 in the last year of his contract, their total combined salary is 36% of the Canucks cap space. Gillis needs to pick who he want’s to build the franchise around. There’s no way he can build a contending team with 64% of the cap to spend on 20 players. He’s trying, and it’s left us in a situation that doesn’t have a bright side. We’re lacking a top 6 forward, and a top 4 defenseman, something you can’t do with only ~1.5 million dollars of cap space, after locking up 3 players to over a third of your allotted spending money.

If the Burrows experiment continues to be a success, Kesler picks up where he left off last year, Demitra actually earns his 4 million dollars, and Hodgson steps up like he’s expected to, and so do the rest of the bottom 6, the Canucks could have a shot at this. Oh yeah, and it also banks on Luongo not letting in 7 goals in the most important game of his career. There are a lot of intangibles going into this season that could, can and will define this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks. Gillis has one year to make this “work”. If it does “work”, then next year he’s in deep. If Hodgson pans out, Hodgson’s rookie bonuses will count towards a larger cap hit and with 3 players chewing up nearly 40% of the salary, Gillis better hope for a miracle if he wants to keep Ryan Kesler and Willie Mitchell around.

You can’t build a franchise around more than one star. When it comes down to the money it’s not possible to bring in a solid supporting cast on the budget he’s left himself. Gillis now has his hands tied because the Sedins have been inked for 5 years, and if he gives Luongo what Luongo wants he’s likely to command as much as he’s making this year if not more. He deserves it, he’s the best goalie in the league, but in a salary cap era, there’s no way you can afford the right supplementary and complementary players when you blow the bank on 3 guys. Gillis is banking on Luongo being a rock and playing year round, and in the playoffs the way he did against Dallas in his first playoff run, and he’s banking on the Sedins and Burrows to be godsend. I’m not buying it yet. I’ll believe it when I see it, but Gillis’ lack of action around signing Free Agents because he’s invested too much money in too many players has hindered the team in the long run. Gillis is is taking a gamble by banking on a young team built on a lot of ‘ifs’.

May 162009

Gillis made clear yesterday in a press conference that amongst his priorities of inking Kesler and Luongo to long term deals before they hit free agency, and re-signing the entire coachign staff, one of his foremost concerns (and rightly so) was re-signing the Sedins.

There’s been talk that the Sedins are not worth re-signing and the Canucks should let them go. They’re asking for about 7 million dollars each, basically double what they earned per year under their old contract and while that may be warranted by the way their stats look, with the cap headed down, not this season but the next, it just not might be financially possible, or responsible to sign them for that much while being able to re-sign others and maintain this core group of players.

When you look at the way they play, there are no two players so consistantly dominating as the Sedins. They’ve been point per game players for the last two seasons, and they proved this playoffs that they can play in the post season. They can hardly be faulted for the second round exit the Canucks experienced this season. They seem to have found a third man to play with in Alex Burrows, and since he didn’t have Anson-Carter-Ego-Syndrome, he actually re-signed with the Canucks. To replace them for the money they’re asking, or slightly less would be impossible without taking a larger cap hit. The fact that they need to be together brings down their price a little and that might help us out a little more in the long run.

At the end of the day, the Sedins want to win a cup. All players do. They also want to play on a contender, and they don’t want to be split up. I think the only teams willing to take a chance on them and their salary, if they were to test the free agency waters, would be the non contenders. The LAs, the Phoenixes, the Floridas, and I don’t think the Sedin’s are willing to do that. I have a feeling at the end of the day Gillis is going to work his magic and the Sedins will take the home town discount because if they don’t there is absolutely no way this team can function properly if 21 million dollars of a 54 million dollar cap is going to 3 players.

May 142009

If there’s one thing as uncertain as the future of Mats Sundin, it’s the future of Mattias Ohlund.If we know anything about Mike Gillis and the way he manages his team, his lack of negotiation with is a good sign that Ohlund isn’t coming back.

Gillis has made a case for himself and making it very clear that he is not a wishy washy deal maker. He plays his cards straight. He made it clear from the day he was signed exactly what he wanted on his team. He made it clear in the offseason, and throughout the season until he finally made good, that he wanted Mats Sundin on his team. Gillis knows what he wants, and he gets what he wants.

Ohlund in a contract year was subpar at best, offensively. As a defensive defenseman he did what he’s done best on this team for 11 season. He played defensively solid hockey with few mistakes. Statisticly he had one of his better defensive seasons (he was +14 vs -1,-3,-6 in the last three seasons respectively), but in only his second career complete 82 game season, he managed to score the same number of points that he had last season, which he did in 30 less games.

I think the lack of early on contract talks seemed to have some effect on Ohlund’s play during the regular season. In the post season he had 3 points in 10 games, and in what looked like his last hurrah in a Canucks uniform he to me looked unenthused at best. I know Ohlund’s last option was to test free agency, but Gillis obviously has other cards in play. Edler who has often been referred to as “Ohlund Junior” seems to have proven this season that he’s capable of playing at an NHL calibre, and when Edler is in the ranks, and Ohlund has a subpar contract year, Ohlund’s older, the odds of him returning are on the downside.

Ohlund has indicated that he’s going to test the free agency waters, and no doubt he will be signed by someone, his career isn’t over, it just might be over as a Vancouver Canuck. Gillis made clear at the deadline that he wanted Bouwmeester. My money is that he’s going to make a serious play to bring in a more offensive defenseman and Bouwmeester is his man. The word offense isn’t something to be taken lightly on this team and you can be sure Gillis is going to make the necessary changes to make sure we have a larger arsenal next season.

The Canucks need to go younger. They need to go faster. Bouwmeester could be a good start.

May 022009

As the bandwagon spills over the edges there are several things which were a bit worrisome in game 2, but there was one or two things to take away from the game.

Luongo can now say he’s had his bad game. Get that out of the way, I’m positive he’ll come back stronger and make a statement on the road at the United Center in Chicago. What worries me the most is that with the loss of Salo the defence collapsed quickly. That being said, we’ve seen the Canucks play well during the long stretch he missed during the regular season, and with the veteran play of Mitchell they have the depth to pull together and move on until he returns.

Salo, the Canucks 2nd leading scorer in this year’s playoffs proved how important he is to the power play’s success again tonight and there’s no doubt Khabibulin is hoping he doesn’t have to face that shot in game 3. Lets be realistic though. The Canucks (as much as we’d like and hoped for) were not going to go 16-0 through the playoffs. The Blackhawks weren’t going to take the series lying down, and the Canucks had to lose at some point. I’m glad they lost when they did. There’s never a good time to lose, but losing the first game would have put them in a hole deep. The fact that they’ve split the first two puts them at square one with this now becoming a best of five.

Certain things were inevitable in this series. The Canucks were going to lose at least once. Khabibulin was going to win and finally break his 11 year losing streak versus the Canucks. The Canucks were going to falter.

Now that the reality check has set in, it’s on, it’s a new series. The fact they won game one despite blowing a 3 goal lead didn’t do the trick. They looked flat and the loss of Salo (who is day-to-day with a lower body injury) seemed to hurt. This year though, we’re not as bad off as we would otherwise be. Edler is stepping up nicely, Ossi Vaananen has proved he can be a consistently solid defensive replacement, and this is exactly what Gillis brought him in for.

While it looks like there’s not a lot to take out of this, the fact that we lost is like getting a monkey off our back. It lowers the bar of expectation which was getting a little high, and taking the Canucks a notch down which is never a bad thing. They weren’t getting cocky and overzealous, but they needed to stay down to earth and keep things in check. If nothing, that’s one of the biggest things to take out of this game. While a loss is never something you want, it can be a blessing in disguise. The Canucks don’t want to be Cinderella this year and losing that first game is one of the steps to making sure that doesn’t happen.

The ship’s not sinking, it’s just leaving port. The series is starting fresh, and we should have some great hockey ahead.

Apr 282009

Cody Hodgson was just named OHL Player of the year.

The other day someone asked, “If given the opportunity, would you trade Hodgson for the first round pick in the 2009 draft?” (Or work a trade that included Hodgson for the first round pick)

As speculation goes there’s a snowballs chance in hell, or Patrick Stefan’s chance at scoring on an empty net breakaway, that John Tavares will not go first overall in the 2009 draft. If it’s not him, it will be Victor Hedman. Tavares amongst the class of 2009 is the standout. There’s likely no one that will match his level of talent and skill in his draft year. But, he’s no Crosby, and looks closer to Stamkos than anything else. He also draws other parallels, they both were stand outs in the World Juniors. Stamkos so far has looked like a bust, maybe Tavares will, maybe he won’t. He’s proved he can be the big fish in the little pond, now let’s see if he can roll with the big boys. He’ll likely go to St. Louis, or Tampa, the usual bottom feeders, but it takes a Crosby level player to affect a cellar dweller team. That’s what Crosby did for the pens, that’s what Stamkos failed to do for the Lightning. But for all those things that they can do, I wouldn’t give up Hodgson for either of them. It’d have to be Gretzky reborn again or the second coming of Trevor Linden for me to give up Hodgson for Tavares or Hedman.

Cody Hodgson isn’t a showstopper, a heart breaker. He’s not a one trick pony and he’s not a selfish player. I’m not saying that the greats are selfish, but when you look at a lot of the greats their shoot to pass ratio is a lot higher. This kid isn’t selfish. He’s selfless. Take a look at his play at the World Juniors. Alongside the best this country has to offer, and the best of the 2009 draft he shone bright. He set a World Juniors record with 16 points, 5 goals and 11 assists. He beat out TSN’s favourite junior John Tavares, and while people like Eberle were getting the spotlight for late game heroics, and Tavares was played over and over again on the highlight reel for his lacrosse antics with a hockey stick, Cody Hodgson was flying under the radar. Maybe flying under the radar isn’t the right term as all of those world juniors were on a public stage. But he wasn’t providing last minute one off heroics. Hodgson was solid at both ends of the ice. Hodgson was timely, Hodgson was clutch.

When the Canucks chose not to give him a shot I admit I was pretty peeved about that. In hindsight though when you look at it the Canucks are preparing Cody for something different. They already have a pre-established plan for him. Sending him back to play with the Battalion is putting him in a pond where he’s not just the big fish, he’s the king fish. He’s going back to a team that is going to look to him when and if times get tough. A team that is going to rely on him to lead them through good and bad. Cody back on the Battalion is gaining a wealth of experience as, yes I’ll say it again, he’s being moulded into Trevor v2.0. There’s nothing wrong with that. This city needs another Captain Vancouver to get teary eyed over. Cody is that guy.

Mike Gillis knows how to play his cards right. Next season if he is able to sign Mats again and is also able to bring back the Sedins you’re going to find that once again Vancouver is extremely deep at center. Hodgson is going to join a group of centers which are amongst the best at what they do, invaluable experience for our future Mr. Canuck. Hodgson has the capability of playing at a second line level very soon. The Canucks have created an environment at the moment which will prove to be enormously helpful to the development of this young talent if the pieces of the puzzle all fit. Hodgson also coming into a situation where he’s surrounded by speed will allow him to play at his level. He’s a playmaker; the World Juniors has proved that. If you place him alongside anyone but Taylor Pyatt this kid is going to produce. So placing him with two wheeling and dealing wingers such as Hansen, Burrows, Raymond or Wellwood is likely to pay dividends soon. Now I may be putting the wagon before the horse here with all this speculation but this kid has proven himself to me early on. Even with his pre-season play at the start of this campaign he made a compelling case to fill a roster spot. Had it not been for the potential arrival of Mats, our superstar center Sedin, Kesler and the fact Johnson had been picked up that summer he might have gotten a shot.

Hodgson is young and has a lot to learn, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer he’s a class act. He’s your Trevor Linden and Joe Sackic all tied into one minus the leaf blower incident. He has me excited as a fan just because of what I hope he’s capable of. He may be a little smaller and lighter than is ideal at this point but the Sedins proved to us they could bulk up and with some work Cody’s NHL level of play will match an NHL size.

While he was sent down and his chance to play at the NHL level postponed, Cody is getting opportunities that are developing him as the future leader of the Canucks. His World Juniors experience was a fantastic demonstration of his growth as a player and just another reason for Canuck fans to get excited. I’m almost positive Hodgson will have a spot in the line up next year and with the budding wealth of talent the Canucks have right now this team is getting younger, faster, and I love every second of it. Cody is coming into an environment with playmaking veteran centers to learn from and if this season’s preseason was anything to go off of Cody is the future of this franchise, now.

So, if given the opportunity, would I trade Hodgson for the first round pick in the 2009 draft? Would you?

Apr 262009

There’s been a lot of discussion these past few days about whether Mike Gillis or Dave Nonis (or even Brian Burke) deserves the most credit for the success of this Canucks team.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that Nonis left Gillis with a good core of players. After all, he traded for Luongo and signed the Sedins, Kesler and most of the defense to good contracts. For all these, Nonis deserves proper credit. (And while we’re at it, also credit to Mike Keenan for trading Trevor Linden to get Todd Bertuzzi, which allowed Nonis to get Luongo, and to Brian Burke for drafting the Sedins… but I digress.)

Ultimately though, I think Gillis deserves the most credit for building this team. In one season, he was able to surround Nonis’ good core of players with a proper supporting cast – something Nonis himself couldn’t do. And he did it without handicapping the team’s future in terms of cap space or draft picks.

In hindsight, Gillis simply made smarter decisions.

Nonis re-signed Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison to 3-year deals with a combined cap hit of $9.6 million; Gillis then let Naslund and Morrison go, and signed Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin to shorter-term deals. Last year, Naslund and Morrison combined for 80 points (34G-46A) in 121 GP (0.66 P/G). This year, Pavol and Mats combined for 81 points (29G-52A) in 110 GP (0.74 P/G). Some argue that Gillis had cap space to spend, but so did Nonis; Gillis just spent his on different players.

I agree with Sean’s assessment about the Sundin signing. I think this was one of Gillis’ most important moves. With Sundin in the lineup, the Canucks are a team with balanced scoring. He’s not the fleetest of foot, but he draws defenders towards him and creates space for Kesler and Demitra. Also, with him in the lineup, teams can’t afford to always send their best defenders against the Sedins and we’ve seen what effect that has had on the Sedins’ game. Personally, I think the Sedins’ success the last couple of months is equal parts their maturation and Sundin being able to draw away some of the attention. Is that worth his pro-rated $8.6 million contract? Probably not, but Sundin on the ice looks a lot better than $5.2 million in Acquilini’s savings account.

On Nonis’ team, Taylor Pyatt, Brad Isbister and Jesse Schultz were top-six forwards. Gillis gambled on Kyle Wellwood and traded for Steve Bernier. Granted, neither ended up on the top-six either, but even while getting mostly third line duty, Wellwood scored 18 goals and Bernier’s output (32 points) almost matched Pyatt’s from the last two seasons (37 points).

And we can do this comparison throughout the lineup. Nonis signed Marc Chouinard and Tommi Santala and then let them go. (Chouinard had to be bought out.) The players who, IMHO, actually did their jobs well were multi-purpose Josh Green and Jan Bulis and Nonis replaced them with Byron Ritchie; Gillis then replaced Byron Ritchie with Ryan Johnson, now the team’s PK and faceoff specialist. Nonis brought in Jeff Cowan and rewarded him with a two-year contract extension after what essentially amounted to a hot streak; Gillis brought in Darcy Hordichuk, who has been tougher and more reliable.

One area Gillis was particularly more adept at was identifying talent and determining their value. While Nonis gave up multiple 2nd round draft picks for guys like Bryan Smolinski, Eric Weinrich and Brent Sopel, Gillis only gave them up (or was willing to give them up) for Bernier and David Backes. Gillis got Kyle Wellwood and Ossi Vaananen for free, Shane O’Brien for oft-injured Lukas Krajicek and backup Jason LaBarbera for a 7th round draft pick.

Being a GM is about building a team. Nonis left Gillis with a lot of good pieces, but Gillis was able to complement them with better pieces. In a cap world, GMs have to make better decisions about what to pay and what to give up for which player. IMHO, Gillis has done that better. The Canucks aren’t a perfect team by any stretch, but they’re a more complete team than any other version we’ve seen in their history and they’ve already matched the postseason success that Nonis had in four seasons as GM – Gillis deserves credit for that.

Mar 062009
Mar 042009

Good morning boys and girls. It’s 5:19 AM and I just rolled out of bed and wife’s annoyed. We go through this same routine every trade deadline day. I set my alarm for 5:00 AM, I wake up, and she wonders why the heck I do this. No worries. I know she follows along at work. I hope you will too.

But first, coffee.

[update: 03/04/2009, 5:23 AM]

From Bruce Garrioch via Hosea Cheung:

League sources say the Canucks are offering D Kevin Bieksa, LW Mason Raymond and a No. 1 pick for Bouwmeester.

That package is about what I figured would be the starting point for Bouwmeester. To be honest though, I’m not sure it’s enough to get it done. But then again, I never would have thought Florida would trade Roberto Luongo for Todd Bertuzzi.

[update: 03/04/2009, 5:38 AM]

The TSN panel just mentioned that Tim Connolly, a UFA in the summer and one of the guys rumored Mike Gillis is after, is close to a contract extension with the Sabres.

[update: 03/04/2009, 5:44 AM]

I’m curious. Who would win a fight between two pugilists turned panelists? Matthew Barnaby or Nick Kypreos?

[update: 03/04/2009, 6:20 AM]

Sportsnet is talking about whether or not the Canucks should pick up Miroslav Satan to play with the Sedins.

It’s like 2006 all over again.

[update: 03/04/2009, 6:33 AM] is getting in on the trade deadline day action with a dedicated page for today, complete with a picture of a dreamy Scott Rintoul.

[update: 03/04/2009, 6:55 AM]

Sportsnet is reporting that the Bruins are after Mattias Ohlund. TSN is saying that Ohlund is not available.

[update: 03/04/2009, 6:59 AM]

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our 1st trade of the day.

Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick goes to Ottawa; Antoine Vermette goes to Columbus.

Did Leclaire’s stock drop that much or did Vermette’s go up?

[update: 03/04/2009, 7:40 AM]

Just reading Jay Onrait’s blog on TSN. Funny stuff, like this entry:

9:42 – Chris Finlay writes in to ask:

“Are you going to keep blogging past 3 p.m to ensure you don’t miss any trades?”

Sure. Rub in the fact that a few years ago I stopped blogging at 3 p.m due to exaustion, only to miss the Ryan Smyth trade, the biggest one of the day. I took a lot of heat for that, but at least I didn’t read about the Ryan Smyth trade on New York Newsday’s website and try to pass it off as my own. Or worse, report that Smyth had signed with the Oilers, only to have Edmonton trade him hours later.

[update: 03/04/2009, 7:57 AM]

Lost in all this trade deadline talk is the waiver deadline for all those players waived yesterday. In an hour, we should find out who goes where.

I’m on the fence on whether or not the Canucks should put in a claim for Brendan Morrison. I love the guy, and if he’s healthy, he’d suit the 3rd line center role more than Kyle Wellwood. I’m not sure he’s completely recovered from all his injuries in the last couple of seasons though.

[update: 03/04/2009, 8:15 AM]

Via Jason Botchford’s Twitter feed, the Canucks aren’t interested in Brendan Morrison. There goes that.

[update: 03/04/2009, 8:24 AM]

Bob Mackenzie is reporting that the Flames and the Coyotes are working on a deal that will send Olli Jokinen to Calgary. As a Canucks fan, that’s scary.

[update: 03/04/2009, 8:31 AM]

Is it just me or does a $1.6 million per season raise for two seasons for Tim Connolly seem high? Yeah, he’s almost a point-per-game guy, but he makes Sami Salo look like an iron man and has only played 79 games in the last 2.75 seasons.

[update: 03/04/2009, 8:50 AM]

Calgary just acquired Jordan Leopold for Lawrence Nycholat, prospect Ryan Wilson and a 2nd round draft pick 2010. Basically, they got a top-4 defenseman without giving up anything from their roster.

I hate to admit it… but nicely done.

[update: 03/04/2009, 9:05 AM]

The waiver wire list:

Martin Gerber to Toronto
Brendan Morrison to Dallas
Craig Adams to Pittsburgh

I echo TSN’s sentiments on Gerber. Why?

[update: 03/04/2009, 9:19 AM]

A couple of minor deals: Buffalo acquires Mikhail Tellqvist from Phoenix for a 4th round draft pick, Blues trade Andy Wozniewski to Pittsburgh to Danny Richmond.

Lots of chatter, not a lot of action. I wonder if I have time to run out and get another coffee.

[update: 03/04/2009, 9:39 AM]

Per TSN, Calgary acquires Olli Jokinen for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a 1st round draft pick. That’s a steep price to pay but the Flames just got a lot deeper.

The salaries don’t work – the Flames are about $3 million over the cap at this point – so Sutter must have something else brewing.

[update: 03/04/2009, 9:54 AM]

Vesa Toskala’s going on injured reserve, which explains the Gerber pickup.

I suppose that means TO is still very much in the Tavares/Hedman sweepstakes.

[update: 03/04/2009, 9:58 AM]

A quick hit on the Canucks seeing that I haven’t really talked about them in this post.

Jason Botchford and Hosea Cheung are both reporting that Mike Gillis is chasing hard after Jay Bouwmeester. I think this is significant because it underscores Gillis’ philosophy in managing this team.

With Sundin’s signing and Burrows’ re-signing, it shows he’s willing to chase and pay big bucks for players who are very good at what they do. If they’re going to get paid, they damn well have a significant impact on the team. On the flip side, he won’t spend much time on average players who only make his team marginally better.

Look at the makeup of this team right now. It’s tough to point to a player who is considered “overpaid”. Gillis has gotten bang for his buck. It’s the moneyball philosophy.

So I’m not surprised to hear the Canucks are still in the Bouwmeester sweepstakes. He’s the kind of guy who will make this team much, much better. He’s the kind of guy who could take this team over the hump. The only question left really is whether the Canucks have the assets to pull it off.

[update: 03/04/2009, 10:25 AM]

More on Bouwmeester.

Apparently, Florida want Cody Hodgson as well.

Not saying it’s gonna happen, and actually, if I was Gillis I’d probably just hang up. But if it does and Hodgson goes the other way, then the Canucks best well win the Stanley Cup this year.

[update: 03/04/2009, 10:42 AM]

I’m trying hard to keep up on the Twitter updates and I also have a Skype chat going on with other Canucks bloggers.

The rumor of the moment is that the Canucks and the Panthers have agreed on Raymond and a 1st for Bouwmeester, but the Panthers also want Kevin Bieksa. (Incidentally, this was the rumored package from earlier today.)

Keeping in mind Gillis’ moneyball approach, is adding an unsigned Bouwmeester and removing a signed Bieksa worth it? Is it a significant improvement on the Canucks’ ‘D’?

[update: 03/04/2009, 10:57 AM]

Boston’s been busy:

  • Boston acquires Mark Recchi and a 2nd round pick in 2010 from Tampa Bay for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums
  • Boston acquires Steve Montador from Anaheim for Petteri Nokelainen

[update: 03/04/2009, 11:03 AM]

Bill Guerin’s on his way to Pittsburgh for a conditional draft pick.

Per TSN, the return is a 5th round pick. If the Penguins make the playoffs, it becomes a 4th round pick. If they win a round, it becomes a 3rd round pick.

[update: 03/04/2009, 11:40 AM]

20 minutes left and only 8 trades so far.

A lot of names haven’t moved yet – Jay Bouwmeester, Derek Morris, Nik Antropov – and I’m wondering now if they would be.

Big finish boys. Big finish.

[update: 03/04/2009, 11:47 AM]

Phoenix acquires Scottie Upshall and a 2nd round draft pick; Daniel Carcillo goes to Philadelphia.

Damn. Upshall would have looked good on the Canucks’ 3rd line.

[update: 03/04/2009, 11:52 AM]

Nik Antropov is Broadway-bound; the Leafs receive a 2nd round draft pick and a conditional draft pick.

So much for Burke’s asking price of a prospect and a 1st round draft pick.

[update: 03/04/2009, 12:00 PM]

Derek Morris is on his way to the Rangers as well. The Coyotes get Nigel Dawes, Dmitri Kalinin and Petr Prucha in return. Not a bad return, I might add.

[update: 03/04/2009, 12:07 PM]

Buffalo acquires Dominic Moore from Toronto for a 2nd round draft pick.

A 2nd round draft pick? Wow.

[update: 03/04/2009, 12:12 PM]

Hosea Cheung just let us know that it’s official and that the Canucks are standing pat. Mike Gillis has a press conference scheduled at 12:45 PM.

I’ll gather my thoughts on today and post again later tonight. Remember that I’m also on Jacked In With Jessica (Kelowna AM 1150) at 4:20 PM.

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