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Five Questions: Gillis talks Bure, life as agent, GM

Saturday, 11.10.2012 / 9:08 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL.com will periodically be doing a series called "Five Questions With …," a Q&A with some of the key movers and shakers in the game today aimed to gain some insight into their lives and careers.

This edition features Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis:

Instead of going to Toronto for the Hockey Hall of Fame celebration Monday night, Mike Gillis will be in Trinidad watching his daughter, Kate, play for the Canadian national women's field hockey team.

It's a trip any father wouldn't miss provided he could afford to get there, so there's no way anybody can argue with Gillis for choosing to go along for the ride with his athletic daughter.

However, Gillis knows better than most how important this Hall of Fame weekend and the inductions Monday night are to at least one of the inductees.

In Gillis' former life as a player agent, Pavel Bure was one of his most high-profile clients.

Gillis represented Bure from 1997 through the end of his injury-shortened career. He helped Bure through the ups and downs of a 51-goal season in Vancouver, a holdout that led to his trade to Florida and the knee injuries that derailed his career once he got to New York.

Bure finished with 437 goals and 779 points in 702 career NHL games.

"My thoughts about him going into the Hall are he absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," Gillis told NHL.com. "I thought he was probably the most exciting, best goal scorer in the years he played in the NHL. He's a terrific guy, was a great client and he was a pleasure to work with. We had a lot of fun together."

Now Gillis is four years into his new life as the general manager in Vancouver -- and he is having just as much fun as he used to have as an agent.

Gillis put together training tactics that helped the Canucks have the best road record in the Western Conference last season. He's kept a core of stars in tact by signing several to long-term, lucrative contracts. The Canucks reached Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 only to lose at home to Boston. They've won the Presidents' Trophy in each of the last two seasons.

Read on for some of Gillis' thoughts on Bure, his transition from agent to GM and his future.

Here are Five Questions With… Mike Gillis:

With Pavel Bure going into the Hall of Fame, are the Canucks planning to honor him in anyway, be it a jersey retirement or something else?

"I can't reveal anything, but there are three jerseys that are in the rafters at Rogers Arena and there is a committee that we have that is completely independent of the team that makes the decisions about that and the Ring of Honor. There is obviously plenty of discussion about Pavel and how to effectively honor him within that context. It's ongoing. I can't reveal anything more on that, but he deserves to be honored in some form. It's just a question of what and that will be left up to the committee."

When you left being an agent to become a GM, what was the most difficult challenge you faced in leaving one field to go to the other?

"It was a difficult decision all around. I had really good clients, guys that I was friends with for a long time and represented for a long time that I had to leave and assist them in getting representation from others. I think that was the most difficult thing. I represented Markus Naslund for a long time and went into a situation in Vancouver when he was contemplating the end of his career and there were some very difficult decisions that had to be made on both sides. I found that very challenging."

When negotiating a deal now, as a former agent accustomed to what the other side thinks and does, do you have an advantage or simply just a way of understanding the other side that is different than most?

"Yeah, I think we have an opportunity to look at things a little differently. The way I've set up the organization is one that allows us to capitalize on my experience as an agent to understand what the player is trying to get to and why they're trying to get there. It also allows me the opportunity to realize that if a player is in Vancouver for the wrong reasons we can make that evaluation and adjust accordingly, but if the player is there for all the right reasons we have the chance to reward him and make sure that he's well taken care of. It gives a little bit of a different perspective, which is helpful."

You've put a lot of things in place, various techniques for players with psychologists, therapists, diets, etc., but the thing that jumps out at me is the sleep doctors/experts that you use. Can you explain the philosophy on why you chose to use them and how it all came about, because now it seems like it is getting some traction around the League, too?

"When I took this job we did a real thorough review of everything -- travel, the geography, how we traveled, how to get players rested. We looked at the number of man-games lost and we put together a plan. Sleep therapy and analysis is just one element of the plan that would try and keep our players as fresh as possible and reduce our man-games lost to injuries and hopefully prolong their careers. We've taken a number of steps further in that direction in a number of different areas. I'm not going to go into detail because I think it does give us a competitive advantage and allows us to level the playing field a little bit because of the travel, but I'm firmly convinced that as an organization we can be leaders in human performance as long as we have players that are amenable and want to get better all the time.

"We have a unique opportunity because our owners are completely supportive both financially and emotionally in these kinds of initiatives, so we're very fortunate. We have owners prepared to support it, players prepared to support it and we're actively out there developing personnel for the team that will carry through.

"It's a lot of fun for me. I've thought about it a lot over the years and I think we have an opportunity to really do some strong and aggressive things with respect to human performance that maybe haven't been thought of yet. The players bought into it and we've had the best road record in the National Hockey League in the last year. They are seeing results and when they get results they're happy. They fall into line pretty quickly when you can show them it's effective."

Of course, lockout or no lockout, fans want to know about your unique goaltending situation. How do you view what is in front of you -- is it an opportunity for the organization or strictly business?

"Well, I look at it in multiple ways. I really like Roberto [Luongo]. I like him as a person. I like him as a goaltender. He's a phenomenal guy, a phenomenally hard-working player, zero maintenance. He is the kind of guy that any team would like to have. If we're going to make a transaction, do anything, it's going to be done so we can improve our team in other ways.

"When you take an All-Star player off your team, you have to do that with a lot of faith that you're improving in different areas. And, you know, I don't see that big of an issue if Roberto is with us. I don't see that as an issue at all. I think he's a true professional and I know he and Cory [Schneider] have a great relationship. You know, that may end up being the plan depending on when we get started. I think they would both be fine with it. We're going to do what is best for our hockey team. We're going to make sure we're in the best position to win the Stanley Cup and that may be with both goaltenders."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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