Canucks GM race heats up - Player super-agent Mike Gillis, perhaps best in hockey never to be top man, is approached by Canucks
Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has approached Mike Gillis about Vancouver's vacant GM position, according to Tony Gallagher.
"Having spoken to Doug Armstrong, Neil Smith or his representative, Minny agent Brian Lawton, as well as being approached by Rich Winter, who is pushing John Muckler as a senior advisor to ownership, Aquilini added Mike Gillis to the list.
"He's perhaps the best candidate in hockey never to have been a general manager.
"Gillis has been offered and turned down at least two other teams.
"In each case, he indicated he didn't like the deportment, arrangement or structure of ownership, preferring to work directly under one entity instead of a string of people.
"Known here as the agent for Markus Naslund, Gillis would not comment on anything with respect to what process he might be in, other than to confirm that he's been contacted.
"I was approached but it's not my position to say any more," said Gillis, who has been a first-hand observer during the Canucks meltdown given he's currently living here."
Gillis, a native of Sudbury, Ont., was selected fifth overall by the Colorado Rockies in the 1978 Amateur Draft. In 246 NHL games, split between Colorado and Boston, Gillis recorded 33 goals and 43 assists. He was forced to retire in 1984, proceeding to earn a law degree from Queens University.
"His client list over the years has included Pavel Bure, the Courtnall brothers, Bobby Holik, Sam Gagner, Pavol Demitra, Mathieu Dandenault, Mike Richter, Mathieu Schneider and many others, so if he were to finally say yes to one of these jobs and take the helm of the Canucks the Naslund issue would be front and centre."
Canucks' prospects just getting started
Elliott Pap immerses himself into the world of the Manitoba Moose with an American Hockey League playoff article.
The Moose play the Syracuse Crunch, AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, in the first round of the playoffs, which begin Friday night in Syracuse.
"Syracuse has former Vancouver Giant star Gilbert Brule in its lineup and enters the playoffs as the AHL's hottest group with 15 straight victories.
"The Moose, who won 10 straight in March, finished with 99 points, one behind second-place Syracuse in the Northern Division. The Toronto Marlies captured the division with 109.
"Arniel has an interesting choice in goal. Drew MacIntyre was his No. 1 most of the season and has AHL playoff experience. However, rookie Cory Schneider
, the Canucks' much-ballyhooed first-round pick in 2004, had a sensational second half and should get the nod.
"I have decided who will start but I haven't told anybody yet," Arniel said coyly. "So I can't tell you."
"Schneider, 22, went 18-5-1 in his last 24 starts to finish the regular season at 21-12-2. He recorded a 2.28 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. At one point, he won nine straight.
"MacIntyre was 25-18-2 with a 2.32 GAA and .921 save percentage."
The Moose and Crunch are quite evenly matched on paper and no one will be surprised if this series goes to seven games.
Lawton aims for top job - On GM shortlist despite his lack of experience
Jason Botchford says former NHLer Brian Lawton is a possible GM replacement for Dave Nonis.
"Brian Lawton has piqued the Aquilinis' interest, and then some. He may not be at the top of the Canucks' shortlist, but he is on it.
"The former player agent surprised many a year ago when he gave up his career, and all its riches, to pursue his long-held dream of becoming an NHL executive.
"It's always been my goal since I've been a player, I haven't really shared that with many people," Lawton said. "But literally when I started playing in the league [in 1983] I knew where I wanted to end up -- hopefully, one day running a team. That's why I always paid attention to everything that was going on."
Lawton is currently saying all the right things as he preaches an up-tempo style of hockey, one that many fans on the West Coast have been clamoring for.
"I don't like my forwards skating backwards through the neutral zone," Lawton said with a chuckle when asked about his overall philosophy. "I like a very aggressive, up-tempo style. There's very few systems, when you really break it down. It's just hybrids of different things. But my philosophy on how to play is very, very aggressive hockey. That's where it's at for me. So how do you do that? How would I get there? One step at a time.
"You also need to do essentially what Carolina did and that's find other people's garbage and turn it into a treasure," Lawton said. "Scouting is going to be key but a lot of it is just knowing the player. It's putting people in the right environment to be successful. A team like the Canucks will probably be in the market to look at players like Martin Havlat or Patrick Elias and they will have to figure out if they can turn those guys into gems."
Grabner ready to grab NHL chance
Manitoba Moose forward Michael Grabner told Ben Kuzma that he is consistently learning in the pros and that he feels his level of play has improved this season.
"Confident? I'm trying to be," said Grabner. "I'm trying to work hard and hopefully I'm going to get the [NHL] chance next year with a few callups, or whatever. Hopefully, I can prove I can play there, but I'm not too worried about it. I'm only 20."
"He's the kind of guy you might not see for 58 minutes and then he scores two goals to give you a 3-2 win," said Stan Smyl, Canucks director of player development. "The thing you want him to improve on is consistency in his play. You can't take shifts off in the playoffs and he understands that he can't cheat coming out of the zone. But he's an elite player and they don't come along very often."
That's why Moose coach Scott Arniel parked Grabner is the pressbox for a pair of games this season. It wasn't so much punishment as opening his eyes wider to playing a complete game.
Rather than pout, he started producing. And if the way he handles adversity is a barometer on how the winger has matured, he may be a good Canuck.