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"Team of destiny"

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
That’s definitely not how Alain Vigneault wanted to celebrate his big day.

Instead of wolfing down birthday cake with a party hat on surrounded by balloons and streamers, Vigneault spent Thursday afternoon shoulder to shoulder with Canucks GM Mike Gillis speaking with the media to wrap up the 2008-09 season.

Actually, celebrating his 48th birthday wasn’t what Vigneault wanted to be doing on this day either. He would have much rather had it fly under the radar in favor of preparing for Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinal.

Like the players, Vancouver’s commander in chief is admittedly still “disappointed and shocked” that the year came to such an abrupt halt, particularly because he had a gut feeling the stars were finally going to align for the Canucks.

“I really thought all along that we were the team of destiny through this season,” said Vigneault.

“I felt that with everything that had happened to our organization, starting with Gary Lupul and then the situation with Luc and then Taylor’s finance and the internal situations that we faced and had to handle this year, I really believed that we were going to be that team of destiny and get the bounces that you need sometimes that you need to be a Stanley Cup winning team.”

The Canucks were upended by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the West Semifinal with the series clinching game having played out less than 72 hours ago.

There are negatives to be had from Vancouver’s performance against Chicago, but not surprisingly Vigneault was sticking to the positives. He was going on the basis that, to borrow a line from Kanye West, “Th-th-that that don't kill me, can only make me stronger.”

“I think that right now we’re all disappointed, we all think that we should be playing, but I do think that in the long run this is going to make us better,” Vigneault said.

“It’s going to make me a better coach, it’s going to make my staff better coaches, it’s going to make our players better.”

A number of topics were discussed during the half-hour press conference, with the majority of questions directed at Gillis, the man who will shape and mould the Canucks over the summer.

Here’s a bite size Q & A rundown of the important topics Gillis covered.

Gillis on Vancouver’s coaching situation; he plans on extending the contracts of the entire coaching staff in the near future:

“I think that when you look back at this season, there were really mixed expectations about this team, mixed expectations about the job I had done, about whether Alain had done a good job the previous year and I think for the most part we answered them as well as we could given the ups and downs that we faced.

“Winning the division title and getting 100 points, I think based on the adversity that we faced at different points in the season, was not only admirable, but quite an accomplishment.”

Gillis on the possibility of Mats Sundin returning for another season:

“I had a great meeting with Mats today. I am extraordinarily proud of the fact that as an organization we were able to get that done and I am really pleased with everything he brought to this organization professionally, integrity, character.

“I can’t say enough about the guy and the things he said to me about us and how he felt about coming here made me feel really pleased about being able to get him here.”

Gillis on his plans for Roberto Luongo and the trade rumors that have erroneously surfaced:

“I haven’t had time yet to get focused on that. I’ll approach it internally with Roberto the way I think is best and that’ll come sometime over the next few weeks.

“Everyone is obviously extraordinarily disappointed with losing a series that we felt we should have won and it’s a little bit unfair to expect answers, commitments, ideas from people that are angry and disjointed about the fact that this opportunity got away from us.

“The idea that you trade a world class player and couch it behind from what I found to be a fairly superficial salary cap analysis, I think is ridiculous. I think that it’s up to me to find ways to make this work; we do salary cap analysis every day. We think we have the way to make it work and we intend to do that. I think that in the clear light of day, we don’t have financial issues here on this team. We intend to utilize every dollar we can within the framework of the CBA to continue to improve and keep good players.”

Gillis on how popular the Sedins, who he met with Thursday, would be on the NHL’s open market:

“They’re really good players and there’s always a marketplace for really good players.

“I’m hoping that with the things we’ve done here and what we’ve accomplished over the last 12 months that they want to stay here and be part of what we’re doing and be part of our growth. I think any player has lots of interest, I don’t know what the market place will be, I used to be able to predict it within three or four percent accuracy, but there’s a lot of moving parts right now so I’m not sure what it’ll be.”

Gillis on if his first season as Vancouver’s GM was a success:

“It wasn’t a success because we didn’t win the Stanley Cup and I didn’t take this job to feel complaisant and comfortable getting to the second round. I still feel completely comfortable in saying that we should have won the second round of the playoffs this year and moved onto the third round. If winning is the objective, than it hasn’t been a successful season for me and winning is the objective.”
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