As Gillis was introduced to the media – and all of Canuck Nation – at his inaugural news conference Wednesday morning at General Motors Place, the 49-year-old former National Hockey League player and most-recently player agent spoke glowingly about almost everything about taking the reins of the hockey club.
Everything, that is, except the team in its current form and its chances of winning the Stanley Cup.
“I don’t think this team is close at this particular point,” said Gillis bluntly, offering the first real hint of a philosophical change from the past regime.
As much as Canucks fans wanted to believe that the club was a few healthy bodies and perhaps a couple of fortunate bounces away from making great things happen, Gillis’ harsh evaluation should be seen as a positive. As the new man in charge, he’s simply coming in and stating that there’s plenty of work to be done and he’s looking forward to rolling up his sleeves and tackling the issues of making the hockey club better.
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| Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. |
E-mail him at email@example.com
“I think there is a good foundation here. If the first round of the playoffs are any indication, this is tough, hard-nosed hockey with a lot of goals that are getting scored in difficult areas. I think this team needs to get faster, I think it needs more grit, I think it needs to be more competitive,” Gillis said, in his first assessment of the needs of his hockey team.
“We have a solid defense, solid goaltending but there are a number of areas that need to be addressed. I think if they get addressed well, this team won’t be far and a couple of very good decisions or a couple of really bold decisions might put this team in position to win almost immediately. I’m hoping to be able to take advantage of those opportunities as quickly as we can.”
Gillis looked comfortable as he sat at the podium staring out into the sea of television cameras and reporters. And he sounded self-assured as he answered questions about making the leap from the relative anonymity of being a player agent to the high-profile position of running one of the most-prominent businesses in the city. He says he’s ready for the challenge and welcomes the constant scrutiny that comes with the job.
“I see this as a unique opportunity where I have to win. My reputation and leaving the other side, I have to have results and that’s going to be the first and foremost thing on my mind moving forward in every situation,” he said. “I feel acute pressure already to try and get this team to a point where it’s competing and competing for a Stanley Cup.”
“Coming from where I’ve come from, I’m hoping to bring a different perspective in terms of player relations, I’m hoping to bring different ideas to the draft table and player development,” he added. “I’m hoping to be able to attract players here because in dealing with them for the past 16 years, I understand the message that they want to hear. And I understand what’s important to them. And I think that experience might be the biggest thing I bring to the table.”
Gillis pointed out early in his press conference his intention to strengthen the Canucks performance at the draft. He feels his years of recruiting players to represent speak to his abilities to identify and assess hockey talent at an early age.
The new general manager admitted he didn’t know many people throughout the Canucks organization particularly well and said it was among his priorities moving forward to familiarize himself with the staff he had inherited. But he was quick to point out that he took the reins of the organization without preconceived notions and wanted to give all existing staff members every opportunity to prove themselves and their worth. At the same time, Gillis stated that if people didn’t want to work under him or there were differences of opinion that couldn’t be bridged, he wouldn’t hesitate to make changes.
So with the pleasantries of the initial press conference out of the way, it’s time for Mike Gillis to get down to the business of setting the Vancouver Canucks on the course to the playoffs and beyond. Obviously, the Canucks can’t win the Stanley Cup this year, but if the new general manager can deliver on the promises he made about aggressive moves and bold changes to the organization, then next spring should be a much different story.
All of Canuck Nation is expecting results.
Welcome to the job Mike Gillis.