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Canucks fire general manager Mike Gillis

by Dan Rosen

Vancouver Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis has been fired, the team announced Tuesday.

The Canucks were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention Monday night.

Gillis was hired by the Canucks as general manager in April 2008 and added the title of president in 2009.

"On behalf of my entire family, I would like to sincerely thank Mike Gillis for his hard work and the many contributions he made on and off the ice during his tenure," Francesco Aquilini, chairman of Canucks Sports & Entertainment, said in a statement. "The Vancouver Canucks had success under Mike's leadership, and we nearly reached our ultimate goal; but I believe we have reached a point where a change in leadership and new voice is needed.

"I also want to thank our fans for their support for the Vancouver Canucks through a difficult and frustrating season," Aquilini continued. "We haven't met their expectations or ours. We are committed to bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver for our fans and we will continue to do everything possible to reach that goal."

TSN Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted Tuesday morning that former Canucks center Trevor Linden was expected to be named president. However, in a previously scheduled television interview, Linden went on Global TV in Vancouver and shot down that speculation, saying he had not been contacted by the Canucks and no announcement about his future with the club was imminent.

Under Gillis, the Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and won the Presidents' Trophy in back-to-back seasons (2010-12). Gillis won the GM of the Year award for the 2010-11 season, when his acquisitions of forwards Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre at the NHL Trade Deadline helped the Canucks go on a long playoff run.

Gillis signed a contract extension after the 2011-12 season, when the Canucks were knocked out of the playoffs in a five-game, first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. At the time of the contract extension announcement, Aquilini said, "Mike's presence in this organization is important to the long-term success of this hockey club and we are confident that we will continue to compete at the highest level under his leadership."

The Canucks were again knocked out of the playoffs the first round last season, this time by way of a sweep against the San Jose Sharks. Coach Alain Vigneault was fired and replaced with John Tortorella, but the Canucks missed the playoffs this season for the first time since 2007-08.

Gillis was responsible for keeping the Canucks' core group of skaters intact.

During his tenure he gave long-term contract extensions to forwards Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen, and defensemen Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa. Gillis signed defenseman Dan Hamhuis to a six-year contract in 2010 and defenseman Jason Garrison to a six-year contract in 2012. He signed Christopher Tanev as a college free agent in 2010.

Gillis also is responsible for the trades that depleted the Canucks' enviable goaltending depth.

He sent Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils in a draft day trade last June, and Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers early last month. In return for the two No. 1 goalies, the Canucks got a first-round draft pick from the Devils (forward Bo Horvat), and goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias from the Panthers.

Some of Gillis' other trades didn't work out for the Canucks either, most notably when he sent forwards Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier and the Canucks' 2010 first-round draft pick to the Panthers for defenseman Keith Ballard and forward Victor Oreskovich. Ballard was bought out last summer, and Oreskovich played 17 games for the Canucks, and hasn't been in the NHL since 2011-12.

Gillis acquired forward David Booth from the Panthers early in the 2011-12 season. Booth has been injury-prone and he's underperformed (49 points in 131 games). He could be bought out this summer.

Kesler reportedly was seeking a trade before this year's deadline, March 5. He is still with the Canucks.

This summer, Gillis hired Tortorella to replace Vigneault, who left as the Canucks' all-time leader in coaching victories (313). The Canucks have struggled under Tortorella, going 35-33-11 for 81 points. They are 28th in goals per game (2.30) and 27th in power play (14.7 percent). They also have a minus-11 goal-differential in 5-on-5 play.

The Canucks have been injury-prone this season, a problem that might have something to do with the grinding, shot-blocking style Tortorella has tried to make them play. They did not play that way under Vigneault.

Henrik Sedin had his ironman streak of 679 consecutive games played snapped Jan. 21, when he missed the first of six straight games because of a rib injury. The Swedish center had to skip the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of the injury. He has missed 12 games this season after not missing a game since March 19, 2004.

Daniel Sedin, Edler, Burrows and Mike Santorelli have been out for extended periods of time this season. Santorelli, who was off to a promising start with 28 points in 49 games, hasn't played since Jan. 16 because of a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery.


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