Some major changes took place this week out West, with the Vancouver Canucks firing general manager Mike Gillis and hiring former captain Trevor Linden as president of hockey operations. It's a big move that will go a long way toward which direction this team goes in. After being the class of the League for a few years, the Canucks do not intend on taking more steps backward after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.
With Gillis, overall I think we knew the time had come. Something was going to happen. I wasn't sure if it was going to be him and coach John Tortorella, him or Tortorella. Who knows? I will say that I think there were some trades that Mike didn't net great returns on. I would also say the development pool is not where it should be. Their best prospect was Cory Schneider, who is gone. They've also done a great job with Christopher Tanev. Other than that, they haven't had great prospects and that has hurt them.
Overall, Gillis did a lot of great things to. Under his watch, Vancouver won the Presidents' trophy in back-to-back seasons and got to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks' style of play mirrored that of the Detroit Red Wings during that time. Puck possession was encouraged, hockey IQ was rewarded. They didn't have the heavy game like the Bruins had, which led to Boston beating them in 2011. But the Stanley Cup year was one of the most dominant teams we've seen in a while.
I don't like the way they were playing stylistically this year. A lot of that is from Torts, who wants them to play a grittier game. But when you look at their personnel, it doesn't really lend itself to that. There aren't a lot of Ryan McDonaghs and Ryan Callahans in that lineup. You have Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler, but there aren't that many guys who play that style.
There will be a lot of changes around the NHL this summer; this is the first of many. I think there will be several GM changes this summer and there could be as many as eight coaching changes between now and the offseason. The game of musical chairs has already started. I also believe Gillis will get another opportunity.
The first move they made after firing Gillis was hiring a franchise icon in Linden as the team's president. He played the prime of his career there after being drafted out of Medicine Hat. He's someone the fans in Vancouver are very familiar with. He captained the team to Game 7 against the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final. He's had a huge imprint on that organization as a player and in the community with his business ventures and just being a visible person around town.
The key now for the Canucks as their season-ticket renewals are about to go out is they want somebody to fit the bill of this role, somebody the community respects and can identify with. Linden is very identifiable and high profile and all those things. The role of team president, although it's unique to each market, entails a lot of work. It's not only having a feel for your team and their on-ice performance. It's also overseeing a lot of the business aspects as well.
From a hockey perspective, it's going to be a tall task for Linden. What happens with the coach now? Trevor Linden's voice will be heard in that. I believe it will be his hire along with the input from the Aquilini brothers, who own the team. Same thing with whoever they hire as GM.
How will the Canucks play next year? What style of play do they want to implement? Who will be traded and who won't? What kind of free-agent signings will they make? And that's just the hockey side.
On the business side, Vancouver is a very robust economy. There's a lot of money and foreign investment in that economy. How hard are you going to work to maintain your current business relationships and forge new ones?
I look at somebody like Luc Robitaille with the Los Angeles Kings as a good model for Linden. He is more on the business side than the hockey side. He still has his input with the hockey side, but I don't think a lot of people recognize what his role truly entails, especially in a market like L.A.
Look at Vancouver, which has some of the most expensive real estate in North America. There's a lot of opportunity there and a lot of work to be done on the business side. So this is a really big hire, beyond just the season ticket renewals. When I look big picture at this franchise, this is a critical time in the history of this franchise; hockey-wise, businesswise, community affairs-wise.
Vancouver is a very passionate and vibrant hockey market but at times can also be a very hostile hockey market. When you have a market like that, it's incumbent on you to be a leader. Be a beacon in that market.
The thing about Trevor's demeanor is that he's calm, he's easygoing and if he can instill that quiet confidence within that organization, then that can radiate outward to the community and have a big impact on the way a lot of fans see the team right now. It's a great market with a lot of passionate hockey fans. You need someone with a lot of finesse to be able to navigate right now. That's why this hire is so critical.