Lengthy losing streaks suck. They suck bad, especially when they are closing in on double-digit losing streaks. Every part of the organization comes under the microscope and chopping block. Regardless of what the fans call for, any coach that drops that many games in a row is under scrutiny from the boss. Hell, even the boss starts to come under pressure if its his coach.
It’s not out of the ordinary in these times to look to the past, when things were going better. Players winning Art Ross trophies, the team winning President’s trophies, and just plane winning. However, its also important to remember not to present that period as something that its not, which is what I have been reading and hearing lately about the Gillis-AV Era.
The idea that Alain Vigneault should not have been fired is absurd. Was he a better coach than Willie? In my opinion yes, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been fired. He coached a great team to back-to-back President trophies and to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. In those President Trophy winning seasons his team put up impressive 117 and 111 point seasons respectively. But that’s not why he was fired.
After getting 111 points in the 2011-2012 season the team lost in the first round of the playoffs in fives games to the Los Angeles Kings. This season was supposed to be righting the wrongs of Game 7. All season this team looked like they would not only reach the finals once more, but make it right and win it. Then they laid a massive egg in the first round.
Ok, things go bad, you run into a juggernaut, a hot goalie, or just breakdown at a terrible time. The Canucks kind of did all that in this one, as the Kings went on to win the Cup. However, the very next season, which was strike shortened, they again won the division and were poised to make a run. What happened? This time they couldn’t even muster a win against the San Jose Sharks, who lost in the next round.
It was clear he had lost the team and did not know how to right the ship. You get a lot of clout when you make it as far as AV did in 2011, but the window to win in the NHL is small for most teams and you have to take advantage of it when you can. It was clear that two seasons removed from Game 7, AV wasn’t cutting it anymore.
I won’t get into every pick, signing and trade, as much smarter and more organized people have done that already at VanCity Buzz and Nucks Misconduct, but they were many and bad. For me one glaring example is Cody Hodgson, who was mismanaged from almost day one. From his coach questioning his heart while he was suffering from a serious injury, which Canucks doctors misdiagnosed, to marginalize him so much you could only get a player one-year younger with mounting off-ice issues.
He handed out No Trade Clauses like candy. Usually when a NTC gets thrown in it comes with a discount, but not for Gillis. More people were demanding trades out then wanted to stay at a certain point, but he just kept handing them out like candy to third and fourth liners. Not to mention obscene contracts for those who didn’t earn them. Those can be seen in the awful return to dump those players, or salary being carried via buyouts.
The last straw came though when he replaced AV with John Tortorella. Funnily enough the most absurd part wasn’t the hire, but that Gillis signed him to a fiver-year, $10m contract…FIVE YEARS. This just shows Gillis’s complete lack of logic and sense by handing this guy a long-term deal right away, when he should have realized he was on the chopping block and time was of the essence.
If you are missing Gillis just look at the bare cupboards he left the organization, and the bad contracts they’re still paying and impacting cap space. You could also look at how he’s a professor and no NHL team has shown interest in hiring him. This isn’t a slam piece, just a reminder of why these guys are gone.
I’m not saying the Gillis-AV Era wasn’t a good one. It was a great. There was a lot of winning, which created a lot more fans, and produced some amazing memories. I will never forget jumping up from the couch in the middle of the night in my Wadsworth, Ohio apartment when Burrows slayed the dragon. Or when Bieksa put the Canucks back into the finals for the first time since 1994. I still maintain Raffi Torres, Manny Malhotra, and Jannik Hansen is the best Checking Line in the last 15 years.
The joy and hope I watched those games with was something I will always remember. But those are in the past, and came to an end for a reason. We need to look forward and quit dwelling on the past because we can’t change that. Let’s enjoy it for what it was, and look forward, and when we do eat the Member Berries, lets remember why it ended, not “did it end too soon” or “if AV were still here…”