Man Without a Plan 2.0

Mike Gillis

It feels as if we have seen this movie before.

An unconventional general manager is hired with the expectations of being inventive, imaginative and savvy. His tenure starts out all sunshine’s and rainbows but eventually the creative ideas fail. In lieu of his failure, he begins to stray from his original tactics. He starts to wing it knowing that he will be axed if success doesn’t come. However, he is too proud to cut ties with what he thought would be the franchise cornerstone. What follows is every free-agent signing, every trade, every face-saving comment to the media is wrong, wrong, wrong. Finally, he is mercifully axed to the delight of fans but not before he has run the team into the ground.

Former Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo was the star of that movie. Current Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis is shooting the sequel as we speak.

Related: Never an Idea

Mike Gillis’s path to becoming a GM was not typical. He did not rise through the ranks of the front office. Gillis went straight from player agent to general manager in one of the most pressured filled markets you will find in sports. Gillis wasn’t like the other GM’s. He was supposed to be cut from a different cloth.

Bryan Colangelo was cut from a different cloth too. He was the son of one of the most influential figures in Basketball, Jerry Colangelo. Bryan Colangelo didn’t follow the blueprint of other GM’s. He went to Europe to find cheap talent that could help contribute to a successful team. He selected a 7 foot Italian stallion in his very first draft who became the symbol for his shortcomings. It was the European invasion and Colangelo was spearheading the operation.

Gillis was innovative. He went all-in on Roberto Luongo and then made his goaltender the captain. No one did that (and probably won’t ever again). Heck, the rulebook doesn’t even allow a goalie to wear the ‘C’ on his chest. Gillis had stones.

As a GM coming in after the dreaded 2004-05 lockout, Gillis began designing a team that didn’t need a whole lot of grit and toughness. The new rules were going to allow him to do that.

He created an environment that players wanted to play in. He worked around the cap system by convincing players to take less money because this was where a Stanley Cup would be won. Some of his notable bargains include the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra.

Unfortunately, when things started to go wrong, Gillis was unable to stay calm under pressure. He panicked. Despite his team reaching game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with more injuries than a Patrice Bergeron hospital report, Gillis was rattled.

As Bryan Colangelo had done, Mike Gillis started winging it. He threw his plan of a speedy, finesse and skilled team out the window. He was embarrassed to have his roster bullied the way it was by the Boston Bruins. He couldn’t have that happen again even though the core of the roster he had assembled was not made for tweaking in that manner.

He shocked Vancouverites by trading Cody Hodgson for a tough, young and skilled Zack Kassian. Although the story had more to it than just trading finesse for grit, it felt as though Gillis pulled the trigger too quickly in anticipation of another potential match-up with Boston. For a franchise in win-now mode, trading a quality NHL center for a prospect who was far from ready for big-time NHL minutes wasn’t sensible.

Most egregiously, like Colangelo, he refused to admit defeat on his most prized possession (see: Andrea Bargnani). Gillis did not acquire Luongo from the Florida Panthers, but he signed him to the 12 year contract when people still foolishly believed that 12 year contracts were a clever way to circumvent the cap. The Luongo situation was his fault so he insisted that he would be content with an awkward as a 3-legged giraffe goalie circus. Maybe he convinced himself he was.

Nevertheless, when he had the chance to get some value in return for Roberto Luongo, Gillis got greedy. He didn’t want the Luongo debacle to be viewed by the public as a debacle. If he could trick a team into believing in Bobby-Lou, Gillis could get back into the good graces of the fans.

Alas, he was more patient than Ghandi on a hunger strike. Luongo lost every minutia of trade value that he had a year previously so Gillis had to improvise as Colangelo did far too many times. He started shopping the man he gave the keys to the crease to. In the end, he traded an elite goaltender for a draft pick that won’t be ready for quite some time.

For a team in win-now mode, the Schneider trade is perplexing. He went with a short shelf-life coach in John Tortorella only to trade for the future. It has completely overshadowed what my Facebook feed says was a very good draft for the Canucks.

If it wasn’t obvious enough that Gillis has scrapped his plans and tossed it in the trash, he made sure everyone knew that he has done so. In an attempt to justify his decision to trade Cory Schneider, Gillis said that “Our plan three years ago was to develop Cory and move him for a high pick, and that’s what we ultimately did”.

Devious, Mike.

This is almost as bad as if Toronto mayor Rob Ford had come out and said he planned to leak the crack video 3 years ago in order to gain publicity because, you know, all publicity is good publicity.

New Raptors GM Masai Ujiri did what Bryan Colangelo was never willing to do yesterday. He got some spare parts and draft picks in exchange for Andrea Bargnani, which is better than anyone ever thought he could do. What does that say about what Bryan Colangelo could have gotten in return for Bargnani last off-season?

It’s a lesson for GM’s. Having the ability to detach themselves from their bold choices that go south. Now, just as Bargnani symbolized the futility of Colangelo’s tenure, Luongo is the official poster-boy for Gillis’ failings so far.

Although the ending to the Gillis movie has yet to be determined, what we have been shown eerily mirrors that of Bryan Colangelo.

Mike Gillis is hoping that this isn’t the sequel.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

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Luongo Benching Changes the Big Picture

Roberto Luongo will look to the Heavens for a win in Game 7

Alain Vigneault decided to sit Roberto Luongo Sunday night amid speculation that the decision was perhaps “influenced” by GM Mike Gillis. Maybe the Vancouver Canucks brass needs a few pair of glasses because, right or wrong, the choice to bench Roberto Luongo was incredibly short-sighted.

This was a decision no doubt spurred by desperation. A choice that is at best questionable in the short-term. This is a poorly thought out knee-jerk reaction that entails more problems than which goalie is the right man to start Game 7 (Roberto Luongo is starting FYI).

A Canuck future that was as bright as could be hardly a week ago has suddenly turned as bleak as a Hurricane Katrina. There is panic in Vancouver but the panic is not directed where it should be. They’re on the right track though.

The sudden questions concerning Roberto Luongo’s ridiculous contract are almost amusing. Seriously, are people just figuring this out now? Mike Brophy of Sportsnet addresses the issue of Luongo’s contract and what goes through the mind of a GM in crippling his team with an absurd contract in his latest column. It’s too bad there wasn’t this concern from the media when Luongo signed his contract or better yet prior to him signing the contract. However, when things go wrong we see people speak like they knew it all along. Come on now.

Related: Note to NHL GM’s – This is Getting out of Hand

Regardless, it is all in the past and the fact of the matter is that the Vancouver Canucks have to deal with a terrible contract. By starting Cory Schneider in game 6 the franchise made the worst move possible for the future of the club. No, they didn’t make a trade or give out another bad contract.

What they did was possibly ruin the psyche of an already emotionally fragile goaltender.

Mike Gillis calls himself a calculated person. Well if he was the one who handed down the fateful decision he sure made a major miscalculation. In an attempt to save the season of the team he assembled, his work that he indirectly praised, and the embarrassment of having to explain what happened to his supposedly even keel team, he looks to have made the decision that obliterated the confidence of his franchise goaltender.

The Canucks may go onto win game 7, but what if Luongo goes onto have another stinker or two. You might feel inclined to ride Cory Schneider. Sure, that’s all peaches and roses now but Schneider isn’t going to be around much longer. The guy is too good to be a backup and if the Canucks don’t trade him Schneider will be out the door faster than the Canuck fans jumping off the bandwagon once his contract is up.

What will happen in 2 or 3 years when the Canucks are in the playoffs and there is no Cory Schneider to fall back on. There has been an immeasurable amount doubt placed in the already uncertain Luongo. It is firmly entrenched in his brain that he can’t win the big game. The Olympics don’t count. Luongo played a mediocre tournament for a stacked Canadian roster

Roberto Luongo has already had trouble mentally in the tough times but having lost the vote of confidence from the people who had faith in 12 more years is a killer. Luongo already has problems handling the heat of playoff scrutiny and being told that he can’t win the big game doesn’t bode well for the future. How is the man supposed to have any confidence in himself?

Adversity is given in a Stanley Cup run. Look through your crystal ball. Do any of you see Luongo being able to handle the hardships after this incident?

Didn’t think so.

Luongo was forced to come into game 6 after Cory Schneider cramped up. Luongo was fighting the puck every time he touched it. He looked as though his more than nervous. If you combine every synonym to nervous that would probably define what Luongo was feeling when he was thrust into action during game 6.

Fans need to stop playing the Chicago card. It’s getting a bit old. Luongo is not a big game player but it’s not Chicago. It just so happens that he faces Chicago in the majority of his minimal, but growing playoff experience. Correlation does not equal causation folks.

He played outstanding in the first 3 games of the series. Everyone seems to have forgotten that at this point. Other than the first goal in game 4 that he let slip past his glove hand there haven’t been any bad goals and anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m not one to defend the $10 million man.

Sitting him out against Chicago and then playing him in the next series doesn’t mean he will miraculously return to vintage Luongo simply because he is playing a team that’s not named the Chicago Blackhawks. It doesn’t work like that. Athletes don’t gain their confidence back with the snap of a finger.

This decision that the Vancouver Canucks made to bench Roberto Luongo in game 6 may not have immediate repercussions but if an early exit is in tea leaves, make no mistake; they will pay for it in the future. It might be easy to trade Luongo’s 12 year contract on your PS3 but trading virtually untradeable contracts isn’t as easy in real life as it is on NHL ’11.

The Vancouver Canucks are stuck with Roberto Luongo and in this thoughtless decision they seem to have overlooked that.

The season is not all lost but if Roberto Luongo continues his Lebron-like clutch play he will have the fans chanting Luchoke in Vancouver and when they do they can look back on the game 6 decision to start Cory Schneider.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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