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’s Struggles are Incomprehensible for World

No one gets it.

Sportsnet columnist Mark Spector recently wrote his open letter to the Canuck fans. Berating them for jeering Luongo after his latest struggles.

He thinks he knows Luongo. He thinks he understands why Canuck fans are angry. He thinks he gets it.

Boy, is he off.

Let’s get this straight. What the fans have done at Canuck games to Luongo isn’t fair. The sarcastic cheering and outright booing is pathetic. It may be a fans right to boo these multi-million dollar athletes but you would think as a fan you would understand that players are humans as well and that they could use your support. But it isn’t everyone. The boos and sarcastic cheers didn’t come from 18,000 strong.

Anyways, Mark Spector presents an issue that many NHL fans seem to be on board with. A hate for Canuck fans. Apparently, we look like cry babies for constantly complaining about Luongo’s fluctuating play. Spector asks does “the baby need a new goaltender?”

Yeah, in fact we do.

He points out irrelevant evidence that a high school law student would be embarrassed to see. Following his question to the Vancouver babies he writes “we thought you already had a Canadian Olympic team starter, complete with the Vezina and Jennings dress-up bundle. Can’t we just send along the camper? Or the puppy waterpark set? Oh, that’s not good enough for the Vancouver baby? They want more than that? We see.”

The worst evidence he gives has to be his mention of Luongo’s Olympic appearance. Luongo was mediocre at best during the 2010 tournament and was the beneficiary of a stacked Canadian team featuring a fourth line almost any other country would have been happy having as their first.

Besides, Luongo’s past is completely unrelated to what he is doing now. He played unbelievably in his first two seasons as a Canuck but since then he has regressed. He had a good stretch last year but came up short when the Canucks needed him most.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

What’s worse though is that Spector’s narrow-minded approach ignores so many other important factors that make Vancouver fans irate towards Luongo’s play.

He fails to bring up Luongo’s utter failure as a leader and a captain. Luongo hasn’t been shy in the past to throw his own teammates under the bus in public. He comes across as a baby. Jealous of the praise Tim Thomas was receiving, Luongo decided to speak up and disrespect him. He followed his trash talk up by letting in 6 goals.

Luongo is a jerk. He isn’t endearing to most fans anymore. Canuck fans used to love him before they started to truly understand the man behind the mask. He has lost their respect.

People adore Kesler because he is a warrior. Luongo is the opposite. No one wants to go to battle for or with him.

You obviously can’t blame Luongo for assuring financial security to his great-grandchildren but it is frustrating for a fan base to see their highest paid player struggle so mightily.

Contrary to what Spector implies, Luongo is not one of the best goalies in the NHL. His Lebron-esque choking, general lack of ability to come up with a big save and uncanny aptitude at giving out freebies at the worst time don’t show up on the stat sheet.

It wasn’t Luongo’s fault against the Blackhawks or the Bruins last year. However, he didn’t steal anything. He is paid to steal games. The failure of the Canuck squad to come up with goals while dominating doesn’t excuse Luongo’s personal failure to dominate on a consistent basis.

You would hope that your franchise goaltender can be the best goalie out there on a regular basis. The goal is to expect reliability out of someone who is paid to be a difference maker. Too often he is the difference maker in the wrong way.

The Luongo apologists are everywhere north of the border. Virtually every commentator you see feels the need to defend the man. I don’t get it.

Mike Gillis came on the Team 1040, a local Vancouver radio station, to defend his goaltender. Well, of course he did. What else is he going to do for the person who he so foolishly signed to that ridiculous 12 year contract?

Gillis says that the fan reaction is a hangover from last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. No, the Stanley Cup was just a few more bullet points on a list stretches as long as the Amazon River.

Mark Spector tries to separate Vancouver from other “normal, everyday” Canadian hockey towns. Apparently, the fans in Vancouver are worse than the same Montreal fans who booed Carey Price in the first preseason game last year following the departure of temporary folk hero Jaroslav Halak.

Preseason? Come on man!

Maybe Mark Spector should imagine if those Montreal fans were stuck with Luongo for the past few years.

There is a cultural divide between the world of hockey fans and the Vancouverites. It’s like we are from different worlds and unless you are from that world you can never fully understand the reasoning behind some things. It’s why I’ll never fully understand the why Philadelphia Eagle fans were so hard on Donovan Mcnabb.

It’s the same with Luongo. The rest of the world knows why Vancouver fans are angry with Luongo but they will never actually understand it.

Vancouver fans are no different from the rest. Despite Donovan Mcnabb’s success, his relationship with Eagle fans was very hot and cold. The Canuck faithful would kill to have Luongo playing up to a young Mcnabb’s level.

It has been 40 long years without a championship in Vancouver and Mark Spector finishes by saying “[We] want it all, and [we] want it now.”

Yeah, how impatient are we?

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 happily return the favour.

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One and Done

The Vancouver Canucks are supposed to be a team that is built for annual Stanley Cup runs. This isn’t supposed to be the last time. In fact, this is supposed to be the beginning. General Manager Mike Gillis has much of his core locked up for multiple years including the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Burrows.

Championship hangover is something most seen in hockey and football. Makes sense, they’re the 2 most physical. It takes a lot out of a team to make 1 championship run, much less 2. This might not be a championship hangover for the Canucks but it might as well be.

Only 5 teams in the last 20 years have reached back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals and 2 of those have gone on to win in consecutive years. They say that hockey is the hardest championship to win. 4 gruelling series, 16 victories, all over a long 2 months. Brutal.

However, bodies aren’t the only thing that the players invest. It’s how much they invest emotionally.

The Canucks have invested as much and probably more than most teams have in the past. It was their year and it was time to get the monkey off their backs. Everyone was tired of being the city without a championship. Tim Thomas just got in their way.

The team was battered, bruised and decimated. Alex Edler played on broken fingers, Kesler on a torn groin, Higgins possibly on a broken foot and the list goes on and on. They left it all on the line and fell short.

It’s hard to imagine that they have one more in them next year.

This season was too much for the entire team. The drive they had to bring the team and the city of Vancouver a Stanley Cup was enormous. It showed throughout the playoffs. The toll that this run will take on the team is going to be all too evident next year.

Moreover, if the NHL wants to continue this ridiculous trend of avoiding calling penalties in the playoffs the Canucks will have even more trouble next year. The whistles went away for the most part throughout the playoffs and this is a roster not meant to match up to the physicality that a playoff series prior to the lockout presented. This is a roster meant for the open ice and skill that the new era was intended to be.

The one guy you wouldn’t expect to suffer from a hangover is Ryan Kesler. This true warrior, who skated as hard as he could through the drug-masked pain even with a minute to go in a 4-0 game 7, was teary eyed. “I really thought we were going to win this one” said Kesler following the loss, “I can’t put it into words right now.” He gave it everything he had but it wasn’t enough. The whole team did.

Related: Why Isn’t Anyone Worried About Ryan Kesler

Roberto Luongo has had to battle through so much. Mentally he must be drained. His psyche must be like one of those flipped, flaming cars on Robson Street.

Justifiably he has been berated by the media and toyed with by the fans. A Stanley Cup would have shut them all up. Now it’s another long year of having to answer question after question about his mental toughness and ability to come up clutch.

He’s thinking of giving Lebron a call for some advice.

For a guy whose psyche is as delicate as a newborn baby, Roberto Luongo is going to have trouble shrugging this one off. His continual inability to play well on the road, the more overpaid by the day 12 year contract, a red sea parted five hole and the cardboard blocker he tries to pass off as a glove on his left hand all add up to one messed up goalie. This coming after new goalie coach Rollie Melanson completely remodelled his game prior to the season.

3 words: 11 more years.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

More bad news for the Canucks comes from the thought that 3 of their top 6 defensemen are coming off the books in the summer. Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, and Sami Salo have expiring contracts. With no way to sign all 3, the Canucks will have to find a way to compensate in that regard. The fantastic play of rookie Chris Tanev is a good start.

If the Chicago Blackhawks are any indication of what lies ahead, the Canucks should be worried. Although the Blackhawks roster was decimated, it was apparent during their round 1 series with Vancouver that they weren’t playing with their hearts fully committed during the regular season. This was a team that underachieved greatly but had the talent and ability to turn their play up when the season was on the line.

The core of their roster stayed intact, which gave them arguably the best team in the Western Conference. They couldn’t muster up enough for the regular season though. The toll their championship run had taken on them was too drastic to overcome.

Vancouver will likely be seeing much of the same next year.

The Canucks have the team to contend next year, at least on paper they do. This is their small crack in the window of opportunity. In spite of that, nothing can make up or account for the roller-coaster that the team has gone through this year. The roller-coaster that will ultimately lead to the team’s downfall next season.

In theory, being that close to winning a championship should motivate them more. In practice, the thought of retribution won’t be enough to toil through the grind of another deep run into a 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Related: Trip Back in Time Killing Canucks

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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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.

Subscribe to my blog too and you can get the latest posts such as Something Needs to Change in New York. But What?

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