It had to be obvious from last week’s press conference that Mike Gillis doesn’t enjoy firing people.
Who would? You work with people who become friends for a long period of time in a team setting, then you have to pull the trigger.
It’s no fun, but it’s part of the job, and knowing when to do it is one of the factors that make successful people in these positions. So let’s discuss the scouting department here. Has the drafting and pro scouting with this team been good enough?
And here there is some dispute. The team seems to think that given the poor drafting positions they’ve had the last three to five years, and the number of second-rounders that they haven’t had that their record isn’t all that bad. Perhaps, but if this is so, show us the players. Show us the players by putting them into NHL uniforms and having them perform at the level of some of the other teams’ good young players.
Here there’s a further complication, and Gillis mentioned it in the press conference. If you have a coach who gongs a young player as soon as he makes a mistake, it clearly isn’t helpful. And that certainly seems to have been the case with Zack Kassian, Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner to mention just a few in this organization over the tenure of the coach. Others, like Chris Tanev, were either good enough to survive, or there were so few options that they continued in the league long enough to establish themselves. But having said all of the above, show us the players.
Can you say, honestly, that more shouldn’t have been expected out of Jordan Schroeder by now, if he was going to be the player they had hoped. He’s not finished developing, and you certainly don’t want to be making assumptions too quickly, but at the moment it doesn’t look like he’s top-six material unless he makes a whack more progress. Anton Rodin has been a bust so far. Kevin Connauton has been given up upon.
The loss of a first-rounder in 2010 for the Keith Ballard trade was obviously a huge blow, but which of the pro scouts was that high on the guy in the first place if his use here wasn’t the coach’s fault?
Yann Sauve getting hit by a car just as he was beginning to show some maturity wasn’t helpful, granted, but basically, unless Nicklas Jensen, Peter Andersson, Eddie Lack and Brendan Gaunce are all as good as everyone is hoping, it’s been a very lean run.
So shouldn’t there be some heads rolling here? Just because you once played for the Vancouver Canucks, have a great personality and can tell a good joke doesn’t qualify you to pick talent and stock an NHL team.
The Canucks are made fun of by the other scouts. To get a job, it seems all you need in your background is to have once put on the jersey and you’re in.
When he first started, Gillis made a point of stressing drafting and the development of players and made one or two adjustments, but didn’t make wholesale changes, believing that if he gave these guys a specific set of instructions in terms of what particular traits to look for, their performance would improve. Based on what we’ve seen in terms of players breaking into the league, it appears this has not been the case. So the question, then, becomes why are they still employed?
Now only the general manager really knows the answer to these questions with respect to particular individuals, because only he knows which players a particular member of his staff was recommending and whether that person was right or wrong. He knows how often said person has been right or wrong over a long period of time, and Gillis is not discussing this with anyone in public or in private.
Who, for instance, was the most responsible person for the ’09 year of the dwarf centre which has thus far been such a disaster? If Hodgson had such flaws in his character that he couldn’t cope with the particular stresses of playing behind Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin, who missed that? If the drafting is as poor as many seem to think it is, shouldn’t the team be making some changes?
Obviously if Gaunce, Lack, Jensen and Kellan Lain turn out to be good NHL players quickly, much of this pressure will dissipate, particularly is they get a good first-rounder in June. But in the meantime, you have to be curious as to why everyone on that scouting staff is doing what they’re doing.