The Vancouver Canucks hired Mike Gillis as their general manager in 2008 and have seen their most productive stretch of years since then. Under Gillis, the Canucks have owned the Northwest Division and year in and year out are one of the top teams in the NHL.
His team has become wildly popular with tickets becoming a near impossibility in Vancouver, as the season usually sells out before it even starts.
But how much of that can be attributed to Gillis?
Have his moves put the Canucks in the position they are in?
The most notable accomplishment that Gillis has reached is retaining his own players. While he has been the general manager, he was able to re-sign Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Roberto Luongo, Kevin Bieksa and the Sedin twins.
All of these guys were signed before ever setting foot on the free agency market. They are the core of the Vancouver Canucks and are locked up for a few more years. This almost assures that the Canucks will be competitive for a while longer.
He has also fostered an atmosphere around the franchise where several of these players took discounted contracts to stay in Vancouver. This maybe one of his biggest high marks as a general manager as he has turned a franchise that was never in the fore front and made it a destination for players.
As for picking up free agents and trades, Gillis has done very well. He has found a way to address the team’s weaknesses in the offseason without giving up too much or hampering the franchise.
One of his biggest and best offseason additions was in 2009 when he picked up defenseman Christian Ehrhoff from San Jose for Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi. Gillis saw a need for Vancouver and realized that San Jose needed to free up cap space and was able to snatch Ehrhoff, who became the backbone for the Canucks power play and a big reason for their success.
Last year, he made two trade deadline moves that seemed minor, but have proven to be big deals. He picked up Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre at the deadline and both players have turned into big contributors for the Canucks.
He has shown that he can pick up important pieces without giving up anything too valuable in return.
Not every move that Gillis has made has worked out, however.
One of his first mistakes was to trade for Steve Bernier, and match the offer he got from St. Louis, in hopes that he would provide some pop as a power forward. Bernier fought injury, looked disinterested and was not a good match for Vancouver.
He also threw $4 million a year at Pavol Demitra that same year hoping to add secondary scoring to the team. Demitra managed to pot 20 goals in his first year in Vancouver, but then could not stay healthy and became a liability.
While locking up Roberto Luongo can be considered a success for Gillis, many have questioned the contract he signed him to. Gillis gave Luongo a 12-year contract worth $64 million. It carried a $5 million cap hit, a no-trade clause and many people now have hamstrung Gillis and Luongo.
Whether he would trade Luongo is debatable, but with that contract it will be extremely tough to do, if they wanted to.
Like most general managers in any sport, you never are going to be perfect. Not every trade or free agent is going to work out. For Mike Gillis, however, he has had far more hits than misses.
Considering where the Canucks are as a franchise and how good their future still looks, it is hard to give Gillis anything other than an "A" for his job so far.
He faces what could be a defining moment this offseason, however. With goalie Cory Schneider a restricted free agent, it seems like a forgone conclusion that Gillis will move him. Schneider can be a franchise goaltender, and if Gillis does not get equal value back, it could hamstring the long-term success of the Canucks.
In a business where you are only as good as your last game, or last move, Gillis will have to do his homework this summer and find the best return. It won’t take long for that "A" to wither and drop down to a score that turns the heat up.
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