It's impossible to know the levels of dysfunction inside a hockey organization without spending time within said organization, but the Vancouver Canucks are revealing themselves to be quite the mess this season.
The latest example was an interview given by general manager and irresponsible goaltender trader Mike Gillis to Team 1040 in Vancouver in which he said he's not sure if he'll be back with the team next season and hinted that he doesn't like the playing style being implemented by coach John Tortorella.
“I’m not sure I’ll be back next season," Gillis said. "I think everyone’s open for evaluation."
The entire interview is worth your time, but the Gillis quote that seems to blame Tortorella, to whom he gave a five-year, $10 million contract less than a year ago, without blaming him is this one.
“John’s a proven winner," Gillis said. "He’s a competitor. This season has been difficult to describe in all the things that have happened, and we had to endure what we didn’t anticipate. John, like myself, will go through a thorough evaluation at the end of the year, and decisions will be made.
“But the one thing...the running of this team is my responsibility. I really feel over the last couple of seasons that we chased goal posts that have been moving and got away from our core principles of how I want this team to play and how we want to perform and the tempo we want to play with."
It sounds like Gillis is pleading with ownership to fire Tortorella instead of himself. "Running the team is my responsibility, but hey, man, we're not playing how I want the team to play so (*wink wink* *points at Tortorella*) maybe look at that, too."
But with the way the last year has played out, it's clear Tortorella deserves more rope, while Gillis hung himself with the handling of the Cory Schneider-Roberto Luongo situation. It also seems ownership feels the same way, and Tortorella could get another kick at the can next season.
Gillis and others have made it sound as though ownership was behind the decision to hire Tortorella. At the trade deadline, a few days after Gillis jettisoned Luongo to the Florida Panthers, there were reports that ownership nixed a deal that would have sent Ryan Kesler to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a trade that would have signaled the start of a much-needed rebuild.
That's at least two decisions Gillis wasn't allowed to make, so it looks as though he's being slowly stripped of a job he's destined to lose after the season.
|Team||Year 1||Year 3|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||27-40-11-4, no playoffs||Won Stanley Cup|
|New York Rangers||38-33-11, no playoffs||Reached Eastern Conference Final|
Meanwhile, this has been Tortorella's modus operandi in his previous two stops with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers. In both instances, Tortorella's teams missed the postseason in his first full season with the club, then went on to have great success in the years that followed. Tortorella guided the Lightning to a Stanley Cup in 2004 and took the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012.
The Vancouver situation is a little different, as he took over a team that wasn't having any problems reaching the postseason before he arrived. But the Canucks were showing signs of slipping last season and, with the Western Conference improving all around them, missing the 2014 playoffs may have been inevitable, no matter the coach.
It hasn't helped that the Canucks have been one of the more injury-riddled teams this season. According to ManGamesLost.com, the Canucks have lost the sixth-most man-games to injury this season—282—and many of the players that have gone down have been key cogs.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin have combined to miss 21 games; Alexandre Burrows, the Canucks' leading scorer last year, has missed 33 games; Alex Edler has missed 19 games, and trading Luongo certainly hasn't helped the team's playoff chances.
What should the Vancouver Canucks do this offseason?
The fact that Tortorella has the Canucks six points out of a playoff spot with five games remaining is borderline commendable.
Alas, this is the time of year when general managers and coaches who are afraid of losing their jobs go on radio stations to prop themselves up and throw others under buses. The fact that it's Gillis saying these things and not Tortorella could speak to the security levels each is feeling in their current employment status.
Could Tortorella be fired if Gillis' replacement wants to hire his own guy? Sure.
But Tortorella's track record shows success always comes in time. Ownership gave him a five-year contract during the offseason, so it should be willing to give him a second season to show what he can do.