It was a frank assessment the likes of which you seldom hear when Vancouver Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman went on local radio post-deadline and laid it bare:
“The reality of our situation at this time is that there are 18 games left to play, and by my calculation we have to win at least 13 of them. We’ve scored eight times in the past eight games. We’d better get our act together fast. We need to produce more.”
Those words come as no surprise to a Canucks fan, but good for Gilman. The irony, of course, was that his boss, Vancouver GM Mike Gillis, did not produce on Wednesday, failing to trade his most valuable chip, Ryan Kesler. It was a chance, after dealing Roberto Luongo Tuesday, to rid this organization of the drama that has consumed Vancouver for too many years. A chance missed, as it turns out.
“None of (the Kesler offers) were consistent with the direction we’re wanting to head in,” Gillis stated. “None of the proposals today would have accomplished what we want to accomplish.”
On a day complete with reports that a disagreement between the Aquilini brothers who own the team neutered Gillis’ ability to make the Kesler trade, the GM was unable to move his stud centre and quell the drama in Vancouver. That conflict, by the way, was denied by Gilman.
Remember the “Captain Luongo” years, when Gillis signed his netminder to that 12-year deal and slapped the “C” on his chest (well, not literally, since the NHL won’t allow goalies to wear the C)? Or the diving and head-snapping years, when the Canucks’ brand of hockey ran afoul of many Canadians? They were followed by the Luongo-and-Schneider season together, when Luongo became the No. 2, and now, the Ryan Kesler “he-asked-for-a-trade-and-we-couldn’t-accommodate-him” ending to this season, to be followed closely by the subsequent summer of nurturing a trade.
Has there been as much drama in the other six Canadian franchises combined?
Now Kesler will return, like Luongo did, as the guy who asked for a trade on which Gillis couldn’t deliver. Luongo, a man of grace and self-deprecating wit, handled it perfectly, minimizing the distraction. Kesler? Well, let’s just say the term “self-deprecating” has never been applied to No. 17.
Meanwhile, Luongo’s agent told a Toronto radio station that his client would likely still be a Canuck had he started the Heritage Classic, an odd and needless snub by coach John Tortorella that ramped up the temperature inside this organization. That sentiment was added to when Luongo opened his first press conference in Florida with these words: “First and foremost, it feels great to be wanted by an organization.”
Brian Burke in Calgary, meanwhile, had better be able to deliver on his inference Wednesday that Mike Cammalleri might be a guy who will re-sign in Calgary, something we’ll have to see to believe. Because if he walks this summer it’s going to be awfully hard for Burke to explain how he couldn’t have reaped something for a player of Cammalleri’s pedigree. Burke did manage to move Lee Stempniak for a third-round pick and goalie Reto Berra for a second, but still, Cammalleri seems a wasteful keep. In Edmonton, as the Oilers march to the basement again, Craig MacTavish predictably moved Ales Hemsky and Nick Schultz for three draft picks.
It should be easier to deal when the playoffs aren’t an option. Gillis is finding out, however, that being on the playoff bubble comes with its own issues. When the Canucks were playing up to execatations, the GM looked to exploit vulnerable teams at the deadline. But now the tables have turned, and Gillis wasn’t playing ball by moving his projection on what Kesler is worth.
He will get a re-do on this trade in June, another chance to clear the white noise out of Rogers Arena and get the return he deserves for Kesler, a fine player. “We’re going to try and get into the playoffs here,” he said, “get this team playing the way it should play. We’ll talk about (Kesler) after that.”
But in Vancouver, they’ll talk about it every day between now and then.