The fans got their wish.
A day after a “Fire Gillis!” chant rained down on the Vancouver Canucks as they were eliminated from a playoff berth for the first time in six seasons, team president and general manager Mike Gillis was fired, according to a team release.
Gillis, 55, leaves the Canucks after six years as GM and leading a team that reached the Cup final in 2011.
“On behalf of my entire family, I would like to sincerely thank Mike Gillis for his hard work and the many contributions he made on and off the ice during his tenure,” Canucks Sports & Entertainment chairman Francesco Aquilini said the release. “The Vancouver Canucks had success under Mike’s leadership, and we nearly reached our ultimate goal, but I believe we have reached a point where a change in leadership and new voice is needed.
“I also want to thank our fans for their support for the Vancouver Canucks through a difficult and frustrating season,” Aquilini continued. “We haven’t met their expectations or ours. We are committed to bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver for our fans, and we will continue to do everything possible to reach that goal.”
But after a series of heavily criticized moves in the past two years — trading away blue-chip goaltenders Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, dealing young forward Cody Hodgson, hiring the combustible John Tortorella as coach — Gillis became the target of many fans’ frustration.
The Aquilini Investment Group, which owns the Canucks, have fired Gillis while he’s still under contract at a reported rate of $2 million per season for four more seasons.
“I want us to play upbeat, puck possession (hockey). Move the puck quickly, force teams into mistakes, (play a) high transition game,” a candid Gillis told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1040 Thursday. He sensed he could lose his job but had a vision for how the team should play.
“I think we have the personnel to do it. If we don’t… they’ll be changed. That’s my vision. That’s how I believe you’re going to win in the Western Conference,” he said. “The top teams play that way. That’s the way we played.”
Gillis took over the general manager position with the Canucks after Dave Nonis was fired following the 2007-08 season.
During Gillis’s tenure, the Canucks claimed their first Presidents’ Trophy, leading the NHL with the best regular-season record in 2010–11, after which Gillis won the NHL General Manager of the Year Award. The Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy again in 2011-12 but were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
After being eliminated in Round 1 again in 2012-13, this time to the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks failed to qualify for the 2013-14 postseason — the first time the team did not reach the playoffs during Gillis’s reign.
Apart from the team’s decline on the ice, Gillis had also been roundly criticized for a poor draft record and his mishandling of the protracted goaltending controversy involving Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Both netminders have since been traded, leaving the Canucks with the unproven duo of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom.
Mike Gillis Round 1 Draft History
Year Pick No. Player
2008 10 Cody Hodgson
2009 22 Jordan Schroeder
2011 29 Nicklas Jensen
2012 26 Brendan Gaunce
2013 9 Bo Horvat
2013 24 Hunter Shinkaruk
*Canucks did not have a pick in the first three rounds in 2010
(with files from CP)