Thursday, July 3, 2008

Stand and Deliver

When former player agent, Mike Gillis was hired as Vancouver Canucks GM in the aftermath of predecessor Dave Nonis’s dismissal, he gave a frank assessment of the team, stating that talent, size and speed were all lacking on offence, also mentioning the overall reliance on perennial All-Star, Roberto Luongo.
Gillis promised that we would see an entirely different makeup come training camp. In not going off the board with Vancouver’s five entry draft selections, he bucked a trend, and may even have made a steal, drafting two highly regarded players past the first round: man-child defenseman Yann Sauve was taken in the 2nd Round whilst high-flying Norwegian center Mats Froshaug was snatched 4 rounds later.
However, it its unlikely one, let alone any, prospects will see ice-time with the big club this year, so whilst the future is bright, we live in the present. Unfortunately, Gillis was on the other side of the negotiating table from his new colleagues, so he enjoys frosty relationships with a number of counterparts. Indeed, the package Vancouver put together for talented Kings center, Mike Cammalleri was rumoured to be the best one going, but due to Gillis’s role in helping take the player to salary arbitration last summer, Kings GM Dean Lombardi sacrificed the future and sent the playmaker to Calgary in a move that saw Los Angeles wind up with a 17th overall pick, seven selections lower than the one Gillis offered.
Still, it works both ways. Mike Gillis enjoys significantly more cordial relationships with his ex-clients, and rumours abound that versatile forward Pavol Demitra is set to land in Vancouver in the next few days. The Canucks have also been heavily linked with Marian Hossa, who has reportedly expressed a desire to play along fellow Slovak, Demitra. Likewise, rumour has it that Gillis also extended a $10 million offer to future Hall of Famer Mats Sundin, widely regarded as one of the league’s finest leaders.
But this is what worries me: 36 hours after the free agency period started and Gillis has just stocked the fourth line with more plugs: renowned fighter Darcy Hordichuk and PKer, Ryan Johnson, all the while letting perfectly achievable (and reasonably cheap) targets such as Nik Hagman, Radim Vrbata and Michael Ryder slip through his fingers. Admittedly, the Canucks have signed Kyle Wellwood, a 5”10 center from Windsor, Ontario who proved his ability as a top-two centerman a few years ago whilst the aforementioned Sundin was out injured. Still, nothing radical. Man, those words look tasty.

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