Mike Gillis was relieved of his duties as president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday afternoon. Andy Clark/Reuters
The Vancouver Canucks fired general manager and president of hockey operations Mike Gillis on Tuesday, less than a day after the team was officially eliminated from the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
"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," chairman of Canucks Sports and Entertainment Francesco Aquilini said in a statement.
Gillis was hired in 2008, replacing Dave Nonis.
Vancouver fans appeared fed up with the team's downturn and chanted for Gillis to be fired as the Canucks lost 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.
Gillis signed a contract extension after the 2011-12 season. There were indications last week he and first-year head coach John Tortorella weren't communicating. Gillis seemed to criticize Tortorella's style in a radio interview, saying he wanted the team to get back to the type of game that got it to the 2011 Cup finals.
"I want us to play upbeat, puck possession, move the puck quickly, force teams into mistakes, high-transition game," Gillis said in an interview with the Team 1040. "I think we have the personnel to do it. If we don't have the personnel to do it, they'll be changed.
"That's my vision, that's how I believe you are going to win in the Western Conference and the National Hockey League. If you look at the top teams in the West, there isn't a lot that separates any of the teams in the West, but the top teams play that way. That's the way we played."
Gillis, 55, was arguably the most successful GM in club history, but has increasingly come under fire in the past year or two for several moves, but those involving goaltending and coaching hold the greatest sway.
Goalie Roberto Luongo, who helped lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup final in 2011, was the subject of trade rumours after the following season when he was benched by coach Alain Vigneault for a playoff game in favour of Cory Schneider.
The Canucks couldn't move Luongo, largely because of the marathon contract Gillis struck with the netminder through 2021-22.
In the summer of 2013, after a first round exit, Vigneault was fired and Schneider traded to the Devils. The latter move surprised many hockey observers and required much fence-mending with Luongo, who went from seemingly on his way out of town to re-inserted as the No. 1 man in net.
After a decent start this season, Vancouver slumped in the standings, with Luongo dealt ahead of the trade deadline to Florida.
The Canucks went from having perhaps the top goalie tandem in the league to a duo of relatively unproven talent in Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom in a span of a year.
Vancouver's struggles this year have come with John Tortorella as coach.
The decision to hire the abrasive Tortorella, whose previous teams played a style not consistent with the brand the Canucks have played in recent years, was also questioned.
Tortorella didn't help his cause by incurring a 15-day suspension after a testy game in January between the Canucks and Calgary Flames.
With the Canucks clearly headed to a finish outside of the playoffs, both Gillis and Tortorella took their turns resenting their view of the season last week to local media, as well as their thoughts on the team's style of play.
Gillis was an NHL player who went to law school after retiring. He spent several seasons as an NHL player agent before joining the Canucks.
The Sudbury, Ont., native inherited Vigneault as coach, and one of the best ever moves he made was retaining the bench boss despite the fact the Canucks had slipped by 17 points from a successful 2006-07 season.
Gillis developed a reputation for thinking outside of the box, looking into the effects of sleep science for the Pacific Division team, and unlike many general managers, insisting that it was important for an NHL club to think about entertaining the fans while winning.
In an unconventional move that flopped, the Canucks named Luongo captain of the team in 2008. It was the first time a goalie had been an NHL captain in six decades, but the arrangement would last just two seasons.
While it's still too soon too tell, the draft record during Gillis's tenure may ultimately reflect poorly. The Canucks had contentious dealings with former first round pick Cody Hodgson, since traded to Buffalo for Zack Kassian, and small forward Jordan Schroeder hasn't fully established himself as an NHL player.
The development of Bo Horvath, Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce and Cole Cassels will determine the full draft picture under Gillis.
With Gillis out, speculation will centre on the likes of Trevor Linden and Bob Nicholson. Former captain Linden has been synonymous with the Canucks for two decades, while Nicholson last week left his leadership post at Hockey Canada after several years.
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