As if the news early Friday that they would be without star forward Ryan Kesler for two weeks due to a knee injury he sustained in the club’s 3-2 shootout win over Winnipeg on Wednesday wasn’t bad enough, the Canucks’ team bus broke down on their way to the Verizon Center for their game day skate. Players were forced to hail cabs to the rink and then later that night they couldn’t get out of dodge quick enough after another loss, this time 4-3 to the Capitals. The Canucks are now 3-6-1 in their last ten and excuse the pun but the wheels have literally fallen off. Media and fans are clamouring for Mike Gillis to be fired or for John Tortorella to be let go or for both their heads to roll.
But while the Canucks will likely complete some trades that weren’t completed at the trade deadline — including granting Kesler’s wish to be moved to a team in the United States — at the NHL Entry Draft in late June, one has to wonder if Tortorella and Gillis are at least safe until the regular season ends. If one of them wasn’t let go after they blew a 3-0 lead in the third period to the Islanders and allowed seven goals to lose 7-4, ownership is likely going to things ride out and then evaluate what has become nothing short of a free-fall in the standings and from the grace of being a Stanley Cup contender.
Then the question will be, should it be Tortorella who will still have four years left on a contract that pays him $2 million per season or Gillis who is believed to still have term left on his contract as well.
“It’s going to be interesting,” an NHL Executive told Murph’s Musings Saturday night. “I mean you look at the team this year and the way they were playing early on and really despite injuries, John had implemented his system pretty well. But the problem is that they don’t necessarily have the right players in place for his system or way of doing things and you can’t really blame him for that right? But then on the flip side the argument can be made that a coach should adapt right? So in that sense has he truly done that? Plus you look at all the injuries and you have to factor in a lot of players not performing to their best so is it a one off thing? But they have declined since they lost Game 7 (2011 Stanley Cup finals) gradually and now more rapidly so maybe it’s a complete new culture of players that’s needed. I don’t know. If that’s the case then it will likely mean the GM who takes the fall.”
Another aspect of the problems in Vancouver this NHL executive pointed out that could or in his eyes should lead to the end of Gillis’ tenure there is the nine no-movement and no-trade clauses on the roster.
“That hurts a lot because how can you go out and trade what you don’t want there anymore and also get what you need to get back on track?” he said rhetorically. “I mean that’s the way the league is now and the players seem to hold the leverage there but still nine is quite a lot.”
There are other theories out there that lead some to believe Gillis is too tight with ownership and will survive this tailspin. His non-committal answers to questions about Tortorella earlier this week didn’t help Tortorella’s security either. Also on Saturday Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night In Canada reported of rumors that former Canuck Markus Naslund who was also a client of Gillis when he was an agent may return to the fold in some capacity for the Canucks. So there is no real clear cut answer on what will happen in Vancouver but for now anything that can go wrong seems to be going wrong there and this once perrenial playoff contender could be headed for the draft lottery instead.