For those of you that missed Mike Gillis addressing the media today, here are what I considered to be the most salient points.
The key issues this season:
When asked what went wrong this season Gillis noted that the problems started to emerge after the win in Boston. He felt that the game was like a SCF revisited, and the team never got their emotions together after that. While the downside was an inability to elevate their game, the upside, for the most part, was that he felt their goaltending got them through this season, and has every bit of confidence in both of his goaltenders, who allowed the Canucks to win a lot of games despite the team as a whole playing somewhat indifferently. He stated that they will see if it will be workable to keep both goaltenders moving forward and in addition, feels that Eddie Lack is an excellent young goalie, and they will see in training camp if he is ready to play in the NHL. Later he acknowledged that the emergence of Cory Schneider as such an outstanding young goalie changes the landscape.
The Canucks style of play:
Gillis feels that the dynamics in the NHL are changing and that it is not a coincidence that the four remaining teams in the playoffs in the Western Conference don't have a point-a-game player. Teams have reverted somewhat to collapsing five players in front of their goaltender, and playing low-risk hockey, that is not necessarily that exciting (or the best way to promote the game). Gillis still believes in offense - that offense is what entertains people - and that the NHL needs to keep the entertainment value of the product in mind, otherwise the NHL might consider changing the name of the game to "Goalie." When asked if the team needs major changes, Gillis expressed that the Canucks have the makings of three solid lines, a solid and deep blueline, and great goaltending - in other words, significant changes are not essential - and he was not prepared to answer a question regarding who the untouchables on the Canucks are. That type of question is not in the organization's interests to answer.. He noted that the team needs to get younger, bigger, and stronger, and that the Canucks have made moves in that direction and will continue to focus on adding strength in those areas, as well as keeping an eye on balance.
The Hodgson trade:
Gillis does not intend to share what is discussed with players behind closed doors - he has no intention of breaking their trust or deterring them from coming to him with concerns - but he did say that he spent more time on Cody's issues than every other player combined. In the end, obviously Hodgson and/or his camp were simply too demanding or needy, and it had become a hindrance to the team. Gillis revealed that they had identified 6 young players that they were prepared to take in exchange for Hodgson. Zack Kassian was the one who was made available, and in Gillis' mind, players like Zack are extremely rare to come by. It was refreshing to hear Gillis express that he doesn't regret that move at all, and that he'd do it again. He went on to point out that Hodgson was given exclusively opportunities to be successful offensively and took maybe 5 defensive zone face-offs the entire season.
Players have their ups and downs and Gillis was certainly not prepared to be critical of Kesler, who was injured to start the season, and also noted that Kesler has some other injuries being evaluated now. Gillis stated that he didn't have confidence that they were solid enough at center, and therefore acquired Pahlsson at the deadline. If Kesler's health was a persistent issue, I think it becomes very clear that in addition to being very needy, that depending on Hodgson to match up defensively in a second or third line role was simply something the Canucks did not have the confidence that he is capable of - and by all indications of his performances in Buffalo, that truth was certainly borne out at this stage of his career. If Kesler was not healthy, sheltering Hodgson would have been increasingly less possible.
Gillis feels that the potentail for dire consequences as a result of Raymond's injury were certainly there, and that he needs time to see if he can regain his form and potential. Gillis made it very clear - 'if you are asking if I am going to give up on Mason Raymond', he said very definitively, "No."
Managing the health, potential and well-being of the players:
Gillis is excited that the Canucks continue to work on trend setting ways to offset the impact of all the travel the team does, the up tempo types of games they play, and the pressure that they are under to constantly produce and ultimately deliver a Stanley Cup. Gillis feels that despite progress, the team still needs to deal better with those factors, and will continue to work in innovative ways to help the players perform to the best of their abilities. He tempered the high expectations with the reality that there are no assurances of success - everyone is disappointed with the results in the first round series, but the organization is not going to change it's approach, and will move forward and continue to work to improve.
I found Gillis' response to repeated questions about AV very promising. While there may be uncertainty in the minds of others, Gillis stood by his coach and implied that if it is up to him, he will continue to. He emphasized that he himself will be evaluated first, and the next step will be to continue to evaluate the organization at every level, as they do every season. He noted that within a few weeks he will be prepared to give a definitive answer to the question, but when the predictable questions about Vigneault persisted, he expressed that it gets exasperating... This guy, Alain Vigneault, is the winningest coach in this team's history, we just won two President's trophies, went to game 7 of the SCF... Gillis made it fairly clear what his position regarding Vigneault is, asking if that is when you decide you are going to start getting rid of people? Alain's record speaks for itself - he is an excellent NHL coach.
The Sedins and the young prospects:
The Canucks are going to continue to support the Sedins with the best young talent they can surround them with. No one has a crystal ball, but Gillis feels that the Sedins are still in their prime, and if the Canucks stay the course, they will have a new Cup window that will begin or continue even after the Sedins careers with Vancouver. When asked about the young players knocking on the NHL door, Gillis mentioned Nik Jensen first, and feels that he is a lot closer to being NHL ready. [i thought Jensen looked very impressive in the preseason with Vancouver - I reviewed his stats after his recent call-up to the Wolves - he managed 4 goals in 6 regular season games and another pair in two playoff games - quite promising] Gillis also noted that Zack Kassian, Connauton, Tanev, Schroeder, and Gragnani are all very promising prospects, and that Anton Rodin is probably the most dynamic, highly skilled player in the system and will see how he makes the transition from Europe to North America...
The potential is there (for all those guys).
The direction of the NHL:
Gillis feels that the league has to be offensive, has to be exciting, and that rules have been amended and should continue to be in order to create a more entertaining product. He feels that people enjoy the way the team plays and that beyond the Canucks, the rules package after the last lockout supported the view that offense is important, and the result has been that the last 3 or 4 years the NHL has seen the best hockey ever. Gillis feels that a retreat from that doesn't seem to make any sense.
Vote of confidence in his players:
Gillis emphasized that he feels that there is remarkable character on this team - he likes the loyalty of his players, many of whom could have gone elsewhere and perhaps made more money - he doesn't question the character on this team. The reality is that things change and you have to roll with the punches - there's much more opportunity to be disappointed than elated - but you find solutions, and that's what the Canucks are going to continue to do.