<table border=0 align=center width=80%><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>We can still beat Colorado.
Unlike fans of other teams, Canuck fans don't often get to revel in the basking warmth and feel good vibe that usually accompanies a hockey trade. Some teams - the Rangers and Wings come to mind - seemingly never stop year to year, but outside of the obviously wonderful Luongo/Bertuzzi deal (once again: thank you Mike Keenan) I feel you have to go back to the Moginly trade for Morrison in 1999 to find something of a talent-for-talent roster change. Big free agent signings don't happen here too often; Willie Mitchell signing here after the lockout was the last big name (a great move especially now that we need a captain) and Anson Carter before that was a great signing for one year.
But, with a new GM, a great deal of cap space and the promise of more offense, I think most Canuck fans can be forgiven for being more eager then usual when it came to the stroke of noon last Tuesday, the start of free agency. Maybe you did what I did: stuck at work, make sure no one is looking, then furiously hit F5 on the keyboard to make TSN's website tell me something different. Anything.
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/07/gillisctv_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>Friendly tip: I learned cursing at my machine only makes the co-workers call HR.
As the day moved into the late afternoon, vigorous use of the browser refresh wasn't doing much: Brunette, Theodore (*snicker*), Rolston, Raycroft (*roaring laughter*), Campbell all move. Gillis gets Wellwood to sign on the dotted line, tried to lure David Backes out of St. Louis without losing a first rounder (a move that caused John Davidson to devour an entire cattle farm in anger) and inked Darcy Hordichuk so that I presume we can all watch with child-like glee when Colorado's Darcy Tucker feels like mouthing off. Day two: Huselius, Hossa, Weight, Avery all move. Ryan Johnson signs as a Canuck and Sanford returns to ride the pine behind Lui. The sting of losing Naslund on day three is offset (slightly) by the acquisition of Steve Bernier from Buffalo on day four.
After a quiet weekend, here we are again. Hockey starts in less then three months but it took a mere week for Canuck land to plunge into panic mode.
Now, if you are a optimist, you like what Gillis is doing: going all in on the Sundin bid to make him the new face of the offense, upgrading the third and fourth lines, acquiring a budding power forward in Bernier while not losing anyone on defense nor prospects (except MacIntrye who is bound for Nashville). You can argue he is moving on from the Burke/Nonis days, not with a similar money-burning emphasis as say the "I created a good team on my XBOX" Tampa Bay Lightning guys, but in a more calculated long-term approach.
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/05/may1408_mellanby02_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4>Or, if you are more prone to fits of profuse cynicism, maybe you think he has tripped over his own legs running out of the GM gate: all the big name free agents are gone, no moves at the draft, some of our key players are gone or likely about to leave, we have more Scott Mellanby type players then most teams and you see $10 million dollars for an aging center and think back to the late 90's and that bald free agent clown from New York who has made it impossible for me to this day to even look at a cue ball without clenching my teeth.
I certainly don't envy the summer Gillis has ahead for himself but can appreciate the "damned if he does damned if he doesn't" position that he is in. So while we can debate all we want if he's done a good job or not, we can at least all agree (I think) on two things right now:
First, he's not done. He said that on Friday outside a George Michael-packed GM Place. And a side note...George Michael? C'mon people, please put more effort into your entertainment options.
Secondly, he is putting a stamp on this team. You may not like it (not sure I do yet) but he seems to be willing to target very specific players regardless of financial or professional consequence (the Sundin and Backes offers prove that).
The only offensive upgrades that have arrived so far - Wellwood and Bernier - coincidentally have similar pros and cons: both benefited from playing alongside huge centers (Sundin and Thornton respectively) and were lighting lamps for a good part of 2005 and 2006. But then both suffered slumps and coming off of last season one was getting few minutes on the fourth line after multiple injuries (Wellwood) or being moved at the trade deadline with whispers of conditioning problems moving along with him (Bernier).
I appreciate a good Taylor Pyatt project as much as the next guy, but what happens if one of these two become the Marc Chouinard project instead? To be fair, Gillis could have given Hossa $9 million a year and he could have become a Marc Chouinard project for all we know (Sorry to keep using you as the measuring stick Marc).
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/camp07_09082007_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4>Regardless, there simply hasn't been enough time that has passed to know what this team will be come training camp, so either you are confident Gillis is on the job sniffing out leads like a bloodhound or you have been googling John Tavares wondering what all the hype is. Both feel right depending on your perspective but we have to revisit it in September and give Gillis time to finish the remodeling.
Sorry, one more thing I think we can agree on: IF this is the team that takes to ice in October, I think we can still beat Colorado with Raycroft in net. So there's a few wins right there. Now about the rest...</td></tr></table>