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Gillis: "Happy With the Blueline"



During a recent interview, Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis announced that he is happy with the state of his defense corps, which he had better be: The Free Agent market has already lost one big player.


The focus of the last Canuck Way (Dan Hamhuis) has been dealt for Ryan Parent to the Philadelphia Flyers... Who's next?

During a recent interview with TSN, Gillis spoke to the Canucks 25th overall draft pick, and the potential for the team to move the pick, to address their lack of a 2nd and 3rd round pick. The picks were spent previously in acquiring Steve Bernier and Andrew Alberts.

But the most interesting part of the interview was regarding the Canucks situation on defense, which I alluded to in the last installment of The Canuck Way. It's my firm belief that the Canucks cannot be complacent in this Free Agency market, with a few top drawer defenders available. The playoff exit at the hands to the (Cup-winning) Chicago Blackhawks exposed Vancouver's defense, particularly in Game Six. This is not a news flash. The same weakness was their downfall the previous year, and Gillis is kidding himself if he believes the fan base will take another early playoff exit with graciousness. This market will be judged next season by it's playoff success or lack thereof. To be frank, if the team fails now to re-sign Willie Mitchell, Canucks fans are in for a bumpy ride next April.


Big, tough Russian Anton Volchenkov (#24) helps Chris Philips sandwich ex-Canuck, Matt Cooke; Volchenkov could really help clear traffic in front of Luongo (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

During the interview, he said that many of the Canucks defensive prospects are "Closer to NHL duty than most people think". That mindset exposes some faulty thinking. Let's just play that thought out, for the sake of argument. Even if they should have a defenseman make the jump to the bigs next year, how much of an impact will he make? How many NHL teams have had a rookie defenseman step right into the lineup and play top four minutes? In my years of observing the game, I can count that number on one hand. Gillis is basically explaining away their indifference in the Free Agency market to a non-necessity. Are the Canucks really that confident that one of the Manitoba Moose are going to be able to step in and fill a whole on the backend?

I'm not trying to be overly critical here of Gillis; again, I feel he has been patient in areas where he needs to be patient. He has put the proper resources into scouting, and possibly even more importantly, the development and coaching of these young prospects. But lets not lose sight of the fact that Scott Arniel (Manitoba Moose head coach) was just lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets, so the young prospect pool will have to adjust to a new coaching style, and possibly system. In the Canucks system, none of their current prospect defensemen rank higher than 8th on the depth chart. Yann Suave is ranked 8th, Taylor Ellington is ranked 9th, and Kevin Connauton ranked 10th. Hockeysfuture.com says that Suave projects as a 2nd pairing defender in the future, but may need 2 or 3 years further seasoning. They also project further time is needed for Ellington, so it's hard to believe Gillis will have either player step into a roll this season, with 2011/12 even a tad hopeful.


Canucks 8th ranked player on depth chart, Yann Suave - The 6'2, 209 lbs Rigaud Quebec defender most likely has another year of development (photo courtesy of fanatique.com)

With the recent acquisition of Dan Hamhuis by the Philadelphia Flyers, it would appear Anton Volchenkov from the Ottawa Senators becomes one of the premier defenseman available through Free Agency. The 6'1, 226 lbs Moscow, USSR native was the 21st overall player selected in the 2000 NHL entry draft. He commanded $3.2 m last season, and will most likely jump to the $4 M mark or thereabouts. Hockey writers in Ottawa are already talking about him like he's gone, so there's very little chance he'll remain with the Sens. Heavier rumours floating around are that the Washington Capitals will make a play for the heady defender, needing a physical player on the blue.


6'2, 208 lbs Taylor Ellington is a Victoria BC native who was drafted 33rd overall in 2007, he too is projected to be 2 years away (photo courtesy of whl.ca)

After Gillis' TSN interview, I'd be very surprised to see the Canucks field an offer to Volchenkov. But mark my words: If injury ravages the Canuck blueline again this season, and it hampers them in the playoffs (ie - they do not advance past the 2nd round) there are going to be even MORE questions that the organization will "need time to assess" in the 2010/11 offseason. One of those will be regarding whether Gillis is fit to carry on in his current capacity. The city of Vancouver will not be looking for excuses; only results will suffice.

with files from TSN, www.fanatique.com, www.whlca, and Yahoo! Sports, I'm Larenzo Jensen

check out my Canucks fantasy 25th pick on June 25th at http://thecanuckway.com


Recommended Comments

I agree with this article. I feel Gillis will have to step up to the plate and improve this hockey team's toughness and defense. The fans can only be enamored by a new GM's shtick for so long as he fails to get results.

The Flyers using Nashville as a farm system is a wake up call to GM's around the league. Picking up Hartnell, Timonen and now Hamhuis more then likely, you would think other Gms would realize that you have to offer teams something for exclusive bargaining rights.

One can argue that the Flyers are not the best team, but they made it to the cup, something our team has only done twice in its 40 year history.

In addition, the Flyers managed to take advantage of numerous draft picks they were able to accumulate at the trade deadline, dealing Forsberg and other UFA signings to improve their club. Something other GMs were not even aware of, before they broke ground on this possibility.

I am not painting the Flyers as a model of success, just a well operated system who is not afraid to try and think outside the box.

I believe its time for Gillis to try and improve this team through unrestricted free agency. Something we have failed to really do since its inception.

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gillis didn't say he wasn't going to pick up defensive help. he said he felt that they now had depth there and that some of them were closer to the nhl that people think. the way i read the story is that he would pick up a free agent d-man but he believes that one of the prospects could make the jump. gillis knows that none may make it this year, so he has to address that. we all know that the way to build your team is through the draft, especially in the cap world. people want him to pick up an expensive players that they can identify with.....gillis has to keep his team under the cap and not make it impossible for prospects to make the team. what the team needs on defense are players that can play big minutes and play effective games...danny hamhuis would have been great here but now we need to move on. if willie comes back we may only have a couple of mil to sign that d-man.

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I think the Canucks should put the Sedin's on defence.

Gillis will *never* make a big move to help this team. Might as well put some forwards on defence.

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Any team that has suffered so many injuries on D prior to and during the playoffs will not be successful. Regardless of the team in front of them. We do need an upgrade, but that could be a depth move versus over spending on a UFA

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"The city of Vancouver will not be looking for excuses; only results will suffice." You serious?

Won't happen. We're too used to this script, which has been played over and again throughout the decades. Why should we suddenly expect that next season will be any different from the rest?

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while Gillis sits on his fanny all the goods go out the back door. It seems he is waiting to pick the scraps left over by other teams, which IMO is not moving forward, and is not making a push to improve this team. I will give him the shadow of a doubt, but if he doesn't make any noise on july 1 or this friday at the draft then yes I say it will be the same old system. This team doesn't need anymore offense they need defense, and they need it bad. Brian Burke used too sing that same old song and dance. I would expect Gillis to shake things up and play a different tune, and yes we have great defensemen coming up from Manitoba, but the few we have aren't NHL ready. So I say to you Mike Gillis, put up or shut up, get it done. Actions speak louder then words. You have had two years now and you said your objective was to bring the cup to Vancouver in your 5 year stint well you only have three left and time is running out.

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Has Hamhuis signed with Philly yet????????????????????????????????

So devoting an article about MG not making a move before Philly made a move is kind of rediculous until Hamhuis signs.

If I was Hamhuis, and his agent I would wait until July 1 regardless of what Philly has done. Sutter made that gamble with JayBo, and it worked out (well that is still to be decided), but that is a gamble not worht taking especiall when you only have the 25th and 104th round pick this draft.

Chill out everyone. Our D was dessimated with injuries last year. Rome will be a better player next year, Salo will have had use of both cahonies, Mitchell will resign with a hometown-bonus incentive contract. Erhoff and Edler are two young and blossoming D-men. Bieksa is a wild card, but there are still some moves to be made.

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I saw the same piece on tsn about the Canucks draft and I did not take Gillis' comments to be that they would not be active in the free-agent market for a d-man. The prospects being "farther along than people think" was in reaction to the idea that it was necessary that the Canucks take a defenseman with the pick. To me, Gillis was saying that he disagrees with popular opinion that the Canucks have no real defensive prospects in the pipeline, not that the prospects will be playing this year.

The Canucks may very well have been targetting Hamhuis, but as a fan I see no benefit in giving up assets just for negotiating rights. Hamhuis is still not signed, so that story is not over yet. However, if he doesn't sign with Philly, one would have to question whether his contract demands are reasonable.

As for Volchenkov, I think the one thing that people who support his signing fail to mention is that he has not been able to stay healthy. He has never played in more than 78 games in a season, and has missed a minimum of 14 games in each of the last three seasons. I would hesitate to commit significant resources to a player who you know will miss at least 10-15 games every year. Think about how frustrating it is to deal with Salo's injuries every year. Volchenkov also brings very little in the way of offense.

I like Zbynek Michalek as an alternative to Hamhuis - a d-man who can do a little bit of everything.

Shaone Morrison (27 yrs old) and Henrik Tallinder (32 years old) are nice stay-at-home d-man alternatives for Volchenkov who should cost less. Tallinder would need to be a shorter term deal.

It may even be wise to try and get a more veteran d-man for a short contract.

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Gillis has had two years at the helm to look at and judge our prospects and Team now is the year to make the big step or out the door with Gillis.

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I have been wringing my hands over another summer of reading print of the movements of OTHER teams lining up talent and toughness for their run at Lord Stanley. However, as critical as I was at first concerning the dealing away of Grabner - Bernier - and a first round pick, for at best a 2nd tier defenceman in Keith Ballard - I am gaining an appreciation that there may be a method to Mike Gillis' madness...In acquiring Ballrd the Canucks stabilize the doubts that they can field 6 serviceable defencemen without praying to the heavens above that Mitchell would (a.) make a full recovery from his severe (career threatening) concussion and (b.) Mitchell would agree to an effective pay cut to resign in his home province.Ballard gives the Canucks the peace of mind they have a suitable replacement for heavy minutes - and gain an equal or better hitter, and penalty killing specialist.Gillis has come out and stated fairly expressively they plan to be active in attempting to bringing in yet another blue liner to fill out a top-2 position... Would anyone press the arguement that Hamhuis has decided that because he has been moved yet again before July 1st - that he will sign in Pittsburg? Nope ... he has come this far and he seriously wants to explore the free agent market. It seems a logical assumption the Canucks (being his boyhood team) would garner a listen and likely add their comparable $4.00 M per season he has rumoured to have stated through his agent Wade Arnott - to be seeking from a prefered location.

The interesting twist in the tale is something I can rationalely see Mike Gillis pursuing... When Keith Ballard found out about his move to Vancouver - he was spending time on the golf course with his long time friend (from junoir hockey) Paul Martin. PM is also a top four defenceman and a UFA. Where does all the money come from? Well in the adage 'something has to give' - the Canucks could add to the draft picks for 2011 by moving one Kevin Bieksa - Andrew Alberts - and the much maligned Shane O'Brien.

Stepping inside my fantasy roster for a moment... would there be a significantly overall better defence in the NHL than this potential:

Hamhuis / Martin

Salo / Ehrhoff

Edler / Morrisson


Whatever the outcome of the July 1st and trickle-down effect of teams releasing some RFA's and singed players to the waiver wire - Mike Gillis will likely be the beneficiary. The Vancouver Canucks WILL be a vastly different team in 2010 - 2011's season ... I am crossing all my fingers it will be for the better.

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Now this article just looks plain dumb.

This article was a badly disguised jab at Gillis being complacent. He wasn't. He made a very necessary trade that turned Grabner lovers into Ballard-likers. That's amazing! I can't wait to see Ballard step onto the ice. I wonder if we'll have enough cash to do Mitchell and Hamhuis as well - maybe not.

The impatience of fans here is just ridiculous.

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Now this article just looks plain dumb.

This article was a badly disguised jab at Gillis being complacent. He wasn't. He made a very necessary trade that turned Grabner lovers into Ballard-likers. That's amazing! I can't wait to see Ballard step onto the ice. I wonder if we'll have enough cash to do Mitchell and Hamhuis as well - maybe not.

The impatience of fans here is just ridiculous.

I'm sorry you feel that way, 'Dazzle'. The piece was really just a state-of-the-moment piece, and outlining events to date, the progress of the young stable of talent that they're home-growing themselves, and the direction of the organization. You're kidding yourself, really, if you can take an objective look at the article, at the TIME that it was written, and not say that Gillis was at a very, very important intersection at the start of FA during his tenue with the Club. To come out and call the article 'dumb', that's your right to voice your opinion. Also, if you'd like, you can ALSO go do your homework, cross-reference my article: "Canucks Should Pursue Hamhuis", check the date, and figure out that I KNOW what I'm talking about. I do have a considerable amount of knowledge surrounding the Canucks, have proven it, and will continue in this blog and my own (http://thecanuckway.com) to report on the current status of the club, the things that have gotten them there, and probable direction in the future. If you don't have anything positive to say, please find a different blog to follow.

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