Coach John Tortorella (left) has won the rumored "him or me" battle with GM Mike Gillis. (Bob Frid/Icon SMI)
By Allan Muir
You knew someone, and probably multiple someones, would pay the price for Vancouver's dismal season after the team was officially eliminated from the playoffs on Monday night.
The team's fans made it clear whose head they wanted with chants of "Fire Gillis" during that listless 3-0 loss to the Ducks.
Today, they got their wish. The team announced the dismissal of Gillis on Tuesday afternoon.
"On behalf of my entire family, I would like to sincerely thank Mike Gillis for his hard work and the many contributions he made on and off the ice during his tenure,” owner Francesco Aquilini said in a statement. "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.”
"I also want to thank our fans for their support for the Vancouver Canucks through a difficult and frustrating season," Aquilini continued. "We haven’t met their expectations or ours. We are committed to bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver for our fans and we will continue to do everything possible to reach that goal."
Removing Gillis was probably only the first of several moves under that "everything possible" banner. The rumors continue to swirl that Trevor Linden will be brought in as team president. It was probably a favor to him that Aqulini dropped the axe on Gillis himself, rather than putting that responsibility directly on a potential new president's plate.
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Whoever steps in for Gillis -- keep an eye on former Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson -- has his work cut out for him. Gillis' legacy is a team in disarray. A star player (Ryan Kesler) is waiting for a trade, creating another hole to a team that already has too many, and the farm system is one of the least promising in hockey.
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He'll also probably be asked to work at least one year with head coach John Tortorella, who appears to have Aquilini's ear. That's not the sort of situation that will appeal to top candidates, which could make this a tough job to properly fill.
More to come.