Toot, toot...full steam ahead!
You know you've been blogging too much when you've been up since 4:00 AM because you have two questions that were bugging the hell out of you. Naturally, I'd like to share them.
It's worth remembering what Gillis said on day one as boss:
"I don’t think the group of forwards right now are ready to compete. I don’t know if they [the Sedins] are players the team will be built around moving forward."
He has backtracked several times on this claim, but if the reports are true that the twins are willing to enter Wednesday as free agents, you have to wonder just what the hell happened. Was Gillis never serious about resigning them at market value? Were the Sedins never serious about returning and need a fresh start? Is J.P. Barry the devil who feasts on human souls? Or maybe they do resign with Vancouver and we chalk this all up to negotiations (but Barry may still be the devil)?
So my first question: how did a relationship between a club and two unique players who matured into humble yet consistent point-producing All-under the watchful eyes of three different GM's deteriorate so rapidly? And, better still, what message does that send to free agents who are considering Vancouver or pending free agents like Kesler and Mitchell?
Chances are we'll never know. Gillis will sit at his press conference table and "aww shucks poor me" his way through explaining how a team wildly short on offense let the guys ranked #1 and #2 in scoring the past three seasons (and two of the top five in scoring for the past five seasons) just walk away with no compensation.
And don't forget Ohlund walking too. Can you name another time in Vancouver history you've seen the potential for three valuable Canuck lifers in their prime walk away for nothing? Odd, I thought asset management is what in part cost Nonis his job.
Clearly, part of this is infuriating (which I use to describe the Canucks at least 1,000 times a season). Conversely though, this is what happens in sports and, in particular, the cap-era NHL. Vancouver's GM has a grace period that is ending and now it's possible he'll drastically alter the team's identity while the rest of us have little idea (since he has no prior experience in team management) how he's going to do it.
There is question two: just who is a Mike Gillis-type player?
We can make casual guesses of course. Luongo at the draft table suggests he's the defacto face of the franchise going forward. Hell for all we know Luongo gets to give his two cents on potential moves a la Messier (which would be somewhat comical; imagine telling your boss to sign a guy so you don't have to face his shots). Inking Luongo long term means Schneider can be traded and maybe Gillis already knows what he's going to do there.
We also knows Gillis touts "leadership" like few others though we haven't seen the test he employs. Gillis can run with the pack at guys like Cammalleri and Gaborik to Heatley and Hossa, but no combination of these guys will replace the chemistry of the twins. But where is the leadership for these guys, especially the last three? Their own mothers would be hard-pressed to call their sons leaders. Is Gillis honestly going to create a team of Boy Scouts, more capable of helping old women cross the street rather than convincingly win hockey games and is that something you, Mr. or Mrs. ticket purchaser, will cough up the money to watch?
It's vexing; you want to strangle Gillis in one instance and then quietly high five him in another. To his credit, he is putting a high priority on scouting, prospects (especially at the NCAA level) and not overpaying for current talent (see the extensions he's given to Edler and Burrows). Slow and steady he's making the right moves for long term success and guys like Hodgson and hopefully Schroeder are big parts of that.
Short term though is a mixed bag: he had some decent hits in Johnson and Wellwood, but the jury is out on Bernier and Demitra. It's possible his two biggest moves to date are shaping up to be blowing his wad over Sundin for half a year and willing to let the Sedins walk. Neither inspire a great deal of confidence.
However, what if the Sedins wanted that 12-year deal and nothing short of it? You can't blame Gillis for walking away. He's not doing his job if he's drowning his team financially with two or more bloated contracts and we're left with the Brad Isbisters of the world to round out the roster. Wouldn't you rather have a GM thinking like Ken Holland rather than Glen Sather?
Sadly I have no real answers to either of my annoying questions. I can only say tomorrow continues a journey into unchartered waters even if the Sedins return. We've spent a long time understanding the subtle nuances with the team's identity: the group of kids who came of age under Crawford, Cloutier and the West Coast Express, the rise of the Sedins and the acquisition of Luongo. But now what the team does and how Gillis chooses to model it is relatively unknown.
How bumpy a ride is it going to be? Hopefully not too bad because I'd like to see a strong team come October (and I'd really like to sleep again starting sometime soon).