If you believe the saying “Trader Mike Steers the Good Ship Canuck” then read on. The Vancouver Canucks are stacked with several of the NHL’s best players at multiple positions. When Roberto Luongo came to the Canucks, he was touted as the saviour of the team.
He was the goalie who could lead them to the promised land and, together with Cory Schneider, he earned the Jennings Trophy for lowest team goals against average.
The Sedins as they matured have become perennial MVP candidates and have already been winners for both the Hart and the Pearson.
Ryan Kesler is the current Selke winner, and is one of the best two way players in the league.
However, all the aforementioned names have yet to earn universal acclaim among their league peers, and Vancouver’s own supporters, due to some perceived weak aspects of their play and or personality.
Luongo is often singled out as being inconsistent and egotistic, while the Sedins lack the grit and physical edge to earn their points in the post-season, and Kesler has been arrogant and slightly injury prone.
Despite these accusations, this group still has the Canucks clearly in the picture of potential Stanley Cup champions.
But what put this team over the line from good to great last year?
The answer has much to do with the machinations of GM Mike Gillis.
The previous two Stanley Cup Finals appearances by Vancouver had much more to do with fortune and good timing (in regards to player form and the opponents drawn) than actual planning.
But this most recent appearance had very much to do with the design put in place by Gillis since he took tenure.
Critics were immediately quick to jump on the appointment of the ex-player agent in 2009 as a foolish mistake. Some thought he would be too bound to his previous clients, and that he would sign personal favourites based on misguided loyalties over actual team needs.
Others felt that due to his reputation as a tough negotiator for his clients, he would have built up too many adversarial relationships with other league GMs, and his ability to communicate and deal with them would be negated.
However, Gillis has revealed himself to be a shrewd and patient tactician who integrates well with others in his office and the coaches and players too. He solicits opinions from all sides in his circle and uses the insight gained to continue his single minded focus on improving the team.
The deal for Booth showed the determination of the award winning general manager to upgrade his team’s weaponry with a faster, stronger and younger winger. It also revealed that Trader Mike is not hesitant to cop to his own mistakes with the hasty disposal of the snail-paced Marco Sturm, a candidate for worst Canucks acquisition of all time.
This continuing focus assures the team’s followers that Gillis will not rest on his laurels as he seeks to put the team in place to return to the finals.
The biggest move for the executive could still be ready to come.
As of last night, following another lacklustre effort by Roberto Luongo in a 3-2 loss to the Oilers, and his replacement by the hungry Cory Schneider, the potential for his greatest personnel shuffle dangles teasingly.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the daring Gillis is not likely to hesitate if he feels a deal may emerge that could put the Canucks over the top.